Posted November 18, 2020

The Benefits of CNC Machining Custom Parts for Low to Mid-Volume Production

low volume production

Manufacturers use low to mid-volume manufacturing to transition from prototyping to full-volume production. The limited-run production, usually of between 50 and 100,000 parts, allows manufacturers to shorten time to market and lower costs through smaller, sustainable inventories. When new markets and opportunities emerge, companies can innovate and react quickly with custom parts. 

The benefits of CNC machining align particularly well with the low to mid-volume production requirements of custom parts. These benefits include precision, speed, and the use of a wide variety of materials, all of which help bring products to market more quickly.

The Benefits of CNC Machining Include Precision

CNC machining defines precision through the capability to repeat the same accurate measures through the entire production run. The ability to match established tolerances through CNC tooling shortens the time between building prototypes and moving to lower-volume production. No matter the volume of production, however, CNC machine tools can precisely follow intended paths to established endpoints. As a result, small and medium-sized businesses can produce custom parts and innovative designs.

Precision and Repeatability

Because the actions of machining tools rely on numerical programming, the equipment can repeat the same precise movements during multiple cycles each day of the manufacturing process. Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs are created based on a design’s CAD files.The CAM program executes manufacturing the part.

The dynamic precision and repeatability seen with CNC machining occur under load stress. Because CNC equipment can adjust to the amount of stress exerted on components by particular applications, the equipment can maintain precision and repeatability requirements. 

Feedback obtained from CNC machines allows operators to monitor the positions of moving components for an axis. In addition, CNC operators can set, check, and repeat calibrations to compensate for any pitch errors that can impact precision.

Maintaining the Proper Degree of Conformity

All tools exhibit wear during normal operating conditions. Technology-enabled machine shops use precision measuring tools and software to monitor tool wear and to ensure that machinists replace tools before manufactured parts fall out of specified tolerances.

CNC machining also allows operators to check and maintain the degree of conformity so that new cutting tool edges do not impact programmed positions. The ability to establish the precise placement and alignment of working devices and applied forces ensures the exact repeatability of custom parts.

CNC Machining Speeds Manufacturing Processes

CNC mills and lathes have multiple axes of motion that allow drilling, grooving, boring, cutting, threading, and other machining operations to occur around and through a workpiece. For example, five-axis mills can speed production by simultaneously moving all axes of a workpiece for complex geometric cuts. 

Three-axis mills often produce the same results as five-axis mills. They do require additional steps for refixturing the part, but for simpler geometries, three-axis mills can offer a fast, low-cost production method. Swiveling spindles and tables allow cutting and grinding tools to machine a workpiece without any interrupted movements. 

Produce Any Type of Product

The flexibility provided through CNC machining allows shops to produce nearly any type of product. Multiple CNC machines operated by the same controller and programming keep manufacturing lines moving while reducing the possibilities for human error. 

Also, automated feeders, tombstones, and loaders shorten smaller-batch production times. The application of multiple CNC machining and turning work centers running through the same computer and CAD file produces accurate parts in lower cycle times.  

Quick-Change Tooling Allows High-Mix, Low-Volume Production

Higher CNC manufacturing speeds also occur through the availability and action of multiple types of cutting, drilling, threading, grooving, and finishing tools. Quick-change tooling or chucks allow CNC machines to perform high-mix, low-volume production for different types of parts.

One CNC machine loaded with the programming for different part numbers can select the proper programs for each part, change from one type of tool to another, and automatically produce several different types of parts with minimal interaction from a machinist.

Work with Different Materials with CNC Machining

CNC machining responds to custom part requirements for nearly any industry through the capability to work with different materials. This can include aluminum and plastics, as well as  hard metals, such as cobalt chrome or Inconel, used in small-batch production for aerospace or military applications. Low or mid-volume production of stainless steel components for industrial applications or high-wear components used for robotics also occurs through CNC machining.

Regardless of the type of material or custom application, CNC adds to its benefits through standardized processes and toolsets. CNC machines can provide finishing options for soft and hard metals that move designs from the final prototype to production. Multiple operations can also be performed on single part to meet custom requirements. The different types of CNC machining processes meet or surpass ANSI, ASME, ISO, Mil-Spec, RoHS, SAE, and other industry standards.

Leverage CNC Machining Benefits for Custom Part Needs

Overall, CNC machining offers a variety of benefits for when you need a custom part. It shortens the time to market and allows manufacturers to reduce costs through smaller, sustainable inventories. In addition, the flexibility offered through CNC machining saves time and allows innovation to occur at a smaller scale. 

To learn more about the benefits of CNC machining, contact the experts at Plethora. We’re able to produce custom, high-quality components in the quantities you need for a variety of industries. Upload your design files to Quote My Part to get your project started today. Or, give us a call 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: CNC machining