CNC machining is an ideal manufacturing method for parts and products used across a wide range of industries and applications. It offers broad design flexibility, high accuracy and precision, fast operational speeds, and many other advantages. However, like any other manufacturing process, it is important you choose the right material for the project. Otherwise, it can lead to poor component functionality and/or excessive project cost.
Need help choosing the right material for your CNC machined part or product? Southern Spring & Stamping has you covered. Equipped with extensive experience providing high-quality custom CNC machined components to customers, we have the knowledge and skills to help you navigate the material selection process. Below, we provide an overview of some of the considerations you should keep in mind and the machining materials available to serve as a helpful guide.
Key Considerations for Selecting the Right Material for Your CNC Machined Part
There are many factors you should consider when selecting a material for your CNC machining project. Some of the key considerations are:
- Purpose of the part. How will the part be used? Over the years, engineers have discovered what materials are good for what purpose. For example, aerospace components need materials that are strong and lightweight (e.g., aluminum, titanium, and high-strength steel alloys). Identifying the application(s) for which a CNC machined part will be used helps narrow down what materials are appropriate based on this gathered knowledge. If the component has multiple uses, it is important to consider all of them when choosing a material.
- Environment. What environmental conditions will the part be exposed to during use? The conditions to which a CNC machined part will be exposed can affect its short-term and long-term performance. For example, if it needs to perform in an environment with high temperatures, high humidity levels, or corrosive chemicals, it may be damaged if it is not built to withstand these conditions.
- Operational stress/strain. What operating conditions will the part be exposed to during use? A CNC machined part may experience high stress and strain during operations. In these cases, it is essential to choose a material that can stand up to these demanding operating conditions.
- Operating temperature. What operating temperatures will the part be exposed to during use? A CNC machined part may be subject to high, low, or fluctuating temperatures during operations. It is vital the material you select has an operating temperature range broad enough to accommodate these conditions. Otherwise, the component may become brittle (if exposed to too low temperatures) or soft/warped (if exposed to too high temperatures).
Common CNC Machined Part Materials
Once you’ve considered the above, you should evaluate the material options available to identify the one that best suits your needs. Some of the most commonly used materials for CNC machining projects include:
- Aluminum. This material is widely used for CNC milling operations. It is lightweight, corrosion resistant, non-magnetic, easy to machine, and affordable, all of which make it an ideal option for many parts and products. It comes in many grades (e.g., 6061 and 7075), each of which offers slightly different characteristics that make it suitable for specific purposes. Examples of typical CNC machined aluminum components include aircraft parts, automotive parts, bike frames, and food containers.
- Brass. This material is commonly utilized for precision machining operations. It is easy to work and cost-effective, which make it perfect for manufacturing a variety of precision components. It is available in numerous variations (e.g., C360 and C260), each with different compositions offering slightly different material properties. Other key advantages include attractive appearance, non-sparking, non-magnetic, and anti-bacterial/anti-microbial. Examples of typical CNC machined brass components include decorative hardware, musical instruments, plumbing fittings, and tools.
- Carbon steel. This material is one of the most popular CNC machining material options. It comes in many grades (e.g., 1018, 1045, 1214, and 1215) that offer unique properties for use in different applications. Typical characteristics include high strength and toughness and good machinability, weldability, and heat treatability. Examples of typical CNC machined carbon steel components include fasteners, gears, rods, and other mechanical components.
- Copper alloys. This material is highly versatile. Its many advantageous characteristics, such as conductivity, machinability, and ductility, make it a good material choice for various applications. It can offer slightly different properties depending on the elements with which it is alloyed. Examples of typical CNC machined copper components include computer chips, pipes/tubes, tanks, and valves.
- Hastelloy. This material is highly resistant to corrosion, which makes it excellent for use in chemical processing applications. It also offers superior resistance to atmospheric oxidation, pitting, and stress-corrosion cracking. These qualities make it an ideal material for chemical manufacturing, paper production, and pharmaceutical equipment. Examples of typical CNC machined Hastelloy components include bars, coils, pipes, plates, and tubes.
- Stainless steel. This material is another popular option for CNC machining operations. It is well-known for its corrosion resistance. However, it also has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, extreme temperature resistance, and an attractive appearance. Different grades of stainless steel (e.g., 303, 304, and 316) offer slightly different characteristics depending on their exact composition. Examples of typical CNC machined stainless steel components include automobile parts, consumer appliances, electronic hardware, and medical instruments.
- Titanium. This material exhibits many advantageous properties that make it suitable for demanding or specialized applications, such as high strength, light weight, corrosion resistance, and biocompatibility. Examples of typical CNC machined titanium components include aircraft parts, medical implants, and jewelry.
Contact Southern Spring & Stamping for Your CNC Machining Needs Today
Choosing an appropriate material for a CNC machining project involves balancing numerous factors, and it can determine the success or failure of your product. While it may seem difficult or daunting to evaluate all of these considerations, a highly skilled and knowledgeable partner can help you navigate the process and select the right material option for your needs.
If you want help choosing the right material for your CNC machined part or product, turn to Southern Spring & Stamping! We have over six decades of experience selecting materials and turning them into fully machined and finished components. To learn more about our CNC machining capabilities and how they can benefit you, check out our CNC machining page or contact us today. To discuss your project requirements with one of our experts, request a quote.