How much does CNC milling cost? Factors and tips

CNC machining

When you’re considering manufacturing options, the CNC milling cost can be a significant deciding factor. A common question that arises is, “how much does a CNC machine cost?” and “what is the average machining cost per hour?” The answers to these questions can vary widely depending on a range of factors. At Worthy Hardware, we strive to provide value-driven services that accommodate all budgets without compromising quality. Let’s delve into the factors that influence the cost of CNC milling.

CNC machining

What is CNC Milling?

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) milling is a technology used in various industries, from aerospace and electronics to medical and agriculture. It’s a precise method of machining parts, utilizing sophisticated computer software to control machine tools.

In this process, a software design program, such as AutoCAD or SolidWorks, is used to create a 3D design of the part to be milled. This design is then converted into a format that can be understood by the CNC milling machine.

The CNC machine precisely cuts, shapes, and drills materials according to the design, creating a finished product that matches the original digital blueprint with high accuracy. CNC milling machines can work with a variety of materials, including metal, wood, and plastic.

At Worthy Hardware, we use CNC milling to create parts of different sizes and complexities, always delivering high-quality results that meet our clients’ specifications. Whether you need parts for the aerospace, medical, or electronics industry, our state-of-the-art CNC milling services have you covered.

How Much Does CNC Milling Cost?

Depending on the complexity of the part and the type of machine used, these rates can range from $75 to $125 per hour

Calculating the cost of CNC milling can be quite complex as it is influenced by multiple variables. Unlike a simple commodity, a CNC-milled part’s price cannot be determined by a single, universal price tag. This is primarily because the costs involved in CNC milling vary significantly depending on the project specifics.

However, to provide a general idea, the cost of a typical CNC milling machine ranges from $20,000 for basic versions to over $150,000 for more advanced models such as a 5-axis CNC machine. Remember, this is just the cost of the machine itself and doesn’t include operation, labor, maintenance, and material costs.

Factors Affecting the Cost of CNC Milling and Machining

Understanding the factors influencing the cost of CNC milling and machining can help you plan your project more efficiently. Let’s delve into some of these elements:

Type of Machine Used

CNC machining

The sophistication level of the machine used can drastically impact the cost. For instance, a 5-axis CNC machine, which offers more versatility, can cost more to operate than a 3-axis machine. At Worthy Hardware, we utilize a variety of machines, including advanced 5-axis CNC machines, to provide you with the best results.



The type of material being milled also affects the cost. Harder materials like stainless steel or titanium are more challenging to work with than softer materials like aluminum or plastic, and thus can increase the cost. At Worthy Hardware, we work with a variety of materials, tailoring our approach to best suit the material and your project’s needs.


Complexity of Part

The more complex the part, the more time, effort, and resources it requires to be milled, which increases the cost. This complexity can include the precision required, the number of unique features on the part, and the amount of manual finishing needed.



The number of parts being produced plays a significant role in determining the cost. Higher volume orders often have a lower per-unit cost due to economies of scale.


Labor Costs

The expertise and time of the engineers, programmers, and machine operators involved in the process also contribute to the overall cost.


Production Volume

In CNC milling, production volume significantly impacts cost. Larger volumes often result in lower unit costs, courtesy of economies of scale. However, keep in mind that smaller volumes might have a higher unit cost due to the setup costs distributed over fewer parts.


Supplier Selection

CNC machining

Different suppliers have distinct pricing structures, influenced by factors such as their operational costs, the quality of their machinery and staff, and their business model. A reliable supplier like Worthy Hardware with top-tier machinery and highly skilled staff can provide high-quality results at competitive prices.


Geographic Location

Regional differences in labor and energy costs also affect CNC milling costs. For example, services in regions with higher labor costs will generally be more expensive. However, many companies find cost savings through overseas manufacturing partners.


Tooling Life

The lifetime of tools used in the CNC process affects cost. Tools that wear out quickly might require frequent replacement, increasing overall costs. A supplier that utilizes high-quality, durable tools can help minimize these costs.


Lead Time

If you require a short lead time, the manufacturer might need to expedite processes, which can increase costs. Adequate planning and early engagement with your CNC milling provider can help manage lead times more effectively.


Design Modifications

Changes to the design partway through the process can result in additional costs, as they may require additional programming, setup, or even new tooling. Clear and final design decisions can help avoid these extra costs.


Industry Standards and Regulations

Depending on the industry you operate in (such as aerospace or medical), stringent standards and regulations might impact cost. Compliance with these standards can require additional validation and documentation, increasing the price of the project.


Quality Requirements

Higher precision requirements might necessitate slower machining speeds or more advanced machinery, both of which can drive up costs. It’s essential to balance your need for precision with cost considerations.


Machining Time

The longer a part takes to machine, the more expensive it will be. This time is influenced by factors like part complexity and material hardness.


Tooling and Fixturing

Any custom tooling or fixturing needed for your part can add to the overall cost. It’s important to consider this in your budget, especially for complex or unique parts.


Surface Finish Requirements

CNC machining

If your part requires a specific surface finish, this can increase the cost. At Worthy Hardware, we offer a wide range of surface finishing services to meet your needs, including anodizing, sand blasting, chrome plating, and more. By understanding your finish requirements, we can help optimize your project cost.

Tips to Reduce CNC Milling and Machining Cost

Every business aims to deliver high-quality products while keeping costs under control. This section offers some key suggestions to optimize your CNC machining process and reduce CNC milling cost, without compromising the integrity of your parts.


Simplified Design

Minimize the complexity of your design as much as possible. Simple designs often require fewer operations and less time on the machine, thereby reducing costs. For instance, opt for designs that don’t require the use of 5-axis CNC machines unless absolutely necessary. Additionally, removing unnecessary features and reducing the amount of intricate details can also lead to significant savings.


Material Selection

The material you choose can significantly impact the cost. For instance, machining costs for metals like titanium are higher due to their strength and toughness. On the other hand, materials like aluminum and plastics are often cheaper to machine. Always opt for the most cost-effective material that still meets your project’s needs.


High Volume Orders

It’s a basic principle of economics that the more you produce, the lower the cost per unit. This principle holds true for CNC machining as well. Higher volume orders allow you to distribute the setup and programming costs across more parts, reducing the cost per unit. Planning ahead to allow for larger orders can thus significantly reduce your CNC milling costs.


Avoid Unnecessary Precision

Each additional level of precision requires more time, specialized tools, and often more experienced operators. If the highest levels of precision are not necessary for the functionality of your part, avoid specifying tolerances that are tighter than necessary. This will save significant amounts of time and effort, and thus costs.


Use Standard Sizes and Tolerances

Whenever possible, utilize standard tool sizes and tolerances. Custom tools and tight tolerances can add significant cost to your project. Also, standard tools are more readily available, which can help avoid delays.


Optimize for Machinabilit

Some designs are more difficult to machine than others. Sharp internal corners, deep narrow structures, and complex surface finishes all increase the machining time and cost. Designing with the machining process in mind can help to keep costs down.


Minimize Material Waste

Optimize the part layout within the raw material. By reducing the material waste, you not only save on material costs, but also contribute to sustainability. For this, it may be helpful to consult with your CNC machine shop, as they will have extensive experience in optimizing layouts for minimal waste.


Consider Alternative Manufacturing Methods

CNC machining

CNC milling might not always be the most cost-effective method. Depending on the design and requirements of your parts, other processes like precision stamping, sheet metal fabrication, or even additive manufacturing (3D printing) might be more suitable and economical. Consult with your manufacturer to explore the best manufacturing process for your specific project.


Post-Machining Operations

Finishing processes such as anodizing, sand blasting, or chrome plating can add significant cost to your project. If these are not critical for your application, you might want to skip them. However, keep in mind that some finishes can enhance the durability or functionality of your parts, and their cost may be justified in the long run.


Consolidate Orders

If you’re producing more than one part, it could be cost-effective to consolidate your orders with one supplier. This reduces logistics costs and can often lead to discounts on larger orders.

With these tips in mind, the key to minimizing CNC milling costs is efficient planning and design. At Worthy Hardware, we’re always willing to work with our clients to help optimize their designs for manufacturability, ensuring the best balance between cost, quality, and turnaround time.

CNC Cutting Cost vs CNC Milling Cost

CNC milling and CNC cutting are two primary machining processes that manufacturers leverage for producing parts and components. Though they both involve computerized control, they differ in their application and, by extension, their costs.


CNC Cutting Cost

CNC machining

CNC cutting involves using CNC machines to cut through materials, primarily using processes like laser cutting, plasma cutting, or waterjet cutting. This process is often used for cutting flat sheets of metal, but it can also work with other materials like wood and plastic.

The cost of CNC cutting services can vary greatly based on the complexity of the project, the type of cutting process used, and the materials involved. For instance, laser cutting tends to be more expensive due to the high precision and quality of cuts it produces. On average, CNC cutting services may range anywhere from $60 to $125 per hour.


CNC Milling Cost

CNC milling, on the other hand, involves using a cutting tool that rotates on an axis to remove material from a workpiece. This process is suitable for creating complex three-dimensional objects from a variety of materials.

The costs for CNC milling services can vary based on factors such as the complexity of the part, the type of material used, the time taken for machining, and the level of precision required. This is often calculated on an hourly basis, and the prices can range anywhere from $75 to $200 per hour.

CNC Lathe vs CNC Milling

The debate between CNC lathes and CNC milling machines is not new, but it ultimately depends on the specific needs of your project. Both machines use CNC technology to control the cutting process, but they have distinct differences that make them suitable for different applications.


CNC Lathe

CNC machining

A CNC lathe primarily performs turning operations where the cutting tool moves in a linear fashion while the workpiece rotates. This makes lathes particularly suitable for producing parts with a symmetrical shape about an axis, such as cylinders, cones, or spheres.

Lathes are fantastic at delivering high precision, and they’re best used when you need to create complex designs on the outer (and sometimes inner) diameter of a part. The speed and precision offered by CNC turning make it an excellent choice for large volume runs, ensuring consistency across every part produced.


CNC Milling

CNC milling, conversely, involves the rotation of the cutting tool, while the workpiece remains stationary. The rotating tool moves along different axes, allowing for a higher level of precision and complexity in the final part. This is particularly useful when creating features such as slots, holes, and notches on a part.

The versatility of a CNC milling machine allows it to perform a wide variety of operations from simple cuts to complex surfaces with excellent precision. They’re also capable of handling a diverse range of materials, from metals like aluminum and stainless steel, to plastics and woods.


Which is Better?

The question of whether a CNC lathe or CNC milling machine is better depends entirely on the project requirements. For parts requiring high precision and symmetry around an axis, a CNC lathe is often the better choice. On the other hand, for parts with complex geometries and features, a CNC milling machine tends to be the more suitable option.

Remember, it’s crucial to discuss your specific needs with a reliable service provider, like Worthy Hardware, to ensure you’re choosing the right process for your project.

Best Choice to Choose Worthy Hardware for Your CNC Machining Project

At Worthy Hardware, we understand that managing CNC milling costs is a crucial aspect of any project. We offer affordable, high-quality CNC milling services, utilizing advanced machinery, including 5-axis CNC machines. Our CNC milling services are designed to meet the unique needs of a variety of industries, offering a cost-effective solution for high-quality CNC milled parts.

Whether your project is large or small, complex or simple, Worthy Hardware has the expertise and equipment to deliver high-quality parts that meet your exact specifications. We take pride in our ability to deliver prototypes within three working days and support both small batch and mass production.


Understanding the factors affecting the cost of CNC milling and machining can lead to more informed decision-making and potential cost savings. By considering the aspects we’ve discussed and partnering with a reliable CNC machining supplier like Worthy Hardware, you can ensure that your project stays within budget without compromising on quality. We hope this guide has been helpful and invite you to contact us if you have any further questions or if you’re ready to start your CNC machining project.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is CNC milling expensive?

CNC milling is often viewed as expensive due to factors such as the high cost of the machinery, the need for skilled operators, and the detailed programming required.


What is the average price of a milling machine?

The average price of a milling machine varies greatly depending on the type, capabilities, and the brand of the machine. Basic units can start from a few thousand dollars, while advanced CNC milling machines can cost well over $100,000.


How do you price CNC services?

CNC services are typically priced based on factors like the complexity of the part, the type and amount of material used, the time it takes to program and run the machine, and any additional post-processing requirements.


Is CNC milling easy?

CNC milling requires specialized knowledge and skills. Understanding the programming, operation of the machines, and handling the materials are all critical aspects that require training. However, once learned, the process can be very efficient and consistent.


How much does CNC milling cost per hour?

CNC milling cost per hour can range significantly depending on the complexity of the part, the machine used, the material, and other factors. It can range from around $50 to several hundred dollars per hour.