Tech Tuesday: 8 Commonly Used Materials in CNC Machining

Posted March 19, 2019 10:04 am   Published by    BobCAD-CAM ">

Tech Tuesday is a weekly blog that addresses some of the most common questions and concerns that I hear throughout the previous week from users of BobCAD’s CAM software. Both customers and future customers are more than welcome to leave a comment on what they would like to see covered for the following Tech Tuesday.

Machining precision parts can leave very little room for error since every single part needs to be exactly the same within ‘X’ amount of tolerance. The machinability and approach machinists take towards their stock varies greatly depending on the complexity of the part geometry and the material being cut. Today’s Tech Tuesday address the 8 most commonly used stock types utilized in manufacturing.

1. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel comes in many different packages. It can be rolled into sheets, plates, bars, wires and is commonly used in cookware, cutlery, art, surgical equipment, industrial equipment, etc… Its most attractive feature of stainless steel is the resistance to corrosion and the ease at which it can be steam cleaned and sterilized. Although it is corrosion resistant, it is not corrosion proof. Machinists working with stainless can sleep well at night knowing that their chips are 100% recyclable, keeping waste at a minimum.[1]

stainless steel in cnc manufacturing

2. Steel

Steel is a major component in the manufacturing industry due to its lost cost and high tensile strength. It’s best known for its uses in building construction, infrastructure, tools, ships, vehicles, machines, weapons, etc…[2] Greater than 90% of the co-products from the steel making process are reused or recycled.[3]

how steel is used in cnc manufacturing

3. Brass

Brass is one of the more underutilized metals in manufacturing. However, it is probably one of the more ideal metals to machine with since it cuts much easier at higher speeds & feeds. This happens without the typical negative impact on tool wear, surface finishes and chip formation. Cutting at faster speeds means more parts out the door and more profits. The icing on the cake? Brass is 100% recyclable, keeping costs low.[4]

using brass in cnc manufacturing

4. Aluminum

Aluminum is one of the most useful metals in manufacturing and building due to how light and strong it is. Given the fact that it’s lightweight and highly resistant to corrosion, aerospace is an industry that greatly benefits from aluminum. This metal is 100% recyclable, retaining its properties indefinitely. Another fun fact, nearly 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today![5]

aluminum & how it's used in cnc manufacturing

5. Copper

Copper is one of the softest metals used in manufacturing. It has many uses in the world around us, mainly as a conductor of heat and electricity, building material, and as a constituent of various metal alloys, such as sterling silver used in jewelry, cupronickel used to make marine hardware and coins.[6] Each year in the U.S.A., nearly as much copper is recovered from recycled material as is derived from newly mined ore.[7]According to Utility Saving Expert, it is used in many of the business and other larger establishments.
copper used in cnc manufacturing


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6. Titanium

Titanium is infinitely vital to the manufacturing industry due to its resistance to corrosion in sea water, aqua regia, and chlorine. When alloyed with iron, aluminum, vanadium, and molybdenum, among other elements, it produces strong, lightweight alloys used in the aerospace industry. Some other industries that benefit from titanium are automotive, medical prostheses, orthopedic implants, dental and endodontic instruments and files, dental implants, sporting goods that can range from $499 or lower, jewelry, mobile phones, and other applications. Titanium can be recycled and used over & over again with almost no loss of quality.[8]

titanium used in cnc manufacturing

7. Plastics

Plastic is material consisting of any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic compounds that are malleable, allowing them to be molded into solid objects. Due to their low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility, and imperviousness to water, plastics are used in a multitude of products of different scale, including paper clips and spacecraft. Over time, plastic has been used as a substitute over traditional materials, such as wood, stone, horn & bone, leather, metal, glass, ceramic, etc.. Plastics have many uses in the medical field as well, with the introduction of polymer implants and other medical devices derived at least partially from plastic. Most plastic materials can be recycled, however, containers bearing the #6 at the bottom are not recyclable.[9]

plastics used in cnc manufacturing

8. Wood

There are many different types of wood out there that serve different purposes for their specific needs but we are going to talk about wood as a resource in general. Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of trees and other woody plants. It is an organic material and has been used for thousands of years for fuel, construction material, making tools & weapons, furniture and paper.[10] Wood’s recyclability is much different than its metal/plastic counterparts. Typically pressure treated, painted or otherwise finished woods are not reusable. Wood that doesn’t have these special additions can be repurposed as compost or mulch.[11]

wood used in cnc manufacturing

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[1] Stainless Steel, Resource 1

[2] Steel, Resource 2

[3] Steel, Resource 3

[4] Brass, Resource 4

[5] Aluminum, Resource 5

[6] Copper, Resource 6

[7] Copper, Resource 7

[8] Titanium, Resource 8

[9] Plastics, Resource 9

[10] Wood, Resource 10

[11] Wood, Resource 11

2 responses to “Tech Tuesday: 8 Commonly Used Materials in CNC Machining”

  1. Luis Bartheneuf says:

    I did not see cast iron /nodular iron?
    Thank You.

    • Mike Downss says:

      That is an excellent point. Perhaps I can do an article down the road that focuses on Iron! Thank you for your comment and for reading.

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