Working with CNC equipment can empower emerging organizations and allow them to achieve their most ambitious aims.

However, effective use of modern machinery is not always straightforward, and it is important to make optimizations at the design phase to ensure that your resources are deployed efficiently further down the line.

With that in mind, here are the main design considerations to take onboard as you begin to embrace the opportunities offered by CNC milling.

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Consider the machine’s capabilities

First and foremost your designs need to take into account what your CNC equipment can actually do, rather than overreaching into the realms of the impractical.

Of course if you want to execute more complex designs, then you will need to procure machinery that is suitably capable. This is possible if you buy used CNC mills rather than brand new units. With this strategy, startups and smaller firms can compete with the big boys without breaking the bank.

As well as investigating the axes along which your mill can operate, you must also factor in the tools that it can use. The size, shape and configuration of the tools will determine the kind of material removal that can be achieved, as well as the speed with which operations can be completed.

Maintain minimum feature thickness

The dimensions of your design need to be informed by the limitations of the mill, the tools as well as the materials that will be worked on.

In particular you need to set an appropriate feature thickness that will allow parts to be produced without the potential of the structure being compromised during the milling process itself.

Minimum and maximum thicknesses vary, so calculate these carefully and refer to them when designing to avoid disappointment.

Greater complexity means longer production time

It is entirely possible to get carried away and over-engineer a part or product when you are just starting out on your CNC milling journey. This has a number of downsides, ranging from the increased likelihood of waste being created in addition to the greater proportion of points of failure existing in the finished item.

More importantly, complex components take longer to machine and may require several extra steps and tool changes to complete. This will leave you with greater costs to bear in the long run.

If you have the opportunity to simplify your designs, this should of course be taken. This is also why it is worth prototyping prospective creations thoroughly so that you can pinpoint any unnecessary aspects to trim out before a full production run is put into action.

Embossed text is a bad idea

If you want your parts to feature lettering and symbols, avoid the temptation to specify that this is raised from the surface in the design. This will require the removal of much more material than if you simply choose to engrave this so that it is recessed rather than raised.

Should you have any doubts about best design practices for CNC milling, speak with an expert machinist and they should point you towards other useful precautions to take.