Which Material Is Right for My CNC Machining Project?
CNC machining is an extraordinarily versatile technology that uses a subtractive process to remove material, thereby achieving the end result.
CNC manufacturing is generally less expensive for small-to-medium volume and one-off projects and offers a high level of dimensional accuracy with superior mechanical properties.
And because CNC machined parts are characterized by exceptional physical properties, they’re ideal for designs requiring very high levels of performance and tight tolerances.
Designers have a great deal of flexibility when drafting their concept in terms of what materials they can choose because such a wide variety of hard materials can be CNC machined.
In fact, providing they are hard enough, almost any material can be CNC machined. But selecting the material is crucial in the design process, depending on the specific use for the part as well as design requirements.
Some Material Choices for CNC Machining Include:
- Metals and alloys
- Stainless steel
- Mild steel
- POM (Delrin)
- PEED (polyetheretherketone)
Metals and alloys are the most commonly used materials in CNC machining, with aluminum 6061 being the most common. Each material type offers certain benefits.
If, for example, your project requires superior strength-to-weight ratios, choosing an aluminum alloy is your best bet.
Or if corrosion is a concern when designing a part, aluminum alloys and stainless steel offer natural protection against corrosion.
Brass is a popular option for projects where aesthetics is an important design component.
Stainless steel alloys are versatile in that they can be welded, machined and polished and are ideal for projects where toughness, hardness, and fatigue and wear resistance are of utmost importance.
If chemical resistance is a requirement, however, stainless steel alloys are not a good choice.
If cost is a determining factor, mild steel is attractive for its low cost. It’s also superior in terms of its weldability and mechanical properties.
For die, mold and stamp projects requiring a high resistance to abrasion and temperature, tool steel is an excellent choice as it affords high hardness and stiffness.
Many designers choose plastics for prototyping purposes prior to injection molding because they are lightweight and offer flexibility in terms of physical properties. They’re valuable for their chemical resistance and electrical insulation qualities, for example.
ABS is a common, lightweight thermoplastic and has excellent mechanical properties. Its impact strength also makes it a popular CNC machining choice.
For outdoor environment designs, polycarbonate is a highly adaptable, temperature-resistant material and is known for its superior impact strength and toughness. It also can be colored or transparent, which provides more design options.
Other plastic material types include nylon, POM (also known as Delrin) and PEEK (polyetheretherketone).
If chemical resistance is an important design component, nylon is an excellent material option. And its versatile mechanical properties make it a standard CNC machining material choice.
PEEK is a high-performance thermoplastic and is commonly used to solve the most difficult design and engineering challenges. POM is easiest to machine thanks to its extremely stiff characteristics and superior frictional aspects.
Ready to Choose a Material for Your Design?
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