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How To Choose The Appropriate CNC Machining Material for Your Product

Views: 0     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2024-03-13      Origin: Site


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How to Choose the Best CNC Machining Material for your product?

Choosing the right material for CNC machining is crucial to ensure the quality, functionality, and cost-effectiveness of the final product. Selecting the right material depends on several factors, such as surface treatment, product weight, machining environment, heat resistance, conductivity requirements, hardness, application, and budget constraints.

Therefore, before selecting CNC materials for your project, it is crucial to understand the various factors that need to be considered. This will help you make informed decisions and ensure the success of your project.


1. Surface Finish:

Surface smoothness affects the performance and appearance of the final machined product. For example, parts with rough surfaces may experience more friction, leading to premature wear and failure. Conversely, parts with smooth surface finishes experience less friction, thereby enhancing performance and longevity. Additionally, surface smoothness plays a vital role in aesthetics. A polished surface can improve the appearance of parts, making them more appealing to customers.

Materials like aluminum and stainless steel offer excellent surface finish capabilities, suitable for applications requiring aesthetic appeal. Plastics such as acrylic and polycarbonate are conducive to various surface treatments like painting, polishing, and coating.

2. Product Weight:

To ensure cost-effectiveness, performance, and manufacturability, considering part weight is essential. Heavier parts may require larger, stronger CNC machines for manufacturing, which increases costs and production time. Therefore, choosing materials with lower density, such as aluminum or magnesium, can help reduce part weight and lower production costs.

Metals like aluminum and titanium provide high strength-to-weight ratios, ideal for lightweight components in aerospace and automotive industries.

Plastics and composites offer lightweight solutions for applications where weight reduction is critical, such as consumer electronics and medical devices.

3. Machining Environment:

Assess the environmental conditions the product will encounter during its lifecycle. Corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel and brass are suitable for outdoor or harsh environments.

Plastics with high chemical resistance, such as PEEK and PVC, are preferred for applications exposed to corrosive substances.

4. Heat Resistance:

Different materials used in CNC machining possess varying degrees of heat resistance, and the choice of material depends on the intended application of the finished product. Materials like titanium and heat-resistant alloys are suitable for applications operating under high-temperature conditions, such as aerospace engine components. Plastics with high melting points, such as PEEK and polyimides, are preferred for thermal insulation and electrical insulation applications.

5. Conductivity Requirements:

Conductivity is a measure of a material's ability to conduct electricity. In CNC machining, materials with high conductivity are preferred as they can effectively dissipate heat. This is particularly important when machining metals, as the heat generated during the process can cause material warping or deformation. Materials with high conductivity, such as copper and aluminum, can efficiently dissipate heat, helping to prevent these issues.

6. Hardness:

Materials like tool steel and hardened alloys offer high hardness properties, suitable for wear-resistant components and tooling applications. Plastics with high durometer ratings, such as nylon and POM, provide excellent wear resistance and dimensional stability.

When CNC materials are too hard, it can be difficult to cut or shape them, which may result in excessive tool wear, tool breakage, or poor surface finish. Conversely, materials that are too soft may deform or deflect under cutting forces, leading to poor dimensional accuracy or surface finish.

7. Application:

The ultimate application of the product rests with the final decision-maker. Prior to finalizing CNC materials, the aforementioned factors represent only a small fraction of all considerations. Other application-driven factors may include practical concerns such as machinability, chemical reactivity, adhesion, material availability, fatigue life, and so forth.

When selecting appropriate CNC machining materials, the anticipated application of the finished product is a key factor to consider. Different materials exhibit varying performance characteristics, such as hardness, tensile strength, and ductility. These attributes influence the material's performance under specific conditions and determine its suitability for various applications.

8. Budget

Budget is an important factor to consider, and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, the cost of materials may vary depending on the type and quantity required. Some high-grade metals may be expensive, while certain plastics or composite materials may be more affordable. Setting a material budget will help narrow down your options and focus on materials within your price range. Secondly, CNC machining costs can be expensive and time-consuming. Machining costs depend on the type of material, complexity of the part, and required equipment. Choosing materials that are easy to machine can lower overall production costs. Lastly, selecting materials within the budget range will impact the quality of the finished product. Lower-priced materials are more prone to defects or poorer durability compared to high-quality materials. Therefore, establishing a budget and selecting higher-quality materials within that budget will ensure that the finished product is both durable and of high standard.

The Most Common Materials for CNC Machining Projects

Now, let's move on to discuss the next section: the most common types of materials used in CNC machining. We will delve into conventional metals and plastics in detail for your reference.


A. Metal CNC Materials

a. Aluminum (6061, 7075)

Aluminum is widely regarded as one of the most versatile and cost-effective materials in CNC machining. It boasts exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, lightweight properties, corrosion resistance, and a striking silver appearance. Therefore, aluminum is highly suitable for a variety of applications. Additionally, its excellent thermal and electrical properties make it an ideal choice for a range of electronic and thermal management applications.

Compared to other CNC metals such as titanium and steel, aluminum is relatively easy to machine, making it a popular choice among manufacturers. However, it should be noted that aluminum is not the cheapest available material and is more expensive than some other materials such as stainless steel.

High-quality grades of aluminum, such as 6061 and 7075, are particularly suited for aerospace frameworks, automotive engine parts, and lightweight sports equipment. However, the versatility of aluminum means it is used in many other industries and applications, including construction, packaging, and consumer electronics.

b. Stainless Steel (316, 303, 304)

Stainless steel comes in many grades. Generally, it boasts high strength and toughness, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance, with a lustrous appearance similar to aluminum. Additionally, it falls into the mid-range of metal prices. However, due to its hardness, it is a challenging CNC material to machine.

316 stainless steel, known for its heat and corrosion resistance, finds applications in marine, medical equipment, and outdoor enclosures. Grades 303 and 314, with similar compositions, are typically cheaper and more easily machinable than 316. Their primary uses include fasteners (bolts, screws, inserts, etc.), automotive components, and household appliances.

c. Carbon Steel and Alloy Steel

Carbon steel and related alloys offer excellent strength and machinability, making them an ideal choice for many applications. They are also compatible with various heat treatment processes, further enhancing their mechanical properties. Additionally, compared to other CNC metals, carbon steel is relatively inexpensive.

However, unlike materials such as stainless steel or aluminum, carbon steel and its alloys are not inherently corrosion-resistant. Additionally, their rough appearance may not be aesthetically pleasing.

Nevertheless, carbon steel and its alloys find numerous practical applications, including mechanical fasteners and structural components such as beams. Despite their limitations, these materials remain popular choices for many industrial and manufacturing applications due to their strength, affordability, and machinability.

d. Brass

Brass is a versatile metal, renowned for its excellent machinability, corrosion resistance, thermal conductivity, and electrical conductivity. It possesses outstanding surface friction properties and an attractive appearance.

Brass finds numerous applications across various industries. For instance, it is commonly used in consumer goods, low-strength fasteners, piping, and electrical equipment. Its characteristics make it an ideal choice for manufacturing components requiring durability and strength while maintaining aesthetic appeal.

e. Titanium

Titanium alloys are renowned for their excellent strength-to-weight ratio, being both lightweight and strong. They also possess corrosion resistance and good thermal conductivity. Additionally, titanium has biocompatibility, making it suitable for biomedical applications.

However, titanium also has some drawbacks. It has poor electrical conductivity and is difficult to machine. Ordinary high-speed steel or weaker carbide tooling is unsuitable for machining it, making it an expensive material to use in CNC manufacturing.

Nevertheless, titanium remains a popular CNC machining material, particularly for high-performance aerospace components, military parts, and biomedical products such as implants.

f. Copper

Copper is renowned for its excellent electrical conductivity and thermal conductivity. However, its high ductility makes machining it challenging. Additionally, copper is prone to corrosion, which can be problematic in certain environments.

Despite these challenges, copper is still widely used in various industries, including wiring, magnetic products, and jewelry manufacturing. Its outstanding electrical conductivity makes it an ideal choice for electrical and electronic applications, while its ductility and aesthetic appeal make it a popular choice in the jewelry industry.

B. Plastic CNC Materials

a. POM

Polyoxymethylene (POM), also known as acetal, is a widely used CNC plastic with a range of desirable properties. It exhibits excellent fatigue resistance, impact resistance, good toughness, and a low coefficient of friction. Additionally, it has high moisture resistance, making it an excellent choice for use in humid environments.

One key advantage of POM is its rigidity, which makes it easy to machine and offers high dimensional accuracy. This makes it a popular choice for precision components such as bearings, gears, and valves. Due to its excellent mechanical properties and high resistance to environmental factors, POM is a reliable choice across various industries including automotive, aerospace, and consumer goods.


PMMA is a commonly used material that can serve as a substitute for glass due to its desirable properties. It possesses good rigidity and optical clarity, making it suitable for applications requiring transparent surfaces. Acrylic components offer an attractive, functional alternative to glass, with excellent optical clarity and high durability.

Although acrylic has some limitations such as susceptibility to cracking and thermal softening, it remains a popular material for CNC machining due to its versatility and ease of use. Acrylic has the capability to manufacture precise, high-quality components, making it an excellent choice for a wide range of applications. Examples include lenses, transparent casings, food storage containers, and decorative items.

c. PC

Polycarbonate (PC) has become a commonly used plastic material in CNC machining due to its unique properties. It is highly transparent, making it an ideal material for products requiring clarity, such as safety goggles, medical devices, and electronic displays. Additionally, it has good heat resistance, making it suitable for use in high-temperature applications.

However, its susceptibility to scratching and lack of UV resistance can limit its use in certain applications. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause it to yellow and become brittle. This may restrict its use in outdoor applications unless modified with UV stabilizers.

A common application of PC is in the production of safety goggles and face shields, where its impact resistance and transparency make it an ideal choice. PC is also used in the production of automotive components, electronic parts, and medical devices.

d. PP

Polypropylene is a versatile polymer with many advantages, including high chemical resistance and fatigue strength. It is also a medical-grade material capable of producing smooth surface finishes in CNC machining. However, one of its limitations is its inability to withstand high temperatures, as it tends to soften and harden during cutting processes, making machining somewhat challenging.

Nevertheless, polypropylene remains a popular choice for a variety of applications. Its excellent performance makes it suitable for manufacturing gears and medical products.

e. ABS

ABS is an extremely cost-effective plastic material that is highly suitable for CNC machining due to its excellent machinability, tensile strength, impact resistance, and chemical resistance. Additionally, it can be easily colored, making it ideal for applications where aesthetics are important.

However, ABS is not suitable for use in high-temperature environments and is non-biodegradable. Additionally, it produces smoke when burned, which can be an issue in CNC workshops.

ABS has many applications and is commonly used in 3D printing and injection molding, often undergoing post-processing with CNC machining. It is frequently utilized in the manufacture of automotive components, protective covers, and rapid prototyping designs.

f. PA

Nylon(PA) is a versatile material with excellent tensile strength, hardness, and impact resistance. It can be used in various composite forms, such as glass fiber-reinforced nylon, and possesses outstanding surface lubrication capabilities. However, use in humid environments is not recommended.

Nylon is particularly suited for applications that require protection from frictional forces. This includes gears, sliding surfaces, bearings, and sprockets, among other components. Nylon's excellent strength and lubricating properties make it a popular choice for many industrial and sports-related products.

Different CNC Machining Projects and Materials, One Source

Manufacturing design is a crucial aspect of modern industry. With advancements in materials science, CNC machining increasingly relies on thoughtful material selection. At ZONZE, we specialize in CNC machining services, including milling and turning, and offer a wide range of materials, from metals to high-quality plastics. Our 5-axis machining capabilities, coupled with our experienced team, enable us to deliver unparalleled precision and high-quality products to our customers.

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