CNC Machining

What is CNC Prototype Machining? Its Process and Benefits

cnc prototype machining

For small firms and startups, traditional machining technologies can be expensive and time-consuming. However, CNC prototyping offers businesses or manufacturing companies that want to produce parts and components a quick, cost-effective way that maintains precision and quality.

One major reason why CNC prototype machining is becoming the first choice for prototyping is its flexibility. With this method of prototyping, it becomes possible for manufacturers to design, develop, and modify products within a short period.

cnc machined prototype

What is CNC Prototype Machining?

CNC prototype machining is a combination of two major manufacturing processes: CNC machining and rapid prototyping. This process employs computer numerical control (CNC) machinery to turn a CAD or 3D model into a physical model or prototype of a product.

The CNC machine uses precision cutting tool movements to produce the prototype. The machine reads instructions on how to cut the part from the G-code supplied by converting the CAD to CAM. The result of CNC prototyping is a very precise, consistent part that meets specific requirements.

As a result, most companies that need to manufacture a small batch of parts before producing a larger one frequently use prototype CNC machining. Prototyping allows companies to determine the appearance of their products, test them, and ensure they work as planned.

Why Choose CNC Technologies for Prototyping?

There are several reasons why CNC machining is ideal for prototyping. One such reason is the use of computerized controls. These automated controls make it easier to monitor the movement of the workpiece and cutting tool, delivering a high degree of accuracy and precision in prototyping. Automated controls consider every element of your design to ensure that the prototype created is a good replica.

The speed of CNC machining also makes it an excellent process for prototyping, as opposed to traditional processes like injection molding, which can be time-consuming.

cnc prototyping

Advantages of Using CNC Machining for Making Prototypes

CNC machining simplifies prototyping while enhancing the quality of the manufactured prototypes. Here are some advantages of using CNC machining for prototyping.

Wider Range of Material Choices

Unlike other manufacturing techniques like 3D printing, CNC prototype machining can handle a wide range of highly machinable materials, including tough metals like titanium and alloys as well as plastics and wood. Consequently, it’s possible to use the same material for both prototyping and the final product, which is a significant benefit.

CNC prototype machining can be applied to materials such as PS, LDPE, HDPE, PC, PP, PMMA, POM, PA GF, PC GF, ABS, and Teflon, as well as metals and metal alloys like steel, stainless steel, titanium, aluminum, zinc, brass, and bronze.

Repeatable and Consistent

A CNC prototype is highly repeatable, this means that every final product produced by CNC machining will be an exact duplicate of every other one produced through the same process.

High Accuracy and Precision

CNC machining delivers tight tolerances and high accuracy because of the precise control over the movement of the CNC machining tools. This ensures that parts and prototypes fit their intended purpose. Moreover, since the CNC machining process is accurate, manufacturers know that any defects in the produced prototype originate from the design phase rather than the actual production step.

Cost-effective

Over time, CNC prototype machining reduces costs for manufacturers. Discovering faults or defects in a small batch of prototypes is more economical than addressing issues in the large quantity of final parts produced during the manufacturing stage.

In addition, subsequent revisions typically only require minor adjustments to the CAD files, saving money on design.

Flexibility and Iterability

CNC prototype machining doesn’t require a mold or other time-consuming preconditions, which makes the process fast. Machining centers can quickly produce prototypes by adjusting, running them through the CNC machining process again, and editing the CAM/CAD files.

prototype cnc machining

Limitations of Prototyping with CNC Machining

Although CNC prototype machining is one of the best methods for creating prototypes, it has some drawbacks.

Expertise

Designing a CAD file and creating a CAM file from it requires technical expertise. Additionally, some experience is necessary to operate and set up the CNC machine.

Moreover, not all manufacturers that implement CNC machining can produce CNC prototypes without proper training. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to contract with professionals to handle CNC prototype machining tasks.

More Expensive than 3D Printing

CNC prototype machining can be significantly more expensive than SLS 3D printing due to the material and machine costs involved. However, prototyping often prioritizes functional perfection over cost minimization, which is why costs can sometimes be very high.

Material Waste

As a subtractive process, CNC machining involves removing material from the workpiece during the prototyping or production phase. Consequently, material costs increase in correlation with the amount of material used throughout the manufacturing process.

Furthermore, this can lead to increased material waste and related costs, particularly because it is highly unlikely that a prototype will be perfect on the first attempt.

Geometrical Limitations

Since CNC machines primarily work from the outside, creating internal geometries can be very challenging. For internal geometries, other manufacturing technologies like 3D printing, which excel at creating internal geometries, are more suitable.

Step-By-Step Guide to CNC Rapid Prototyping Processes

The process of creating CNC machined prototypes involves multiple steps. Here’s an in-depth of each step involved.

Step 1: Design Ideation

The main stage in CNC prototyping is drafting the CAD model design. You must produce several flawless designs for the product. Design for Testing (DFT), Design for Manufacturing (DFM), and Product Dimensioning and Placement are a few examples of these brainstorming sessions. The design ideation phase is crucial because, if done right, it simplifies other phases.

Step 2: Generating 3D File

A 3D file, like a CAD model design, is necessary for CNC machining. That’s why it’s important to convert the authorized designs into a machine-readable 3D file. The final workpiece’s measurements, characteristics, and aesthetics are determined by these 3D model designs.

Step 3: Order of Machining Sequence

In CNC prototype machining, various manufacturing techniques are involved, including CNC milling, CNC turning, and CNC drilling. As a result, you should establish the order in which to machine the parts based on the specific workpiece.

Step 4: CNC Programming

Manufacturers provide the sequence of CNC production processes and tool operating instructions with a CNC application. G-code and M-code play a vital part in informing the CNC machines about tool selection, pathing, run numbers, cutting depths, and feed rates.

Step 5: Prototyping

Once programming is complete, it’s input into the CNC machine’s numerical control panel. The prototyping commences seamlessly when the workpiece is mounted on the tool and the machine is set to operating mode. Prototypes can be trial products or fully functional ones. Manufacturers create fully functional prototypes by milling the components individually and then assembling them according to Design for Assembly (DFA) principles.

Step 6: Testing

Testing is the final, most critical phase in CNC prototype machining. The objectives are to check for flaws, assess failure potential, and test the operational capability of the workpiece. Product experts conduct rigorous tests on the CNC prototype and approve it before proceeding to full production. If a prototype does not meet all specifications, an alternative prototype design is selected and machined.

Various Operations Involved in CNC Machining Prototypes

Manufacturers have multiple CNC machining operations available for creating prototypes. The choice of CNC operation for prototype production often depends on factors like material type and design specifications. Here are typical machining techniques used in CNC prototyping.

cnc milling prototype

CNC Milling

This process uses a milling machine to create prototypes by removing material from a workpiece. The CNC milling machine is equipped with a multi-point cutting tool that rotates to make precise cuts of various lengths and shapes on the workpiece.

Precision features like accurate geometry, close tolerances, and superior surface finishes can easily be produced with CNC milling. It works especially well for making intricate holes, indentations, and three-dimensional curves.

cnc turning prototype

CNC Turning

In this operation, a lathe tool is used for prototyping. It is suitable for creating complex prototypes and finished products with cylindrical features. During this machining operation, the workpiece rotates near the stationary lathe cutting tool.

The turning machine uses a single-point cutting tool, as opposed to the milling machine, to remove material from bar stock to manufacture cylindrical parts. CNC turning is ideal for creating slots, threads, and tapers on the inner edges of a prototype, as well as linear features on its surface.

Multi-Axis Machining

This flexible prototyping method, using more axes than traditional methods, is perfect for creating prototypes with complex specifications. This process uses machines with four, five, or even nine axes to achieve the desired objectives.

prototypes for different applications

Applications of CNC Machined Prototypes

One prototyping method that is widely accepted across all industries is CNC prototype machining. The following are a few of the industries that use this method more frequently than others.

Medical Industry

This sector requires equipment and parts that are incredibly accurate and precise. The medical industry benefits from material choices provided by CNC prototype machining, given its need for parts composed of both metal and plastic.

Additionally, as medical technology advances, the demand for parts with tight tolerances increases. The medical industry uses CNC machining for prototyping parts such as prostheses, biopsy tubes, surgical scissors, implant holders, and more.

Automotive Industry

Creating vehicle prototypes that consistently meet the required specifications would be difficult without CNC prototype machining. The automotive industry requires parts and components with high accuracy and strict tolerances, which can range from wheels and suspensions to brakes and gears. To ensure vehicle safety, all of these parts must adhere to incredibly precise tolerances.

Military Industry

In the military industry, this technology is primarily used by the Research and Development (R&D) department. Military R&D employs CNC prototype machining to create parts for airplanes, vehicles, and other equipment. The method is favored because it allows for the rapid production of parts, regardless of the toughness of the materials.

Aerospace Industry

CNC prototyping technology serves two main functions in the aerospace industry. The first is to create components that are extremely accurate and precise. The second function is testing these components and other aerospace innovations to ensure they function properly.

cnc metal prototypes

Considerations and Tips for CNC Prototyping Machining

Several essential factors must be considered for successful CNC prototyping, as manufacturers depend on CNC prototype machining to create parts that meet stringent standards and demands.

Use Standard Tolerances

Tighter tolerances often call for additional fixtures and specialized cutting tools, which increases CNC machining costs. Thus, using standard tolerances is generally the preferable approach. It would be best to consult with the CNC service expert managing your component’s design to determine the suitable tolerance level for your prototypes.

Reduce Prototype Design Complexity

Another important consideration is the complexity of your design. Remember that the more complex your prototype design, the higher the CNC machining costs will be. Additionally, setting up the machine for a model with various angles and undercuts takes longer, thereby extending the development time. Therefore, simplifying your prototype is advisable to avoid increasing production costs and time to market.

Take Tool Geometry into Consideration

Because CNC prototyping involves rotary cutting, check the axial characteristics of the cutting tools. Consider the shape of the tool, so avoid sharp corners in your prototyping. Circular cutting instruments with limited cutting lengths are typically used in this method, which affects the cutting operations due to the tool’s geometry.

Consider Wall Thickness

While developing your design, consider the prototype’s wall thickness since insufficient thickness can lead to mechanical instability or failure of your CNC-machined product or prototype. As a general rule, keep the wall thickness of your metal components at least 0.8 mm and ensure that the walls of plastic components are no less than 1.5 mm.

Partner with a CNC Prototype Manufacturing Expert

Collaborating with an experienced CNC machining professional is important to the success of your prototyping project. Manufacturing experts focus on optimizing the machining processes to produce high-quality prototypes. However, without the assistance of an experienced prototype manufacturer, fully capitalizing on the benefits of CNC machining for prototyping would be challenging.

cnc precision prototype

Comparison Between CNC Prototyping and 3D Printing

Experts frequently debate over which of the two technologies – CNC machining or 3D printing, is better for prototyping. Based on critical factors, the following summarizes how the two technologies differ.

Technique Working Principle

CNC machining is a subtractive manufacturing process that creates a product by removing excess material from a workpiece using a cutting tool. On the other hand, 3D printing is an additive process, it starts from nothing and builds the product by gradually adding and shaping material.

Materials

CNC technology can machine a variety of materials, including metals, wood, and polymers, while 3D printing is more limited in material compatibility due to the process of heating and shaping the material, most commonly used for thermoplastic prototypes.

Utilization

Since CNC machining is subtractive, it tends to generate more waste. However, recyclable waste materials can be sold to offset costs. In contrast, 3D prototyping, as an additive manufacturing method, results in better material utilization.

Geometry Possibilities

CNC machined parts are typically created from the outside in, making it difficult to produce parts with intricate interior geometry. Conversely, 3D printed parts are built from the inside out, allowing for complex interior geometries.

Comparison Between CNC Machined Prototypes and Injection Molded Prototypes

Although these two types of prototypes provide a visual representation of the finished product, they are different. Here’s how they compare:

Material Used for Prototyping

Prototypes made via injection molding are typically made of polymers or rubber. This is because the prototypes are formed by pouring molten materials into a mold during the production process. On the other hand, CNC machining uses tool cutting made of metals and they work great to produce prototypes made of metal, plastic, or wood, depending on the material that the manufacturer chooses.

Surface Quality

Injection molding is a precise process, but the prototypes produced may exhibit small defects such as jetting, short shots, voids, flow lines, sink marks, and warping. These flaws affect the appearance of prototypes made by injection molding.

However, CNC-machined prototypes often have a superior surface finish because more sophisticated tooling is employed during the process.

Part Tolerance

CNC machine-produced prototypes have a tolerance level of ± 0.01mm, which is indicative of the accuracy and precision of the machining process.

Prototypes made using injection molding offer component tolerances ranging from ± 0.1 to 0.7 mm. The relatively poor tolerance level seen in injection-molded prototypes is due to post-injection shrinkage.

Production Volume

With its ability to make precise prototypes flexibly without the need for molds, CNC machining is ideal for low-volume production. In contrast, injection molding is better suited for high-volume production because it requires a significant upfront investment to create molds. However, once the mold is made, the cost per unit decreases dramatically.

plastic and metal prototypes

Get CNC prototyping services at XinCheng

At XinCheng, you can access CNC prototyping that is effortless and efficient. With cutting-edge technology and a skilled team, we offer a wide of CNC machining services for metal and plastic machined prototypes.

From concept to final product, XinCheng’s CNC prototyping services will help to meet the development process, providing high-quality prototypes for various industries. Whether it’s for automotive, aerospace, or consumer electronics, our expertise ensures that prototypes meet exact specifications and strict standards.

FAQs

Are there better options for prototyping than CNC prototype machining?

Depending on the specifics of the project, there may be better solutions than CNC prototype machining. For intricate, one-of-a-kind objects, CNC offers unparalleled accuracy. However, 3D printing might be faster and more cost-effective for simpler designs or rapid iterations.

How long does it take to create a CNC machining prototype?

CNC machining prototypes can often be completed within a few hours to days. Traditional prototyping methods can take weeks or even months.

What factors affect the cost of CNC prototyping?

The complexity of the design, tolerances, and material choice all influence CNC prototyping costs. The type of CNC machine being used and the selected surface finishing option are additional factors.

What materials are used for CNC prototypes?

For CNC metal prototypes, metals such as copper, brass, titanium, zinc, magnesium, stainless steel, and aluminum are used. Plastics suitable for CNC plastic prototyping include acrylic, ABS, PP, nylon, PC, Teflon, HDPE, and LDPE.

Table of Contents

G and M Code Explained: Differences and Uses in CNC Machining

cnc g and m code

CNC command codes are core to modern manufacturing processes. CNC machines operate on these CNC programs, hence why manufacturers need them in different manufacturing processes. CNC G and M codes are commonly used software programming languages in CNC machining, depending on the tasks that the machine performs.

However, these CNC programming codes can be complex to generate or implement. Hence, understanding information about these codes helps achieve the ideal results in CNC machining processes.

This article will discuss everything you need to understand about CNC programming language and typical examples of G and M code in CNC machining. You’ll also learn about the difference between CNC G and M codes, and other command codes in CNC machining.

cnc programming machining

What is CNC Programming Language?

CNC programming language is a series of instructions that guides CNC machines through different operations to create highly accurate and precise parts. Since CNC machines are automated, they can perform various tasks like milling, cutting, and drilling by following a generated CNC machine code.

Geometric/general-code (G-code) and Miscellaneous-code (M-code) are the typical CNC code examples used in CNC machining. However, you must understand the CNC machine’s capabilities, the chosen material, and the final design to generate the machine program. Expert CNC programmers often rely on specialized CAM/CAD software to develop G and M codes that direct the CNC machine to execute desired tasks.

Why CNC Programming Codes are Important?

Machinists could only use cards and tapes to control machines before the invention of computers. They would punch these cards in different orders to create codes. Although the method was effective, it was also labor-intensive. Besides, these cards often get damaged or lost. Consequently, there were several complications in the production procedure in the days before computers.

The advent of computers and computer numerically controlled machines remains an effective solution to most production issues. However, these computer numerical control systems require CNC programming codes to complete any task. Manual coding can be labor-intensive, especially when machining parts with complex features.

Fortunately, modern machines follow a series of instructions loaded onto the system by machine operators. The CAM and CAD software have optimized efficiency and accessibility in code generation and machine operation. Once the machining parameters are set, the software generates the necessary programming codes to ensure the effective operation of CNC machines.

cnc g code for turning

What is a G Code?

Geometric code (RS-274D) is the most common CNC programming code. This CNC machine code comprises alphabetic codes that symbolize specific commands for the machine. Most G-code programs are written in alphanumeric format, beginning with G, which means geometry. The CNC G codes dictate the machine’s movement, feed rate and cutting speed, tool changes, and other important parameters.

Every CNC machine possesses its unique set of G-code instructions. Hence, you must program the code according to the machine type and the preferred results. The presence or absence of spaces between the G-code commands marks the differences in the G-code formats. For instance, a machine might use G03 while others are compatible with G3.

Hence, as a CNC machine programmer, you must be conversant with the machine type you use to generate the right commands. Otherwise, command errors may result in severe complications in parts production.

Functions of CNC Machining G Code

As discussed earlier, CNC G codes dictate the movement of the machine. It uses different letters and numbers to give the CNC machine directions on how and where to move. We will discuss the functions of these letters in the CNC machining G-code below.

  • A: Directs the machine tool around the x-axis.
  • B: Number with B indicates the rotational value around the y-axis.
  • C: An auxiliary axis that rotates around the z-axis. It derives its positional value from the C value.
  • D: Indicates how much the system offsets the tool diameter.
  • G: Indicates when the tool needs to move and stop.
  • I and J: Specify the incremental center of any arcs made by the machine.
  • N: Gives the line number.
  • L: Gives the system a value to show repeating operations and the required times to loop.
  • P: Indicates program jumps in time or a delayed time.
  • R: Gives the radius of the arcs made by the machine.
  • S: Instructs the machine on how quickly it should move the spindle.
  • T: Instructs the machine on which tool to use.
  • X, Y, Z: Indicate the tool’s position in three dimensions – X represents horizontal, Y represents vertical, and Z represents depth.

m and g code for cnc machining

What is an M Code?

M code or miscellaneous code encompasses a set of auxiliary instructions key to controlling the miscellaneous or non-geometric functions of a CNC machine. This CNC machine code governs essential operations like activating the coolant system, halting the program, and powering the machine post-operation.

There is only one M code in each block of program information. As a result, using the right M codes in CNC programming would be best to ensure seamless operation because M codes activate or deactivate different machine functions. Operational errors and programming conflicts may occur if these commands overlap within a single block.

CNC M codes are similar to G codes because they vary across different CNC machines. The differences can occur in the codes’ numerical formatting, including the exclusion or inclusion of leading zeros. For example, a CNC machine might use M3 while another uses M03. Hence, you must be conversant with the specific coding requirements of the machine to ensure smooth and error-free machining operations.

Functions of CNC Machining M Code

The M code dictates all the non-geometrical machine functions. In other words, it controls the miscellaneous functions of the machine. For example, the M code controls when the spindle rotation starts and pauses, the coolant on and off, and the pallet changes.

When the CNC machine needs to flood the system with coolant, shutting it off after a decline in temperature, the CNC M codes control these machine operations. The M-code language depends on the CNC machine, as with G codes. However, m codes are more specific and highly customizable for different machines than G codes.

cnc machine code

Common Examples G and M Codes in CNC Machining

Expert machine programmers use CNC G and M codes to prepare CNC machines for various manufacturing processes. Here are commonly used CNC G and M code examples.

Common G Code used in CNC Machining

G codes in CNC machining ease complex operations with standardized codes, ensuring operation performance and consistency.

  • G00 – Rapid Positioning: This code commands the machine tool to move to a specific coordinate at maximum speed. Usually, it positions the machine tool without cutting material, enhancing efficiency in non-cutting movements.
  • G01 – Linear Interpolation: The G01 command code is one of the standard G codes used in CNC machining. It directs the tool to follow a straight path between two points at a programmed feed rate. Machinists often use this code for straight-line cutting operations.
  • G02 – Circular Interpolation-Clockwise: This code creates circles and arcs by directing the tool along a circular path in the clockwise direction. It helps in circular machining tasks and facilitates precise movement to a preferred endpoint.
  • G03 – Circular Interpolation-Counter-Clockwise: This code mirrors the G02 code, but the tool moves along the circular path in a counter-clockwise direction. It is well-suited for making circles and arcs that need a counter-clockwise approach.
  • G04 – Dwell: The G04 code instructs the CNC tool to pause at its present location for a particular period temporarily. The dwell is best used when the cutting tool needs to cool down, or the spindle needs to attain a preferred speed.

A list of function G Codes includes:

Command CodeCategoryFunctionFor Milling or TurningModal
G03CCW (Circular Interpolation)Make arcs and circles (Counter Clockwise)BothYes
G04DwellPause for a defined durationBothNo
G21Unit SystemMetric SystemBothYes
G20Unit SystemInch SystemBothYes
G19Plane SelectionYZ Plane SelectionTurningYes
G18Plane SelectionXZ Plane SelectionTurningYes
G40Cutter CompensationCancel Cutter CompensationMillingYes
G91Positioning and ModesIncremental ModeBothYes
G96Speed and FeedsRegular surface speedTurningYes

Common M Code used in CNC Machining

Here are some of the M codes used in CNC machining, along with their functions:

  • M00 – Program Stop: This code instructs the machine to stop the CNC program temporarily. It usually requires operator intervention to continue the program.
  • M02 – Program End: This code commands the CNC machine to end a program. The control stops after executing this program, and the machinist has to restart or reset the CNC machine.
  • M03 – Spindle On (Clockwise): It initiates the spindle rotation along the clockwise direction. A speed command (S) often accompanies it to adjust the spindle speed.
  • M04 – Spindle On (Counterclockwise): The same as M03, the machinist uses this code to start the spindle and rotate it in the counterclockwise direction.
  • M05 – Spindle Stop: Stops the spindle rotation. Machinists often employ this command to keep the spindle stationary for specific operations, such as tool change.

Below is a list of function M codes:

CodeCategoryFunctionFor Milling or TurningModal
M00Program ControlProgram StopBothNo
M02Program ControlProgram EndBothNo
M03Spindle ControlSpindle On, ClockwiseBothNo
M04Spindle ControlSpindle On, CounterclockwiseBothNo
M05Spindle ControlSpindle StopBothNo
M06Tool ChangeTool ChangeBothNo
M08CoolantCoolant on or floodBothNo
M09CoolantCoolant OffBothNo
M19Spindle ControlChange Spindle OrientationsMillingNo
M42Auxiliary FunctionsHigh Gear SelectTurningNo

Differences Between CNC G and M Codes

As mentioned above, CNC G and M codes have certain similarities, but they differ in their uses for controlling CNC machines. The G code directs the CNC machine’s motion and function. In contrast, the M code oversees operations unrelated to movement, such as turning the spindle on and off, changing CNC cutting tools, stopping programs, and activating coolant systems. CNC G codes relate to geometry and are helpful in product design.

On the other hand, M codes relate to machine functions and are useful in different miscellaneous operations. Furthermore, the G code activates the CNC machine while the M code activates the programmable logic controller (PLC) of the CNC machine.

cnc language code for prototyping

Other Command Codes in CNC Programming

Although G and M codes are the widely used command codes in CNC machine programming, there are other CNC programming codes that play important roles in machining processes.

Dwell Codes

Dwell codes pause the operation of the machine at a specified period and location. Machine programmers indicate the dwell time using the P-code, indicating the dwell time in seconds. For instance, G04 P2 would make the machine to pause for 2 seconds.

F Code (Feed Rate)

The F code specifies the required feed rate at which the tool should move along the programmed tool path. The value accompanying the F code indicates the feed rate in units per minute. For instance, the F200 puts the spindle speed at 200 units per minute.

S Code (Spindle Speed)

With the S code, machinists specify the required spindle speed for CNC machining operations. The value after the S code indicates the spindle speed in revolutions per minute (RPM). For instance, S 1000 program the spindle speed to 1000 RPM.

T Codes (Tool Selection)

T codes define the required tool number or tool offset used for machining. These codes specify the appropriate tool in the tool magazine or tool holder to engage for specific operations. For instance, T01 picks tool number 1, T05 chooses tool number 5, and it continues in that order.

Started Expert CNC Machining Services with XinCheng

XinCheng Machining is a modern CNC machine shop with different multi-axis CNC machines. Our expert machinists and engineers have in-depth knowledge of complex CNC programming languages. We can offer various CNC machining services and surface finish options, no matter whether CNC prototyping or complex machining projects, we can ensure high-quality products and keep CNC machining costs within your budget.

Conclusion

The use of CNC machines is one of the most essential procedures in CNC machining. However, you should note that these machines operate based on programming languages like CNC G and M codes, instructing them on what to do. Hence, mastering these CNC programming codes helps you understand why they are essential in CNC machining processes and how to achieve successful parts production.

FAQs

Why is the importance of CNC programming in machining?

CNC programming is useful in machining operations because it guarantees higher levels of automation, efficiency, productivity, and precision. This technology facilitates the creation of complex parts with superior quality and high speed.

Why do programmers use tool offsets in CNC programming?

Machine programmers use tool offsets to make up for tool lengths and diameter variations. Hence, it adjusts the tool’s position to ensure accurate machining.

What are the common methods of CNC programming?

Standard methods programmers use to create CNC programs for manufacturing processes include manual programming, programming in operation, and programming with CAD/CAM systems.

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6061 vs 7075 Aluminum: What’s the Differences and Which One to Choose?

6061 vs 7075 aluminum

Aluminum has different grades and alloy variants suitable for vast applications. However, the alloying elements tend to modify some of the innate properties of this metal. While some grades may experience better corrosion resistance, others may exhibit increased strength, among other features.

This article explores the relationship between two main types of aluminum alloys: 6061 vs 7075. We give a detailed review of each aluminum grade, including specific differences between 6061 and 7075 aluminum, which will prove effective when deciding on the one that best suits your projects.

6061 aluminum part

What is 6061 Aluminum?

6061 aluminum is one of the most used aluminum alloys for various manufacturing purposes. It is a prominent member of the 6000 aluminum alloy series because of its high tensile strength, versatility, and excellent mechanical properties. Magnesium and silicon are the main alloying elements essential for its improved properties.

However, it also contains other elements like iron, zinc, and copper, enhancing its machining and welding properties, fatigue, and corrosion resistance. In addition, aluminum 6061 is a precipitation-hardened alloy, suggesting enhanced strength through heat treatments. This process accounts for most of this alloy’s enhanced physical and chemical properties.

Besides its excellent machining purposes, 6061 alloy also possesses easy workability, making it suitable for extrusion and machining projects. Another thing to note is that this alloy has different tempered variations: the pre-tempered 6061-O and tempered variants 6061-T651 and 6061-T6 aluminum.

Characteristics of 6061 Aluminum

We already emphasized the excellent mechanical properties of aluminum 6061. Below, let’s drive home the point as we discuss other essential characteristics of this alloy.

Strength-to-Weight Ratio: Like other aluminum alloys, 6061 aluminum is a low-density metal with considerable strength, making it a good choice for lightweight fabrication with high strength specifications.

  • Excellent Machinability: Like standard aluminum, the alloy 6061 has excellent machining properties. The relative softness of the metal affords it easy workability. Therefore, it is popular for precision machining and various industrial applications.
  • Heat Resistance: Remember, this alloy forms from heat precipitation, enhancing its heat resistance overall mechanical properties and making it more flexible for vast designs and manufacturing needs.
  • Surface Features: The 6061 aluminum alloy possesses excellent appearance and surface properties, such that they commonly require less need for finishing operations, particularly after using a precise manufacturing technique like CNC aluminum machining.

cnc machining 6061aluminum

Advantages of 6061 Aluminum

The advantages of this aluminum alloy are its excellent mechanical and chemical properties. Below are some of the benefits of using this alloy.

  • Good corrosion and heat resistance
  • Low density with high considerable strength
  • Recyclability
  • Excellent machinability and weldability
  • Highly versatile for various manufacturing processes
  • Cost-effective

Applications of 6061 Aluminum

This alloy is the go-to aluminum for various manufacturing purposes, including the following industries:

  • Aerospace – for structural and aircraft fittings;
  • Automotive – manufacture of vehicle frames, chassis, and engine parts;
  • Consumer goods manufacturing – bicycle frames, camera parts;
  • Medical products and devices;
  • Electronic parts and gadgets.

7075 aluminum part

What is 7075 Aluminum?

Like 6061 aluminum, 7075 is another aluminum alloy, but as the name suggests, it belongs to the 7000 series. It is a popular choice among its group because of its exceptional strength it is one of the strongest aluminum alloys for manufacturing. This feature makes it a go-to metal for defense and aerospace applications.

Besides the base metal aluminum, the main elements of 7075 aluminum include zinc, magnesium, and copper, providing robust mechanical features. Other elements like iron, chromium, manganese, silicon, and titanium also exist in minute portions.

Similar to the aluminum alloy 6061, the 7075 aluminum also exists in different temperature variations, including 7075-0, 7075-T651, 7075-0, and 7075 T6 aluminum. Each possesses similar characteristics but slightly varying strength, depending on the effect of the heat treatments.

Characteristics of 7075 Aluminum

The 7075 aluminum alloys possess similar features to other aluminum alloys, but these are more pronounced in this alloy.

  • High Tensile Strength: The 7075 aluminum is one of the strongest aluminum alloys, making it most suitable for lightweight parts that require high structural integrity.
  • Hardness and Toughness: This alloy exhibits high hardness and toughness, ensuring its durability and wear resistance compared to other aluminum variants.
  • Heat Treatments: AL 7075 is a good conductor of heat, a feature that allows it to respond excellently to heat treatment. This also proves effective for reinforcing the mechanical properties of products designed from this alloy.

Besides the characteristics we discussed, it also possesses similar features to all aluminum metals. For example, it exhibits good ductility and is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, including aluminum’s silvery, shiny appearance.

CNC machined 7075 aluminum

Advantages of 7075 Aluminum

  • Enhanced Strength-to-Weight Ratio: As emphasized, this alloy possesses superior strength to most aluminum alloys, even though the densities are comparable. Consequently, it’s a good choice for making structural components.
  • Good Machining Properties: Even with its increased strength, the 7075 still exhibits good machining properties, making it suitable for precision manufacturing.
  • Durability: The combination of its high strength, toughness, and corrosion resistance makes it a durable material.

Applications of 7075 Aluminum

Its applications are similar to those of 6061 and other aluminum variants. However, because of its increased strength, it may be a better choice for structural parts. The alloy is used in the following industries.

  • Defense and military for weaponry and protective components;
  • Automotive, particularly for high-end car parts;
  • Aerospace for structural and engine components;
  • General industrial manufacturing for high-stress structural parts.

6061 vs 7075 Aluminum: A Detailed Comparison of the Two Metal

We have already examined a detailed overview of these two prominent aluminum alloys. This section will explore a detailed comparison of the differences between 6061 and 7075 aluminum.

1. Material Properties Differences Between 6061 and 7075 Aluminum

Both metals are aluminum alloys, containing other alloying elements – metals and nonmetals – in different percentages. Adding these elements is responsible for their improved properties compared to the standard aluminum metal.

6061 and 7075 aluminum material properties

1.1 Element Composition

The main alloying elements in 6061 aluminum include magnesium and silicon, while those of 7075 aluminum are mainly zinc, magnesium, and copper. However, both share similarities in the trace elements composition. AL 6061 contains chromium, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc, while the 7075 variant contains magnesium and chromium in trace quantities.

The chart below showcases the alloying elements for these two aluminum alloys, indicating their quantities.

ElementAluminum 6061Aluminum 7075
Aluminum0.9790.9
Magnesium0.010.025
Silicon0.006 –
Copper0.15 to 0.4 %0.016
Zinc0 to 0.25 %0.056
Titanium0 to 0.15 %0 to 0.2 %
Chromium0.04 to 0.35 %0 to  0.2 %

1.2 Corrosion Resistance

Standard aluminum metal exhibits decent corrosion resistance. This future is present in most of its alloys, with 6061 aluminum showing good resistance, making it suitable for fabrication in harsh environmental conditions. Compared to metals like iron, the 7075 aluminum alloy also exhibits good resistance to corrosion. However, because of its significant copper content, it can react better with moisture and atmospheric gasses. Therefore, the 6061 aluminum is more resistant to corrosion.

1.3 Melting Point

You are probably thinking since aluminum 7075 is harder, it melts at a higher temperature. That is not the case; in fact, AL 7075 has a significantly lower onset melting point than AL 6063. However, they finish melting about the same time, though the latter still edges it.

Aluminum 6061 melts at 580 to 650°C (1076 to 1,202°F), and AL 7075 melts at a higher temperature of around 480 to 640°C (896 to 1,1184°F). The higher melting point of the former accounts suggests increased thermal resistance.

1.4 Weldability

Regarding weldability, the 6061 aluminum alloy takes the crown on this. It possesses excellent weldability, while the 7075 variant has limited weldability and may require special care and expertise for welding purposes.

aluminum alloy material

2. Strength Differences Between 6061 and 7075 Aluminum

We have already reiterated that aluminum alloys exhibit a significant strength-to-weight ratio. However, certain variations in their strengths exist depending on the alloying elements. Here, we compare the strengths of Al 6071 and 7075.

2.1 Tensile Strength

As mentioned earlier, aluminum 7075 is one of the strongest aluminum variants, with an approximate tensile strength of about 83,000 psi. On the other hand, the tensile strength of 6061 aluminum is almost half that at 40,000 psi.

2.2 Yield Strength

The yield strength of a material refers to when that material becomes permanently deformed, forming plastic without any increase in load. That said, the yield strength of these two alloys follow similar patterns, with 6061 aluminum exhibiting a lower yield strength of about 35,000 psi.

On the other hand, Al 7075 shows a significantly higher yield strength of up to 73,000 psi, further reinforcing its use in high-stress conditions.

3. Formability Differences Between 6061 and 7075 Aluminum

Like typical aluminum, the two alloys have easy formability, reinforcing their choice as used in parts manufacturing and aluminum prototyping. However, it is more challenging to work with because of the increased strength and toughness of 7075 aluminum.

In addition, aluminum 6061 exhibits good formability, making it a more suitable alloy choice for forming complex, intricate shapes and designs, including for bending, extrusion, and forging applications.

4. Appearance and Touch Differences Between 6061 and 7075 Aluminum

Both alloys possess the silvery, light gray, shiny appearance of aluminum. However, 6061 aluminum exhibits a smoother surface finish, making it a better choice for aesthetic applications. 7075 aluminum tends to have a more textured appearance with a denser feel.

aluminum 6061 and 7075 components

5. Machinability and Challenges Differences Between 6061 and 7075 Aluminum

Generally, aluminum alloys exhibit excellent machining properties. However, the differences in either alloy composition account for the slight variations in 6061 and 7075 aluminum machining features.

Remember that the 6061 variant is slightly softer and easy to work with. These features enhanced its machinability, making it more tenable and compatible with various machining processes, mainly milling, turning, and drilling. On the other hand, aluminum 7075 is slightly less machinable due to the increased hardness and toughness.

However, it is still more readily machinable than other metals and alloys like carbon steel and titanium.

6. Pricing and Options Differences Between 6061 and 7075 Aluminum

Aluminum 6061 is generally more available than the 7075 variant. Therefore, it is more cost-effective and often one of the go-to aluminum alloys for machining parts.

In fact, suppliers are likely to deliver 6061 aluminum over the 7075 version, especially if you do not specify the aluminum alloy you need for your project. The 7075 aluminum variant is often used for specific applications, mainly when high strength is required.

Therefore, you may not need to spend so much on aluminum 7075 if your increased strength is not a significant specification for your machining project. Remember, AL 6061 also possesses excellent mechanical features that suit your intended uses.

A Brief Table for Differences Between 6061 and 7075 Aluminum

The table below gives a summary of the differences between the properties of aluminum 6061 and the 7075 alloy.

Characteristics6061 Aluminum7075 Aluminum
Alloying ElementsMainly magnesium and siliconMainly zinc and magnesium
Corrosion ResistanceGood resistanceLower than 6061 aluminum
WeldabilityGood weldabilityLimited weldability
Melting PointHighHigh
StrengthGood strength-to-weight ratioHigher strength
FormabilityEasy to work withMore challenging to work with
MachinabilityExcellent machinabilityGood machining features
Hardness and ToughnessLess hard and toughOne of the hardest aluminum alloys.
ConductivityAn excellent conductor of heat and electricityGood conductor of heat and electricity.
CostsCost-effectiveMore expensive

6061 aluminum part with black anodizing

6061 vs 7075 Aluminum: Which One to Choose?

Regardless of the variation in the properties of aluminum alloys, they remain one of the most used metals in manufacturing because of their excellent mechanical and chemical properties. However, you must understand that alloys of the same metal will exhibit different properties.

Therefore, understanding the distinctive properties of the different alloys will prove effective for selecting the best one that suits your manufacturing needs. Below are reasons to choose the 6061 aluminum variant over the 7075 version.

Choose 6061 Aluminum

  • AL 6061 is more suitable for fabrication that requires extensive machining;
  • It’s more suitable for projects that require corrosion resistance specifications;
  • It’s a better choice when aesthetics is a significant factor to consider;
  • If the project requires more welding;
  • If you are on a start budget.

Choose 7075 Aluminum

On the other hand, below are reasons to select the 7075 aluminum over the 6061 version.

  • The applications require an enhanced strength-to-weight ratio;
  • Used in complex and harsh environments;
  • Cost is not a primary concern;
  • AL 7075 is a better choice when the product will go through post-processing operations, such as surface and heat treatments.

XinCheng: Your Reliable Choice for Metal Parts Manufacturing and Prototyping

Understanding the detailed characteristics of a material before selecting it for your project is highly beneficial. However, partnering with an expert manufacturer is a more reasonable way of guaranteeing a successful project.

XinCheng is the expert your project requires. We offer comprehensive services in CNC machining, die casting, sheet metal fabrication, aluminum extrusion, and other related surface treatments. Whether your project requires custom part machining or manufacturing rare and complex structures, we will meet your machining requirements with cost-effective and high standards.

Conclusion

Aluminum is the most used metal for manufacturing purposes. AL 6061 and 7075 are two of the most used aluminum alloys for industrial manufacturing. However, they differ in some specific properties. Therefore, it is important to understand these distinctions to select the one that best suits your project.

FAQs

Which is the better aluminum alloy between 6061 and 7075 aluminum?

Both alloys are variants of aluminum with top-notch mechanical and chemical properties. Therefore, we cannot just select one as being the better alloy. Instead, the better choice depends on your manufacturing needs. For example, the 7075 is stronger, but the 601 variant has superior machining properties and is more cost-effective.

Which aluminum alloy is stronger: 6061 or 7075 aluminum?

7075 aluminum is more robust and tougher than the 6061 variants. It has a higher tensile and yield stress than the 6061, making it more suitable for high-stress purposes. The 7075 aluminum can withstand more impact and high-pressure conditions with less decoration than the 6061.

Which is easier to machine between 6061 and 7075 aluminum?

Because of the higher strength and toughness of the 7075 aluminum alloy, it is less workable than the 6061 variant. Therefore, the 6061 aluminum alloy responds better to machining, welding, bending, and other manufacturing processes than the 7075 aluminum.

Table of Contents

CNC Machining Stainless Steel: Benefits, Grades and Tips for Success

cnc machining stainless steel

Stainless steel is one of the most valuable and popular CNC materials manufacturers use in making prototypes and custom parts. It is an alloy with iron, chromium, and carbon as its primary alloying elements.

However, what is CNC machining stainless steel? It involves using computer numerical control to guide the cutting tools that shape stainless steel into desired dimensions. CNC machining stainless steel may be challenging due to the metal’s high hardness and tensile strength. Hence, understanding the process allows you to achieve excellent results.

This article explains the benefits of using stainless steel for CNC machining, types of stainless steel, the standard stainless steel alloys used for CNC machining and applications.

cnc milling stainless steel

Benefits of Stainless Steel for CNC Machining

Stainless steel is a commonly used CNC Machining material across industries. Here are some of the benefits of using stainless steel for your CNC machining projects.

Corrosion Resistance

Stainless steel is naturally corrosion-resistant. Hence, stainless steel machined parts can withstand rust and water stains that can affect their functionality or safety. Due to its high corrosion resistance, manufacturers often use stainless steel for interior and outdoor applications, including kitchen utensils, sinks and faucets, marine, roofing, and facades.

custom stainless steel part

High Tensile Strength

This is the strength a material needs to stretch to its breaking point. The higher tensile strength of stainless steel makes it compatible with the extreme bending and rolling to which it is exposed. This property allows the steel material to remain intact as it is exposed to considerable extreme forces or conditions without failing.

Cryogenic Resistance

Most stainless steel grades retain their stability at a variety of temperatures. For example, austenitic steels show outstanding toughness and increased tensile strength at temperatures less than zero. However, it would be best to note that this feature doesn’t apply to all stainless steel grades.

Appearance

The high chromium content of stainless steel gives it a silver-white color that doesn’t discolor or rust over time. Moreover, stainless steel has an aesthetically appealing appearance. This makes it ideal for engineering and decorative purposes.

Similarly, there are various surface finishes compatible with stainless steel material. Hence, it allows the creation of an aesthetically appealing and functional appearance that matches the applications’ requirements.

Durability and Low Maintenance

Stainless steel has an extended lifespan, making it a preferred material in metal CNC machining projects. CNC-machined stainless steel parts are often long-lasting, easy to clean, and require low maintenance. They are also able to withstand extreme temperatures. These properties ensure the extended lifespan of stainless steel machined parts.

stainless steel machined parts

Types of Stainless Steel for Machining Projects

Each stainless steel type has unique properties that influence machining processes and outcomes. Hence, understanding the different types of stainless steel for machining projects is essential to achieve excellent results. Below are typical stainless steel types used for machining projects:

Austenitic Stainless Steel

These steels belong to the 300 series, with stainless steel 304 and 316 being the popular grades. Their name comes from the austenitic crystalline microstructures present in the iron. These steels are non-magnetic and contain a high percentage of nickel and chromium. As such, they exhibit excellent corrosion resistance.

Austenitic stainless steels are common materials used in engineering applications. They offer superior low-temperature toughness and excellent workability. These steels are ideal for producing food processing equipment, pressure vessels, heat exchangers, and automotive parts.

Martensitic Stainless Steel

Martensitic steels are mostly magnetic metals with exceptionally high hardness. These steels maintain a similar structure to ferritic steels. Their higher carbon content forms an internal martensite microstructure, providing superior strength and resistance to wear.

They offer lower resistance to corrosion than austenitic stainless steel and can contain high or low amounts of carbon elements. 440, 416, and 420 stainless steel are typical stainless steel in this category.

These steels are suitable for applications that need wear-resistant and high-strength materials since they are compatible with aging and heat treatment. Typical applications of martensitic stainless steel include surgical instruments, firearms, and ball bearings.

Ferritic Stainless Steel

These are highly magnetic stainless steels with low carbon and high chromium content. Ferritic stainless steel is highly machinable and highly resistant to stress corrosion cracking. It also lacks a shiny appearance, unlike other stainless steel types. These steels offer superior ductility, allowing them to adapt to different shapes.

Ferritic steels have remarkable thermal conductivity properties that make them suitable for applications like furnaces and boiler heat exchanges. 446 and 434 stainless steel are commonly used ferritic steels. These stainless steels are often used in making industrial tools, kitchenware, and automotive parts.

Duplex Stainless Steel

Duplex stainless steels possess a combined microstructure of austenite and ferrite stainless steel in their design. Hence, they exhibit high strength and excellent corrosion resistance. However, they exhibit poor machinability compared to other types of stainless steel.

Duplex stainless steels are usually magnetic because of their ferritic structure. Stainless Steel 2205 is a typical duplex stainless steel grade. Their typical applications include piping systems, heat exchangers, condensers, shells, tubes, and reactors.

Precipitation-Hardening Stainless Steel

These steels are also known as PH stainless steel alloys. They contain alloying elements such as aluminum, titanium, phosphorous, and copper in small portions. These steels are subjected to age-hardening treatment. Hence, PH stainless steels such as the 17-4 PH SS exhibit yield strength three to four times that of austenitic stainless steels.

17-4 PH and 15-5 PH stainless steel are typical examples of this stainless steel type. They are specially curated to achieve desired outcomes, making them ideal for applications requiring extremely high strength. Examples include chemical industry, aircraft, nuclear plants, and marine construction.

stainless steel CNC machining

Common Stainless Steel Alloys for CNC Machining Process

There are different stainless steel alloys suitable for various purposes. Here are the commonly used stainless steel alloys:

SS304

The SS304 is one of the most commonly used stainless steel alloys. It is more affordable than most alloys and is known for its good weldability and machinability. 304 stainless steel is highly susceptible to corrosion and cracking. It exhibits incredibly high work hardening during CNC machining. Its typical uses include automotive parts, heat exchangers, food handling, and architectural applications.

SS303

It is a readily available free-machining steel, moderately priced, and highly machinable. The SS303 alloy offers outstanding machinability and good resistance to corrosion. This alloy is unsuitable for welding or marine applications. Also, it doesn’t harden during heat treatment. Aircraft fittings, bushings, electronic hardware, nuts, bolts, and screws are typical parts made with SS303.

threading stainless steel

SS316

316 stainless steel exhibits greater corrosion resistance than 304. It can withstand harsh chemicals due to its superior corrosion resistance. Hence, it is ideal for chloride environments. 316 stainless steel requires special cutting tools because it is difficult to machine. Handrails, fasteners and fittings, heat exchangers, pipes, and boat fittings are common uses of stainless steel 316.

SS416

SS 416 is another free-machining stainless steel. They are the most machinable stainless steel alloys with moderate resistance to corrosion and excellent strength. Although they exhibit a certain level of corrosion resistance, they are unsuitable for marine environments. They perform poorly in chlorine-saturated environments. They are not compatible with welding methods. Typical applications of SS416 include pumps, valves, shafts and gears, nuts and bolts.

SS Grade 17-4

It is a martensitic precipitation-hardening stainless steel grade. It offers unique properties required for heavy-duty applications. Although SS grade 17-4 exhibits high strength, toughness, and excellent corrosion resistance, it is susceptible to heat damage. Aircraft turbines, oil and gas, and nuclear reactions are typical 17-4 PH SS applications.

turned stainless steel

What are the Limitations of Machining Stainless Steel?

CNC machining of stainless steel can be complicated. These metals fall between aluminum and titanium in terms of strength, hardness, machinability, and ability to resist temperature. We will discuss some of the common setbacks of machining stainless steel below:

High Hardness

Stainless steel’s relatively high hardness causes inevitable setbacks during CNC machining. It causes increased machining time, tool wear, heat buildup, and residual stress and affects the surface finish of stainless steel parts.

Overheating

Stainless steel exhibits poor heat conductivity, unlike other types of steel and metals. However, CNC machining stainless steel results in rapid heat buildup, which can damage the material, the cutting tool, and the CNC machines during the operation.

Harden Quickly

Machining stainless steel is more tedious than most metals because it hardens quickly and is difficult to manage. As a result, you would need to use specialized tools to achieve the best results when machining stainless steel.

Technical Expertise

CNC machining stainless steel may require technical expertise and consideration because the process is complex. Using incompatible CNC machining tools or speed can damage the stainless steel material. Hence, this challenge makes stainless steel CNC machining extremely slow and laborious.

machining stainless steel with holes

Practical Tips for Stainless Steel Machining Success

Here are some of the best practices to consider when CNC machining stainless steel to ease the machining process and prevent potential complications.

Manage OverHeating

Heat is one of the several challenges machinists encounter in CNC machining steel. Monitoring the cutting temperature is essential to achieve the best results. Besides, you can introduce air blast or mist cooling mechanisms to the cutting to mitigate overheating. Similarly, coolants help to reduce friction and prolong the lifespan of cutting tools. Machining experts recommend intermittent cutting cycles since continuous machining increases tool wear and overheating.

Choose a Suitable Cutting Fluids

Choosing the appropriate cutting fluids (coolant or lubricant) for stainless steel CNC machining helps to mitigate heat and friction during the operation. The suitable cutting fluids protect the machining tools from excessive wear and tear. This enhances the stainless steel parts’ surface finish.

At the same time, it reduces overheating or work-hardening problems and ensures smooth chip evacuation. Generally, machining experts recommend using soluble oils or semi-synthetic fluids for high-speed machining operations.

Protect the Workpiece from Deformation

Deformation is one of the reasons why stainless steel CNC machining can be challenging. Factors such as incompatible speeds, feed rate, and chosen cutting tools can deform a workpiece. Hence, experts advise minimizing cutting force because high cutting forces contribute to workpiece deflection. Similarly, use secure and stable work-holding tools to prevent chattering or vibration, which can influence the surface finish or tool life.

Choose Special End Mills and Drills

When machining stainless steel, use CNC tools made from high-quality materials like tungsten or molybdenum HSS end mills and drills. These tools can handle the stress of the stainless steel machining process with minimal tool wear.

Moreover, these tools often provide a better surface finish in CNC-machined stainless steel parts. Therefore, do not use tools that wear easily because they can reduce machining speed, increasing the CNC machining cost.

Employ Pecking and Chip-breaking Cycles

It would be best to use pecking and chip-breaking cycles to manage chip formation effectively when machining stainless steel. It would help to prevent long and stringy chips during the process. However, consistently checking the cutting tool is another way to manage chip formation in stainless steel machining since worn CNC tools form more chips.

measure SS part

CNC Cutting Tools and Their Coatings Suitable for Processing SS Parts

  • Cemented Carbide Tools: These tools are ideal for high-speed or higher-feed stainless steel machining. These cutting tools often have tips made from tungsten carbide or a blend of tungsten with other metal carbides, including niobium, titanium, or chromium.
  • High-Speed Steels (HSS) Tools: Molybdenum and tungsten HSS are best used for high-feed, low-speed machining of stainless steel material. Molybdenum offers a perfect blend of hardness and strength, while tungsten provides good abrasion resistance.

Various coating materials are applied on the CNC tools for machining stainless steel. These coatings are suitable for increasing the hardness and longevity of these tools. Typical coatings include:

  • Titanium Nitride
  • Titanium Carbo-Nitride
  • Titanium Aluminum Nitride
  • Chromium Nitride
  • Diamond

stainless steel parts with surface treatments

Applications of Stainless Steel Machined Parts

CNC machined stainless steel parts have a range of uses. Below are their typical applications.

  • Automotive Industry: Automotive manufacturers use stainless steel alloys to make different vehicle parts such as the body, frame, exhaust system, and fuel tank.
  • Aerospace Industry: Typical examples of CNC machined steel parts used in the aerospace industry include jet engine components, landing gear, and airframes.
  • Medical Industry: Manufacturers in the healthcare sector use stainless steel for different medical CNC parts due to its corrosion resistance attribute. Typical examples of stainless steel parts in the medical industry include needles, scalpels, tweezers, infusion stands, and wheelchairs.
  • Kitchenware: Manufacturers use stainless steel to make cookware and food packaging items since it is very hygienic.
  • Engineering Construction: Stainless steel material offers strength and resistance to corrosion and impact, making it perfect for structures like bridges.

Get Stainless Steel CNC Machining Services at XinCheng

At XinCheng, we provide professional stainless steel machining services. As an ISO 9001:2015 CNC shop, we ensure your custom stainless steel parts meet stringent quality standards. Our expert machinists have years of experience in CNC machining services. We also offer comprehensive services, including 3-, 4-, and 5-axis CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, vacuum casting,  and injection molding.

Our experienced team of experts can examine the manufacturability of your steel parts and provide practical recommendations to optimize your project. Contact us today to get a free quote.

Conclusion

Many industries rely on CNC stainless steel machining to make high-strength parts for different uses. Stainless steel offers several unique material properties, such as high strength, excellent strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance, and extended lifespan. CNC machining stainless steel facilitates the cost-effective mass production of precise and accurate parts with high-quality surface finishes.

FAQs

Is stainless steel a difficult metal to machine?

Machinists encounter certain difficulties when machining stainless steel. However, these difficulties are common to most machining processes, and they can be easily managed with the right expertise and machining tools.

What surface finish is compatible with CNC machined stainless steel parts?

Different surface finishes are suitable for enhancing the functionality and aesthetic of machined steel parts. These include blushing, polishing, brushing, blasting, and passivation.

What are the typical stainless steel machining processes?

Stainless steel is compatible with different machining processes. Machinists use common machining processes like milling, turning, grinding, threading, EDM, and waterjet cutting to shape stainless steel into different parts and components.

Table of Contents

CNC Machining Tolerance Basics: Types, Factors and Measurement

measure cnc machining tolerance

Precision is the cornerstone of CNC machining, and within this realm, CNC machining tolerance takes center stage. Tolerance dictates the allowable variations in dimensions, ensuring that manufactured components meet exact specifications. In this article, we will discuss the role of tolerance in CNC machining, and different types of CNC tolerances.

machining part with tight tolerances

Definition of CNC Machining Tolerances

CNC machining tolerances, crucial in precision engineering, define boundaries for part dimensions. Engineers encounter CNC tolerances daily, ensuring parts fit perfectly. CNC tolerances, usually ±0.005″, dictate accuracy. Not mere numbers, they embody precision’s essence in CNC machining.

Tolerances, in CNC, transform abstract designs into tangible, functional components. Understanding these limits is key to CNC mastery. Precision, defined through CNC tolerances, reflects an engineer’s skill. In CNC machining, tolerances aren’t just guidelines; they’re the line between success and rework.

The Role of Tolerances in CNC Machining

  • Dimensional Accuracy: CNC tolerances, crucial for dimension precision, determine parts’ exactitude. ±0.005″ is typical in machining tolerances.
  • Fit Quality: Inter-part synergy hinges on stringent CNC tolerances, ensuring snug, precise fits. A deviation of 0.010″ could disrupt assemblies.
  • Surface Finish: Surface quality is a direct CNC tolerance offspring, that impacts aesthetics and functionality. Typically, ±0.003″ tolerance ensures smooth surfaces.
  • Assembly Integration: Integrating parts seamlessly demands CNC precision. Tolerances as tight as ±0.002″ facilitate flawless integration.
  • Functional Reliability: Reliability in function stems from CNC machining tolerances. It governs parts’ lifespan and efficiency. Typically, tolerances range around ±0.005″.
  • Production Consistency: Uniformity in mass production relies on replicable CNC tolerances. Consistent ±0.004″ tolerances ensure part-to-part uniformity.
  • Cost Efficiency: Balancing tolerances with cost, CNC techniques optimize resources. Tighter tolerances, while costly, enhance quality.
  • Performance Criteria: Achieving performance goals requires precision CNC tolerances. Essential for high-stress applications, where ±0.003″ tolerance is common.
  • Material Compatibility: Different materials adapt to CNC tolerances uniquely. Material properties often dictate a tolerance range, typically ±0.005″.

cnc tolerances

Types of Tolerances in CNC Machining

There are different CNC tolerances in machining, let’s check.

Dimensional Tolerances

In CNC’s industry, dimensions reign, precise to 0.010mm. Each cut is a testament to accuracy’s pursuit. Engineers’ dreams materialize in metal and plastic, shaped under digital guidance.

Tolerances, not mere numbers, but precision’s very soul. Here, 0.005mm isn’t just a measure, it’s an achievement.

Geometric Tolerances

For typical CNC tolerances, where shapes obey strict rules. Standard CNC tolerances sculpt perfection, not just in dimensions, but in form.

Imagine a world where a circle is always truly round, a square’s angles ever perfect. This isn’t fantasy; it’s geometric tolerance in CNC artistry.

Surface Finish Tolerances

Surface finish is vital yet often overlooked. CNC’s dance of tools leaves behind more than shapes; it crafts textures. From mirror-like smoothness to strategic roughness, each surface tells a story. In this narrative, every micron counts, crafting finishes that aren’t just seen, but felt.

Table on Types of Tolerances in CNC Machining

CriteriaDimensional TolerancesGeometric TolerancesSurface Finish Tolerances
DefinitionPrecision in measurementsConsistency in shapesQuality of surface texture
Typical UnitsMillimeters or inchesDegrees, millimetersRa (Roughness Average)
Measurement ToolsCalipers, MicrometersGDT (Geometric Dimensioning)Surface roughness testers
Controlled FeaturesLength, Diameter, ThicknessFlatness, Symmetry, ProfileRoughness, Waviness, Lay
Common StandardsISO 2768, DIN 7168ASME Y14.5ISO 1302, ASME B46.1
Application ExamplesMachine parts dimensionsAerospace component fittingAutomotive exterior parts
Tolerance Range (Typical)±0.005 – ±0.1 mm±0.005 – ±0.05 mm0.1 – 50 µm (Ra)

cnc milling tolerances

What Factors Influence CNC Machining Tolerances?

Material Properties

In CNC milling, materials dictate tolerances. Hard metals resist deformation; softer ones flex more. Alloys like Ti-6Al-4V demand precision; their characteristics directly affect CNC machining tolerances. Temperature response of materials also plays a crucial role. A machining tolerances chart reveals varied tolerances for different materials.

Tool Precision

Precise tools equal precise parts. Tooling accuracy impacts the final CNC machining tolerances. High-grade tools maintain sharpness longer, ensuring consistent dimensions.

Tool geometry also influences outcomes, as seen in CNC milling tolerances. Regular tool inspection is vital for maintaining precision.

Machine Calibration

Calibration is key. Accurate machine settings ensure adherence to specified tolerances. Regular calibration checks are mandatory for consistent quality.

Even minute deviations in calibration can significantly alter machining tolerances. This highlights the importance of maintaining machine health.

Operator Skill

Skilled operators make a difference. Experience and expertise contribute to maintaining tight tolerances. An operator’s understanding of materials and tools enhances precision. They adjust parameters effectively, optimizing CNC machining tolerances.

Temperature Fluctuations

Temperature affects metal expansion and contraction. Stable workshop temperatures ensure consistent CNC machining tolerances. Sudden temperature changes can cause material warping, affecting tolerances. Temperature-controlled environments are essential for high-precision work.

Cutting Speed

Speed impacts finish and accuracy. Optimal cutting speeds reduce tool wear, maintaining tolerances. Too fast speeds cause overheating and deformation. Adjusting speeds appropriately is crucial for achieving desired CNC machining tolerances.

Feed Rate

Feed rate influences surface finish and tool life. Correct feed rates prevent tool deflection and material burn. Balancing speed and feed is essential for maintaining tolerances. Consistency in feed rate ensures uniformity in CNC machining tolerances.

Vibration Control

Vibration impacts precision. Effective vibration control enhances machining accuracy. Anti-vibration measures are essential in maintaining tolerances. Machine stability is a critical factor in achieving desired CNC machining tolerances.

Clamping Force

Adequate clamping force ensures workpiece stability. Excessive force can deform the material. Balancing clamping force is crucial for maintaining CNC machining tolerances. Proper clamping techniques are also essential for precision work.

cnc measure machine

How to Measure CNC Tolerances?

Selecting Measurement Instruments

Precision is paramount; choose tools like CMMs (Coordinate Measuring Machines) and laser scanners. Their accuracy, typically within ±0.005 mm, underpins reliable tolerance assessment.

Zero-tolerance machining demands this meticulous approach. Tools must align with the complexity and scale of the machined parts.

Preparing the CNC Machine

Calibration is vital. Regularly check CNC machines to ensure optimal performance. Maintenance schedules prevent deviations in tight tolerance machining.

This step includes verifying spindle alignment, tool calibration, and ensuring a temperature-controlled environment.

Implementing a Standardized Process

Adopt ISO standards or similar. Uniformity in processes guarantees consistent tolerance measurements. It involves standardized programming, material handling, and machine operation protocols. Documentation here is key, as it maintains a reference point for future measurements.

Material Consideration

Different materials behave uniquely under machining. Factors like thermal expansion and material hardness impact tolerance levels. Aluminum, for instance, expands more compared to steel. Account for these variations to maintain precision in final measurements.

Conducting Repeated Measurements

Consistency is crucial. Multiple measurements reduce error margins. Each part undergoes several checks to confirm adherence to specified tolerances. Data collection at this stage is vital, feeding into continuous improvement cycles.

Analyzing Data for Quality Control

Utilize statistical analysis tools. These methods, like SPC (Statistical Process Control), identify trends and anomalies in tolerance measurements. They provide insights for adjustments in machining processes, ensuring higher precision in subsequent runs.

How to Achieve High Precision Tolerance in CNC Machining?

Advanced Tooling

Precision tools, with diameters <0.01 inches, are not uncommon. This allows for intricate patterns. Advanced tooling is key for maintaining high precision tolerance.

Alloys used in tool fabrication contribute to durability, impacting overall tolerance examples. Tool geometry, coatings, and substrate materials influence outcomes.

Refined Processes

CNC machining thrives on refined processes. Each step, minutely planned, enhances the end product. Tight tolerances require systematic approaches.

Steps involve precise movements, controlled feeds, and speeds. Refined processes ensure repeatability, crucial for high precision tolerance. Skilled operators play a vital role here.

Temperature Control

Temperature fluctuations impact material behavior. CNC environments maintain strict temperature control. Metals expand or contract with temperature changes.

This can affect tolerances drastically. Temperature-controlled environments counter these effects. Consistent ambient conditions are critical for achieving desired results.

Precision Materials

Certain alloys offer superior machinability. Precision materials reduce tool wear. This leads to better tolerance control. High-grade materials contribute to consistent machining quality. They ensure reliability in stringent tolerance examples.

Enhanced Calibration

Calibration is paramount in CNC machining. Machines undergo frequent recalibration. This maintains accuracy. Enhanced calibration techniques involve laser systems and advanced software. These tools ensure machines operate within the tightest tolerances. Regular calibration checks are essential.

Micro-Machining

Micro-machining tackles tasks on a minuscule scale. Parts with features in the micrometer range are common. This requires specialized equipment. Precision is paramount here.

Techniques in micro-machining push the boundaries of what’s possible in high precision tolerance.

High-Speed Techniques

High-speed machining offers efficiency and precision. It involves rapid tool movements and high spindle speeds. This reduces machining time. It also minimizes thermal distortion. These techniques are vital for maintaining tight tolerances. They’re especially useful in large-scale production.

CNC Machining Tolerances in Different Industries

Aerospace Requirements

In aerospace, standard CNC tolerances soar like an F-22, precision ruling the skies. Components must fit with a 0.005mm margin; any less, risks escalate. It’s about tight fits, not “close enough”.

Here, a 0.01mm deviation isn’t just a number, it’s a potential catastrophe. Engineers’ mantra: measure thrice, cut once.

Medical Precision

Medical precision demands a surgeon’s touch, and CNC milling tolerances reflect this. At 0.010mm, these are not mere specs, but lifelines. Implant components, with their 0.003mm variances, tolerate no error. In this realm, each micrometer counts, shaping health outcomes. Precision isn’t just a goal, it’s a necessity.

Automotive Standards

Automotive standards revolve around durability and performance. Here, standard CNC tolerances are the unsung heroes, at a 0.025mm threshold.

Chassis parts to engine components, each adheres to this creed. A 0.020mm discrepancy can mean the difference between a smooth ride and a recall. Precision drives this industry, literally.

Electronic Components

In the world of electronic components, size matters inversely. CNC milling tolerances shrink to near-invisible 0.015mm, where details are kings.

Circuit boards and connectors defy the naked eye, demanding microscopic precision. Here, a millimeter is a giant; a micron, is the norm. This industry’s mantra: smaller, yet mightier.

Industrial Machinery

Industrial machinery, the behemoths of production, relies on a different scale. Standard CNC tolerances here stand at a robust 0.050mm. Gears and levers, though large, demand precise interactions. A 0.045mm mismatch can halt an entire assembly line. In this world, precision is measured in robustness, not just numbers.

How To Optimize CNC Processes for Better Tolerances?

Material Selection’s Crucial Impact

Start by choosing materials apt for high precision tolerance. Different materials behave uniquely under CNC machining stress. Aluminum alloys, for instance, allow for tighter tolerances than plastics. Consult material datasheets for thermal expansion coefficients.
Balancing cost and performance is key in material selection. This step is fundamental for achieving desired tolerances in manufacturing.

Tool Calibration and Maintenance

Regular calibration of CNC tools is essential. Wear and tear affects tool precision over time. Use micrometers and laser systems for calibration checks. Replace worn tools promptly.

A well-maintained tool ensures consistency in machining operations. This reduces errors in final measurements, maintaining dimensional accuracy.

Advanced Programming for Precision

Optimize CNC programming for accuracy. Employ CAM software with enhanced algorithms. Integrate real-time feedback mechanisms. This allows adjustments during the machining process. Utilize simulation tools to anticipate and correct potential errors.

Advanced programming minimizes deviations, ensuring adherence to specified tolerances.

Temperature Control’s Role

Temperature fluctuations impact metal expansion and contraction. Maintain a controlled environment in the machining area. Implement cooling systems for heat-intensive processes.

Monitor ambient temperature regularly. Stable temperature conditions help in maintaining consistent machining quality. This is critical for achieving tight tolerances.

Precision Measuring Instruments

Invest in high-quality measuring tools. Use digital calipers, coordinate measuring machines (CMM), and laser scanners. Regularly calibrate these instruments.

Accurate measurement is crucial for verifying tolerances. This helps in making immediate adjustments if deviations are detected. Precision measuring is a cornerstone of quality control in CNC machining.

Skilled Workforce Training

Skilled operators make a significant difference. Train staff in precision machining techniques. Emphasize the importance of following exact specifications.

Provide workshops on interpreting technical drawings accurately. A well-trained team is adept at managing and troubleshooting CNC processes. Their expertise is invaluable in achieving and maintaining precise tolerances.

Conclusion

Our odyssey through CNC machining tolerances ends, but your journey to precision starts now. We’ve navigated types, factors, measurements, and optimization techniques.

Now, apply this knowledge, and refine your craft. Contact XinCheng for further expertise. Embrace tighter tolerances, and elevate your CNC machining capabilities.

Table of Contents

CNC Machining Acrylic: Benefits, Tips, and How to Machine

cnc machined acrylic part

Acrylic is a popular plastic used for making consumer products. It has many advantages compared to materials like glass and polycarbonate. One common method for manufacturing acrylic parts is CNC machining. Hence, it’s important to understand the acrylic manufacturing process, particularly when using CNC operation.

In this article, we will explore the process of CNC machining acrylic, highlight its benefits, and provide helpful tips for machining acrylic.

acrylic sheets

Properties of Acrylic

Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), commonly referred to as acrylic, is a transparent thermoplastic that is frequently used as a lightweight or impact-resistant substitute for glass. Here are some essential characteristics of acrylic.

Chemical Resistance

On acrylic, you can use diluted inorganic acids, detergents, alkalis, and cleansers. Most laboratory chemicals do not harm acrylic, so you can confidently use these chemicals without worrying about damage to the material.

Stability Under Exposure to UV

Acrylic is resistant to UV rays, allowing it to withstand prolonged exposure to sunlight. This feature makes it an excellent material for outdoor applications requiring exposure to weather elements.

High Optical Clarity

Compared to glass or other polymers, acrylic is more transparent and can transmit up to 92% of visible light. It can also be dyed or tinted while maintaining its transparency.

Machinability

Similar to wood, acrylic is easy to saw, machine, and drill. In addition to conventional machining practices, it is also easy to heat, curve, and bend to shape.

Surface Hardness

Acrylic is a robust and long-lasting thermoplastic. Its density range is between 1.17 and 1.20 g/cm³. It has excellent scratch resistance and dimensional stability compared to other transparent polymers. This dimensional stability is due to its high density, which prevents it from absorbing much water or moisture.

Impact Resistance

Acrylic resists shattering better than glass. It is a safer material for applications where breakage is a concern. Although it can shatter under extreme impact, it is less likely to do so compared to glass.

cnc acrylic components

Benefits of CNC Machining for Acrylic

When working with acrylic, CNC machining offers several advantages for producing intricate and precise components.

Surface Finish

CNC machining acrylic can produce incredibly smooth finishes characteristic of the material’s appearance. The accuracy of CNC toolpaths, when paired with the right spindle speeds and feed rates, greatly minimizes surface defects.

Due to this, acrylic achieves a smoothness that is frequently compared to glass, which is essential for its widespread use in optical and transparent applications. Surface roughness is precise because of the exact control provided by CNC technology,

Highly Repeatable

CNC machining’s computer-controlled precision guarantees consistent results for large production runs, with every acrylic part being made precisely the same way.

Higher Accuracy and Precision

CNC machining enables the production of acrylic parts with great accuracy, providing increased precision and faster cycle times. Besides, a standard CNC machine can achieve parts with an accuracy of about 0.001 to 0.005 inches, allowing for the precise machining of intricate acrylic products.

cnc cutting acrylic

How to CNC Machine Acrylic?

CNC acrylic machining provides parts that are precisely cut, polished, and of excellent quality when done correctly. There are steps on how to CNC machine acrylic.

1. Preparing the Design

This process starts with a computer-aided design (CAD) program to prepare your design. Verify that your Acrylic part design fits within the limitations of your CNC machine.

After obtaining the CNC design, create the toolpath using Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software. The CAM software will convert Your CAD drawing into G-code, the language the CNC machine understands.

2. Set up Machining Operations

The CNC machine will now process your data and prepare the necessary actions to make the acrylic product per your design specifications. It will offer you a range of CNC machining operations, such as drilling, grinding, milling, and cutting, to process the acrylic workpiece.

3. Starting the CNC Acrylic Machining Procedures

You can begin the machining processes for the acrylic parts as soon as the materials are prepared and the machining equipment has set up its operating sequence. The acrylic part will be produced just as you have designed it using the CNC machinery, which will adhere to your design.

transparent pmma

4. Machining Completion

The finished product will have undergone several machining processes, including drilling, turning, and milling. Due to the high repeatability factor of the CNC machining equipment, you will get the same parts for every material workpiece you work on. You also can choose to post-process the acrylic machined parts for a better appearance.

Different CNC Acrylic Machining Operations

There are several CNC acrylic operations used in making acrylic parts. These operations result in the production of high-quality acrylic parts.

cnc milling acrylic

CNC Acrylic Milling

CNC acrylic milling is the process of precisely machining and shaping acrylic sheets with a CNC milling machine. This technique involves removing excess material from acrylic sheets using spinning multi-point cutting tools. The workpiece is fed to the cutting tool in the same direction as its rotation.

CNC milling acrylic offers functionalities such as peripheral milling, shallow cutting, and deep cutting. The sign, headlight cover, and electronics sectors are among those that frequently use CNC acrylic milling.

cnc turning acrylic

CNC Turning Acrylic

This process uses a single rotating point cutting tool to remove material from a revolving acrylic workpiece. The cutting tool feeds on the workpiece in a straight line, removing material around the periphery until the desired shape is achieved. Turning acrylic turning is capable of various machining operations, including thread cutting, boring, grooving, and facing.

CNC Acrylic Surface Finishing

CNC machining can be used to achieve the desired surface finish for acrylic. This may involve facing or fly-cutting processes. Methods like sanding, polishing, or buffing can be employed to enhance transparency, clarity, or brilliance. Chemicals, abrasives, and specialty instruments can also be utilized to achieve high degrees of transparency.

drilling acrylic part

CNC Acrylic Drilling

CNC machines can drill precise holes in acrylic items using standard drill bits. It is advisable to adjust the machine’s spindle speed and feed rate to avoid cracking, chipping, or melting. Coolant should be used during the drilling process, and chip evacuation strategies like peck drilling cycles can ensure clean holes.

CNC Acrylic Engraving

Text, logos, and custom patterns can be engraved on acrylic surfaces using a CNC machine. V-groove cutters, laser engraving tools, and specialty engraving bits can be used for this purpose. The depth of the engraving and the tool’s speed depend on the desired type of engraving and level of detail.

Surface Treatment for CNC Machined Acrylic

When surface treatments are required, here are the typical finishing techniques for machining acrylic.

Vapor Polishing

CNC acrylic parts can improve their surface gloss by using vapor polishing, a post-processing procedure. To get a smooth and glossy surface, the parts are subjected to a solvent vapor, like acetone, which melts the acrylic’s outer layer and permits it to reflow.

In addition to enhancing the part’s transparency and visual attractiveness, this technique can assist in erasing scratches, tool marks, and other flaws. Vapor polishing is widely used to give CNC-machined acrylic components a superior, glass-like surface.

machined acrylic cover

Hand Fine Polishing

A human post-processing method called hand fine polishing is applied to CNC-machined acrylic pieces to improve their surface finish further. The part’s surface is manually polished using various polishing instruments, including sandpaper or a polishing compound, in addition to hand-held buffers or rotary tools.

This technique will not break surface features A high-quality, aesthetically pleasing final result is ensured by hand fine polishing, which provides exact control and personalization.

Important Considerations for Machining Acrylic Parts

Machining acrylic parts is a complex process. Here are some factors to consider during acrylic prototyping or manufacturing.

Workholding

Distributing the clamping force properly is important to prevent the acrylic from being cracked or distorted. The acrylic must be firmly clamped to the machine bed to reduce vibrations and material movement. One can use various work-holding techniques, the decision is based on the workpiece’s dimensions, shape, and level of intricacy.

Cutting Speed and Feed Rate

Acrylic is typically CNC machined at speeds of 15,000-20,000 RPM with a constant feed rate. Heat accumulation and chips sticking back onto the product can significantly degrade surface finish quality if the feed rate is too low. However, pre-cooling the acrylic feedstock before machining can help prevent heat buildup and improve chip removal. It is recommended to use oil-free coolants that won’t react with the plastic.

Tolerances for Precision Acrylic Parts

One challenge in achieving tight tolerances in precision acrylic machining is its relatively high coefficient of thermal expansion compared to metals. Temperature impacts must be controlled and understood during CNC machining, along with proper heat treatment of acrylic before and after machining.

For specific features, tolerances of +/- 0.01mm or even closer are possible. It is necessary to conduct routine in-process measurements to prevent drift, either with independent CMM systems or with in-tooling probing on the CNC machine.

high optical acrylic

Tips to Get Better Results from CNC Machining Acrylic

CNC machining is an effective method for achieving precise acrylic parts. Here are some tips to facilitate your acrylic fabrication using CNC.

Ensure Secure Material Attachment

Ensuring a secure material attachment is essential for CNC machining to remain precise and reduce vibrations. Appropriate anchoring is crucial to avoid material movement or shifting in acrylic, which can result in imprecise cuts or degraded surface finishes.

One can use various techniques for this depending on the acrylic workpiece dimensions, form, and stiffness. These include using clamps, vices, double-sided tape, and vacuum tables.

In addition, to prevent material distortion or damage, the fastening technique should distribute the clamping force uniformly to enable unhindered machining, it’s also critical to take the tool’s accessibility and clearance around the fixation points into account.

Use the Right Cutting Tools and Bits

Using the proper CNC cutting tools or bits is essential for achieving the intended results when CNC machining acrylic. Carbide end mills with precise flute geometry and sharp edges are strongly advised for acrylic machining. End mills with one or two flutes are frequently utilized because they effectively evacuate chips and minimize heat accumulation. Because these tools are made especially for plastics, they can cut through materials smoothly without melting or chipping.

Moreover, the acrylic sheet’s thickness and the required detail level must be considered when selecting the appropriate tool diameter. Using the right cutting tool for machined acrylic parts guarantees crisp edges, clean cuts, and a high-quality surface finish.

Set the Correct Feed Rate

One approach to guarantee precise and tidy cuts is appropriately setting the feed rate. If you don’t, your acrylic may melt while being cut. A feed rate that is too fast can overheat the acrylic, creating undue friction and thermal stress that could compromise its quality. It is advisable to start with a feed rate of approximately 75 to 300 inches per minute (IPM). To attain the intended outcomes, it is imperative to oversee the machining procedure and modify the feed rate correspondingly.

Consider RPM

Because acrylic is a thermoplastic, it can melt or chip at too-high or too-low spindle speed. To obtain a clean cut and avoid melting, it is generally advised to machine acrylic at a high spindle speed. Typically, spindle speeds range from 16,000 to 20,000 RPM.

The thickness and kind of acrylic you want to cut and the unique features of your CNC machine and tools must all be considered. To ensure an accurate and seamless machining operation, it is advisable to test various spindle speeds on waste acrylic material to find the appropriate RPM for your particular setup.

Use CNC Coolant

Machining acrylic with coolant is recommended due to its high coefficient of thermal expansion. Coolant improves surface finish and helps prevent overheating. Besides, PMMA is compatible with a variety of coolants, making it easy to select a suitable option.

Polycarbonate vs Acrylic Machining: What’re the Differences?

The debate between machining polycarbonate and acrylic has been ongoing. You should note that these materials differ significantly in their transparency and nature of use. Let’s examine the differences between these two materials.

Machining Cost

CNC machining plastic is generally affordable, but there are several grades of plastic available in the market. However, polycarbonate often costs around 35-40% more than acrylic. Therefore, when all other factors are equal, acrylic machining tends to be less expensive. However, if improper cutting techniques are used for acrylic, resulting in waste, the CNC machining cost of acrylic may be higher.

Scratch and Crack Resistance

During machining, acrylic may break, although scratches are unlikely to occur. In contrast, polycarbonate is the opposite – it doesn’t shatter easily but can be easily scratched.

Applications

The particular application requirements of polycarbonate and acrylic are a key point of contention in the machining debate. Due to its great impact resistance, polycarbonate is the perfect material for applications needing strength and endurance, like protective covers or safety shields. Its machinability is good, although achieving a precise surface finish may be more difficult because of its increased toughness.

Acrylic, on the other hand, provides better optical clarity and is frequently utilized in display components and signage—applications where transparency and aesthetics are essential. It yields superior surface finishes and is not difficult to manufacture. Each material has advantages and disadvantages, and the ideal option for a particular application will be determined by considering elements like machining requirements, durability, and transparency.

Machinability

In terms of machinability, polycarbonate is generally superior to acrylic. However, it’s important to consider the specific applications. While polycarbonate is strong, stiff, durable, and heat-tolerant, it may not be suitable for all situations. Acrylic, on the other hand, is easy to work with, allowing for engraving, machining, and drilling.

cnc machining pmma

Applications of CNC Acrylic Parts

CNC acrylic parts have a wide range of uses in many sectors. Here are some notable applications:

Lighting and Electronics

Acrylic’s transparency makes it ideal for usage in the electronics and lighting industries. It is commonly used to create lamps, light tubes, and other light-emitting products, thanks to its excellent transparency, optical qualities, light transmission, and clarity.

Automotive Industry

Acrylic is used in the automobile industry for various purposes, including custom windshields, panels, logos, and displays on the dashboard. It is also suitable for creating covers for interior automobile lights and indicator lights due to its surface hardness, ease of casting, and manufacturing.

Medical and Healthcare Industry

Acrylic polymer is utilized in the medical industry to make glove boxes, components of CT scanners, microscope parts, petri dish holders, and valves. Its low maintenance requirements and compatibility with biologics make it a favorable choice for filling cavities in teeth.

Architecture and Construction

Due to its adaptability and visual attractiveness, CNC acrylic parts are used extensively in the building and architectural sectors. Architectural acrylic components are frequently utilized in interior design elements, signs, lighting fixtures, and building facades. Using CNC machining, architects and designers may realize their ideas by producing complex patterns, accurate cutouts, and unique shapes.

Get CNC Acrylic Services at XinCheng

XinCheng offers one-stop CNC machining services, delivering appearance and quality that exceed expectations for your acrylic projects. Our comprehensive machining capabilities including 5-axis machining, precision turning, vapor polishing, etc, enable us to machine complex acrylic components. Whether you require prototypes or parts production, XinCheng’s CNC acrylic services are equipped to meet the diverse needs of industries such as automotive, electronics, and medical devices.

FAQs

What are the recommended settings for CNC cutting acrylic?

Generally, a feed rate of 75-300 IPM is advised for cutting acrylic. Smaller bits require lower feed rates, while larger bits work better with higher feed rates. For optimal cutting without melting, a spindle speed of at least 18,000 RPM is recommended.

What is the best bit for CNC acrylic?

A 1/4-inch solid carbide O-flute is a good choice for cutting acrylic due to its up-score, which effectively removes the chips as you cut. In general, larger bit sizes tend to remove chips more effectively than smaller ones.

Why choose acrylic for CNC optical parts?

Acrylic allows for the production of optical parts with intricate geometry and a high degree of clarity. CNC-machined acrylic components are also known for their durability, as they are 30 times stronger and twice as light as glass.

Table of Contents

Lathe Cutting Tool Types: Their Classifications and Uses

lathe cutting tools

CNC lathe cutting tools are machine tools attached to lathe machines to achieve different machining operations, particularly turning. These tools and the device itself are a mainstay in the manufacturing industry because of the vast applications they offer machinists.

Like all CNC machining tools, even though these cutters exist in different variations, they guarantee turning machining regardless of the material type, operations they offer, shape, and feed direction. This article discusses the classifications of lathe cutting tools, the kind of operations they offer machinists, and how to select the right tool for your projects.

cnc lathing

When and Where Used a Lathe Cutting Tool?

Lathe turning tools are integral for various machining processes, offering versatility, precision, and dimensional accuracy. This device is the go-to machining tool for metal turning operations – a fundamental CNC machining process. However, it suits many other cutting and machining operations.

Therefore, understanding when and where to use these tools aids in optimizing their performance in different applications. Besides turning, below are other machining operations that suit the lathe cutting tools.

  • Thread Cutting
  • Chamfering
  • Grooving
  • Facing
  • Knurling
  • Boring
  • Taper turning
  • Forming

Parts and Features of a Standard CNC Lathe Cutting Tool

Like any machine, CNC lathe cutting tools consist of different parts, the moving, and the immovable ones.

consist of a lathe cutter

  • Dry: The part that does not interact with cutting fluid or coolant.
  • Shank: It is the thickest part of the tool, often rectangular and directly connected to lathe machine tools.
  • Face: This CNC lathe part interacts with the workpiece during machining, including the cutting edge and where the chip flows during machining.
  • Cutting Edge: It is also called the cutting teeth or surface. It is responsible for the cutting and machining action. It is sharp, and the intersection between the face and flank influences cutting.
  • Flank: The part opposite and parallel to the workpiece, including the minor and major flank.
  • Tool Nose: This is the top or end of the cutting tool, having a curvature that increases its strength, durability, and suitability for vast cutting applications.
  • Shank: the non-cutting component of the lathe cutting tool clamped into the tool holder, providing support to the cutting tools during machining.
  • Spindle: The rotating lady of the machine that holds the lathe cutting tool, creating the rotary movement during machining.

Classification of CNC Lathe Cutting Tools

Lathe machines come in different variations, accommodating various cutting tools. However, CNC lathe cutting tools can be classified into four broad categories.

  • Based on the material type
  • Based on specific cutting and machining operations
  • Based on the feed direction
  • Based on the shape and structure of the cutters.

Below, we will take a more detailed approach to the different classifications of lathe cutting tools.

lathing cutting tools types

Lathe Cutters Classification Based on Materials

There are different material options for manufacturing parts, each having unique mechanical and chemical characteristics. Therefore, there is a need for different variations of cutters, depending on material type. For example, a cutting tool specific for cutting aluminum will find cutting harder alloys like titanium challenging.

Below is an overview of the standard tools for lathes based on the material type.

High-Speed Steel (HSS)

Besides iron as the base metal, high-speed steel lathe cutting tools include other alloying materials such as carbon, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten. This composition increases its mechanical properties, making this cutting tool extremely hard, strong, and resistant to wearing conditions and high temperatures of up to 588°C.

However, unlike their name suggests, they may not suit high-speed machining applications. They are best suited for moderate to slow-speed lathing operations, making them a good fit for rough and semi-finish machining.

Diamond Blade

Diamond is the hardest material, making lathe cutting tools from this material wear-resistant, extremely hard, and offering impeccable dimensional accuracy. Therefore, these tools are ideal for machining abrasive materials, as the blades won’t wear out, maintaining their sharpness and high precision machining, even at high speeds. However, it is expensive to acquire.

Carbide

Like diamond lathe cutters, the carbide ones are tough. OEMs enhance their mechanical properties by adding other materials like chromium, carbon, vanadium, and tungsten, like in HSS. Adding aluminum oxide and titanium nitride coatings further improves its characteristics, chemical resistance, and effectiveness. Cutting tools with carbide are generally more expensive but are suitable for cutting tough alloys with high precision.

Cubic Boron Nitride

Cubic boron nitride is another material for lathe cutters known for its extreme hardness and abrasion resistance. Also, it possesses high thermal resistance, making it suitable for high-speed machining with excessive heat build-up. It is best used for intermittent cutting and rough machining of hard materials like cast iron with less attention to precision.

cnc boring tools

Lathe Cutters Classification Based on Operation-Dependent

CNC lathe cutters are highly versatile, suiting various operations and manufacturing parts for different industries. Below, we examine the standard operations ideal for tools for lathes.

Turning Tools

CNC turning operations are the standard machining process for CNC lathes. The technique involves using these cutters to cut around a fixed workpiece till the desired part or structure is achieved. The tool suits the manufacture of round shapes, often in conical or cylindrical forms. This operation can be further divided into two:

  • Rough Turning: These metal turning tools are used to remove large pieces of a workpiece at once, resulting in rougher shapes with inconsistent surface finishing.
  • Finish Turning: These tools carefully remove pieces of a workpiece in smaller amounts, ensuring a more consistent, smoother, and accurate finish.

Thread Cutting Tools

As the name suggests, these cutting tools are specified for fabricating threads – spiral features or patterns – into a cylindrical workpiece. These cutters have a nose angle defining the thread angle and a cross-section determining the pitch and depth. Like turning tools, thread-cutting tools can exist in two forms.

  • Internal thread-cutting tool, which is often called a tap. It is for cutting internal threads in a pre-drilled hole.
  • External thread cutting tool, which suits making surface and superficial threads on a workpiece.

lathe machining cutters

Chamfering Tools

These tools for lathes are specific for creating chamfers – a slanting edge feature in the corner of a workpiece. Ideally, standard metal turning tools can create chamfers in a material. However, the machinist must place the cutters at a right angle to the workpiece to ensure high-quality chamfering.

That said, they exist in three different forms.

  • Single angle chamfer cutter – creating a chamfer with a definite angle along the entire feature’s length.
  • Variable angle chamfer cutter – allows machinists to create chamfers with varying angles along the length of the cut.
  • Indexable chamfer cutter – allows changing the chamfer angle using replaceable inserts, promoting flexibility.

Grooving Tools

Again, the name of this cutting tool indicates its function. Grooving tools are suitable for making grooves of varying shapes in cylindrical components. The shape of the groove depends on the configuration of the cutter. However, the standard ones include the V-shaped and the square-shaped cutters. These cutters tend to have a thin edge that makes them ideal for creating grooves, slots, and parting in a workpiece.

Knurling Tools

Knurling tools are another set of lathe cutters specific for creating indentations and embossed patterns on the surface of a workpiece. The cutters usually have two or more rolling wheels with definite patterns for making the intended features. Examples of knurling cutting tools include:

  • Straight knurling cutters for creating straight and linear patterns.
  • Diagonal knurling cutters for creating diagonal and diamond-like patterns.

Knurling patterns in a workpiece are specific for making distinct rough surfaces for better grip and workpieces, such as at the handle of a power tool.

Boring Tools

Boring tools are used to increase the diameter of a pre-drilled hole. We emphasize that these lathe cutters cannot create holes themselves; they just widen and enlarge holes or modify them into other internal shapes in a workpiece.

They exist in two primary forms.

  • Single point boring bars – these tools have a single cutting edge
  • Multi-point boring bars – have several cutting edges.

Boring tools feature a boring bar with a cutting teeth at its end. Therefore, they are suitable for machining and increasing the diameter of a hole.

right and left feed direction lathe cutter

Lathe Cutters Classification Based on Feed Direction

This section classifies lathe cutters into three distinct groups based on their direction.

Left-Handed Lathe Cutting Tool

As the name suggests, a left-hand lathe cutter removes components of a workpiece by transporting them from left to right. These cutting tools are more expensive; consequently, they are not common. However, they are best suited for machining workpieces that are challenging to hold in place. Also, they are suitable for back turning, creating sharp shoulders on the workpieces.

Right-Handed Lathe Cutting Tool

Unlike left-hand, these tools for lathes cut materials in the right-to-left configuration. This feed direction is the common one in most lathe cutters. You can picture this cutting tool as your hand, with the thumb representing the feed direction and the main cutting edge being the left side of the tool.

Since they are the more common lathe cutters, they suit various applications, including turning, facing, threading, and machining flat surfaces.

Round Nose Lathe Cutting Tool

Unlike the previous two tools for lathes, those with the round nose configuration can cut in either direction – from right to left and left to right. The cutters have narrow tips with no side or back rake angle. They suit applications that require smooth surface finishing, contouring round corners and curved features, and complex profiling.

different shapes of lathing cutting tools

Lathe Cutters Classification Based on Shape and Structural

Depending on the shape and the structure of the lathe cutters, there are three classifications.

Single-Bodied Tools

As the name suggests, this tool consists of a single body structure containing the cutter, which may be the high-speed steel, diamond blade, or carbide. They are usually very strong, having a definite shape and geometry, making them suitable for high-speed and strength machining operations.

Welding Lathe Cutting Tool

These CNC lathes can incorporate welding capabilities into their functionalities; they can join different materials together. It allows the creation of custom geometries and the modification of existing tools for newer applications. This improves the versatility of this tool, making it a cost-effective solution for fabricating complex structures.

Clamp Lathe Cutting Tool

Calm lathe cutters are similar to welding tools using temporary joining methods. These tools encourage easier insert replacement and inserts with multiple cutting edges. Therefore, they suit various operations, particularly those requiring constant tool switching during parts’ machining.

Benefits and Limitations of Lathe Cutting Tools

We have already established that lathe-cutting tools have vast capabilities suitable for various manufacturing applications. Below, we explore some of the benefits and limitations of tools for lathes machines.

Benefits

  • Versatility: Lathe cutting tools suit various machining operations, including turning, threading, chamfering, and grooving.
  • High Precision: These tools offer high-precision machining, allowing for fabricating intricate and detailed parts with consistent quality.
  • Vast Material Compatibility: Lathe cutters are suitable for the machining of various materials, including metals, alloys, plastics, composites, wood, etc.
  • Durability: Depending on the material, lathe-cutting tools are generally durable, providing long tool life even in challenging machining conditions.
  • Custom Part Fabrication: Some lathe-cutting tools, such as welding and clamp tools, allow for customization, enabling the fabrication of complex structures.

lathing cutting turned part

Limitations

  • Tool Wear: Tools for lathes may experience tool wear after extended use, mainly due to the consistent machining of hard materials, which reduces cutting performance and tool life.
  • Capital Investment: Lathe cutters, particularly those from advanced materials like diamond or cubic boron nitride, are generally expensive, impacting the overall cost of machining setups.
  • Complexity in Tool Selection: The extensive range of tools for lathes may make tool selection more challenging, especially for inexperienced machinists.

How to Choose the Right Lathe Cutting Tool for Precision Machining?

We already established that there are different extensive cutting tools. Therefore, understanding your project’s requirements is important to making the right choice that suits it. Below, we discuss factors to consider when selecting the suitable lathe cutter for your application.

Desired CNC Operation

The first factor to consider in CNC turning and milling operations is whether the selected tool suits the intended function. Every lathe cutter has a particular application it best suits. For example, there are lathe tools specific for turning, chamfering facing, and other specifications. While some shit multiple operations, others do not. Therefore, select one that suits your desired CNC operation before choosing it.

lathe tooling materials

Material Choice

The mechanical properties and composition of the workpiece play significant roles in the choice of any machining tool you select. The standard features to consider are the material strength and hardness. Ignoring the material’s property may result in inefficient machining and tool wearing or even cause you to spend more than required.

For example, when machining hardened alloys, it’s best to stick with carbide or diamond blade tools for lathes because they are more efficient and wear-resistant for such materials.

cutting tools for lathes

Shape of Intended Part

Generally, turning services are for creating round parts – usually in the form of cylinders and cones. However, lathe cutters can adopt various tools, allowing the fabrication of more sophisticated shape configurations. Whether your fabrication calls for contours, square or diamond-shaped inserts, ensure to select a cutter that can create the intended shape and structures of your part.

Coating of the Lathe Cutting Tool

Coatings generally improve lathe cutting tools’ durability, mechanical features, and visual appeal. They also play a crucial role in the suitability of a cutting tool for a particular application.

For example, when machining materials made of titanium, it’s best to use a tool coated with titanium. Coatings like TiN (Titanium Nitride) and TiAlN (Aluminum Titanium Nitride) reduce friction and heat generation during machining.

Desired Surface Finishing

The desired surface finishing of a machined part plays a role in selecting the lathe cutters. Choose a tool for lathe with an appropriate nose radius based on your desired surface finish. For example, there are two types of turning tools: one for rough finishing and the other for smooth, consistent finish.

Ensure you use the suitable surface finishing a part requires to ensure your fabrication meets all the design specifications. In fact, the surface finishing of a part may influence its tolerance. For example, parts with tight tolerance requirements tend to require a smoother and more consistent finish. However, this may be different; consequently, ensure a proper understanding of the parts’ specifications and adhere to them.

Feed Rate, Cutting Speed, and Depth

You should also consider the feed rates, cutting speed, and depth specifications before selecting tools for lathes. These parameters require optimization before machining unless your fabrication may not attain the intended specifications. Also, you want a machine that suits your intended parameters before proceeding.

For example, single-body lathe cutters with diamond or carbide blades suit high feed rates and cutting speeds because of their high wear resistance, durability, and strength. Likewise, a tool for deep cutting must possess good chip evacuation to prevent accumulation and high-quality machining.

Get High-quality Lathe Tools and CNC Turning Services at XinCheng

Besides having a detailed understanding of the different kinds of lathe cutting tools, including their applications, you need the machine for your manufacturing projects. However, this device is expensive, requiring high initial costs; therefore, partnering with a third-party service provider is smart.

XinCheng is an expert in offering high-quality CNC turning services. From prototyping to production, our expert machinists and engineers can meet your specific requirements for your machining projects.

Conclusion

Lathe cutting tools offer diverse applications, making them a mainstay in CNC machining services. Manufacturers just attach one of the lathe tools to the CNC lathe machine to machine their parts, depending on their fabrication needs. However, engineers and machinists must familiarize themselves with the different lathe cutting tools for more accessible and seamless use of these cutting tools.

FAQs

Can the Same Lathe Cutting Tool Machine Different Materials?

Yes, the same lathe cutters can machine different materials. Lathe cutting tools are generally versatile and compatible with various manufacturing materials.

What Machining Operation Does Lathe Cutting Tools Suit?

Lathe cutting tools are the go-to machining equipment for turning operations. However, these tools may exist in different variations, offering other applications, including chamfering, boring, grooving, taper turning, etc.

Which Lathe Cutting Tool is of the Best Quality?

Generally, machinists don’t prefer to describe a particular lathe cutter as having the best quality. The diamond lathe cutters offer the most diverse applications, cutting from flexible to more rigid material options. Therefore, we can say they have the best quality; however, they are expensive and often restricted to specific industrial applications.

Table of Contents

Metal CNC Machining: How it Works and Best Metal Types

cnc metal parts

Metals, plastics, and composites are some of the engineering materials you can choose from for your parts production when using computer numerical control (CNC) machining. However, metals are the most widely utilized CNC engineering material across numerous industries.

In this article, we’ll highlight the CNC metal process, different metal machining operations, and typical metals suitable for CNC machining. Do read on.

metal cnc machining

Role of CNC Machining in Metal Parts Manufacturing

In metal production, CNC machines and machining play a variety of roles. More precisely, they are employed to carry out several essential tasks, such as:

Metal Prototyping

A lot happens before a part is produced, from important steps like creating a CAD design to designs undergoing virtual testing and analysis.

But to evaluate the concept’s functionality, manufacturers require a metal prototype. While many processes are used in prototyping, manufacturers usually require CNC machining to do so rapidly.

Metal prototyping using CNC machining guarantees repeatability and consistency. It is also highly precise and time-saving while being cost-effective. Another benefit of CNC machining for metal prototypes is the versatility of the process, as it works with a wide range of metals and non-metal materials.

aluminum machined part

Low-Volume Production

Low-volume or small-batch CNC metal machining parts refer to producing parts or products in small batches, often ranging from 10 to 1000 pieces. It is one method that manufacturers use to reduce the cost of metal production. Producing small quantities lowers CNC machining costs and facilitates design changes without causing losses.

How Does CNC Metal Machining Work?

CAD Design

The first step involves creating a computer-aided design (CAD) in 2D or 3D format using CAD software. This software enables the rendering of any part that fulfills the necessary technical specifications.

It is essential to keep in mind that the characteristics of the metal workpiece considerably impact the design and outcome.

Programming

Following this, the CAD file needs to be converted into a file format that is compatible with a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine. Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software inspects the CAD file and generates programming codes. The codes broadly fall into two categories: Machine code (M-Code) and Geometric code (G-Code).

Machine Setup

Setting up the CNC machine necessitates two steps. Firstly, it entails ensuring the machine is in good working condition through a thorough check.

The next step involves securely attaching the metal workpiece to the machine. While attaching the requisite equipment and parts, the metal workpiece can be directly inserted into the machine.

cnc metal process

Machining Metal Workpiece

Upon configuring the CNC machine, you can initiate the CNC program. The CNC program represents the core of the CNC machine’s functionalities. It directs the machine’s movements and actions to yield the desired result, making sure the machined metal parts adhere to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Common Metal Types for CNC Machining

Several metals and alloys are used in the CNC machining process, but we’d discuss the most common ones here. They include:

Steel

One of the most popular metals for precise CNC machining is steel. It is an alloy with up to 2% carbon, iron, and various additional elements in different proportions. Four main types of steel are used in CNC machining: Carbon, Stainless, alloy, and tool. It is important to note that these steel types have subcategories and grades. For instance, stainless steel has grades 304, 316, 410, 430, and 2205.

Nonetheless, if your machined part will be used in a humid climate, steel might not be the best metal choice due to its high susceptibility to corrosion.

Aluminum

Similar to steel, aluminum is popular for its use in many different sectors. However, aluminum’s resistance to corrosion and lightweight set it apart. Generally, aluminum is 2.5 times less dense than steel and is less prone to fracture during CNC machining.
Common aluminum alloys that find application in CNC machining include the 2024, 6061, and 7075. There are also uncommon aluminum alloys used for CNC machining, including 3003 and 5052.

cnc brass parts

Brass

Zinc and copper are the two metals that makeup brass. Brass is known for being stable, strong, medium hardness, and—above all—being easily machined. Unlike most soft metals used in CNC machining, brass alloys won’t strain the machinery unnecessarily.

Unlike most soft metals used in CNC machining, brass alloys actually won’t put unnecessary strain on the machinery. There are several types of brass alloys for CNC machining including C360, C230, and C220.

Brass is prone to stress corrosion cracking, which can be a significant problem, particularly when ammonia or ammonia-based solutions are present. To overcome this restriction, you must apply heat treatments like annealing to the workpiece during post-processing.

Copper

Copper is one metal frequently machined for use in various industries. It has superb surface quality, strong electrical and thermal conductivity, and excellent machinability.

CNC-machined copper components are commonly used for circuit boards and electromagnets in the electronics and semiconductor industries. However, the main drawback with copper alloys is that they corrode easily by sulfides, halogens, and solutions containing ammonia.

cnc machining titanium

Titanium

Titanium is a highly sought-after metal for many industries due to its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and resistance to corrosion. In addition to being a little expensive material, CNC titanium machined parts are of great quality. It also favors almost all surface finishing techniques like electrophoresis, powder coating, and bead blasting.

There are different grades of titanium for CNC machining, including grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, and 12. These grades have different levels of strength, corrosion resistance, and formability.

Different CNC Processes on Metal Machining

There are different CNC processes used for metal machining. Examples of the most typical CNC machining processes include the following:

CNC Milling

The material is removed from the workpiece using revolving multi-point CNC cutting tools in the milling process. The workpiece is normally fed to the cutting tool by the CNC machine in the same direction as the cutting tool’s rotation when using CNC milling.

A milling metal workpiece is a specific shape that involves revolving multi-point cutting tools. Chamfer, end, and helical mills are milling tools that can be oriented vertically or horizontally.

cnc turning metal

CNC Turning

CNC turning is an extremely accurate subtractive machining method operating on the same principles as a lathe machine. The cutting tool is pressed against a rotating workpiece to remove material and provide the required shape.

While the raw material rotates quickly, the turning center or lathe remains in place. A single-point cutting tool aids in shaping the material as the workpiece rotates along the dual CNC turning machine’s axis movement. The input computer program controls the turning center or lathe, which guarantees the manufacturing of highly accurate components.

CNC Drilling

The drilling process uses metal workpiece cylindrical holes using multi-point drill bits. Furthermore, drilling creates vertically aligned holes with sizes equal to the drill bit used for the operation by feeding the revolving drill bit through the machine perpendicular to the surface of the workpiece.

For angle drilling operations, this involves specific machine setups and work-holding systems.

Electric Discharge Machining

Electric arcing discharges, or EDM for short, are used in electrical discharge machining (EDM) to produce micro-craters that quickly produce full cuts. EDM, sometimes referred to as spark machining, is utilized in situations where precise tolerances and intricate geometric patterns are needed in hard materials. However, its application is restricted to metal alloys since it requires the base material to be electrically conductive.

Advantages of CNC Machined Metal Parts

CNC machined parts offer certain advantages that may not be achievable with injection molded or 3D printed parts. These are a few of the main advantages of machined metal parts.

Excellent Prototypes

Since metal machined parts may be made as one-offs, they are useful and reasonably priced for metal prototypes. Besides, machining is faster than molding, so research and development teams can rapidly cycle through multiple iterations of an item and then test and evaluate it as needed before putting it into production.

face milling metal

Part Quality Consistency

High standards can be reachable when creating CNC metal machined parts. Perhaps more crucially, clients can establish tolerances that the machinist must adhere to. This implies that the machine operator or machinist can take their time while machining components and details with precise tolerances.

Although injection molds can produce extremely tight-tolerance parts, they do not maintain this standard for every mold. The tight tolerance achieved with earlier produced parts is usually absent towards the end of the mold’s lifespan.

Part Strength

CNC machining metal is sturdier than other manufacturing processes like 3D printing, which may be weaker along one axis due to the piling of materials on each other. This is because CNC machining is a subtractive process, which involves manufacturing the desired part by cutting materials off a solid block, consequently making parts with uniform strength.

Also, CNC-machined metal parts are usually stronger than their molded counterparts. This is because most molded parts have a restriction in their mechanical performance due to the requirements for thin walls.

Faster Lead Times

CNC machining is one of the fastest metal manufacturing processes available today, resulting in a faster lead time. The manufacturing process is also very efficient, contributing to this in part.

Since machining is a one-step process and CNC machining centers operate quickly, machined metal parts are easy to create (in small quantities), cutting lead times and enabling a quicker market.

Better Surface Finish

Metal machined parts are free from the surface quality problems that come with molding, like pop at the parting line, jetting, and flow lines. Machined parts can achieve extremely high surface quality standards with only a small amount of post-processing.

Additionally, even without post-processing, machining produces considerably better surface polish than 3D printing. Sanding or chemical treatment is necessary to smooth out any apparent layer lines that 3D printing, particularly FDM printing, may leave on the part’s surface. These layer lines are not present in machined items.

No Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)

One of their main benefits is that CNC metal machining can produce parts with no minimum order quantity. Fabricating metal tooling is required for molded parts, a labor-intensive operation that usually costs tens of thousands of dollars. On the other hand, because machined parts are cut straight from a blank workpiece, ordering extremely small quantities or even one-off pieces is affordable.

metal machined parts with different surface treatment

Surface Treatment Options for CNC Metal

After machining, metal parts can be treated to change the texture and appearance of their surface. Finishes can have a practical or aesthetic purpose. The surface treatment options for CNC metal include:

  • Anodized
  • Powder coated
  • Bead Blasted
  • Alodine Coating
  • Black Oxide Coating
  • Electroplating
  • Passivation
  • Brushing
  • Polishing

Type of CNC Machines Used in Processing Metal

In modern metal fabrication facilities, there are various kinds of CNC machines. Among these are a few of these:

CNC Lathes

This machine creates metal parts by spinning the metal workpiece on a spindle. A cutting tool is used to mold the part into the appropriate shape as the material is turning. They perfectly produce symmetrical products with conical, spherical, or cylindrical geometries.

CNC Grinders

Using a rotating wheel to grind or grate the material into the required shape, grinding machines abrade the material. The tool rotates in place while the workpiece, usually attached to the machine table, moves along the axes X, Y, and Z.

5 axis cnc metal machining

CNC Milling Machines

This CNC machine allows for significantly higher precision metal machining than when the process is carried out manually. Cut depth, angle, and direction variations can be programmed into the CNC milling machine. There are different types of CNC Milling Machines, including vertical, horizontal, and multi-axis milling machines.

CNC Drilling Machines

CNC technology can control sophisticated drilling machines, ensuring accurate hole placement in various metal materials. Pecking, also known as interrupted cut drilling, is a systematic process of drilling holes in thick metals.

In addition, numerous drill bits and cutting instruments are installed on a turret in CNC turret drilling machines. Automation makes it possible to swiftly and precisely index the necessary instruments into place for drilling.

Various Applications of Metal CNC Parts

Metal CNC parts’ precision, adaptability, and durability make them useful in various industries. Let’s examine a few of the major industries where CNC machining is essential:

Aerospace Industry

Aerospace metal machining is essential to the industry. It guarantees that metal airplane parts are fabricated precisely, essential for safety. Engine mounts, landing gear components, fuel access panels, and fuel flow components are examples of machinable aerospace parts.

Automotive Industry

The automotive sector frequently uses CNC milling machines for both production and prototype. Milling extruded metal into parts like axles, gearboxes, valves, and cylinder blocks is possible.

Defense Industry

CNC machining guarantees the precision and dependability of defense equipment. CNC is useful for metal parts like radar, weapons, and communication equipment.

Healthcare Industry

CNC machining is necessary for diagnostic tools, surgical instruments, and medical implants. For patient safety, CNC metal parts must have high precision and biocompatibility.

Oil and Gas Industry

The research, refinement, and building of pipelines all involve CNC metal machining. The company manufactures parts for drilling equipment, pumps, and valves.

Choose XinCheng for Expert CNC Metal Machining Services

When seeking expert CNC metal machining services, XinCheng’s comprehensive capabilities make us a reliable choice for your various machining requirements. Whether it’s CNC milling, turning, grinding, or other machining processes, XinCheng is committed to offering one-stop CNC machining services.

From customization options to meet unique project requirements to timely delivery and cost-effective solutions, XinCheng stands as a reliable partner for you to get the expected results in metal machining services. Just get a free quote and start your metal projects!

Conclusion

One of the most important aspects of the industrial sector is metal CNC machining, which produces accurate results for a variety of components. Metal CNC machining’s capability and flexibility ensure consistent outcomes regardless of production scale and type of metal used.

FAQ

What are the tolerances for CNC metal machining?

The designer determines tolerance—the allowed range for a dimension – based on a product’s shape, fit, and functionality. The usual tolerance for metal parts machined by CNC is ± 0.10mm to ±0.05mm unless the designer specifies otherwise.

What is the easiest metal to mill?

Known for its low strength and stability, brass is one of the most affordable and simple metals to process.

What factors affect metal selection for CNC machining?

When selecting a metal for CNC machining, important characteristics are strength, ductility, toughness, fatigue resistance, hardness, and conductivity. Besides, the specific qualities of each metal can cause your machining prices and procedures to vary significantly.

Table of Contents

Types of CNC Cutting Tools for Machining Parts: A Detailed Guide

cnc cutting tools

Choosing the right CNC machine tools is crucial for successful CNC machining operations. These CNC machining tools are of different types, ranging from milling to turning, grinding, and turning tools. Each of these CNC machine tools has its respective properties and uses. However, it is essential to understand the right CNC machine tools for your project to achieve a better result.

This article gives a detailed discussion of the types of CNC machining tools, special tools for specific uses, and materials used to make CNC machine tools. You’ll also learn the typical coating used on cutting tools.

cnc machining tools

Types of CNC Machining Tools

CNC machining tools used in machining operations have different categories, each with distinctive features and functions. CNC cutting tools are divided into the following main categories.

1. CNC Cutting (Milling) Tools

CNC milling tools are undoubtedly a widely used CNC machining tool in the CNC industry. Even though these tools are also called cutting tools, there is a milling procedure instead of cutting in CNC. As such, CNC cutting tools are commonly called CNC cutters or CNC milling cutters.

Milling is a popular procedure that involves the use of machining tools. The large variety of CNC tools commonly used in milling allows it to achieve high accuracy, as in the turning procedure. CNC milling tools are often used with a CNC milling machine. These milling machines use rotary CNC cutters to remove material from a fixed workpiece.

Here are the common types of CNC milling tools:

end mills

End Mills

End mills are popular tools in CNC milling procedures. They are versatile and quite similar to drill bits. Hence, they can make holes in materials without pre-drilled spots. Machinists use different types of end mills with varying numbers of flutes and nose types.

There are three types of end mills, which are classified by their nose: ball, nose, bullnose, and flat end mills. Meanwhile, 8 is the minimum number of flutes any end mill could have.

Face Mills

Face mills are CNC tools with flat faces and replaceable cutting edges made with carbide material. A face mill can only cut a workpiece horizontally since its cutting edges are on the side. Hence, face mills flatten the surface of workpieces.

Slab Mills

Slab mills or plain milling cutters are CNC machining tools utilized in milling flat surfaces. These CNC cutters have no side teeth and are often compatible with heavy-duty operations in general. However, the surface of the workpiece must maintain a parallel position to the CNC mill table.

Fly Cutter

These CNC cutters comprise a solid tool body and one or two cutting bits. The fly cutter’s CNC bits make broad, shallow cuts. As such, it provides a smooth surface finish on workpieces. Fly cutters with one tool bit are the widely used type. On the other hand, fly cutters with two tool bits are sometimes regarded as fly bars, providing a larger swing.

Hollow Mills

Hollow mills have the shape of a pipe and look like inverted end mills. Machinists use this CNC cutting tool to create radii and full points in parts due to the cutting edges present on the mill’s inner part.

woodruff cutter

Woodruff Cutters

Woodruff or keyseat cutters are CNC milling tools machinists use to cut key slots into parts like shafts. The teeth of these CNC cutters are perpendicular to the outside diameter. Hence, they are suitable for making slots or grooves for Woodruff keys.

lathe cutting tools

2. CNC Turning Tools

Turning is one of the earliest machining operations dating back to the Egyptian empire. CNC turning tools function with a lathe/turning machine. It rotates the workpiece at high RPM while the CNC lathe tools remove excess material from the workpiece in a controlled manner to achieve the programmed shape.

However, the chosen turning procedure and tool determine the workpiece’s shape. Here are typical turning tools used in CNC machining:

boring tolls

Boring Tools

Boring tools work with the CNC lathe to widen tapered or straight holes pre-drilled or cast into parts.

Chamfering Tools

Machinists commonly use chamfering tools in different applications like beveling, deburring, and removing sharp edges on machined parts.

Knurling Tools

These are functional machinist cutting tools with two or more metal rollers. Machinists use them to create different patterns (straight, diagonal, or diamond) on the surface of a workpiece. These knurled patterns facilitate a better grip on finished parts.

Parting Tools

A parting tool is another type of CNC turning tool with a blade-like edge. Machinists use this narrow CNC tool to cut minimum metal away from finished parts.

3. CNC Drilling Tools

Drilling tools, also known as drill bits, are CNC tools suitable for creating holes in various workpieces. These machining tools work with CNC mills or twist drills, making holes with their flutes and tapered cutting points. Below are the standard drilling tools.

center drills

Center Drills

Center drills are CNC drilling tools for making precise holes in a workpiece before employing other drill bits to enlarge the hole.

ejector drills

Ejector Drills

Machinists employ ejector drills to create wider and deeper holes in the workpiece after using center drills.

Twist Drills

Twist drills or twist bits are cylindrical drilling tools with deep helical grooves, usually made of high-speed steel (HSS). They are suitable for general purposes, especially for making holes in materials like metal.

4. CNC Grinding Tools

CNC grinding tools function with grinding wheels. Machinists use these CNC machining tools to smoothen the surface of workpieces because of their high level of accuracy. The abrasive grinding wheel is a standard CNC grinding tool.

special cutting tools

Special CNC Cutting Tools for Certain Uses

There are special CNC cutting tools for specific purposes aside from the standard CNC tools discussed earlier. Here are some of the less common CNC machining tools for specific uses.

Reamer

Reamers are CNC tools machinists commonly use to increase the diameter of existing holes in a workpiece. These tools give the holes a more precise finish and accurate diameter that matches the required tolerances.

Engraving Tool

Engraving tools are specialized CNC tools used to add texts, designs, or detailed patterns on the surface of the workpieces. These tools add decorative and functional features to workpieces and are applicable across different industries for product identification and branding.

Countersink Tool

A countersink tool is a CNC machining tool used by machinists to make conical recess to a drilled hole such that it can accommodate the tapered head of a bolt or screw.

Dovetail Tool

Machinists use dovetail tools to make special types of undercut into workpieces. These tools have specific geometry that makes them suitable for making dovetail joints used in metalworking or woodworking to connect or lock two pieces of material with a firm interlocking fit.

External Radius Cutter

External radius cutters are special CNC tools with semi-circular cutting edges that machinists use to add a radius to an outer edge, such as around the rim of a pocket. These radius milling cutters create smooth, consistent workpiece edges, eliminating sharp corners and stress concertation.

different material for cnc cutting tools

Materials Used in Making CNC Machine Cutting Tools

CNC machine cutting tool manufacturers often use various materials depending on the intended CNC machining process. Besides, making CNC machine cutting tools with materials harder than the workpiece is a general rule of thumb. Here are the typical materials used in producing CNC cutting tools.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is an economical material widely used in producing CNC milling cutters. Its alloying elements include 0.6 – 1.5% carbon, manganese, and silicon. Besides, this material is cheap because of its low durability.

Using cutting tools made with this steel type for high-speed cutting or heavy-duty operations leads to faster degeneration since the melting point for carbon steel is 200 °C. Therefore, it is best suited for machining less rigid metals (like brass, magnesium, and brass).

High-speed Steel

High-speed steel is a durable alternative to carbon steel. It exhibits a remarkably high melting point of 600°C thanks to its chromium, molybdenum, and tungsten contents. High-speed steel CNC tools can withstand higher operating temperatures. Moreover, they are perfect for operations that require higher milling speeds.

Carbide

Carbide machining tools are made with a perfect blend of tungsten and cobalt, making them well-suited for high-speed operations. Cutting tools made with carbide are usually very hard, making them resistant to wear, rust, and heat. Carbide tools last longer and are perfect for machining operations that involve faster cutting speeds.

Machining tools made with carbide are suitable for cutting cast iron, graphite, heat-resistant steel, glass, and stainless steel.

Cutting Ceramics

In terms of hardness, cutting ceramics is the strongest of these materials. Ceramic material comprises silicon nitride and aluminum oxide. Generally, machinists use tools made with cutting ceramics on tough, strong materials such as cast iron and superalloys. However, these materials crack and whip easily when used on harder materials.

Moreover, ceramic machining tools are suitable for cutting hard steels, cast iron, or superalloys because they resist corrosion and high heat operations.

cnc cutters for machining

Common Coating Materials for CNC Machining Tools

The materials used in CNC tools contribute significantly to their properties. These coatings enhance the machining tool’s hardness and lifespan by ensuring they withstand higher working temperatures. Here are typical CNC machining tools’ coating materials.

Titanium Nitride (TiN)

Titanium nitride is one of the oldest coatings widely used to improve the hardness of CNC cutting tools. It also enhances other properties of the cutting tools, such as thermal stability and wear resistance. TiN-coated tools exhibit longer lifespans and improved surface finish with moderate resistance to oxidation.

Titanium Carbo-Nitride (TiCN)

This is a titanium nitride coating type commonly used on CNC cutting tools. Its carbon content distinguishes it from other variants of titanium nitride coatings. This coating exhibits a relatively low operating temperature, making it incompatible with high-temperature environments. However, it enhances the surface lubrication and hardness of the CNC machining tools.

Chromium Nitride (CrN)

CNC machining tools with chromium nitride coatings function well where titanium nitride coatings fail. Chromium nitride coating improves the cutting tool’s hardness, making it corrosion-resistant. Due to their increased thermal strength, CNC machining tools coated with chromium nitride are suitable for high-heat applications.

Diamond

Diamond is Earth’s hardest natural material, making it suitable for mechanical operations. As such, it can function well in harsh machining conditions. Machine tools coated with diamonds are ideal for cutting hard-to-machine metals like graphite and silicon-aluminum alloys.

cnc cutters

Consideration and Tips for CNC Cutting Tools Selection

There are specific variables to consider to successfully choose the right machine tools for optimized efficiency and surface finish in CNC machining.

Tool Material

The raw material used in making the CNC cutters is critical to selecting the right tool. For instance, high-speed steel tools are your go-to option if your project requires CNC cutting tools with long tool life and high heat resistance.

However, cutting ceramics is the best choice for machining harder materials such as cast iron. It would help to remember the rule of thumb stating that a cutting tool’s material must be harder than the workpiece’s.

Coating Used

The type of coating applied on the CNC machine tools plays a crucial role in their properties. For example, coating lathe cutting tools with titanium nitride increases their hardness and cost of production. Therefore, a titanium nitride cutter is not the right choice if you must minimize CNC machining costs.

cnc cutting milling

Machining Operation

There are several CNC machining operations, each requiring different CNC tools. As such, the intended machining operation determines the machine tools to work with. For example, twist, center, and spot drills are typical tools for drilling operations, and end, face, thread, shell, and slab mills are tools commonly used in milling operations. Nevertheless, cutting tools for a specific machining process can also work for other applications.

cutting tool flutes

Number of Tool Flutes

The amount of flutes on CNC machine tools such as a milling cutter determines their feed rate. A machine tool can move at a higher velocity against the workpiece depending on its number of flutes. However, the cut-off workpiece bits can get stuck between the flutes in cases where a machine tool has too many flutes. Therefore, getting the optimum number of flutes for machining operations is important for excellent results.

Tool Diameter

The CNC machining tool’s diameter determines how quickly a tool cuts the workpiece because tools with larger diameter mill workpieces faster. However, the geometry of the final part may cause certain limitations.

For instance, if a workpiece requires specific inside radii, the tool cannot deviate from them. Likewise, CNC cutters with a large diameter are suitable for milling away bulk material. In contrast, the ones with a smaller diameter are suitable for finishing the inside corners of the workpiece.

cnc cutting parts

Industry Applications Parts for CNC Machining Tools

This section discusses the different application parts for CNC machining tools.

Automotive Industry

Automobile industry manufacturers rely on CNC machining tools to create different vehicle components. These include suspension parts, engine blocks, and transmission components.

Aerospace Industry

The aerospace sector uses CNC cutting tools to make precise aircraft components. Manufacturers rely on these CNC tools because they can handle the complex and high-precision demand of parts, including landing gear, turbine blades, and engine components.

Electronic Industry

Machinists employ different CNC machine tools to manufacture electronic components. These tools offer the precision and accuracy required to produce electrical parts like printed circuit boards (PCBs).

Medical Industry

Medical industry manufacturers use various CNC machining tools to create different medical parts and components. Dental components, surgical instruments, orthopedic implants, and components of electrical medical equipment are common medical parts produced with CNC machine tools.

Conclusion

CNC machine tools are integral to machining operations. Failure to choose the right CNC machining tool for your project attracts poor results. Hence, choosing the right tools is vital for successful precision machining. We have explored the CNC machine tools list and helpful tips for selecting the right CNC tools for your next project.

XinCheng is a dependable CNC machining services expert for you whenever you need professional assistance with your machine tool selection. Our skilled and experienced professionals can handle your project from CNC prototypes to precision parts. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us about your project today!

FAQs

Is it compulsory to coat CNC machine tools?

Although it is unnecessary to coat machining tools, you can use them without coating. However, coated machine tools last longer than those without coating.

What materials can CNC machining tools cut?

CNC cutters can cut various materials such as metals (aluminum, stainless steel, brass, copper, and titanium), plastic, ceramics, wood, and composites.

How do You choose a suitable CNC machining cutter?

When choosing the right machining cutter for a specific material, it is essential to consider factors including workpiece material type, feed rate, cutting speed, and preferred surface finish.

Table of Contents

CNC Milling and CNC Turning: Comparing Their Differences

cnc milling and turning

CNC machining operations are known for their high precision and dimensional accuracy. This feature is mainly a result of the automation of these services through computer programs. However, there are different CNC machining processes, and not understanding the one that suits your machining needs may alter your manufacturing outcome.

Therefore, manufacturers must familiarize themselves with the different CNC techniques. Two of the most populous CNC machining operations include CNC turning and milling. While they are both CNC machining operations, they are distinct. This article explores the differences between CNC turning vs milling.

What is CNC Turning?

CNC turning is a popular operation for CNC machining and rapid prototyping services. The technique involves fixing the workpiece to a rotating chunk, which moves it against the cutting tools fixed to a turret. This results in removing pieces from the workpiece until the intended shape is achieved.

Turning is the go-to CNC process for creating rounded components, especially those in the form of cylinders and cones. Like all CNC processes, the machines for this operation – often with CNC lathes or turning centers – are controlled by computer codes and programs, ensuring precision machining.

cnc turning process

How CNC Turning Works?

CNC turning centers and lathes consist of a rotating chuck that holds the workpiece in place as it rotates against the series of multi-sized cutters attached to the turret. The machines are highly versatile, capable of cutting the exterior and even bore holes in a workpiece. Besides general CNC turning services, these machines suit other CNC operations, like drilling, grooving, facing, tapering, boring, threading, and knurling.

What is CNC Milling?

CNC milling processes are the most common CNC machining operation, mainly because of their high versatility and applications, which are superior to turning. The processes involve using CNC mills and milling centers to cut and reduce the size of a material till the desired shape is achieved.

The milling operations differ from turning in that the CNC mills hold the workpiece stationary while the milling cutting tools rotate around it, delivering quick and powerful cuts. This machining technique is suitable for face, plain, and angular milling, including drilling, engraving, tapering, and boring, and for creating more detailed features like undercuts and internal pockets.

cnc milling process

How CNC Milling Works?

The cutting process is controlled by computer codes as the series of cutters pass against the surface of the workpiece as the cutting teeth remove pieces from it. However, it is noteworthy that CNC mills, especially the multi-axis milling machines, may exist in different configurations; they include the 3, 4, 3+2, 5, and even 7-axis.

The standard 3-axis mills can cut across X, Y, and Z axes. On the other hand, the modern 5-axis adds two more cutting axes – A and B coordinates- empowering the machines to cut along five coordinates simultaneously. The higher the axis of the milling device, the more advanced and suitable the device is for creating complex geometries and intricate designs.

Differences Between CNC Turning vs Milling

From the definition of both machining processes, we can infer some of the differences, with the most important being their cutting method. In CNC turning, the workpiece rotates against the CNC cutting tools, while CNC milling uses rotating cutters to remove pieces of a stationary workpiece.

definition of milling and turning

This variation in their machining techniques forms the basis of their differences. Below is an overview of the distinction between CNC milling vs turning.

  • Cutting: In CNC turning, the workpiece maintains continuous contact between the workpiece and the cutters, ensuring continued cutting. On the other hand, CNC milling uses periodic cutting when the cutting edge makes contact with the workpiece.
  • Tooling: CNC turning uses a single-point cutting tool, while milling uses multi-point cutters
  • Cutting Chips: While CNC turning produces a mixture of continuous, discontinuous, and fragmented chips, CNC milling typically produces discontinuous chips.
  • Feed Option: The tools in turning move along two axes – X and Y, while those in milling can simultaneously move in multiple directions, X, Y, Z, and even more, depending on the sophistication of the milling devices.
  • Uses and Applications: CNC turning specializes in creating rounded conical and cylindrical structures, while milling creates flat, regular, irregular, and complicated structures.

cnc turned parts

The table below gives a summary of the differences between CNC turning vs milling.

Machining FeaturesCNC TurningCNC Milling
CuttingContinuousIntermittent
ToolingSingle-point cutting toolMulti-point cutting tool
Cutting chipsContinuous, discontinuous, and fragmentedTypically discontinuous
Feed optionX and Y axesMulti-axis: X, Y, Z, A, and B coordinates
Uses and ApplicationsCreating round, cylindrical, and conical structuresCreate flat, regular, and irregularly shaped structures, including  parts with more complicated and complex geometries

Comparing the Applications of CNC Turning vs Milling

CNC turning and CNC milling share some similarities in their uses and applications. Below, we will examine some of the applications of either machining processes – milling machine vs. lathes.

cnc lathing

Applications of CNC Turning

We have reiterated that turning operations are suitable for creating rounded structures, which help make parts for various industrial applications.

Below, we will list some of the applications of CNC turning.

  • Round shafts and couplings: CNC lathes are suitable for fabricating shafts with rounded profiles, including couplings that serve as shaft connectors, which benefit the aerospace and automotive industries.
  • Rollers: CNC turning is ideal for creating rollers, including those with strict tolerance specifications for industrial manufacturing.
  • Turbines: CNC turning operation aids in the creation of turbine blades for energy and power generation.
  • Hydraulic cylinders: Turning is ideal for creating hydraulic cylinders and pistons for various mechanical and hydraulic gadgets.
  • Ball joints: CNC turners suit the manufacturing of rounded connective devices like ball joints in vehicle suspension systems for easy movement and flexibility.
  • Nozzles: They are typically round, sembling cones or cylinders. Therefore, CNC turning is suitable for manufacturing nozzles for jet engines, spray systems, and fluid processing for various manufacturing industries.
  • Flanges: used for strengthening beams, pipes, and other structural elements.
  • Medical components: CNC turners benefit the manufacture of medical parts and implants such as bone screws and connectors.

cnc milling metal

Applications of CNC Milling

Below is an overview of parts manufactured by CNC milling, including the industries they benefit.

  • Engine parts for the aerospace and automotive industry.
  • Gears and transmission systems for the automotive and mechanical industry. This includes both straight and spiral gears.
  • Fabricating molds and tools for injection molding, die casting, and other rapid prototyping methods.
  • Enclosures and housings for electrical components.
  • Plumbing and automotive fittings that serve as connectors for various components
  • High-precision engine parts, such as cylinder blocks and heads, for the automotive industry.
  • Healthcare and medical devices, such as implants and surgical instruments, include casing and housings for medical gadgets.

How Do You Choose Between CNC Turning and Milling?

We have already established that both machining operations suit vast industrial applications. However, we also discussed that they yield different structures and shapes. Therefore, you must understand when to use either turning or milling for your project.

Geometric Shape and Complexity

The shape and geometry of the part you fabricate are the first things to consider. We have reiterated in this article that CNC turning is for creating rounded structures and parts. On the other hand, milling is a more versatile process for creating intricate designs, whether flat, irregular, or multi-dimensional.

Surface Finish Requirements

Before deciding on the proper machining method between CNC turning vs milling, factor in the surface finishing specification, especially if either process suits your intended fabrication. Turning is the best choice if the fabrication calls for a smooth finish or a round surface. However, milling operations are appropriate if the specification requires detailing with a textured finish, especially for flat or irregular surfaces.

milled part

Different Features and Detailing

Sometimes, a project may require combining CNC turning and milling services to meet all requirements. For instance, manufacturing a cylindrical component with some intricate features and unconventional detailing requires milling after creating the base cylindrical shape. The example above showcases the use of the CNC milling process after turning. However, some projects may require milling before turning.

Therefore, a good way to do this is to use an integrated CNC device for mill-turn machining when working on this project. CNC milling-turning centers are sophisticated machines capable of milling and turning operations into a single machine.

However, they are significantly more expensive than acquiring a single CNC milling or turning machine. Therefore, when unsure of the best machining service for your project, don’t hesitate to contact an expert for guidance.

XinCheng is Your Expert for CNC Turning and CNC Milling Services

Understanding the specific machining service is critical for the success of your project. You must partner with an expert service provider to guarantee a better result. XinCheng offers one-stop and professional CNC turning and CNC milling services. We are reliable partners to meet all your machining requirements. We guarantee quality production at competitive pricing, regardless of strict tolerance and precision specifications. Just contact us and get a free quote!

Conclusion

While there is significant overlap between mill-turn machining operations, we already established that they are two different processes. CNC turning yields rounded products, usually in conical or cylindrical forms, while milling creates shapes of all forms. However, even though they are different, some fabrication may require integrating both techniques.

FAQs

Which is better: a CNC lathe or a CNC mill?

A CNC lathe is typically used for CNC turning operations. Therefore, CNC lathes create rounded components – cylindrical and conical. On the other hand, CNC milling machines are used for milling services, creating flat, regular, irregular, and complex shapes. That said, the two devices serve different purposes, and the better choice depends on your manufacturing needs. However, milling centers have a more extensive versatility.

What is the difference between mill-turn and turn-mill?

There’s no difference between mill-turn and turn-mill CNC machines. The phrase refers to a hybrid CNC machine that combines the operations of turning and milling centers into a single device. That said, whether it is called a mill-turn or turn-mill CNC machine depends on the location or specific machine model.

What is the difference between CNC milling and cutting?

CNC milling is a machining operation involving rotating cutting tools and chipping pieces off a workpiece. However, cutting is a more extensive term that includes various machining and subtractive manufacturing processes. Therefore, cutting is a superset, with CNC milling being a subset of cutting.

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