CNC Machining vs. Manual Machining

Author: Affinity Manufacturing Ltd. | | Categories: Agricultural Parts , Machining Manufacturer , Precision Machining


Different fields in the manufacturing industry rely heavily on machining. Whether you are considering starting a machining business or looking to have components for your next project produced, you need to decide whether you are going for CNC machining or manual machining. As experts in the field, we at Affinity Manufacturing Ltd have written down information about the advantages and disadvantages of each option so that you can figure out what suits your needs best. 

A. CNC machining

CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machining is a manufacturing process in which pre-programmed computer software dictates the movement of factory tools and machinery.


The primary advantage of CNC machining over manual machining is the accuracy and consistent product quality. CNC machining processes are much more precise than their manual counterparts and can reproduce identical components based on tolerance requirements with ease.

The secondary advantage CNC machining provides over manual machining is increased speed and efficiency. CNC machines allow for large-scale productions where thousands of units can be produced in a short amount of time. As such, CNC machining will increase the throughput rate of your products when compared with manual machining. Further, the high production rate unlocked by CNC machining presents significant scalability for businesses in the industry.

Subsequent benefits of CNC machining include lower costs, increased safety, and a lower scrap rate. Due to the higher accuracy present in CNC machines, they can produce a lower scrap rate and thus a lower total cost per part when compared with manual machining. Additionally, cost savings come in the form of fewer machine operators since skilled operators can run multiple machines at one time, in contrast to manual machining, which requires an operator present at each machine. Moreover, concerning the operators, CNC machines offer more safety precautions when compared with manual machining, as operators work behind transparent shields or doors, and automation plays a larger role.


The primary disadvantage of CNC machining and machines is the cost. CNC machines are difficult to obtain due to their high price tag, which prohibits smaller companies and individuals from entering the market. Consequently, it is important to find reliable manufacturing partners who have the facility and capacity to fulfill your CNC machining needs, like us at Affinity Manufacturing Ltd, for example.

B. Manual machining

Even though CNC milling is the preferred method in most businesses and even for some clients, there are some applications and situations that are best suited for manual milling, and as such, it also has its fair share of benefits.


The primary advantage of manual machining over CNC machining is the lower capital requirements to get started. Entry-level machines have a much lower floor price due to the lack of complexity and a smaller number of components. As a result, they prove to be ideal for small businesses that are just starting or machinists who don’t have the budget to shell out on a CNC machine.

The secondary advantage of manual machining is the absence of any programming. In contrast to CNC machines, manual machines do not require any programming and thus benefit from avoiding programming costs.

Another benefit of manual machining consists of shorter turn-around time when dealing with very small batches. When dealing with extremely small projects that don’t require as much attention to detail, manual machining can have a shorter turn-around time, however, this is only true in certain circumstances, such as when dealing with small quantities.


When compared with CNC machining, manual machining does have various disadvantages. Primarily, they are much less precise and require a great deal of technical skill and knowledge to operate. The lack of precision makes manual machining a hard sell for those who have strict tolerance requirements or place importance on consistency in quality.

In addition, manual machining is much less efficient and cost-effective. Due to the lack of automation, manual machining is subject to a large degree of human error, which typically results in a higher scrap rate. As a result of more units being scrapped, the total cost to produce a batch of units is higher.

Besides the disadvantages mentioned above, other drawbacks of manual machining include a lack of consistency, fewer safety measures, high labor requirements and a lack of design uniformity.

Which one should I choose?

There are very few circumstances where manual machining is favored over CNC machining. CNC machining, however, has a broad scope of applications and is suitable for clients who value consistency, precision, and lower costs. Additionally, CNC machining is best suited for large volume projects where speed is emphasized. All things considered, manual milling is ideal for simple components where a small volume is being produced. In any other circumstance, CNC machining will prove to suit you best.

When choosing between CNC machining and manual machining, it is important to understand your production requirements. If you have strict specifications in terms of costs, precision, accuracy, or volume, CNC machining will be a perfect match. On the other hand, if you require very simple components in a small volume, manual machining may be an appropriate alternative.


Our final thoughts on this topic are that CNC machining is generally the better option due to the abundance of advantages it provides over manual machining. Only in unique circumstances would manual machining be a better alternative to CNC machining, simply due to the precision, costs, speed, and efficiency present in today’s CNC machines.

If you are looking for a CNC machine shop in Vancouver, BC, reach out to us at Affinity Manufacturing Ltd. We have been serving the industry since 2000. Innovative companies, engineers and supply chain professionals partner with us to have their parts manufactured to the highest quality, competitively priced and always on time. With a focus on customer satisfaction, we have been privileged to be an integral part of their supply chain over the last twenty years.

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