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The 8 Most Common Materials in Custom Machining Feb 23, 2017

CNC Machining Materials

There are a number of commonly-used materials for custom machining jobs:

1. Brass


Brass is commonly used for electronic hardware and fittings due to its low cost. It has a low strength point and is heavy, but cost is generally the biggest motivating factor for its use.

2. Copper Alloys

Copper alloys offer excellent electrical conductivity, making them a popular choice for custom machining of electrical contacts. Copper alloys like TeCu and CA 145 offer a reasonably low price point, making them popular for lower-cost custom machining jobs. Copper alloys like BeCu and alloy 25 are significantly stronger but are also significantly more expensive.

3. Aluminum

Aluminum is one of the most cost-effective materials for machining work, and varies greatly depending on the type. Aluminum 2011, for example, is commonly used for electrical hardware and a number of commercial products, it is as strong as 2024 (which is stronger but slightly more expensive). Aluminum 6061 is another affordable material, and is popular due to its formability, weldability, and its resistance to corrosion. 7075 is one of the pricier aluminums, and is commonly used in aircraft components due to its high strength rating.

4. Steel

Steel is another affordable custom machining material, and like aluminum offers a number of options to suit various jobs. 1018 steel, for instance, is low cost, and has great formability but poor machining characteristics. That is why it is generally used for items like rivets. 12L14 steel is a little more expensive but remains one of the most popular steel options thanks to its exceptional machinability characteristics. 1137 steel is one of the only steels used for direct hardening, and thanks to its higher carbon and strength ratings it can be used for high-stress applications, including gears and shafts.

5. Alloy Steels

Alloy steel is more expensive to use than regular steel but is often needed for direct-hardening jobs and high-stress applications.

6. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is (yet) another steel option, and is popular in the medical and aerospace industries thanks to its corrosion resistance and the ability to heat-treat it (not every stainless steel option is heat-treatable, though). Its significantly higher cost factor makes it a less popular choice for the common array of commercial products, but popular for high-end industrial applications like those in aerospace and medical fields.

7. Titanium

Titanium is the godfather of custom machining work. It is incredibly strong, yet still lightweight enough for custom machining jobs for aircrafts and medical implants. It is, however, the most expensive material used in custom machining, and is not commonly used due to the fact it is exponentially more expensive than other options.

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8. Plastics

Plastics are used in custom machining for products like insulators and bearings. Extruded nylon works well for injection-molding products. PVC is a common plastic for insulators, as it is the most cost-effective plastic. Delrin is more expensive, but offers better machinability, making it a solid choice for bearings.
The above list of materials can be used for informational purposes, but selecting a material for a custom machining should be done by a professional. If you're curious what your (best) options are for your upcoming custom machining project, give us a call and we can walk you through your options.