What Materials Can Be Milled With CNC Machines?

CNC milling materials for machining metal parts

At Yonglihao Machinery, we know that picking the right CNC milling material is key. It is critical to meeting project goals. Each material has specific properties. For example, metals and plastics have hardness, toughness, and wear resistance. These properties directly affect process quality and efficiency. Choosing the right material is key. It keeps production smooth and ensures the product meets high standards and customer needs. Therefore, choosing the right material is a critical step in ensuring the success of your project.

In the following section, Yonglihao Machinery will show you the common materials used in CNC milling technology. They will cover the materials’ benefits, uses, and how to pick the best one for your project. This will help you make an informed choice among the many material options available to you.

Table of Contents

Overview of CNC Milling Materials

CNC milling is a flexible technology. It meets the needs of many industries, from aerospace to consumer electronics. This is because it can process many materials. CNC milling uses metals, plastics, and composites. Each has unique properties and benefits.

Metals: Metals are the most commonly used materials for milling due to their durability and strength. For example, aluminum is favored for its lightweight and rust resistance. It is ideal for aerospace and automotive uses. Stainless steel is also widely used for its strength and rust resistance. It’s ideal for medical devices and food equipment because of this. Other metals, like brass, copper, and titanium, are chosen for their special properties. These properties include electrical conductivity and strength-to-weight ratio.

Plastics: Plastics are versatile and cheap. They come in acrylic, polycarbonate, and stronger materials like PEEK and nylon. They are easier to work with than metals. They are often used for prototypes or end parts. These parts need less strength but benefit from plastics’ flexibility and corrosion resistance. Plastics are widely used in consumer products, electronics, and even automotive components.

Composites: Composites, like carbon fiber-reinforced polymers, can be used with CNC milling. These processes need high strength, high stiffness, and lightweight. These materials are common in aerospace and sporting goods. They offer big advantages in performance and durability. And they are lighter than metal.

Aluminium engine block by CNC milling - Metalworking capabilities

Commonly Used Metals

CNC milling works for many metals. Each is picked for its properties and uses. Below is a list of commonly used metals compiled by Yonglihao Machinery:


Aluminium is favored for CNC milling. This is due to its great machinability, lightweight, and corrosion resistance. Commonly used alloys include

6061 Aluminium: It is known for its versatility, weldability, and good strength-to-weight ratio. It is ideal for car parts, aircraft, and yacht structures, and electronic hardware.

7075 Aluminium: It has high strength and resists fatigue well. It’s for aerospace and military. They need tough materials.

Related Expansion:6061 Vs 7075 Aluminum

Both alloys can be anodized to improve surface resistance and looks. This expands their use in many applications.

Stainless Steel

The resistance to corrosion and strength vary among stainless steels. The common stainless steels are:

303 Stainless Steel: It is the easiest to work with. It is commonly used for fittings, gears, and fasteners. These are places where corrosion resistance is not a big concern.

304 Stainless Steel: This is the most common stainless steel. It has excellent corrosion resistance and formability. It’s used for kitchen equipment, general hardware, and appliances.

316 Stainless Steel: It is known for its great corrosion resistance. It is well suited for use in marine environments and medical equipment. Those are places where corrosion resistance is critical.

For more details on the differences between 304 and 316 Stainless Steel, read this article.

Each stainless steel offers unique benefits for specific applications, balancing workability with durability.

Carbon and Alloy Steels

Carbon and alloy steels are favored for their strength and versatility and are commonly available:

Carbon Steel 1045: This medium carbon steel is known for its strength and impact resistance. It is good for making axles, bolts, and other tough parts.

Alloy Steel 4140: This medium-carbon steel contains chromium, molybdenum, and manganese. It is known for its toughness, high torsional strength, and good fatigue strength. It is used for applications such as gears and aircraft components.

Alloy Steel 4340: High nickel content and durability for heavy machinery and aerospace parts.

People often treat or coat these steels. This is to improve their properties, like making them harder or more wear-resistant.

Other Metals

Other metals used for CNC milling include:

Titanium: It is known for its high strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance. It is ideal for aerospace, medical implants, and automotive parts.

Brass: Easy to machine and commonly used for trim, gears, locks, and valves due to its low coefficient of friction.

Tungsten: It is extremely hard and dense. It is used in applications needing high temperature and radiation shielding. It is common in aerospace and military.

Precision CNC milling of steel shafts

Non-Metal Materials

Non-metallic materials, like plastics and composites, offer unique advantages. They expand the types of manufacturing processes for CNC milling.


Plastics are widely used in CNC milling. This is due to their ease of machining, low cost, and many properties suited to specific uses.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): ABS is known for its toughness and impact resistance. It is a common material used to make car parts, consumer products, and prototypes. It is easy to work with and can be sanded and painted, making it ideal for fine finishing. We have also put together the ABS Material Guide to help you make better decisions.

Nylon: This material is valued for its strength, temperature resistance, and abrasion resistance. It is good for making tough gears, bushings, and other parts. Nylon can absorb moisture. This can change its size and performance. So, you must store and handle it carefully.

PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone): PEEK has great thermal stability, chemical resistance, and abrasion resistance. It is used in demanding applications, like aerospace, medical implants, and high-performance car parts. PEEK is harder to process than other plastics. But, its properties prove its strength in high-spec applications.

These plastics are a lightweight alternative to metals. They come in many grades that can be optimized for specific properties, like strength, flexibility, or electrical insulation.


Composites combine different substances. They do this to use the best properties of each and reduce their weaknesses. CNC milling relies on composites. They are key in industries needing materials with great strength-to-weight ratios.

Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymers (CFRP): Composites, like carbon fiber reinforced polymers, are common in aerospace and high-performance sports equipment. They save a lot of weight without losing strength or stiffness. Carbon fiber composites are strong and light. They also have low thermal expansion. This makes them stable in many environments.

Glass Fibre: It is typically used in marine and automotive applications. Glass fiber costs less than carbon fiber. It has strong mechanical properties and excellent corrosion resistance.

CNC milling of complex aerospace components made of titanium

Unique Materials and Applications

CNC milling works on more than just metals and plastics. It also includes the machining of special materials like ceramics and glass. These materials are valued for their properties but also present unique challenges.

Ceramics: Ceramics are known for their hardness and heat resistance. They are commonly used in high-temperature environments, such as in aerospace, cars, and medicine. Silicon nitride and aluminum oxide are two common ceramic materials used in CNC milling. Ceramics are brittle. This requires careful handling during milling. It’s to prevent cracking or chipping.

Glass: CNC milling of glass is used in applications that need much precision and transparency. These include optics for lenses, mirrors, and scientific instruments. Care must be taken when machining glass to ensure surface integrity and prevent breakage. To get the desired finish without hurting the glass’s strength, people often use techniques. These include grinding and milling.

Both materials require specialized equipment and techniques. Diamond-tipped tools are commonly used to effectively grind these hard materials. Ceramics and glass have unique properties. They, such as abrasion resistance and optical clarity, make them well-suited to specific applications. Other materials may not meet the needs of these applications. But, working with ceramics and glass is more complex and delicate.

CNC milling of metal parts with precise geometry for industrial use

Choosing the Right Material for Your Project

Choosing the right material for your CNC milling project is vital. It’s key to getting the best performance, cost, and durability. Materials like aluminum and various plastics have excellent machinability and cost advantages. This makes them ideal for many applications. For strong and corrosion-resistant projects, use metals like titanium and advanced alloys. Or, use special plastics like PEEK. These decisions affect the final product’s quality. They also affect the efficiency of manufacturing and the project’s cost.

Understanding these factors can greatly improve the success of your project. Whether you need to cope with a high-stress environment or need a cost-effective solution for mass production, the choice of material will determine the longevity and performance of your CNC machined parts.It is also crucial to choose the right CNC milling service provider.

At Yonglihao Machinery, we offer specialized CNC milling services for specific project requirements. Our team can handle many materials. We ensure that the parts they deliver are high quality and accurate. Contact us today to find out how we can pick the best material for your project. We will also ensure your project succeeds with our expert CNC milling services.


For projects that will endure high stress or load, use materials like titanium and high-grade steel alloys. Examples are 4140 and 4340. They are recommended for their great strength and durability. These materials are great for car and plane parts. Stress performance is key for them.

The durability of CNC machined parts heavily depends on the material used. Materials like stainless steel resist corrosion. Specialized plastics, like PEEK, can also help. They can greatly extend the life of parts in harsh environments. Choosing the right material ensures that the part will maintain its integrity over time.

Aluminum is often recommended for cheap CNC machining. This is due to its great machinability and lower cost. It is cheaper than metals like stainless steel or titanium. Plastics like ABS or nylon also offer cost savings for less demanding applications.

Yes, the choice of material can greatly impact both the machining time and the overall cost of the project. Aluminum and softer plastics are easier to machine. They can be processed faster, cutting labor costs. Harder materials may offer better performance. But, they may need slower machining speeds and more tool changes. This raises costs.

For projects where looks are important, materials like brass, bronze, and some plastics are ideal. They can be finely finished. These materials can be polished or treated. This makes them visually appealing, and good for consumer products.

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