Rapid Prototypes are essential for product development, offer tangible representations of concept. they significantly contribute to overall development and marketing efforts.

However, to ensure successful project planning, it is needed to understand the cost factors associated with rapid prototyping so that you can make reasonable budget at the begining. In this article, we explain costs for creating different prototype types, such as CNC prototypes , 3D printing prototypes, and urethane-casting prototypes.

Factors of CNC Prototype cost

Material cost

Different materials vary in cost, Clear material like Acrylic and polycarbonate is more expensive than ABS. Material cost significant affect the cost of CNC prototypes.

Here is a data table showing the cost of major plastic sheets (30mm thickness) commonly used in CNC prototypes:

Plastic MaterialCost per Sheet (USD)Sheet Size Thickness
ABS$200 – $4001220mmX2440mm30mm
Acrylic$600 – $8001220mmX2440mm30mm
Nylon$300 – $6001220mmX2440mm30mm
Polycarbonate$600 – $8001220mmX2440mm30mm
POM (Delrin)$500 – $7001220mmX2440mm30mm
PP$400 – $6001220mmX2440mm30mm

CNC Machine hourly rate

The CNC machine hourly rate is another important factor afftect the overall cost. Machine shops charge an hourly rate for utilizing their CNC machines, which can be different depending on the shop’s location, machine types.

Complex geometries require longer machining time, which lead to a higher cost. Here is an table showing the estimated hourly rates of 3 axis, 4 axis, and 5 axis CNC machines:

CNC Machine TypeHourly Rate (USD)
3-Axis CNC$8 – $15
4-Axis CNC$15 – $20
5-Axis CNC$20 – $30

Labor hourly rate

Labor costs are also a key factor affect CNC prototype cost. Skilled technicians and operators are required to program and set up the CNC machines, as well as perform post finishing and quality check after CNC machining.

Labor cost is different in differnt Countries,labor hourly rates for prototype manufacturing in China is significantly lower than other country.

RegionHourly Labor Rate (USD)
America$50 – $100
Europe$40 – $90
China$10- $20

Factors of 3D printing prototype cost

Material cost

The 3D printing materials significantly impact the cost of 3D printing prototypes. it is the Main contributor for the total cost becasue the 3D printing machine is cheap and no need much post finishing work need after 3D printed prototype. Below is a table show the cost of different 3D printing materials per gram (g).

MaterialCost per gram (USD)
PLA (Polylactic Acid)$0.4 – $0.8
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)$0.4 – $0.8
Acrylic (Polymethyl Methacrylate)$0.5 – $1
Nylon$0.6 – $1.2
PC (Polycarbonate)$0.5 – $1
Carbon Fiber PLA/ABS$0.5 – $1
ASA (Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate)$0.4 – $0.8
Metal Filaments (e.g., Stainless Steel, Copper)$0.8- $1.5

3D printing Machine hourly rate

The hourly rate of the 3D printing machine used for prototyping usually do not take into account when calculate the 3D Printed prototypes cost becasue the machine is relative cheap.

Labor cost

The labor cost for 3D printing prototypes aslo not be taken into account for the final 3D printed prototypes becasue no much post processing worked need after 3D printing.

Factors of urethane casting prototype cost

Master pattern cost

The master pattern is used for creating the silicone mold.The cost of the master pattern depend on the manufacturing method, such as CNC machining or 3D printing, you can refer to above informations.

casting material cost

Different urethane resins come with different properties such as rigidity, flexibility, clarity, and heat resistance which result different resins cost. Here is a table showing the approximate cost of different casting materials used for urethane casting prototypes:

Casting MaterialApproximate Cost per gram (USD)
Polyurethane Resin$0.8- $1.5
Silicone Rubber$0.3 – $0.6
Epoxy Resin$0.3 – $0.6

Silicon mold cost

The cost of making the silicone mold is a key factor for urethane casting prototype cost. it can be different depending on the size, complexity, and quantity of molds required. Below are some estimated costs for silicone molds:

Silicone Mold TypeApproximate Cost (USD)
Simple Silicone Block Mold$100 – $200
Complex Silicone Mold$200 – $400
Multi-Cavity Silicone Mold$600 – $600
Large-Scale Silicone Mold$600 – $1000

Labor cost

Labor costs involve the skilled technicians who handle the entire casting process, including preparing the master pattern, mixing and pouring the casting material, and demolding the final prototypes. this is same with CNC machining prototypes.

Prototype Post Processing cost

Polishing labor cost

Polishing is a common post-processing step to achieve a smooth and glossy surface finish for prototypes. For an optic clear prototype, it takes days to finish the polishing to get the high glossy surface. The cost of polishing labor will depend on the size and complexity of the parts. It is typically charged on an hourly basis with the timing spend on manual polishing.

Fit and Assemble labor cost

Usually, the prototypes require assembly. The labor cost will depend on the timing spend for assembly. If the assmbly is complexed, more time is need to finish the job.

Surface finishing cost

Surface finishing is needed in prototype manufacturing process to get required appearance of the prototypes. different surface finishing will cost differently. Here is a table showing the estimated cost of different types of surface finishing for prototypes:

Surface Finishing TypeCost Range per Part
Painting/Coating$30 – $60
Anodizing$30 – $60
Texturing$20 – $30  
Sandblasting$20 – $30
Polishing$10 – $20 per hour
Assembly$10 – $20 per hour

3 Tips to Reduce the Cost of The Prototype

Use Less Expensive Materials

Choosing cost effective materials can impact prototype costs much. Evaluate your project requirements and consider using less expensive materials that still meet your design and functional needs. For example, if your prototype doesn’t require high-performance properties, consider using standard plastic materials like ABS or PLA instead of more expensive engineering plastics.

Select a More Cost Effective Manufacturing Process

Select the best prototpying methods according to your project’s complexity and volume. For lower volume requirements, 3D printing or urethane-casting might be more cost-effective compared to CNC machining.

Design Optimization:

Simplifying the design can reduce material usage, machining time, and post-processing requirements. Eliminate unnecessary features and components that don’t contribute to the functionality of the prototype.

Lower your prototype cost with KUSLA in China

If you’re looking to lower your prototype cost while maintaining high-quality results, KUSLA Prototype in China has the solution for you. We offer a wide range of cost effective prototype services with the support by our advanced technology and highly skilled team.

Thanks to the low labor cost in China and Fast working pace, partnering with KUSLA Prototype, you can significantly lower your prototype cost. Here are the cost range and average timelines for building prototypes depending on the types in KUSLA prototype company.

Prototype TypeComplexity LevelLead timeCost Range (per part)
CNC prototypes(bezels,housings)Moderate1 to 2 weeks$200-$600
CNC prototypes(optic parts)High1 to 2 weeks$400-$1000
3D printed mockup prototypeLow to Moderate1 to 2 weeks$50-$400
Silicone molded prototypeModerate1 to 2 weeks$100-$400
Post-processingLow to Moderate<1 week$200-$500


The final cost of rapid prototyping depends on the machining process, material and the part size and structure. Anyway, A simple plastic prototype part can cost from $50 to $200, and for a complex prototpyes assembly can cost from $1000 to $50000 and even more.

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