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CNC machines used in contract electronics manufacturing

By VentureOutsource.com Staff

Contract electronics manufacturing and design firms use computer numerical control (CNC) automation machines and tools to achieve better control of customer product box build and system integration casings and enclosure design, function and features.

Essentially, CNC machines are automated processing of lathes, punch pressing, routers, drills, cutters and millers and grinding along an assembly line able to create forms, faceplates, enclosures…from various substrates ranging from metal to plastics and more.

For the past few years there has been a trend with demand for CNC capabilities exceeding supply of CNC services. See graph below for estimated 2014 v 2015 CNC machines supply v. demand.

Estimated 2014 v 2015 CNC machines supply v. demand

When comparing metal die casting v CNC extrusion, metal casings produced by die casting typically can have surface flaws and need special treatment. Die casting will cost less than CNC but do not typically achieve the same quality parts and enclosures produced by CNC extrusion.


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And since metal casing design has become an important feature for hardware products and components like smartphones, handsets, cameras, batteries, processors…OEMs turn to design complexity capability CNC machining offers.

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Case in point. An earlier report by UBS reports when smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi announced its Mi4, CEO Lai Jun talked in detail at Xiamoi’s product launch conference about the phone’s metal frame as a key feature.

Jun said the Mi4 requires 40 different processes and 193 different tooling steps to produce the stainless steel metal frame.

Similarly, smartphone manufacturer Coolpad Group (formerly China Wireless Technologies) produced the aluminum metal casing for its Dazen 1S product and promoted its CNC machining process as a key feature of the Dazen 1S, and highlighted the complex production processes, with the frame requiring four extrusions, five rounds of CNC machining and 45 machining processes.

Premium smartphones and metal casings

In addition to Xiaomi and Coolpad, some other smartphone makers using CNC machining in their supply chain for metal casings of their higher end hardware products include Samsung, Huawei, Lenovo, TCL, BBK, HTC, and ZTE to name several.


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Demand for CNC capacity will likely continue as products compete based on design, features and functionality.

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One noteworthy company mentioned above adding significant CNC capacity according to UBS is Samsung while Hon Hai group’s number of CNC machines has declined.

Estimated 2014 v 2015 CNC machines by owner

Below, according to UBS estimates and company data, CNC capacity for the following companies.

Note in the pie chart comparison above that contract electronics provider Jabil has declined in CNC capacity according to UBS research. This is surprising given additive manufacturing capability is becoming the only differentiator among many EMS providers. To find EMS providers offering CNC services use our advanced EMS directory search here.

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