As a product designer, I have designed CNC machined parts for my client's projects. There is always a question from my clients about the cost of CNC machined parts.
Usually, there are two main options to get a quote for custom cnc machining services, and I have tried them both in the past.
The first and oldest method is emailing machine shops. Many engineers attach 3D models and 2D drawings along with a spreadsheet with information such as materials, quantities, surface finishes, etc. for each CNC machined part in their RFQ to their email. Companies either have an established relationship with their cnc machining companies for a long time, and they already know which email address files should go for getting CNC machining quotes. Otherwise, engineers need to lookup local machine shops for a list of CNC machining services.
There are disadvantages to taking this route as well. For example, sending an email back and forth for cnc machining services to online CNC companies is not practical in a resource-critical project. Also, for some machine shops, it will sometimes take a few days to prepare the CNC machining quotes. Moreover, some designers are interested in looking for a machine shop with lower CNC costs on the China CNC machining market. Since the Chinese manufacturing market is unknown territory for many engineers, their companies try to avoid communicating directly with machine shops in China.
Thanks to technology, a handful of online CNC companies have addressed some of the issues in the method (A). An engineer can upload their 3D models on their platform and work with their user-friendly online CNC quoting platform. Also, they can pay for their CNC orders on the same platform, and these online CNC companies will take care of CNC machining of the parts using their network of qualified machine shops locally or in China. With the help of machine shops locally or in China, they can get the parts CNC machined in the time frame and to the price they had quoted to the customers.
Original machine shops have to communicate with customers over the wall of these online CNC services via their customer service agents. Their customer service agent usually is not well aware of the design intents of the CNC machined parts. Not being able to communicate directly with the designer of the CNC machined part could result in delays and also miscommunication, which may lead to a faulty CNC machined part. More importantly, in this business model, a customer doesn't know how much online service fees third party websites add on top of machine shop CNC costs. For instance, I had CNC quotes up to four times more expensive than a direct manufacturer from an online machine shop.
Can a designer benefit from the advantages of (A) and (B)?
The question we asked before working on partZpro as a new service was how we could make the manufacturing of custom parts work as an open-source project. CNC machining customers have the right to know who CNC machines their components and how much the service provider adds for their service fees. Our main goal was to reduce the manufacturing costs for CNC machining and also provide services for 3D printing, injection molding, and sheet metal fabrication.