Design for Manufacturability is Key to CNC Machining

Two men are talking in a factory

Two male engineers having a discussion leaning over a table covered with conical metal parts

You have developed a mechanical solution to a significant challenge in your sector. You think you have a way to make that component less expensive, or those pieces easier to assemble.  This component could result in higher quality, longer-lasting product without increasing cost. A win-win situation seems a foregone conclusion.

If you could put this assembly in place on your company’s product, your device will improve significantly. But, can your solution be manufactured with CNC machining and increase product margins while solving problems?

Here is where Design for Manufacturability (DFM) is critical. When you do your design groundwork effectively, you’ll create your winning process scenario before production starts.

At United Scientific, we incorporate DFM into our prototyping process to ensure that the manufactured components meet the prescribed specifications while maintaining manufacturability and containing costs. Contact our design team today, and let’s get started on that brilliant solution.

Why do Design for Manufacturability?

DFM is the process of designing components so that they are easier to manufacture and result in a better product at a lower cost. The cost savings can come from reduced material, overhead, and labor costs.

It can be tempting to dive into production on the assumption that your estimated savings are accurate. However, launching production without DFM could be a costly mistake.

The design process is responsible for approximately 70% of the manufacturing costs of a product. Decisions made during the production process contribute only about 20%.

Pinning down a component failure during production is much harder than trouble-shooting your component with DFM. Perhaps the fault was caused by something in the design such that current manufacturing processes or tooling can’t produce the item.

It’s also possible an error occurred in the production process itself, causing singular or multiple component flaws.

This failure can mean running multiple testing scenarios, design of experiment type matrices of variables, and results, all while lost material and labor costs pile up.

And, if this particular design solution required multiple components, your losses could multiply quickly. DFM is a proactive solution to this scenario.

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The key components of DFM


First, you need to choose the right method to manufacture your parts. At a high level, you must consider production volume and general material requirements before production begins.

The production volume of the final component is one key to deciding how you might expedite the manufacturing process. Low volume quantities would most likely require the use of existing equipment and tooling. High volume and longer-range repeatable projects may require increased investment capital into specialized tools, jigs, or dies.

General material requirements are an essential element to consider at this point, as well. Materials like fiberglass, aluminum, or titanium require different machining specs. Does the facility you chose have the capability to work with your preferred medium?

Tolerances are also a factor. Toy wagon parts may require significantly less precision than heart catheters, for example. DFM means that you choose each process step for its tolerance limitations and inspection capabilities.

It’s also imperative to consider design features not suitable for typical CNC machining processes, such as parts with deep cavities or thin walls. These specifications may be better suited for other machining processes or require additional tooling to produce the quality desired.


The first step in DFM is to determine if you need all the parts as initially proposed. If the part count diminishes, the production process simplifies.

There may also be assembly modifications to consider that would reduce the number of interlocking components and fittings. In other words, do you need a nut-bolt-washer fastener across four different openings, when a cotter pin would suffice?

Another cost-saving measure in DFM are off-the-shelf item substitutes. A good question to ask is:  “Are the designed tolerances the only way this component will fit with the others?†Perhaps there is an option of modifying a tolerance, or any of the other components it will be assembled with, to accept a standard, off-the-shelf part.

A cost-benefit analysis is required in this scenario, as modifying another part could entail higher expenses than customizing the one at hand.

Material selection

Hopefully, you determined during the first process selection step what types of materials you will require. Let’s dive a bit deeper into the specifics of your materials.

Here are a few queries to run as you further refine the DFM model:

  • How strong does the material need to be?
  • To what degree does it need to be heat resistant?
  • Have the other components been designed to match, or allow for, the expansion and contraction of the selected materials surrounding it?
  • Does the material need to have any specific surface qualities such as color or reflectivity?

Some of the answers to these questions could depend upon the answers to the following questions as they pertain to the environment.

Environment considerations

Material selection will vary dependent upon the environment in which it will finally be used. Will this component be performing in:

  • Space
  • Seawater
  • A human body
  • Outdoors
  • In variable weather?

You may not want a material that corrodes used in a stent any more than you want one that turns brittle in the cold traveling through space.

Quality and testing

One last DFM consideration is what kind of industry standards must this part meet? Is the manufacturing partner you chose ISO certified? Will third party testing be required?

Is your manufacturing partner aligned with third-party testers, such that they know the ins and outs of getting product pushed through? You’ll want to vet the compliance process as part of your DFM so your production timelines don’t get hung up for non-compliance.

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Make the most of CNC machining with DFM

You can use the DFM process on new product development. DFM is also useful for cost savings initiatives on existing assemblies. The goal is to get engineering to work with production from the beginning.

The key to effective DFM is to utilize the current production capabilities to the fullest and advocate for new technologies when needed.

Design for manufacturability also ensures that designed components require minimal purchasing of new pieces of equipment, as well as avoiding never-before-used finishing processes currently only done overseas.

Production, in return, can alert the designer to any off-the-shelf items that would fit seamlessly or with a few tweaks in the protocol. You may also discover, through DFM, that the production team already manufactures a similar, non-proprietary, item. With those same tweaks, the volumes could be combined, and the startup process eliminated.

Contact United Scientific, and let’s start working together from the beginning to get you that better product at a lower cost.

Manufacturing our Defense: The History of Defense Manufacturing

A person is using an electric grinder to grind metal.

High abrasive grinder machining a cylinder and throwing sparks

Since the day the first explorers came to North America through to the American Revolution, we have had a need to manufacture supplies used to defend ourselves from harm and to stand up for our ideals.

The American Industrial Revolution started soon after, in the mid-1800s, and although focused on agriculture and textile mechanization, it would ultimately lead to the modern factory.

Inventions, such as the steam engine, emerging at the same time propelled production efficiencies forward, reducing labor costs, and decreasing prices, allowing access to a whole new sphere of customers.

A short half-century later, World War I would come to fruition, and the worlds of defense and manufacturing would begin to merge.  Defense manufacturing is one of many industries United Scientific serves.  Contact us today to learn more about the current state of defense manufacturing or read on to learn more about its history.

Defense manufacturing history in a nutshell

Pre-World War I

Before World War I, we relied on arsenals of ground weapons and naval armadas to protect us from unfriendly fire. However, during this period in history, new technologies emerged, like the light bulb, the telephone, and wireless transmission devices like the radio.

While the development of these technological advances came into play, so did improvements in manufacturing. Milestones such as Ford’s production line would set the benchmark for large volume production of complex parts and assemblies.

Black and white drawing of metalworking, turning bench lathe

World War I

At the start of World War I, the US only supplied foreign force allies with military equipment. The adoption of mass production lines, like those in the Ford plant, changed that. In factories everywhere, these mass production lines became the norm, and the US began providing arms, ammunition, and military vehicles, as well as military supplies, to allied forces until we entered the battle ourselves.

After World War I, the US began protecting its interests around the world. Manufacturing capabilities were rapidly expanding across the globe as well, and that included those producing military stockpiles.

Up until this point, most military products were designed and produced within the US armed services themselves. But as the needs became higher and the weapon systems became larger, design and production were outsourced to the private sector. Here, state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies arrived for both commercial and military endeavors.

World War II

In anticipation of World War II activities, the US government expanded existing plants or built new production facilities.  Many Government Owned, Contractor Operated (GOCO) facilities launched, and existing commercial manufacturing plants converted to military production.

With the end of World War II, the production of ammunition and military equipment slowed down significantly, if not shut down. Many plants reverted to manufacturing commercial goods in to keep themselves and the economy booming.

The Cold War

Christened initially as the National Military Establishment in June of 1947, the name became The Department of Defense (DoD) in August of 1949.

The DoD tackled re-aligning the individual armed forces and associated civilian agencies. One effect of the resulting re-organization was that under-utilized equipment and supplies collected dust in storage, or were destroyed.

Due to downsizing, the US was unprepared in its needs for current weaponry at the start of the Korean War. The Defense Production Act of 1950 became law to make sure that a similar shortage would not happen again.

That act provided funds to ensure that new defense materials would always be available and new production methodologies were continually brought into facilities.

As we moved through the Cold War Era, alternative weaponry development took precedence. Then the Space Race began, and so did the need for even more sophisticated componentry.

Up-and-coming weapon componentry was so complex that it could not be manufactured on existing equipment.

As part of the Defense Production Act, the Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program was established in the late 1950s, championing the development of new manufacturing processes and tools.

The end of the Cold War brought with it an end to the support for massive military expenditures.

The resulting funding constraints culminated in mergers across the country of military and commercial entities in order to diversify product offerings and consolidate applicable technologies. The distinction between military and commercial manufacturers continues to soften, especially for those shops creating space and communication systems.

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Current state of affairs

According to several sources, we may still be in the Third Industrial Revolution – the Digital Revolution – but we are also on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics, and 3-D printing will once again change how we create the products we need now, and how we manufacture products going forward.

There may be an ebb and flow to world events affecting the necessity of defense manufacturing. There may be revolutions within the industrial world itself. However, there will always be a need for timely, cost-effective, quality production.

Part of a long-standing history

In our current state of affairs, the defense industry still relies on its manufacturing partners.  Those partners still must deliver:

  • Precision manufacturing
  • The highest quality available
  • Accurate production timelines
  • Documented components that can pass all regulatory certifications
  • Mixed volume complex production

United Scientific has been producing on these deliverables for over 70 years and is part of the long-standing history of defense manufacturing.

Our St Paul facility is up to date with the latest CNC technology, finishing processes, and inspection equipment. We offer a wide range of services including:

  • Prototyping
  • Machining
  • Milling
  • Centerless grinding
  • Plasma cutting
  • Welding
  • Aluminum casting
  • Heat treating
  • Coating and plating
  • Inspection
  • Assembly
  • Supply Chain Management

Our men and women in the military deserve the best equipment and supplies we have to offer. They deserve the best equipment available to keep them safe while they keep us safe.

There is no margin for error in weaponry and component production. The lives of many individuals depend upon having flawless componentry at their disposal. “Keep our service-people safe and bring them home safe,†that is our true end-run goal.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you navigate these industrial revolutions to manufacture the highest quality parts you need.  We’ll assist you to produce the safest and most accurate supplies our military needs.

How to Choose a Precision Machining Partner

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Silhouette win win

There is nothing better than peace of mind. When it comes to your business, this is far and few between. Start your journey to finding a trusted precision manufacturing partner. Precision machining is, as it says, precise and needs a trustworthy partner with credentials and expertise to back you up in your precision machine shop. 

A partner is an endeavor laced with unknowns and new routines for everyone during and once implemented. CEO’s to quality control to CNC machinists are going to be affected by the change; choosing your partner correctly the first time is your goal. 

United Scientific Inc in Minnesota is an ISO 9001 registered and certified precision machine shop. Specifically, United Scientific Inc has an internal audit program that excelled tremendously; take a look at the report here.

If you are considering a partner for your precision manufacturing machining requirements, make sure to continue reading. 

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The cream of the crop is the dream of any business, from the employees to the equipment and technology. Your product must produce meticulously precise results, and there is a deadline looming at every turn. 

The collective expertise and experience of the team you choose must be just that, the cream of the crop. Programmers, machinists, CNC experts, and so many more positions are required when producing the absolute best product on time and within budget. 

Do your research on the potential partner before committing to a company that may set you back in production time. The last potential problem you want to take on is an unreliable partner who has not been in the industry for a long time. 

United Scientific has decades of experience with combined totals of 70 plus years within the company. Expertise is just one aspect to consider, technology and equipment must be at the forefront of thought as well when expanding your production numbers. 

Expertise is essential if the part needs fine-tuning to streamline the process and, ultimately, a better bottom line. A business partner must know the industry, their equipment, and they must be on your side. 

Caucasian Lathe Machine Technician with Wrench Trying To Adjust Machinery Elements.

Equipment and Technology

Who knew we would need to upgrade and maintain technology and equipment as much as we still do? This one crucial consideration puts a hole in a budget challenging to swallow. When researching a partner, make sure they upgrade regularly and continually update outdated machines. 

A precision machining partner must be well versed in CNC machines for the most precise results. The CNC machine integrated into the industry, and your partner must be vetted in this machine that controls them all. 

Read on: What Do the Letters “CNC†Mean and How Does CNC Machining Work

As we all know, technology tends to go through a revolution every two weeks, and we must consider a partner with the capabilities to keep up with the ever-changing environment. Take into account the technology the potential machining partner has in place and the technology you require for production. 

Non-machining experts could have trouble with everyday computers in one way or another. A CNC expert has specific instructions to follow, maintaining efficiency and effortlessly working with other team members in a time constricted environment. A CNC team is essential for a precision machining partner.

A new partner can bring expansion, opening doors left and right. The wrong partner can bring frustration, ending an exciting moment of your company expanding. Use a partner with history who can back you up when you need it the most. United Scientific Inc will not disappoint with a track record to prove it. 

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Kept Relationships

Yes, relationships. Instead of the “service†word, look for a partner who has connections with their clients. A bond is more than a screen to screen conversation; look for an accountable partner who you know by name and face.

It’s known throughout the psychological world that business relationships are better when they grow as an actual type of friendship. Business is business, although sometimes it’s a relief to break away for some life outside of work. 

Though it is frowned upon to make mistakes in any industry or personal life, having a partner who learns from them and listens to their clients and partners alike moves production along. On the other side, employees can be too scared to bring up a mistake, resulting in a halt in production until the issue resolves. 

Employee relationships are just as meaningful as the head honchos getting along. Staff members are only going to work hard when their relationship is in good standing with their employer. Your partner’s employee’s happiness can bring out more production; take a peek inside their facility when looking into your machining partner. 

These small but impactful relationship goals for your potential precision manufacturing partner matter in your decision and, United Scientific Inc has employees with decades loyal to them and many more on their way. 

Break it Down

Expertise, technology, and relationships are only a few of the points to weigh when choosing a precision machining partner. Don’t make a choice lightly as it is costly to switch again and again, not to mention taxing on your employees. 

Make sure to research for the most expert and knowledgeable partner for precision machining. As the title states, precise machining requires machinists and programmers who have the experience you need. 

Ask questions about the equipment in use, training of the employees for the machines, and get some partner or client reviews. With the evolving industry of machining, having added the CNC machine, what’s next? 3D Printing?

Read more about the future of manufacturing in “The World of Modern Manufacturing: Is There a Stopping Point?â€Â 

It’s hard to say where we will be in 15 years with the changing world of computers supposedly making our lives less complicated. These machines are essential for a partner in the industry and will continue to be a necessary part of the industry.