Making the Right Choice: Considering CNC Machining Materials

Choosing the right material for CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining is a critical decision that significantly impacts the performance, cost, and manufacturability of the final product. With a wide variety of materials available, each possessing unique properties, it is essential to understand the specific requirements of your application to make an informed choice. This article explores the key factors to consider when selecting CNC machining materials and provides an overview of some commonly used options.

Factors to Consider When Selecting CNC Machining Materials


1. Mechanical Properties

  • Strength and Hardness: The material’s ability to withstand applied forces without deformation. High-strength materials are suitable for load-bearing applications.
  • Toughness: The material’s capacity to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing. Tough materials like titanium are ideal for high-impact environments.
  • Ductility and Malleability: These properties determine how easily a material can be formed or shaped without breaking.

2. Thermal Properties

  • Thermal Conductivity: Important for applications involving heat dissipation.
  • Thermal Expansion: Materials with low thermal expansion are preferred for components exposed to temperature variations to maintain dimensional stability.

3. Chemical Properties

  • Corrosion Resistance: Essential for components exposed to harsh environments or chemicals. Stainless steel and titanium offer excellent corrosion resistance.
  • Chemical Compatibility: Ensures that the material will not degrade or react adversely with substances it comes into contact with.


4. Machinability

  • Ease of Machining: Materials that are easy to machine reduce tool wear, production time, and costs. Aluminium and brass are known for their good machinability.
  • Surface Finish: Some materials achieve a smoother surface finish with less effort, which is crucial for aesthetic or functional parts requiring low friction.

5. Cost and Availability

  • Material Cost: Balancing material performance with budget constraints is essential. High-performance metals are typically pricier than plastics and composites.
  • Availability: Readily available materials can reduce lead times and production delays.

Common CNC Machining Materials


1. Metals 

  • Aluminium: High degree of machinability, lightweight, high strength-to-weight ratio, and excellent corrosion resistance.
  • Steel: High strength, durability, and versatility. Available in various alloys and grades, including carbon steel, stainless steel, and tool steel.
  • Titanium: Exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, lightweight, excellent corrosion resistance, and strong heat conductivity.
  • Brass: Good strength, excellent machinability, and corrosion resistance. It also has aesthetic appeal due to its gold-like appearance.

2. Plastics

  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): Tough, impact-resistant, chemical-resistant, and easily machinable. ABS is also lightweight and is relatively affordable.
  • POM (Polyoxymethylene or Acetal): High stiffness, tough, moisture-resistant, and impact-resistant.

3. Composites

  • Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer (CFRP): Strong, durable, and corrosion-resistant.
  • Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer (GFRP): Good strength, durability, chemical-resistant, and corrosion-resistant.



Selecting the right material for CNC machining involves a careful assessment of the application requirements and material properties. While metals like aluminium, steel, titanium, and brass offer a range of mechanical and thermal properties suitable for various industrial applications, plastics like ABS and POM provide solutions for lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and chemically inert components. Composites such as CFRP and GFRP offer high-performance options for applications where strength and weight are critical factors.

By understanding the unique characteristics and advantages of each material, manufacturers can optimise their CNC machining processes to achieve the desired performance, quality, and cost-effectiveness. Whether it’s for prototyping or mass production, making the right material choice is fundamental to the success of any CNC machining project.

At Monster Builder, we offer quality CNC machining services. We also do 3D printing and sheet metal fabrication. Reach out to us for more information.