Introduction(mag machine tools Larry)

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CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines are automated milling machines that are programmed to accurately machine parts to precise specifications. CNC machines are used extensively in manufacturing to produce parts more efficiently and with higher accuracy compared to manual machining. When considering adding CNC capabilities to a machine shop, one of the biggest factors is determining the costs involved with purchasing and operating CNC machines. This article will examine the key cost factors to take into account when evaluating CNC machines.
Machine Purchase Costs
The upfront purchase price of a new CNC machine represents a significant portion of the overall costs. Prices can range dramatically based on the size, capabilities and features of the machine. Smaller table-top CNC mills designed for prototyping and small production runs can cost as little as $3,000. On the other end of the spectrum, large 5-axis CNC machining centers for aerospace and defense manufacturing can cost over $500,000.
For small to medium sized machine shops, the most common CNC machines purchased are 3-axis vertical machining centers (VMCs). New VMCs from quality brands like Haas and Mazak typically cost between $50,000 and $100,000 depending on size and specifications. Used CNC machines are also available and can offer substantial cost savings of 40% or more compared to new machines. When purchasing used, it's critical to have the machine thoroughly inspected to ensure mechanical and electrical components are in good shape.
Other key variables that affect CNC machine prices include:
- Number of axes - The more axes (3, 4, 5 axis) the greater flexibility but higher costs.
- Spindle power - More powerful spindles allow faster material removal but add expense.
- Precision - Machines with tighter precision and tolerances are more costly.
- Automation - Automated tool changers, pallet changers and robotic part loading all improve productivity but also raise costs.
- Software - More advanced CNC programming and simulation software is pricier.
- Brand - Leading CNC brands like Mazak and Okuma command higher prices than generic machines.
Operating Costs
While the purchase price is certainly a major outlay, there are also ongoing operating costs for maintenance, tools, and personnel that need to be factored in. Here are some of the major operating expense considerations:
- Maintenance - Routine maintenance and repairs are needed over the lifetime of a CNC machine, averaging $3,000-$5,000 annually.
- Cutting tools - End mills, drills, inserts, and other consumable tools are a regular cost, from $2,000-$5,000/month on average.
- Tooling and workholding - Vises, clamps, fixtures are required to hold parts, $5,000-$10,000 initially.
- Software - Annual license and support fees for CAM programming software average around $2,500 per seat.
- Machine operator - CNC operators need to be trained and skilled, $40,000-$60,000 annual salary.
- Shop utilities - Electricity, compressed air, and other shop utilities to run CNCs.
- Floor space - CNC machines take up significant floor space that could be used otherwise.
By anticipating both the upfront and ongoing costs, a machine shop can determine if the investment in CNC equipment will generate a reasonable return through increased productivity and capabilities. Costs can often be offset by taking on additional work and jobs that require CNC machining.
Estimating CNC Job Costs
Accurately estimating operational costs for CNC machined parts is also crucial for making a profit. Here are some tips for estimating CNC machining costs for quoting jobs:
- Analyze engineering drawings - Understand dimensions, tolerances, features.
- Determine machine time - Estimate machining times based on part size, operations.
- Factor in setup time - Add time for loading parts, prepping tools.
- Account for tooling - Calculate tooling needs and replacement rates.
- Consider secondary operations - Are additional steps like deburring or finishing required?
- Estimate material - Price out required material sizes including any waste.
- Calculate shop costs - Apply appropriate overhead rates.
- Review similar jobs - Reference quotes for comparable parts.
- Apply profit margin - Add profit percentage to cover costs and make profit.
Taking the time to thoroughly estimate and quote CNC machining costs is vital for being competitive while still running a profitable machine shop operation. As experience is gained, cost estimation will improve.
Reducing CNC Expenses
Here are some tips businesses can implement to get the most value from their CNC machine purchases and ongoing costs:
- Choose affordable CNCs - Don't over-spend on capabilities that aren't needed. Start small.
- Buy quality tooling - Well-made long lasting tools save money over cheap ones.
- Standardize tooling - Reduces inventory needs and makes programming easier.
- Cross-train employees - Machinists able to program and operate maximize value.
- Schedule production efficiency - Optimize machine run times, avoid change overs.
- Implement preventative maintenance - Avoid expensive downtime and repairs.
- Track costs diligently - Identify expense trends to guide reductions.
- Automate when possible - Automated processes improve productivity.
- Continually improve - Look for small incremental ways to increase efficiency.
While CNC machines require major upfront capital expenditures and ongoing operating expenses, the boost in productivity and accuracy they offer can be well worth the investment. Carefully researching purchase options, anticipating operating costs, accurately estimating job expenses, and implementing cost-saving measures allows manufacturers to maximize returns on CNC equipment. With some due diligence and strategic planning, adding CNC capabilities can be very beneficial for growth-focused machine shops. CNC Milling