4 Steps to Reduce Costs When Machining Complex Parts

When you’re designing a precision component or part, whether it’s for a large aircraft or a small commercial application, not all dimensions are critical.

There are those dimensions that are critical to the stability and integrity of the part, and its ability to do its job. Those dimensions must be strictly controlled. Then, there are others that you can manipulate to make it easier to manufacture.

When we work with a new customer, they’ll many times send us drawings for a part and simply want us to machine parts using the dimensions they specified. However, as an engineering and multi-axis machining company specializing in machining complex parts for aerospace, small arms, military and commercial applications, we know how to take a customer’s drawings and find ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality.

More often than not, our engineers can look at a customer’s drawing and instantly recognize opportunities to manipulate non-critical dimensions to cut down on machining, reduce material needs, and save the customer money. Here’s how a finely-tuned engineering process can reduce your costs.

4 Steps to Reduce Costs on Your Machined Parts

When you or your manufacturing partner design a precision part, use these tips to ensure you’re focused on the right dimensions and removing unnecessary costs along the way. These tips will save you both time and money, getting you quality parts delivered faster.

Step 1: Identify the Key Functional Characteristics of the Part

Ask yourself:

  • What is the part’s function?
  • What characteristics are non-negotiable?

The part’s function determines its characteristics and which are necessary for the part to carry out its function. These key characteristics are what must be controlled.

At this stage, use your geometric tolerances to help analyze which characteristics are critical and which are not. You may be surprised how wide of a tolerance can be accepted with certain features. Use a maximum or minimum material condition to help with manufacturing.

Similarly, consider your circularity or runout tolerances. The tighter they are, the higher your parts will cost.

Step 2: Look for Ways to Manipulate Non-Key Characteristics

Can you loosen your dimension features? Looser dimensioned features generally cost less to manufacture.

Can you loosen up the corner breaks in the title block? Smaller radii or chamfers slow down a process. More time equals more money.

Can you loosen up the machining surface finish? If yes, consider a 125 Ra finish rather than a 32 Ra finish. A 32 Ra finish slows down the machining process. It also requires a machining tool to be changed more often which drives up cost.

Step 3: Select the Right Material

Ask yourself, ‘does the part need to be machined out of a wrought material?’ Consider a machined casting or forging. While the tooling costs may be higher, the total cost may be significantly lower because machining time is reduced.

Stainless steel has several variants, some of which are easier to machine than others. 303, 304 and 400-series stainless are easier to machine than 316, for instance.

In general, using standard materials that are easy to machine will also reduce your costs. For instance, aluminum and low carbon steels are easy to machine. High carbon and exotic materials come with a significantly higher cost. Only use these materials when they’re necessary for performance reasons.

Step 4: Consider the Machining Capabilities Required to Produce Your Parts

The manufacturability of your part plays a big role in your final cost per part. Off-axis work may or may not cost more, depending on the equipment and capabilities of your machining and manufacturing partner.

To keep costs down, use standard drill, thread and radius sizes. Deep holes and tight tolerances cost more, as do tight tolerance bored holes with tight surface finishes.

Keeping Costs Down Starts with a Smart Engineering Process and a Sophisticated Manufacturing Partner

When the machine technicians running your parts are also highly skilled engineers, you get the best of both worlds and a partner looking out for your bottom line.

At Frank Roth, we simplify complexity. We’re here to help you consider the factors most likely to impact your bottom line, then work with you to engineer and manufacture the highest quality parts. Contact us today. We look forward to learning about your next project and supporting your business.