Cnc machine shop rates

Cnc machine shop rates DEFAULT

The true cost of CNC Machining.

Simply put, the cost of CNC machining is any given hourly rate, about £45/hour on average. The cost of CNC machined parts is the total cost of raw materials, plus the cost of any special fixturing, plus the labour hours taken to machine each part.

It takes many years of experience to be able to accurately quote CNC machined parts. There are many factors that need to be considered, each with the ability to increase or reduce the cost of the machining service.

This ‘easy to read’ article provides a breakdown of the factors involved and gives an overview of a typical quoting process. More importantly, this article explains Parallel Precision’s unique quoting process (and how we could save you money on your parts)!

Generally speaking, hourly rates for 3 axis CNC Milling in the UK range from £40 per hour, to £60 per hour. In most circumstances, suppliers do not disclose their hourly rate with the customer.

As the old saying goes… “you get what you pay for”. The slight increase in price that an ISO 9001 accredited company like Parallel Precision will charge, is a reflection of the additional quality control checks that each machined component must go through before being shipped out the door.

Parallel Precision is proud of its ability to provide accurate quotations, whilst remaining fair and competitive to its customers. Because of our efficient machining strategies, a recent benchmarking exercise positioned us cheaper than 92% of our ISO 9001 accredited competitors!

What major factors influence the price?

The cost of CNC machined parts is really just the sum of the time it takes to manufacture them, multiplied by an hour rate. Having a deeper understanding of all processes that go into manufacture, will result in more accurate pricing. These processes include programming, setting up machine tools, de-burring and inspection.

Partnering with a company that truly cares about quality and has robust quality assurance processes in place, such as Parallel Precision, can be the difference between only 1% of your batch being inspected, vs 100% of the batch. A great illustration of “you get what you pay for”.

Undoubtedly, quality is something that deserves to be paid for. If you’re willing to place orders with the very cheapest supplier you can find, expect the resulting products you receive to be worthy of a cheaper price tag.

As a customer, it’s beneficial to understand what other factors can influence the price you pay, beyond the quality control measures already mentioned. As listed below, many of these factors are within your control:

  • ISO 9001 Accreditation – Is your supplier really committed to their promises of quality?
  • Batch sizes – Do you want 1-off or 1,000-off?
  • Outsourced operations – Do you want parts supplied anodised, or will you source it yourself?
  • Material Selection – Aluminium can be machined at a much lower costs than steel.
  • Geometry – Dimensions, shape, and part complexity can increase machining cycles.
  • Lead time – How urgently do you need the components?
  • Tolerances – Tighter tolerances add higher risk and require additional inspection time.
  • Fixturing – Does your component have a complex profile, that requires bespoke work-holiding solutions to hold it during machining operations?

Parallel Precision can save you significant money on your components, thanks to our clever gains in efficiencies that reduce manufacturing times.

How does Parallel Precision calculate their price?

At Parallel Precision, we use a unique quoting process that is very different to our competitors, and gives us a much more accurate price. Our unique process reduces the likelihood of us overcharging for the machining of your parts, and prevents any unforeseen issues or delays during the manufacturing process.

Unlike our competitors that have a ‘blanket’ hourly rate for all laborious operations, Parallel use several more accurate ‘fixed’ and ‘variable’ hourly rates, depending on the operation in progress. Our UK based ISO 9001 Accredited competitors typically charge £45 per hour for 3 Axis CNC Milling.

In contrast, Parallel Precision uses fixed hourly rates starting at £16.98/hr. Our ‘variable’ hourly rates start from as little as £21.33 per hour, ranging to to £42.50 per hour. These variable rates vary depending on operation in hand.

What this really means to our customers is that we charge a reduced hourly rate for non-value added activities such as ‘deburring’ and ‘machine setup’. Passing this saving on to our customers, is how we can achieve significant cost saves, especially for orders with a batch size above 50-off.

Our smarter pricing strategy, along with our increased efficiencies, is how we produce parts at a fairer price, without sacrificing quality.

Because of our efficient machining strategies, a recent benchmarking exercise positioned us cheaper than 92% of our ISO 9001 accredited competitors!

How our pricing compares to the competition.

To better illustrate how competitive our pricing is, we recently undertook a benchmarking exercise. We created a fictitious sample component, and requested pricing from 69 other UK based ISO 9001 accredited CNC Machining subcontractors.

When manufacturing parts in batches of 50-off or above, the results position us cheaper than 92% of our competition!

The contrasting pricing shown in the table below, really illustrate the benefits that Parallel Precision can bring to your business.

Highest Price£438.85£95.00£43.00£33.25
Average Price£137.62£45.38£15.72£12.91
Parallel Precision£135.09£37.48£11.09£8.08

Ready to buy Quality, British Manufactured parts at a Fair Price?

We specialise in the manufacture of small to medium sized, CNC Milled aluminium components. If your company’s product assemblies contain CNC Milled aluminium components, and you’re ready to reap the benefits of working with a UK based ISO 9001 accredited supplier, let us know!

For examples of our previous work, please feel free to visit our portfolio page, otherwise, please get in touch todayso we can delight you with our services.

If you have requirements for CNC Milling and let us know you have read this blog post… we will give you 10% off your first order!


CNC Machine Hourly Rate Calculator

Our G-Wizard Estimator software has a Machine Hourly Rate Calculator.   A lot of shops use the notion of hourly rate on machines to help with job cost estimation and quotation, but there’s not a lot of information available about how to calculate a good hourly rate to use.

Here’s what the CNC Machine Hourly Rate Calculator looks like:

CNC Machine Hourly Rate Calculator…

The basic strategy is to determine the machine’s Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over its useful life and then divide that by how many hours it will be used.

Here’s a quick video demo of the hourly rate calculator:

Let’s go over each piece of data that must be entered:

–   Purchase Price:    This is the price to purchase the machine and its basic tooling.  For example, a mill will probably need a vise and a few other pieces of basic tooling.  Fixtures used for particular parts should not be included here.

–   Finance:  Check the box if you want to finance the machine.

–   Depost:  The amount you’re putting down on the machine.

–  Loan Term (yrs):  How many years will you finance it for.

–  Annual Interest (%):  What interest rate is the financing?

–  Total Loan Interest Paid:  This just tells you how much loan interest will be added to the Total Cost of Ownership.

–  Useful Life (yrs):  How many years until you’ll be ready to trade-in the machine?

–  Trade-in Value:  What will the value of the machine be when you’re ready to trade it in.  If you wonder, take a look at used machinery prices for similar machines.

–  Annual Consumables Cost:  This is the cost of tooling, lubricants, repairs, spare parts, and whatever else you’d like to include.  Some shops want to bill all the cutters into the consumables cost while others want them as a separate line item by job since tool wear can vary quite a lot from job to job.

–  Operator Rate/Hr:  The hourly rate you’ll need to pay this machine’s operator.

–  Working Hours/Day:  How many hours a day will you run the machine?  8 is the default.  If you have multiple shifts using the machine, it’ll be more.

–  Working Days/Year:  Will you operate the machine every day or some subset?

–  Downtime (%):  Budget some percentage of time the machine will not be in use.  Perhaps due to needing repairs, because work gets slow, or some other reason.

–  Total Cost of Ownership:  This factors in all of the above costs to give you a Total Cost of Ownership

–  Markup (%):  Some shops will want to apply a profit margin directly to the hourly rate of each machine.  Others will keep it as a separate line item.  You can do either by entering a value here or leaving it as 0%.

–  Hourly Cost w/ Labor:  This is the final number to come from the calculation.

The numbers in the example were for a Haas Mini Mill that I just took the information of their web site for.

You can find the Machine Hourly Rate Calculator on the Machine Profile under the Setup Basics tab.  Each machine has an Hourly Rate field.  Next to the field is a Calculate button that brings up this calculator:

CNC Machine Hourly Rate

Press the “Calculate” button to figure out the machine’s hourly rate…

 How Can You Use Machine Hourly Rate When Estimating Jobs?

When you estimate your jobs, using a Machine Hourly Rate that’s calculated based on each of the different machines needed to make the part will help ensure your job estimates are more accurate.  What you need to do is combine the Hourly Rate on a per machine basis with your estimate of how many hours will actually be needed from each machine.

G-Wizard Estimator helps you build a simple spreadsheet to do this.  It estimates how long each machine is in use via the CADCAM Wizards that are built into both G-Wizard Calculator and G-Wizard Estimator.  Only the version in Estimator can do these estimates though.

The CADCAM Wizards make it easy to do feature-based time estimates.  Here’s a screen shot of the CADCAM Wizards in GW Estimator showing just the inputs you’ll need to make to get an estimate:

It’s pretty straightforward and there are relatively few inputs needed:

  • Machine
  • Material
  • Feature
  • Feature Parameters

The Features are just the different types of operation you might perform–pocketing, 2d Profiling, boring holes, facing and so on.  The goal is to be able to look over a print of the part you’d like to estimate and enter each feature quickly and easily.  The CADCAM Wizards try to minimize the number of questions you have to answer to get a complete Feeds and Speeds recipe.  The result looks like this:

As you can see, CADCAM Wizards produce a pretty complete recipe that includes a tool selection, Cut Depth, Cut Width, Feeds and Speeds, and the time required for the roughing, finish, and total operation.  There’s even the ability to add a “Fudge Factor” to the total operation time.

Given a series of features, GW Estimator will multiply out the times by the Machine Hourly Cost based on which machine was selected and put all of that into a spreadsheet you can then use as the starting point for your job quote.

Here’s an article and video that walk you through estimating a particular part:

[ Part Estimation Video ]

If you’d like to try G-Wizard Estimator, you can sign up for our Beta Test here:

Try G-Wizard Estimator

G-Wizard Estimator is free during its Beta Test, but it does everything GW Calculator does for Feeds and Speeds so you’ll need to have an active free trial or subscription to G-Wizard Calculator to use it.  You can get your free trial here:

G-Wizard Free Trial

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Are you getting the best possible rates?

Do you ever wonder if you’re getting good value from your suppliers?

Maybe part quality is below-average, but you’re satisfied with the price. Still, you wonder if you could get better quality in the same price range.

Or maybe quality is good, but your budget is being stretched and you’re seeking ways to achieve similar quality at lower cost.

Either way, it’s hard to take the next step without a deep understanding of the ins and outs of machine shop pricing. So how can you know whether you’re getting the best – or at least fair – value?

It starts with understanding what goes into a machine shop’s rates.

This will put you one step closer to knowing whether you’re really getting good value from your suppliers. It might even help you negotiate better rates.

Let’s pull back the curtain and see what’s going on behind the scenes.

The inside scoop on rates

There are a lot of factors that go into machine shop rates.

One of the biggest factors is overhead. Shops that use big, powerful machines generally charge more to cover their high overhead costs. In some cases, these machines are under-used, forcing the shop to charge higher rates to cover their costs.

Another factor is efficiency. The more efficient the supplier, the less they can afford to charge for each job. Really efficient machine shops can get more done, and can therefore charge less per part. However, their hourly rates might be higher.

Shops equipped for high-volume production tend to charge more per hour, but because they’re set up to machine multiple parts at a time, they’ll be able to finish production runs a lot faster than smaller job shops. The higher hourly price might be a good tradeoff for a fast delivery – and potentially a lower overall job cost.

Job complexity is also important. Some machine shops are equipped to take these on, while others are better-suited for routine jobs. Complex parts require high-precision equipment and they take longer to produce, so naturally suppliers will charge more for them. Prototypes fall into this category too. They’re almost always more expensive to produce on a per-part basis because of high set up times.

Let’s talk $$$

Now let’s jump into some actual price ranges.

You can find machine shops charging as little as $40-50/hour. As always, you get what you pay for. Shops like these will do most jobs on manual mills and lathes. You could save a lot of money at a shop like this if you have very wide design tolerances and quality isn’t an issue.

The average machine shop in the U.S. charges $60-80/hour. Where a company lands within this range depends in part on overhead costs, including electricity costs in their state, but mostly on the quality of their work. Companies with the capability to produce high-precision, complex parts will fall into the higher end of the range.

Top-quality parts suppliers charge more than $100/hour. These are large shops with state-of-the-art machines and the most experienced machinists. They need to charge more to cover their significant overhead costs. But you can expect more value in the form of high-precision parts and fast production runs.

The bottom line

Don’t make outsourcing decisions based solely on an hourly rate.

Consider the following . . .

Does your supplier have the right tools for your job? The most expensive machines are not necessary the best. Operator experience is just as important as the technology used. The biggest challenges in machining are making the right fixture for your part, choosing the most efficient feedrate, and selecting the right tools. Operator error leads to more downtime, higher tooling costs, and unexpectedly high production costs.

Are you paying for your supplier’s overcapacity? You want to work with a supplier that has the machines and the capabilities you need. You don’t want to stretch their capabilities too much. And you don’t want to underuse them. Either way you’ll pay more than you should.

So, where should you send your work?

It depends.

You can find opportunities to save your budget on less critical parts at low-cost suppliers. But beware of trying to save a dime on parts that require high-precision. Any parts that exceed your design tolerances can cause big problems down the line. It’s best to pay more upfront for quality parts.

Remember: don’t get caught up on hourly rates. The actual job cost will be quoted based on a per-batch or per-part basis. Two suppliers that charge $50/hour could quote very different numbers for the same job. Similarly, a supplier with a $100/hour rate might quote a lower batch price than a supplier with a $50/hour rate because they’re able to produce at volume more efficiently.

In the end, you have to go with the supplier that meets your speed, price, and quality needs all at once.

I hope this helps your decision-making process. If you have any questions about machine shop rates, let us know.

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How To Calculate CNC Machining Costs: Auto Quote System

CNC machining for low-cost precision part manufacturing

Calculating the cost for CNC machining involves various cost factors, including labor, machine, complexity, materials, and many others. CNC machining provides one of the most cost-effective options for on-demand production, but customers still require accurate price estimates before a new project begins. Some machine shops simplify this process with instant online quotes. This article will break down the factors that go into calculating CNC machining costs and offer some tips for optimizing budgets.

CNC Machining and Related Cost Factors 

To optimize costs on a design, one should understand the various factors that impact prices. Sometimes reconsidering a material or surface finish could significantly reduce the bottom line. Machine shops consider the following key factors when determining the cost for a project: 


Machine shops use machines such as mills and lathes for part fabrication. 3-axis and 5-axis milling and turning machines provide the flexibility to design parts with complex geometries and tight tolerances. Machining costs depend on the type of machine and the number of hours it will run, typically referred to as machine time. Shops set an hourly rate for running different types of machines. 

The hourly cost for a 3-axis milling machine is generally around $40, while for CNC lathes, the cost can be about $35 per hour. 5-axis machines may charge anywhere between $75 to $120 per hour or higher. These costs are independent of human labor. Each machine offers an advantage that depends on the geometric complexity of a part. Before sending a design to a machine shop, one should optimize the design as much as possible. 

Part Features

A part’s features refer to the geometry and complexity in design. For parts with complex features, more programming time, run time, and setup time becomes necessary. Complex parts may also demand specialized tools, multiple setups and machines to fabricate, increasing the final product’s cost. It is beneficial to simplify designs wherever possible to reduce the cost per part. Simplify the design by eliminating unnecessary features. In some cases, it might be more cost-effective to split a design into multiple parts and then assemble.


A material’s cost and machinability will be a major factor in determining the cost. Materials include aluminum, stainless steel, plastics, and many others. The general cost (as of March 2021) of commonly used CNC material per block of 6” x 6” X 1” dimension are:



Aluminum 6061


Aluminum 7075


Stainless steel 304



ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)


POM (Polyoxymethylene/ Delrin)


Nylon 6



Subtractive manufacturing deals with sequentially removing material, so the amount removed correlates with the machining time and price. Careful selection of material size can make a significant difference in the calculation of CNC machining costs. If one requires a rapid prototype, aluminum and plastic are faster and more affordable to produce. A general rule of thumb is to select the least expensive material without sacrificing form, fit, or function.


CNC machines require almost no human intervention once set up. A machinist, engineer, or programmer must perform specific steps. Those include:

  • Programming: A programmer converts a CAD file into a CAM file for the CNC machine to process. Some AutoCAM technology automatically programs toolpaths, greatly reducing the reliance on humans for this step in manufacturing.
  • Setup: A machinist will set up the machine/s for production. Someone always has to cut the billet, set it up in the workholding and load the tools into the tool changer. The cost depends upon the quantity and complexity of parts produced.
  • Quality control: Quality procedures differ from one shop to the next. Typically a shop will have a quality team and training that varies depending on roles.
  • Post-processing: Part-assembly, cleaning, support removal, and surface finishes typically require manual intervention. 

Labor costs in CNC machining are highest at start-up, but companies can offset those initial investments at higher-volume production. Additionally, recent developments in online quoting systems, tooling, machine design, and CAM software have optimized production cycles and lowered labor costs.


Surface finishes improve the final surface of a part, removing any tool marks or roughness, fulfilling cosmetic purposes, and providing wear resistance. Machine shops offer a wide range of surface finishes for different materials. Surface finishes affect part tolerances and range from simple “as-machined” to more expensive anodizing or bead blasting. The surface finish depends on a part’s application. A qualified machine shop can help determine the most prudent option.   

Plethora’s online quoting system makes cost calculation for part manufacturing fast and convenient. Customers can:

  • Upload the CAD design, including parts’ dimensions and tolerances.
  • Input part details, including material, quantities, and finishes required.

Proprietary auto DFM software analyzes part geometry, calculates rough material size, current material costs, and optimal tooling. Additionally, it considers how many setups the part may require based on how many sides have features and estimates the total runtime. Online quote systems allow fast retrieval of manufacturing costs and reduce the chances of error and unexpected expenses during fabrication.

CNC Machining and Cost Calculation

For high or low-volume parts production, understanding the machines, labor requirement, part complexity, finishes, and production time is essential. However, the process of machining cost estimation is prone to errors and requires careful assessment. With Plethora’s Auto Quote system, you can get all the tools and cost information immediately. The selection of optimal tools and materials will allow you to increase productivity while saving time and costs.

To learn more on how to calculate the CNC machining costs, contact the experts at Plethora. Give us a call at 415-726-2256, or to generate an instant online quote, upload your design files to Quote My Part, and start your project today. 

Quote My Part


The Plethora Team

The Plethora team is your go-to CNC manufacturer for hardware done right the first time. We have the tools and experience needed to create high quality custom parts quickly and with precision, whether you need a prototype or production run.


Shop cnc rates machine

CNC Machining Is More Accessible Than You May Think

Despite the advances of 3D printing, CNC machining is the most cost-effective method of on-demand manufacturing, especially for metal parts. Let’s break down their costs.

CNC machining is an established digital manufacturing process that produces high-accuracy parts with excellent physical properties directly from a CAD file. Although it’s been around since the early 50’s, recent technological advancements in digital supply chains have reduced the cost of CNC machining drastically and made it easily available to more professionals.

3D printing or additive manufacturing is another digital manufacturing technology that can produce parts on-demand. Since 3D printing requires no tooling, start-up costs are low, making it particularly competitive for low volumes or one-off custom parts.

The extensive mainstream media coverage on 3D printing may have lead to inflated expectations from this technology in applications where it is not the most suitable — especially for metal part production.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look into the costs of CNC machining (machine, labor and material costs) and compare it to 3D printing through some back-of-the-envelope calculations and practical examples to gain a better understanding of the current state of these two technologies.

Machine Costs

Overhead machine cost corresponds to approximately two thirds of the overall cost of both CNC machining and 3D printing. Generally, the machine rate (cost per hour) is calculated by dividing the cost of purchase by the total hours the machine is expected to operate (typically eight years for 5,000 hours per year).

CNC machines come in different variations. Depending on their machine architecture and capabilities the typical machine per hour differs.

The typical rate of a 3-axis CNC milling machine (excluding the operator salary) is $40 per hour. To this, the machine operator salary should be added, which usually range at around $35 per hour. CNC turning is usually priced lower at $35 per hour, while the machine cost per hour of multi-axis CNC machining typically ranges between $75 and $120 or higher.

On the other hand, the hourly rate of industrial 3D printers varies between $10-20 for industrial SLS or FDM machines to more than $100 per hour for metal SLM and DMLS 3D printing systems. To this, costs related to the risk of print failure should also be included; according to a study, risk-related costs can double the operating cost of 3D printing.

This means that the total cost of owning and running a CNC machine is comparable to (or in the case of metal much lower than) that of an industrial 3D printer.

Material Costs

The table below summarizes the price of stock metal alloys and plastic materials commonly used in CNC for a sheet with dimensions of 6'' x 6'' x 1'' (or approximately 150 x 150 x 25 mm).

The same volume of material corresponds to approximately $40 worth of Nylon 12 powder for SLS 3D printing — or 650 grams at $60 per kg — or $1300 worth of stainless steel powder for DMLS or SLM metal 3D printing — or 4.3 kg at $300 per kg.

Of course, CNC machining, being a subtractive manufacturing technology, has considerable waste as material is removed from the original block. Also, parts designed for (especially metal) 3D printing should be topology optimized to reduce their weight, so they use as little material as possible.

What is often overlooked is that 3D printing can also be wasteful: depending on the process, only 50-80 percent of the unused powder (in the case of SLS and DMLS/SLM) can be reused. The price one pays for this piles up fast, especially considering the cost of 3D printing materials.

So, generally speaking, the cost of materials in 3D printing is considerably higher than in CNC.

Labor Costs

The labor cost for the 3D printing machine operator are relatively low, as the process is mostly automated. Engineering and design costs for 3D printing are high, though, as the parts may require re-design and optimization. Also, considerable manual work is required for post processing and finishing a 3D printed part (cleaning, support removal, surface polishing).

On the other hand, labor in CNC machining is primarily connected to start-up costs (CAM programming, process planning), but these are one-off costs and are eliminated for higher production volumes. Quoting traditionally demanded considerable resources from the machine shops, but this is not the case anymore. Let’s see why this is the case.

CNC machining technology has not changed significantly during the past few years. Incremental improvements in machine design, tooling, consumables and CAM software lead to an optimization of the production cycles, improving quality and but not significantly affecting the cost of CNC machined parts.

What has changed are the manufacturing supply chain networks surrounding the CNC machining process.

For example, online manufacturing networks are becoming smarter and faster. A big step forwards was the automation of the quoting process for both clients and manufacturers. Using machine learning and artificial neural networks, the cost of manufacturing a part with CNC machining can be predicted (based on its geometry, material and other specifications) and an instant quote to the customer can be provided.

A process that used to take a few hours of work from an engineer to complete (with considerable investment from the side of the manufacturer), now is almost instant, automated and free. This advancement alone has considerably reduced the cost of CNC.

A Practical Example

To illustrate the cost of modern CNC machining, I ran a small experiment. Using the test bracket of the image below as an example, I request quotes for different manufacturing processes, materials and quantities from the online network of manufacturing service providers of 3D Hubs. Since 3D Hubs operates at  a global scale and provide automated pricing, this a good representation of the 'real-time' market price for manufacturing this particular geometry.

The table below summarizes the results of this short experiment, showing the cost of producing this part through CNC machining in aluminum and stainless steel, or through 3D printing in SLS Nylon or in PLA with FDM.

Notice that the difference of CNC machining the bracket out of aluminum versus 3D printing printing it out of nylon is relatively small even at low volumes (about $55 for a one-off part). CNC machining actually becomes more economical for quantities above 100 units.

For the record, if you wanted to produce the same bracket through metal 3D printing with SLM, it would cost you $1,500 upwards for an one-off part.

Why would you choose 3D printing then?

Both CNC machining and 3D printing are exceptional tools with unique benefits that make each more suitable for different applications.

For example, the cost of creating a single prototype of this bracket with FDM 3D printing was less than $8, while the cost of manufacturing it out of plastic (Delrin, ABS or Nylon) with CNC was about the same as aluminum (at around $100).

Or when topology optimization for weight reduction is critical (for example, in aerospace applications) and traditional methods cannot produce the designed part geometry, then metal 3D printing with DMLS/SLM is still the best option available today.

As a rule of thumb, parts with relatively simple geometries that can be manufactured with limited effort through a subtractive process should generally be CNC machined, especially when producing metal parts.

The next table summarizes the most important use cases of 3D printing and CNC machining today:

Lately, there has been a lot of interest in the area of metal 3D printing and additive manufacturing. Even though the benefits of this technology for high-end applications are really exciting, the cost greatly outweighs the rewards for the majority of today’s manufacturing needs.

Today, CNC machining is still the most accessible solution for on-demand manufacturing of custom parts, and this is not probably going to change in the near future.

Of course, the new metal 3D printing systems (based on Binder Jetting and Material Extrusion technologies) that are due to be released this year may change this, but we will have to wait and see if they will have indeed a significant impact on the industry.

Alkaios Bournias Varotsis, PhD is a technical marketing engineer at 3D Hubs.

CNC machining - Reducing Costs (14 tips)

What Machines Are In The Shop?

If you want win in this competitive market, you have to be on top of your game by being efficient. Depending on what kind of jobs you’re running, you want to run the best equipment and tools for it, as well as utilizing them properly.

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you need to buy the most expensive machine. As a general rule, the more complex the part, the more you’ll have to spend on precision equipment. On the flip side, you can charge more because it takes more time and money to run the job.

There are a lot of factors that can determine the hourly rate of a shop. Shops that can utilize bigger are more powerful machines will generally charge more because the overhead costs are higher, and they can do more than just a small job shop with lesser machines.

Comparing hourly rates of job shops and production shops can vary greatly. Running production is usually a larger shop with big machines that can run dozens or even hundreds of parts at a time. Efficiency is very important, and rates will often be higher. However, the orders can be started and finished in a fraction of time.

Smaller job shops that do more prototype parts and small batches are usually a little cheaper. However, the cost per part can be quite a bit higher because set-up time is expensive. The more parts you run, the lower the cost-per-part will be.

Just because a shop has bigger and more powerful CNC machines does not mean it is a better shop. A small 3 man shop can be head and shoulders above a 20,000 square foot machining shop as far as quality goes. In order to meet or exceed the customer’s request, there must be at least one machinist in the shop that knows how to do that. You can’t just make a program on a CAD/CAM system, load it onto the machine and expect everything to run perfectly. In fact, programming is sometimes one of the easiest part of machining.

The difficult part is making a fixture that properly holds the part, choosing the right tools for the part (size, length, material), as well as speeds and feeds that will be the most efficient (shorter cycle times are good, but if you’re burning through tools every few parts, you’re spending more on tools and down time because you have to stop running the machine and set a new one up; Time = Money). Some characteristics of a well rounded and skilled machinist can be found here.

Currie Engineering

So, you want to see some actual dollar amounts for machine shop rates… There’s a few different ranges of numbers, and as a general rule, you get what you pay for. $40-55/hour is considered cheap in the manufacturing industry, and while you may be able to find a local shop that has a rate that low, their work will probably reflect. However, if you need to make parts with wide open tolerances, you can save a lot of money going to a company that is 48 bucks an hour. Manual mills and lathes may be the majority of machines found in a shop like this.

60 to 80 dollars per hour is the average machine shop rate in most parts of the U.S.. Electricity is and overhead costs play an important role in what a shop is charging. However, the most important factor would be quality and type of shop. Prototype and short run parts are expensive due to set-up times. If you need to make a part with tight tolerances, that will greatly narrow the choices down. The shops that are able to make high precision and good looking parts know that, and are able to charge more because other shops can’t compete with their quality.

If you were wondering about the top dollar shops, there are some out there that charge $100/hour and beyond. Why? Along with the above mentioned, the high cost is because they are large shops with multi-million dollar machines that produce a high overhead to run, including well-experienced machinists that often get paid a better wage because of their expertise. It may seem ridiculous if you’re new to the career, but if you add up all of the expenses of machines operating, tools, inspection equipment, coolant and chemicals, electricity, and obviously the machinists/programmers themselves. After adding all those numbers up, they shouldn’t be more than what the company is making per hour, especially if the owner wants to make a profit.

In the end, it really depends on the kind of work that is being done. The higher precision and meticulous that stand strongly behind their quality will charge more, but if you have fussy parts, it is well worth the cost as opposed to rejecting the same part from a lesser shop that can’t meet the tolerances.


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Calculating CNC Machining Cost: All Factors and Tips You Must Know

CNC machining remains one of the most cost-effective methods for on-demand production to date despite advancements in technologies like 3D printing. You cannot undermine its usefulness in machining materials like metals. However, a few clients could find CNC machining cost calculation quite difficult due to the involvement of various factors.

Do you belong to the category mentioned above? This article will demystify the factors that machine shops consider before determining the costs. It will also give useful tips on how to reduce these costs to suit your budget. Read on to the end to find out more about these useful tips.

What Determines CNC Machining Cost?

Before you can understand how to reduce your CNC machining cost, you must understand the different factors that contribute to the prices. Below are a few factors machinists consider in their CNC machining cost calculation:

1. Material

This is a very important factor that machinists consider when doing the CNC machining cost calculation. As CNC machining is a subtractive process, it tends to use more material than what will be on the final product. Machinists buy these materials in blocks, and they calculate the prices per block. The two types of materials used mostly in CNC machining are metals and plastics. Let’s take a closer look at both of them:


aluminium 6061 block

The common types of metals used in CNC machining include Aluminium 6061, Stainless Steel 303, and Brass C360. Machinists use aluminium 6061 the most due to its blend of economical price and good machinability. Stainless Steel 303 and Brass C360 offer a higher degree of machinability and cost more as a result. You can use our quoting platform to know more about how we factor material costs into your CNC costs.


abs plastic block

Plastics are cheaper to use for CNC machining due to the lower average price for the bulk materials and the shorter machining times due to their lower hardness. Plastics like ABS, Nylon 6, and POM (Delrin) have approximately the same bulk costs as Aluminium 6061, although they might cost a little higher per block. Plastics like PEEK are really expensive and should only be used when absolutely necessary.

2. Machining Cost

machining costs

The machining cost depends on the type of machine. The two main types of machines used in CNC machining are mainly: 3-axis machines and multi-axis machines. In Europe, the 3-axis machines cost around $35-$40 per hour while the multi-axis machines cost around $75-$120 per hour. However, you can get these for way cheaper with Chinese companies like RapidDirect, which offer $8-$10 for 3-axis machines and $30 for 5-axis machines.

Machining costs also depends on two factors: the price of the machine and the number of hours the machine is expected to operate in a year (which is 5000 hours on an average). The machinists divide the machine’s price by the number of hours it will operate in a year to determine their machine shop rates (also known as the machining cost per hour).

Some clients also use machining cost estimator apps to estimate the cost for their projects. At RapidDirect, we have an instant quoting platform which has this function. With our machining quote calculator, you can get your quotation in a few minutes.

3. Labor

Due to a large amount of automation involved in the CNC machining process, you do not have to pay for a large number of staff members. The main labor costs are for design and digitalization. The labor costs for CNC manufacturing processes are mainly divided into three:


cnc designing

This part of the labor costs is the most expensive because it involves design and digitalization costs. You need to outsource your product for a designer to make into a CAD file. You can bypass this by doing it yourself. Next is the manufacturing engineer who checks your design for reproducibility and gives suggestions on making it better. The last person is the programmer who converts the CAD file into a CAM file to help the CNC machine understand the design. All this expertise will come at a price.

      Set up

This part involves the machine operator. He spends time setting up the machine for a custom CNC job and making sure that everything is performed in a manner that results in a great result. The cost of set up depends on the quantity of the parts to be produced. For bulk parts production, the cost per part is lower as it spreads over the larger number of parts.


After production, your production will require some assembly and transportation to your desired location. These processes will involve some manual labor which incurs additional costs.

4. Others

Some other additional costs involved in CNC machining include:


Some custom CNC fabrications might require the machine shop to purchase special tools bits for its production. Although the tool bits will stay in the machine shop after production, you might have to pay a part of the machine costs. This is because the tool could wear during production, especially if the raw material has a high level of hardness.

      Surface Finish

bead blast finish

Surface finishes improve the appearance and resistance of CNC machined parts to harsh environments. Although they are advantageous, they increase the machining costs.

All these factors are considered when processing CNC machine cost calculation. To know how you can further reduce these costs, you should see the next section.

How to Reduce CNC Machining Cost

Most times, after estimating CNC machining cost calculations, CNC machining could cost clients a little bit on the high side, especially if they do not make huge quantities of products. Here are a few ways you can adjust CNC machining costs to fit your budget:

1. Reconsider Material

The material you’ll use for your product is a huge determinant in CNC machining costs. You should consider the price of the material before choosing it for the production process. Also, the machinability of the material is very important. This determines the machining time, which in turns, affects the CNC machine shop hourly rates for your production process.

 2. Optimize Design

The design for the manufacturing process is also a very important factor in CNC machining cost calculation. The complexity of your design determines the length of the machining times, which, in turn, affects the costs. To minimize the complexity of your design, you can consider the following questions before sending the design for quoting:

–      Is my part optimized using the Designing for Machinability guidelines?

–      Are all features in my model necessary? Can I remove or simplify any of them and still retain full functionality of my part?

–      Can my design be split into multiple parts that are easier to CNC machine and then assembled?

–      Is there a way to modify my design to eliminate the need for multiple machine setups or special tooling?

–      Is there a less expensive or easier to machine material that can fulfill my design requirements?

You can also get professional design recommendations from us at RapidDirect. We have a team of 150 engineers ready to help with any part of your production process.

Get instant quote today!

3. Outsource Your Need

Outsourcing your project is another great way you can get to minimize your CNC machining costs. However, outsourcing projects to CNC machining companies in developed countries is extremely expensive. Companies in China, on the other hand, offer quite cheaper prices with just the same level of quality. We compiled a range of prices in the two regions below:

–      Price in Developed Countries

European CNC machining prices are generally higher due to the higher standards of living in these parts. Their prices generally range from $35 – $40 per hour for 3-axis machines while multi-axis machines cost $75 – $120 per hour.

–      Price in Asian Countries

Chinese companies are known for their very affordable CNC machining prices which makes many clients all over the world outsource to companies in this region. A good example of a Chinese company that assures quality and still gives affordable prices is RapidDirect. We offer a range of $8 – $10 for 3-axis machines and $30 for multi-axis machines.

Upload your files and get started with RapidDirect today!

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RapidDirect: Your Ideal Solution for CNC Machining

rapiddirect home page

Do you worry about how to get good CNC products manufacture at affordable prices? Or you’re not acquainted with the CNC process, and you want a company that can deliver top-notch products? At RapidDirect, we provide you with top-tier CNC machining processes.

With us, your CNC machining cost calculation is a piece of cake. You get your quotation almost instantly thanks to our instant quoting platform. Within 12 hours, we analyze your design and send feedbacks.

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In terms of manufacturing, RapidDirect has built a coordinated system comprising feedbacks and in-time progress communication. With this, you can be assured, we’ll deliver your products on time and with high manufacturing quality.


Q: Is CNC machining expensive?

A: The price of your CNC machining projects depends on the product’s complexity and the number of parts you want to make. For example, if you’re making a part that has a combined machining and material cost of $2 and a setup cost of $200, one part will cost $202. However, if you make 200 parts, each would cost $3!

Q: What is the best material to use for CNC machining?

A: The best type of material to use for CNC machining depends on the product you want to make. For example, if you need an affordable material and has good machinability, Aluminium 6061 is the best pick. However, if you need a metal higher machinability and do not mind the price, Brass C360 is the best metal.

Q: How much does CNC machining cost?

A: The cost of your CNC machining projects is not fixed as it depends on the characteristics of your project such as the design, tolerances. Machining times of the material to be used in the project also contributes to this pricing.


Making your CNC machining costs affordable should not be much of an issue once you follow the tips mentioned above. At RapidDirect, we can offer even more affordable deals by giving quotations that are 30% lower than the average of competitors. Get your instant quote today!  


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