Posted January 14, 2021

Six Recommendations for CNC Manufacturing Efficiency Before Prototyping Starts

Submitting complete data can help increase CNC manufacturing efficiency

The machine shop you work with understands the need for efficiency and will ensure that they are well-prepared for your prototype project before they start working on it. Preparation before production reduces potential manufacturing and quality issues that ultimately translate into extra time and expense. To help your machine shop help you, here are some steps that you can take to enhance CNC manufacturing efficiency for your next project.

Why Preparation Is Essential for CNC Manufacturing Efficiency

The goal of manufacturing precision parts is to get the finished product into production as soon as possible. Although design changes will impact a prototype part’s manufacturing schedule, delays are expected during the ordinary course of product development. Unexpected delays and other problems due to missing information and data will be costly:

  • Slipped schedules: Without all of the necessary information to work with, the job will delay until a machine shop representative can gather all of the required data. The machine shop cannot afford to guess what the customer wants when programming the CNC machining from the CAD models and will wait for all of the required information before proceeding.

  • Potential errors: Errors in requested materials, improperly-specified tolerances, or inaccurate CAD models can cause the part to be fabricated with errors. Not only does this result in wasted materials, time, and effort, but the original data will also have to be corrected and the job restarted. 

  • Wasted time: Missing or inaccurate data slows the job down as unnecessary steps clog the workflow. Reprogramming the CNC machine code takes time and can’t be completed until the correct code is ready for manufacturing. In contrast, having all of the required data up front will allow for efficient part production planning from start to finish

Preparation is a crucial part of the manufacturing process. Here are some steps you can take to make this process more efficient.

The Top Six Recommendations for Designers to Help Improve Manufacturing Efficiency

There are several ways to prepare your project so the machine shop can get right to work without any difficulties. Here are the top six for your consideration:

  1. Use the online DFM and auto-quote systems

If your machine shop uses an online system [Live link: “Can Your Parts Vendor Meet ITAR Data Security Requirements?”] for evaluating your project’s manufacturability and quoting the job, make sure to use it. Online systems often feature the capability to submit your CAD model files so you can save time in creating and transmitting data. It also engages the evaluation system immediately in preparation for your part to be built and provides feedback on the part’s manufacturability.

  1. Specify the materials required for the part

Machine shops work with many material types, including aluminum, steel, stainless steel, copper, brass, bronze, and other types of plastic such as ABS, Nylon, Polycarbonate, and PTFE. There are also different material subtypes, like various aluminum alloys, to take into consideration. Given this, the machine shop will need those specifications upfront because the wrong choice will result in wasted time, materials, and delays. It also allows the machine shop to order unique materials that they don’t regularly stock prior to beginning the project.

  1. Call out any special tolerances

Most part dimensions and tolerances are included in CAD model files, but there are times when special or unique features require a different tolerance. Special tolerances need highlighting or provisions in a separate 2D drawing.

  1. Locate and dimension holes to be milled out for inserts

As with tolerances, some of the holes required for inserts may not have all of the information that the machine shop needs to mill them out. In cases like this, the holes’ final state must be specified in the model or set in a separate 2D drawing.

  1. Specify the finishes

Surface finishes are often left out when a part request is submitted to a machine shop. Such discrepancies require the account representative to contact the customer and acquire that additional information, which slows down production. Surface finishes can include powder coating, plating, anodizing, electro-polishing, and many more.

  1. Include instructions for unique fixtures

When unique fixtures are required, it is crucial to have all of their data. The holes used—such as threaded, tapped, or milled—often go overlooked in the original request. As with any other missing information, this will slow down the job as the machine shop contacts the customer to resolve the issue.

From this list, you can see how important it is to present this information to the machine shop in the initial request. The CAD model uploaded to the machine shop supplies much of the data, but that may not cover everything. Machine shops often ask for a 2D drawing to ensure that many of the part’s unique details are documented, such as special tolerances and holes’ location and dimensions.

By giving the machine shop all of this data before they start, you can save time and expenses. In return, all of this data will help the machine shop seamlessly work with you.

How Your Machine Shop Can Help

With all the necessary data in hand, the machine shop can move quickly to evaluate your prototype design, quote it, and start production [Live link: “What is Manufacturing as a Service?”]. With automated online tools for these tasks, the machine shop can elevate their level of service. New part requests are evaluated automatically before a quote is generated, and once accepted, your data will automatically flow from the request system to the manufacturing floor, ready for production. This efficient system prevents the shop from having to halt production to acquire missing information or data. Additionally, having all of this data will put the machine shop in a better position to answer questions and work with you on any design changes or corrections. With this level of preparation, the machine shop will be able to easily transition your prototype project into full regular production once you are ready for it.


At Plethora, we specialize in manufacturing precision parts using the industry's most advanced CNC machining equipment and software. To ensure CNC manufacturing efficiency, our refined processes follow structured workflows and operational best practices, and we continuously monitor our work for improvement opportunities. We are ISO 9001 certified, supporting our primary goal of manufacturing your parts to the highest level of quality. Our online DFM and quoting systems are ready to receive your data so we can begin working with you on your next project. To get started, upload your design files to Quote My Part or call us at 415-726-2256.

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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.

Topics: Manufacturing, Prototyping