Precision CNC machining is a complex process that requires years of training, industry-leading tools, advanced technologies, and tons of raw materials. To manufacture precision parts and components out of pure materials, machinists must understand the different properties thereof. Each one will react uniquely to the fabrication processes used to make parts. That, in turn, may affect machining outcomes and prices.
It’s essential to know your options if you want to get a better handle on things during the manufacturing process. Machining isn’t easy, and there are numerous steps involved even in the simplest of projects. Meanwhile, it’s never cheap to approach a CNC machine shop for services, and prototypes are only useful if you have a place to begin.
What are the 8 most common raw materials used in CNC machine shops?
Computer numerical control is a vital part of our healthy economy. Machining is responsible for nearly every synthetic item on the planet, from large aerospace and nautical equipment to tiny computer components made by intricate micromachining. With all that comes an innate understanding of how materials interact with one another, especially during the manufacturing process.
So, as machinists gradually perfected their craft over the years, they also started discovering ways to combine different materials without sacrificing quality.
Now, advanced CNC machine shops with one-stop processing power can work with a wider variety of raw supplies to produce updated design concepts at record speeds. Meanwhile, these are 8 of the best materials they use:
Steel has been one of the most popular fabrication materials for decades and is therefore used in all kinds of manufacturing projects. It’s prized for its strength and durability but is also appreciated for its relatively easy machinability. This material is based primarily on grade, with variable resistance to heat, cold, and corrosion that are generally beneficial in industrial applications related to automotive and/or aerospace manufacturing.
Aluminum is lightweight, easily machinable, resistant to corrosion, and non-reactive to magnets. It’s also one of the least expensive metals to machine with, so it’s often preferred as an alternative to heavier, more expensive steel. For the best results, this material should be handled by a trained CNC expert because some of the finishing processes can be extremely dangerous. Still, aluminum machining comes with many advantages, including an enhanced ability to withstand tight tolerances and plating options with a wide variety of different coatings to increase hardness and durability.
This popular machining material is highly prized for its usefulness in complex and/or heavy-duty manufacturing projects. It’s extremely resistant to heat and cold has a high tolerance for corrosion, and offers the best strength-to-weigh ratio of any metal known to mankind. Meanwhile, it’s also surprisingly lightweight and biocompatible, which means it’s especially great for medical applications. However, titanium is somewhat difficult to machine, so always work with a pro for the best outcomes.
Not to be confused with regular steel, stainless steel is a raw material used most commonly in precision machining projects. It’s beloved because of its unique strength and resistance to friction, surface damage, and corrosion. There are several different types with a range of unique properties that may or may not affect machinability. So, talk to an expert CNC machinist for more specific information about the versatility of this material.
Brass is often seen as one of the most economical raw materials for machining, plus it’s relatively easy to work with. Machinists can quickly and efficiently remove materials, smooth the surface, apply a clean finish, and handle various operations without the threat of creating sparks. Brass also holds tight tolerances pretty well, so it’s great for small parts with intricate geometries. However, you can’t use brass in semi-conductor products or in a vacuum, so be careful about the tin and zinc content within.
Ideal for precision machining, copper is highly prized in most one-stop CNC machine shops. It’s extremely versatile, surprisingly durable, and offers much-needed conductivity for electrical applications. Still, copper isn’t known to hold tight tolerances very well, so it generally works best after being plated with something more robust.
#7. Basic Plastics
Plastics are everywhere these days, and that’s likely because they’re an inexpensive, non-metallic material that’s also non-conductive and available in large amounts. Plastic is inert too, which means it can be modified in countless ways to fit a variety of different specifications.
Thus, you’ll find plastics in industrial, medical, aerospace, and automotive projects quite frequently, especially when the cost is a primary concern.
#8. Synthetic Plastics
Engineered plastics have got so much better over the last decade. In fact, some synthetic plastic is used in place of quartz and aluminum for semiconductor projects. Today, these materials are popular in medical instruments because they’re also easy to clean and/or self-lubricated.
By considering a variety of different raw materials, the design and engineering teams responsible for manufacturing your precision parts can develop more intuitive products that serve a greater purpose.
To learn more about how Pioneer Cuts might help streamline your raw material selection or improve your manufacturing outcomes. Contact one of our experts right away or submit your information for a quick 6-hour service quote.
Special considerations about machining with raw materials
Remember, the strength of raw material doesn’t necessarily mean it can withstand tons of weight. Other factors must be considered as well, such as:
- Tensile strength
- Wear resistance
- Overall hardness
- Endurance strength
To find out which materials to use and which ones to ignore, work with a team so machining specialists who understand material properties for better machining outcomes.
Choosing the right materials for your CNC machining projects can be tough, especially when you don’t know or understand how different materials react to one another. It all depends on what you’re planning to do and how much time or money you’ve got. Keep in mind that high-endurance materials machined with complex tolerances generally cost more than low-endurance materials machined with simple geometries.