Home 9 Material Machining 9 Exploring the Wide Range of Machinable Material Options for CNC Machines

Exploring the Wide Range of Machinable Material Options for CNC Machines

Author: Yaozu Deng
Published on: 2023-05-08

CNC Metal Material 

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining is a manufacturing process that utilizes computer-controlled machines to create precise and complex parts from a wide range of materials. CNC machines operate by removing material from a workpiece until the desired shape is achieved. This process is accomplished through the use of various cutting tools and techniques.

The selection of appropriate CNC materials is essential for producing high-quality parts with the desired properties and performance. In this article, we will discuss various CNC materials, their properties, and how to choose a suitable material for any CNC machining project.


Understanding CNC Machining Processes

There are several CNC machining processes, each designed to achieve specific results with varying degrees of precision and complexity. Some of the most common processes include:

  1. CNC Milling: This process involves the use of rotating cutting tools to remove material from a workpiece. CNC milling machines can perform a wide range of operations, including drilling, tapping, and contouring.
  2. CNC Turning: Turning involves the rotation of the workpiece while a stationary cutting tool removes material. This process is commonly used for creating cylindrical parts, such as shafts and pipes.
  3. CNC Grinding: Grinding is used to achieve extremely precise dimensions and surface finishes by removing small amounts of material with a rotating abrasive wheel.
  4. CNC EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining): This process uses electrical discharges to remove material from conductive workpieces, making it ideal for machining hardened materials or complex shapes.


Popular CNC Materials: Metals

Metals are widely used in CNC machining due to their excellent mechanical properties, durability, and resistance to harsh environments. Some of the most popular metals for CNC machining include:

Metals Properties Common Applications
Aluminum Lightweight, excellent machinability, good thermal and electrical conductivity Aerospace, automotive, and electronics
Brass Excellent machinability, corrosion resistance, attractive appearance Decorative components, fittings, and gears
Copper Excellent thermal and electrical conductivity Electrical components, heat exchangers
Steel High strength, durability, resistance to wear General-purpose machining (mild steel), corrosion resistance (stainless steel)
Titanium Lightweight, high-strength, resistant to corrosion and high temperatures Aerospace, medical, and automotive


Popular CNC Materials: Plastics

Plastics offer a lightweight alternative to metals while still providing good strength and resistance to chemicals and wear. Some of the most commonly used plastics in CNC machining include:

Plastic Type Common Name Properties Common Applications
Acrylic Plexiglas or PMMA Transparent, excellent optical clarity, resistance to UV light Signs, displays, lenses
Delrin Acetal Strong, rigid, excellent wear resistance, low friction Gears, bearings, and components requiring low friction and high wear resistance
Nylon Strong, lightweight, excellent wear resistance, chemical resistance Gears, bushings, and components requiring durability and low friction
PEEK Polyether ether ketone High performance, excellent strength, temperature resistance, chemical resistance Aerospace, medical, and automotive applications
PVC Polyvinyl chloride Rigid, lightweight, excellent chemical resistance, dimensional stability Pipes, fittings, and components requiring chemical resistance

Related resource: cnc-machining-plastic-parts

Popular CNC Materials: Composites

Composite materials, such as carbon fiber and fiberglass, are increasingly used in CNC machining applications due to their unique combination of strength, lightweight, and resistance to corrosion. Some of the most popular composite materials for CNC machining include:

Composite types Properties Common Applications
Carbon Fiber Lightweight, high-strength, excellent stiffness and resistance to fatigue Aerospace, automotive, and sporting goods
Fiberglass Excellent strength, lightweight, and resistance to corrosion Automotive, marine, and aerospace
Kevlar High-strength, lightweight, excellent resistance to impact and abrasion Protective gear and aerospace components

 Read more: cnc-machining-of-composites-everything-you-need-to-know

Factors to Consider When Choosing CNC Materials

Selecting suitable materials for a CNC machining project is not a straightforward process. It involves several important considerations that must be taken into account in order to ensure the successful completion of the project.

The following are some important considerations to choose the best material for any CNC machining project;

Factor Description
Mechanical Properties The material’s strength, hardness, and ductility should be appropriate for the intended application.
Thermal Properties The material’s ability to withstand high temperatures and conduct heat is essential, especially for high-speed CNC machining processes.
Chemical Compatibility The material should be resistant to chemicals, corrosion, and wear, ensuring the longevity of the machined parts.
Machinability The ease with which the material can be machined affects the overall efficiency and cost of the CNC machining process.
Cost The cost of the material should be considered in relation to the desired performance and application requirements.


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Tips and Tricks for a Successful Material Selection

  1. Understand the Application Requirements: Before selecting a material, it is essential to understand the specific requirements of the application, such as mechanical properties, thermal resistance, and chemical compatibility.
  2. Consider the Machining Process: The choice of material should be compatible with the specific CNC machining process being used, such as milling, turning, or grinding.
  3. Evaluate Material Properties: Research and compare the properties of various materials to determine which material best meets the application requirements.
  4. Consult with Experts: If unsure about material selection, consult with experienced CNC machinists or engineers who can provide valuable guidance and recommendations.
  5. Perform Material Testing: If possible, perform material testing to ensure that the selected material meets the required performance criteria and specifications.


Quick Review: CNC Material Table

Material Type Popular CNC Materials Properties Common Applications
Metals Aluminum, Brass, Copper, Steel, Titanium Strong, durable, corrosion-resistant Aerospace, automotive components, machinery parts, and electrical components
Plastics Acrylic, Delrin, Nylon, PEEK, PVC Lightweight, good strength, chemical resistance Gears, bearings, pipes, fittings, displays, lenses
Composites Carbon fiber, Fiberglass, Kevlar Lightweight, high strength, corrosion-resistant Aerospace components, automotive parts, sporting goods, protective gear



Selecting the appropriate CNC materials is essential for achieving high-quality, precise, and durable parts using CNC machining. Understanding the specific CNC machining process, the application requirements and the properties of different materials are critical factors in selecting the best material for a particular project. The choice of materials should be based on factors such as mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties, as well as cost and machinability.

ProleanTech provides CNC machining services for a variety of industries and offers over 100 material options. Our expert engineers can help you select the best material to meet your needs, ensuring that your parts are produced with high quality, precision, and efficiency. Contact us for all types of CNC machining projects, whether you’re prototyping or doing large-scale production, and gain a competitive advantage in the market.



What materials can a CNC machine cut?

A CNC machine can cut a wide range of materials, including metals, plastics, composites, and wood. The choice of materials depends on factors such as application requirements, desired mechanical properties, and cost constraints.

What are some popular CNC milling materials?

Some popular CNC milling materials include metals such as aluminum, brass, copper, steel, and titanium; plastics such as acrylic, Delrin, nylon, PEEK, and PVC; and composites such as carbon fiber and fiberglass.

How do you choose the best material for CNC machining?

To choose the best material for CNC machining, it is essential to consider factors such as the mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties of the material, as well as its machinability and cost. Understanding the specific application requirements and consulting with experienced CNC machinists and engineers can also help in selecting the most suitable material.

What are some tips for selecting the best material for CNC machining?

Some tips for selecting the best material for CNC machining include understanding the application requirements, considering the machining process, evaluating material properties, consulting with experts, and performing material testing.



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