How We Maximise CNC Machining for Low-Volume Production Runs

13 April 2023

Manufacturing businesses often utilise machining processes like turning, milling, and drilling to generate parts and products their clients need. They even cater to the production of prototypes to ensure their clients can first see their prospective products. The previously stated machining processes can be done manually by professionals experienced in operating machining tools.

However, since technology has advanced significantly, manufacturers now utilise computer numerical control (CNC) machining to produce high-quality parts and prototypes. CNC machining can be beneficial to manufacturing businesses as it is efficient. Through software, the tools used for machining can already move on their own and process the workpieces accordingly. It can also generate a high volume of products and prototypes in a short time.

But what about low-volume production runs? Fortunately, CNC machining can still be used in producing low-volume products and prototypes as long as these things are followed.

Utilise Standard Designs

CNC machining can be effective in producing delicate parts and prototypes. But since low-volume production only expects a minimal number of parts, it would be better to utilise standard designs. Keeping the design simple can ensure that the CNC machining process is carried out without consuming too much energy. What clients can do is settle with simple parts and prototypes and assemble them later to generate a complex piece.

If a part or prototype has to maximise a hole, the client should ensure that the hole’s depth will be no more than five times the diameter of the drill. Standard drill sizes should likewise be used in generating the holes for the workpieces. Standard tread depths and diameters can also be utilised to manufacture simple parts and prototypes. Additionally, low-volume production can be achieved through CNC machining by achieving loose tolerances.

Pick the Right Materials

Another thing that can be done to successfully achieve low-volume production through CNC machining is to pick the right materials. Many materials can be processed by CNC machining today. But since low-volume production is often equated to low project costs, a client should be mindful of the materials they want to integrate with their project. Using materials that can be difficult to machine can often increase the cost of the project. Alternatively, those with softer properties can be easier to machine, which can make the product cheaper.

Knowing the needed properties of parts can sometimes help clients pick the right materials for their low-volume production. If specific parts do not necessarily need to be resistant to heat, they can already be produced with materials that do not boast the said property.

Avoid Unnecessary Processes

CNC machining tools can certainly do whatever processes one desire. However, they can increase the overall cost of the project, especially if they are delicate. Finishing processes, for instance, only add more costs to the project since they can already enhance the overall appeal and durability of parts and prototypes. But if the enhancements on their surfaces are not truly needed, the finishing processes may be unnecessary and wasteful. Even including some text on the parts can slow down the production, making the project more expensive.

The best alternative to finishing processes are post-production surface finishing methods like laser marking, rubber ink stamping, painting, and silk screening.

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