Low-Volume Manufacturing: Types, Benefits And Applications

In today’s manufacturing landscape, product developers often encounter risks and difficulties when launching new products. Market competition is at an all-time high, and businesses must adopt progressive strategies to succeed. Innovative companies are embracing low-volume manufacturing to dodge the challenges and risks that come with mass production.

Low-volume production has proven highly beneficial for businesses producing small batches of products. It offers exceptional flexibility and customizability while eliminating the high costs associated with traditional high-volume manufacturing.

In this article, we’ll explore the essentials of low-volume production. We’ll talk about the ideal scenarios for this manufacturing approach and common technologies that are typically used. We’ll also discuss the benefits of low-volume manufacturing and help you evaluate the decision between low and high-volume production. Let’s dive in!

What Is Low Volume Production?

what is Low volume manufacturing

Low-volume production represents a strategy designed to manufacture a limited number of products. Also known as small batch manufacturing, this approach can yield as few as 10 or as many as 100,000 units depending on the technology. By comparison, mass production creates hundreds of thousands or even millions of identical products.

Large-scale manufacturing can be very cost-efficient when producing parts in bulk. However, this technique requires a massive investment and rarely permits product modifications. The key objective of small-batch production is to address the shortcomings of mass production. It requires smaller investments and allows for greater flexibility.

Now that we’re familiar with the basics of small-batch production, let’s discuss low-volume manufacturing methods.

Types of Low-Volume Manufacturing Process

Low-volume manufacturing utilizes different technologies to produce parts quickly and economically. Here are some of the most common low-volume production methods.

Injection Molding

injection molding works

Injection molding is a process in which molten material is injected into a mold, where it cools and solidifies creating the desired parts. It can be used for a wide variety of materials and it delivers precision, high-quality finishes, and consistent parts. This manufacturing approach is traditionally considered ideal for the mass production of parts. However, low-volume injection molding has also proven beneficial across various industries.

Low-volume injection molding, also known as short-run injection molding, is typically used for prototyping, creating custom parts, and the production of small batches. It offers a range of benefits including low costs, shorter lead times, and design flexibility. Low-volume injection molding also serves as a bridge for companies looking to scale operations.

CNC Machining

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining is an automated manufacturing process that uses pre-programmed computer software and code to fabricate parts from raw materials. It is a subtractive process that involves removing material from the workpiece to create the desired part. Common machines used in CNC machining include CNC milling machines, CNC lathes, CNC routers, CNC drills, and CNC grinding machines.

CNC machining is known for its speed, precision, material versatility, and ability to produce complex designs. Low-volume CNC machining allows the machine shop to create high-quality parts while minimizing costs and maximizing flexibility. Thanks to its unparalleled advantages, low-volume machining is the ideal service for producing aerospace components and medical devices.

3D Printing 

3d Printing

3D printing, or additive manufacturing can construct a three-dimensional object, layer by layer, from a digital file. This process can produce complex designs that would be hard or impossible to actualize using traditional fabrication techniques. Common types of 3D printing processes include stereolithography (SLA), polyjet, selective laser sintering (SLS), and fused deposition modeling (FDM).

Additive manufacturing is appealing thanks to its speed, versatility, and flexibility. It is used for plastics, metals, and even composites. With minimal setup and tooling requirements, this technology can affordably create parts for end users. 3D printing has been adopted for prototyping, rapid tooling, complex designs, and small-batch production processes. Examples of 3D-printed products include medical prototypes, automotive parts, and architectural models of construction projects.

Vacuum Casting

Vacuum Casting

Vacuum casting utilizes a vacuum to suck a liquid material into a silicone mold and create desired parts. It is also known as urethane casting or polyurethane casting.

Vacuum casting is especially well-suited for small-scale production runs. First, it minimizes the costs and lead time associated with product tooling facilitating a cheaper and faster production process. It can also create products with superior accuracy, repeatability, and excellent surface finishes. Vacuum casting is popular in various industries including aerospace, automotive, medical, and consumer goods.

Sheet Metal Fabrication

Sheet Metal welding

Sheet metal fabrication involves manipulating metal sheets into the desired geometries using techniques such as cutting, punching, bending, welding, finishing, and coating.

Low-volume sheet metal fabrication is characterized by a lower setup time which leads to faster job changeover. This approach also offers cost benefits to companies.

Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping is a quick process of developing a part, scale model, or assembly using CAD. It is common during the early stages of product development across different industries. Prototypes are typically created using techniques such as 3D printing and CNC machining.

There are two main types of prototypes;

  • High-fidelity prototypes. They closely resemble the proposed final product.

  • Low-fidelity prototypes. They have significant differences with the finished parts.

Rapid prototyping aids with visualization and product testing, and allows for modifications where needed. It is cost-effective and highly precise since it relies on computer aided design (CAD).

Benefits of Low-Volume Manufacturing

Advantages of low-volume products include;

Fast Delivery

Low-volume production is fast, leading to a shorter time to market (TTM). In today’s fast-paced world, a shorter TTM is crucial for business success. It allows companies to seize market opportunities quickly, start generating income from products sooner, and stay ahead of the competition.

Low-volume sheet metal fabrication is characterized by a lower setup time which leads to faster job changeover. This approach also offers cost benefits to companies.

Allow Design Flexibility

After the initial launch, a product may require modifications based on customer feedback, performance flaws, or market changes. Low-volume manufacturing is known for its flexibility which gives you the capacity to make required alterations. Processes such as low-volume CNC machining and 3D printing allow for easy modifications during design and production.

Low-volume sheet metal fabrication is characterized by a lower setup time which leads to faster job changeover. This approach also offers cost benefits to companies.

Save Cost

Low-volume production offers some cost benefits compared to its high-volume counterpart. First, this production approach requires a lower initial investment in tooling, materials, and setup costs. Further, you can save on costs associated with large inventories and storage. Given its reduced production costs, small batch manufacturing is an excellent choice especially if you’re launching a new product or testing out a new market.

Low-volume sheet metal fabrication is characterized by a lower setup time which leads to faster job changeover. This approach also offers cost benefits to companies.

High Quality

Short production runs allow manufacturers to focus on the quality of products. They have more control over the manufacturing process and can, therefore, create high-quality components that satisfy design specifications.

Low-volume sheet metal fabrication is characterized by a lower setup time which leads to faster job changeover. This approach also offers cost benefits to companies.

When is Low-Volume Production Used?

CNC Machining HDPE

High volume production requires a huge capital investment which can be risky for businesses. To mitigate these risks, companies may opt for low-volume production. Additionally, some industries demand small-scale manufacturing.

Here are some scenarios that necessitate low-volume production.

Customized High-end Personalized Products

There has been an astronomical spike in the demand for customized products lately. Customers are willing to spend more money on bespoke goods that meet their specific requirements rather than mass-produced standard designs.

High-volume production techniques are ideal for generic, one-size-fits-all products. Therefore, companies looking to satisfy the demand for tailor-made goods adopt a low-volume production business model. This approach allows for greater flexibility and customizability.

Prototyping & Verification Design

One of the earliest stages of product development is prototyping. It involves creating an early sample or model of a product before developing a final design. Prototypes allow designers to test and improve the product before it’s mass-produced and launched saving businesses time, money, and headaches.

Since product testing only requires small quantities, low-volume production techniques are used for prototyping. These manufacturing techniques offer speed and cost benefits making them perfect for producing prototypes.

Company Start-up & Limited budget

Most start-ups have a limited budget and are, therefore, unable to finance the highly, capital-intensive mass production. Further, a large capital investment presents more risk in case of losses.

The cost of manufacturing products on a smaller scale is significantly lower. This allows companies to test product popularity before committing to the expenses associated with high-volume production. Depending on the size of the market, a company can choose to retain low-volume production or adopt mass production.

Examples Of Low Volume Production


Shein is a popular fast fashion retailer that deals in clothing, beauty, and home products. This company utilizes a small-batch strategy to minimize losses. Once they identify a trend, they quickly produce a small batch of about 100 pieces to gauge consumer interest. More units are produced if the initial batch performs well.


Porsche is a luxury German car manufacturer best known for their high performance sportscars and racecars. As with any other luxury brand, Porsche uses low volume production techniques for their rare and most exclusive automobiles.

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton is a luxury fashion house that has been around since 1854. It offers designer bags, shoes, clothes, accessories, and more. This company leverages small batch production techniques to maintain exclusivity and luxury.

Low Volume Vs High Volume Production: Which is better for your project?

Both low and high volume production come with pros and cons. The ideal manufacturing approach will vary depending on the task at hand and your specific circumstances. When making your decision, you need to consider factors such as production scale, lead times, cost and investments, and flexibility.

For example, if there is a high market demand for a specific product and capital is not a limiting factor you can opt for mass-production. Conversely, if you’re uncertain about market adoption and want to minimize the financial risk, low-volume production would be more suitable. Also, if your products require design flexibilityor customization small batch manufacturing would be the go-to approach.


Gavin Leo is a technical writer at Aria with 8 years of experience in Engineering, He proficient in machining characteristics and surface finish process of various materials. and participated in the development of more than 100complex injection molding and CNC machining projects. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge and experience.