If you run a small shop, or if you are involved with a research lab or design group, you may have the need to prototype metal parts or to customize designs. For a small operation, this can be an expensive endeavor. If you don’t have the machinery and expertise available to make any and every small part you may need, the alternative is generally to work with an outside company to produce it. If you only need one or two parts, however, or if you are trying to prototype multiple versions in order to perfect your design, working with an outside milling company can eat up time and gobble up money – fast. Rates for milling small jobs are often higher than for larger production runs. If the part isn’t quite right, either because of a mistake at the mill or because you are still working on a design, you’ll need to repeat the process of sending out the part again, spending even more time and money.
The alternative to working with an outside company is to invest in your own mill. Many small shop owners think that investing in such a piece of equipment is too expensive for what they need it to do, especially if they are accustomed to sending out large production runs to get milled by a third party. But the numbers often tell a different story. Like many other business owners, you may be able to increase productivity with a CNC mill, while saving both money and time.
Making a Smart Investment
Depending on the nature of your business, a CNC mill can quickly earn its place on your shop floor. It can immediately reduce the amount of time needed to prototype designs, especially if multiple iterations are needed to get to the perfect design. Even if you aren’t an experienced machinist, intuitive CAD software makes it easy to design the part you need and transform it into a CNC tool path program to cut the piece on the mill. You can create any single part you need with no waiting and no extra expense past the materials used. You’ll avoid wasting time because an order from an outside company is late or because it comes back with a mistake, requiring you to reorder the part and wait to get back – again. If you do enough prototyping, this alone might be enough for a CNC mill to pay for itself.
That’s not all a CNC milling machine can do, though. You can also bring production runs of parts back in house by using the CNC mill to cut parts instead of sending out large orders to a third party machine shop. The CNC software means that the machine will cut every part perfectly, without the need for a skilled operator to do all the work. Using a CNC mill can make it feasible for a small shop to do large production runs with minimal staff because the mill takes on much of the work, freeing up your time to work on assembly or other business tasks. Having a mill on hand gives you both flexibility and control while it saves you both time and money. Working directly with a milling machine may even help you think of new ideas for products, as it brings you closer to this step of production.
A CNC milling machine is a serious investment, but it can deliver serious returns. Having the ability to prototype your own ideas, to make parts immediately and avoid delays waiting for an outside company, and to shift quickly from prototype to production all add up to faster product development and increased output.
Make sure to check out our video on how to maximize your ROI with a CNC Mill from CNC Masters. Our video can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAyTXu3JixE#t=11