Designing Custom CNC Parts: Tips for Engineers and Product Development Teams

CNC machining has revolutionized the manufacturing industry with the ability to produce complex parts with precision and efficiency. However, designing custom CNC parts for manufacturability requires engineers and product development teams to keep unique considerations in mind. A thorough understanding of the capabilities of CNC machining as well as common design problems will help optimize your CAD designs for a more seamless manufacturing process.

Account for Tooling When Designing Custom CNC Parts

While there is a great deal of flexibility in CNC part design, there are some restrictions when it comes to tooling mechanics and capabilities. For instance, most CNC systems can only perform cuts from the top of the piece (with the exception of undercuts). When it comes to design, placing features such as cavities and holes to satisfy this limitation drastically reduces the need for extra steps or specialized tools, leading to faster production and minimizing costly troubleshooting.

If you’re working with a manufacturer that has a 5-axis CNC system, this restriction is significantly reduced, but keep in mind that a more complex manufacturing process usually involves higher costs. It’s important to consider whether the enhanced capabilities are necessary for your custom CNC parts.

CNC cutting tools, such as end-mills and drill bits, are also cylindrical with limited cutting lengths. For engineers and product design teams, this means that you need to account for the radius of these cuts on your part, especially when it comes to internal corners.

Design For CNC Machining Capabilities

A key advantage of CNC machining is its ability to produce complex parts with a high degree of accuracy. But the design of the part plays a major role in this. It’s important to consider the specifics of the machining process and how the part will be held. Design features such as undercuts or hard-to-reach areas may require specialized tooling and additional steps to achieve.

It’s also important to minimize or eliminate thin walls and small features when feasible, and to take into account the pocket depth of your part, all of which can add steps to the manufacturing process and drive up manufacturing costs if not optimized.

Think About Tolerances and Surface Finishes

CNC machines are capable of extremely precise cuts and finishes, but designing a part with too many tolerances and finish requirements can raise the price of manufacturing unnecessarily.

It’s best to approach the design process for custom CNC parts with a focus on functionality. Parts that require extremely tight tolerances or smooth surface finishes may call for additional steps, which can add to the production timeline and increase costs.

Test and Iterate on Design for Custom CNC Parts

The process of CNC machining is highly iterative, which can be a major advantage to engineers and product design teams who are committed to going through several rounds of prototyping and testing to achieve the desired results.

Testing and refining the design of prototypes with input from experienced machinists can significantly improve the overall manufacturing process, cutting down on production time and getting your product to market faster. When testing your custom CNC parts, consider making changes to tolerances, surface finishes, and design features to optimize your part for manufacturability and repeatability.

Work With Experienced Machinists

Finally, when designing custom CNC parts, it’s important to work closely with experienced CNC machinists. CNC machinists can help ensure that your part is not only optimized for the CNC machining process but that the materials and design features are appropriate for the specific production environment and requirements of your end-product.

OGS Industries is a one-stop-shop metal manufacturer that offers comprehensive machining and metal forming services to customers across a wide range of industries. From stampings and sheet metal fabrication to CNC and Swiss machining, we pride ourselves on manufacturing precision components that meet unique challenges for specialty markets.

With more than 60 years of experience, OGS Industries has been the top choice for quality metal parts due to our extensive turnkey manufacturing solutions and superior, personalized customer service.

Ready to get started with an experienced metal manufacturing partner that is up to the challenge of your next project? Contact us today for more information or to request a quote.