Have you recently come up with a product design that features metals or metal alloys? If so, you’re likely looking for an ideal manufacturing technology to fabricate your parts accurately and precisely while meeting the required tolerance requirements.
CNC machines are among the most in-demand manufacturing technologies for metals today primarily because of their high accuracy, precision, and compatibility with a broad range of metals and metal alloys.
However, when it comes to CNC machining copper, there are several things you must keep at the back of your mind. First, you need to understand that pure copper in itself is challenging to manufacture due to its high ductility and high cold workability. Second, a ton of copper-based alloys now exist that offer similar (or even better) properties than pure copper and are relatively easy to fabricate using CNC machines.
You will have no problem choosing an ideal copper alloy for your design requirements as long as you understand the properties, benefits, and drawbacks of each of these alloys.
This article presents five common copper alloys, including their properties, benefits, drawbacks, and applications. But before we delve right into it, let’s take a look at two things you must consider when CNC machining pure copper.
Copper CNC Machining: 2 Things to Consider
No. 1 Choose the Right Machining Tool Material
Because pure copper is very soft, it typically causes high tool wear and poor chip formation during machining. With copper CNC machining, there is also the possibility of formation of built-up edge—which happens when part of the copper workpiece breaks away and is pressure welded to the cutting tool, causing poor surface finish of the machined copper parts.
We would advise you to use cutting tools made of high-speed steel (HSS) to machine copper as they are generally known to mitigate these challenges. Also, you must sharpen your cutting tools to a good cutting edge before CNC machining copper.
No. 2 Specify the Right Feed Rate
Feed rate describes the rate at which the CNC cutting tool is fed (or advanced) against the workpiece. We recommend low to moderate feed rates for CNC machining copper since high feed rates are generally known to cause high temperatures, making copper much more difficult to machine with precision.
But if your product demands that you use high feed rates, then be sure to use cutting fluids (or coolants) to get rid of the heat.
CNC Machining Copper Alloys: Properties, Advantages, and Drawbacks
Table 1 presents five common copper alloys, including their descriptions, properties, advantages, drawbacks, and applications.
Common brasses and bronzes feature copper alloy 101 as the base material.
Good machinability, high ductility, impact strength, and electrical and thermal conductivity.
Poor corrosion resistance in environments and atmospheres containing ammonia ions.
Electronic components, busbars, lead-in-wire and glass-to-metal seals, and waveguides.
50 – 400 ppm Oxygen
Electrolytic tough pitch (ETP) copper
Demonstrates the highest level of electrical and thermal conductivity for copper alloys.
High electrical and thermal conductivity, good machinability, malleability, ductility, and corrosion resistance. These alloys also have good solderability and are not susceptible to embrittlement when heated.
Susceptible to corrosion in the presence of ammonia, mercury, hydrogen sulfide, and sulfur.
Components for superconductive magnets, vacuum devices, deposition units, glass-to-metal seals, gaskets, ball floats, and linear accelerators.
Similar to copper alloy 110, and has a very high level of thermal and electrical conductivity.
Excellent formability, weldability, and more brazing capability than copper alloy 110. These copper alloys can also be easily hot- and cold-formed.
Provides low-quality welds in coated metal arc welding.
Pipes, tubings, roofing, heat exchangers, and facades.
Cu > 99.0%
0.4 – 0.7% Tellurium
0.004 – 0.12% Phosphorus
Contains varying amounts of tellurium and phosphorus.
Demonstrate high structural integrity at temperatures of up to 350°C; good formability, machinability, corrosion resistance, and tensile strength; good conductor of electricity.
Unsuitable for specific welding processes like oxy-acetylene welding, spot welding, and coated metal arc welding.
Electrical and plumbing components, clamps, electrical switches and connectors, fasteners, and sprinkler heads
Cu > 99.90%
0.20 – 0.50% S
Sulfur-bearing copper; ISO CuSP
Copper alloy containing sulfur and phosphorus.
Excellent machinability, thermal and electrical conductivity; good corrosion resistance;
Ideally suited to soldering, brazing, and butt welding.
Provides low-quality welds in specific welding processes like spot welding, coated metal arc welding, and gas shielded arc welding.
CNC Machining Copper and Copper Alloys: Gensun Precision Machining can Help
As this article suggests, copper alloys offer a lot of desirable properties that make them ideal for a broad range of applications. But even after choosing the ideal copper alloy for your product design, the success of your manufacturing project still depends on your manufacturer.
You want to work with a manufacturer that has state-of-the-art equipment as well as highly qualified engineers and CNC operators capable of machining copper and copper alloys.
Gensun Precision Machining is a popular name in the copper fabrication industry and a leading provider of CNC machining services across the globe. Backed by over fifteen years of professional experience, we’ve helped many innovative companies create copper components accurately while meeting their surface finish, precision, and tight tolerance requirements.
Are you looking for a material with good mechanical properties, strong corrosion resistance, good malleability, high conductivity, and even good acoustic characteristics? If so, you should consider brass because this remarkable metal has all those properties in one.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, the proportions of which can be varied to achieve different properties for the overall alloy. For that reason, brass is widely used in various industries and for applications ranging from musical and electrical to germicidal and antimicrobial.
This article will not only introduce you to the pros and cons of brass as a CNC machining material, but it will also help you to determine the best brass grades for use in your next project.
Brass in CNC Machining: Advantages and Drawbacks
As we mentioned before, brass provides advantageous properties that make it an ideal option for a variety of applications. Why is that? When it comes to CNC machining, there are a few fundamental properties that make this material phenomenal.
The first one is the overall machinability. In simple terms, this property refers to how easy it is for the material to be machined. Brass is one of the easiest materials to machine. While many consider free machining steels the comparison baseline for machinability, brass alloys generally have better machinability.
The strength and hardness properties of brass are also useful for a wide range of applications. Although brass has good strength, it is relatively soft compared to other materials such as steel alloys and titanium and is generally weaker than them.
However, this contributes in part to its much better machinability over those materials. So for applications that do not require the very high strength and hardness of steels or titanium, brass can be a worthwhile materials selection.
Brass alloys exhibit the same favorable strength and hardness characteristics you would expect from various aluminum alloys. They also boast remarkable corrosion resistance, especially when alloyed with small amounts of aluminum.
While they do see use in some electronics — thanks to good overall conductivity — one of the significant considerations for brass over aluminum tends to be how visually appealing brass is without the need for additional coatings.
Best Brass Grades for CNC Machining
Brass, in its simplest form, is a combination of copper and zinc. However, alloying brass with combinations of other metals such as tin, aluminum, lead, and iron can produce brass alloys with unique characteristics.
Even in small proportions (<0.05%), the addition of those elements can also result in enhanced properties. For instance, a small amount of tin provides a brass alloy with exceptional resistance to seawater corrosion.
Numerous brass alloys are used in CNC machining, with a wide variety of properties, and they are useful for distinct industries. The table below shows 10 of the most important brass alloys for you to consider for CNC machining projects:
Also referred to as arsenical brass, this alloy contains tin, lead, and arsenic which together provide good resistance to corrosion in brackish water and saltwater.
Excellent cold workability for forming and bending and strong corrosion resistance.
Fair to poor weldability, poor hot formability.
Condenser tubes, evaporator and heat exchanger tubes, distiller tubing in oil refineries, heater equipment.
Is Brass the Right Choice for Your Project?
The various brass alloys showcase the excellent potential these metals have for use in a wide range of applications. Aside from being extremely economical to produce parts by machining, brasses offer good strength and the potential for excellent corrosion resistance, along with an assortment of other characteristics.
For example, if your product will be used in a saltwater environment, you may want to avoid C385 and use either C464 or C443 instead.
Ultimately, the requirements for your final product will help you to narrow down the options. Then once you’ve chosen the most suitable materials for your project, you can rely on our service experts to help you out with the machining production! Come and chat with us and check our CNC machining services.
What makes CNC machines so unique and widely used in a broad range of industries?
Product designers looking to turn their product idea into reality often ask this question. And the answer goes beyond the high accuracy and precision that CNC machines offer.
Without a doubt, accuracy and precision are essential criteria when choosing any machining technology. But what sets CNC machines apart from other machining technologies is their compatibility with a broad range of engineering materials, including aluminum.
But just because CNC machines simplify aluminum machining, it doesn’t mean fabricating aluminum parts is any less complex than it used to be. There are many aluminum grades (or alloys) available in the market today, and the success of your project will depend on you choosing the most suitable aluminum alloy for your project.
This article presents seven aluminum grades commonly available in the market today, including their properties, advantages, and suitability for different design requirements. It will serve as a guide to help you make the right choice for your project.
Some Benefits and Drawbacks of Aluminum for CNC Machining
Here are some of the benefits of aluminum for CNC machining.
Good Machinability: Aluminum is easier to machine than many other metals. It chips easily, making it easy for CNC machine operators to create complex parts quickly and accurately.
High corrosion resistance: Aluminum develops a thin hard film of oxide (aluminum oxide) when exposed to air or other oxidizing agents. This oxide makes aluminum corrosion-resistant and prevents chemical damage.
High strength-to-weight ratio: Given its high strength, aluminum is remarkably light. As such, you can make aluminum parts thicker and stronger while still reducing weight in applications that require lightweight materials.
Recyclability: Aluminum has high recyclability, making it perfect for businesses looking to mitigate the material wastage challenge of CNC machining.
Like with many other engineering materials, aluminum has its drawbacks. Here are the disadvantages of aluminum for CNC machining:
Machining Difficulty: Aluminum can be difficult to machine due to its relatively low melting temperature, and its oxide coating can sometimes damage tooling.
Cost: The energy costs involved in machining aluminum parts are somewhat high, making them more expensive.
7 Aluminum Grades for CNC Machining Compared
Table 1 shows seven common aluminum grades with their properties and applications.
Table 1. Aluminum grades for CNC machining compared
Commercially pure aluminum with excellent corrosion resistance, good machinability, and workability. It is also soft and ductile.
Heat exchanger fins, dials, nameplates, and chemical and food processing industries. It is also suitable for applications that require bending, stamping, and roll forming.
A high-strength alloy that machines exceptionally well. The high-speed machining of alloy 2011 produces fine chips that can easily be removed.
Screw machines, precision gears, tube fittings, pipe stems, and precision machine parts like speedometer parts, cameras, and clocks.
A heat-treatable aluminum alloy with a primary alloying element of copper. It is generally stronger than most aluminum alloys.
Suitable for applications that demand aluminum alloys with high strength-to-weight ratio and fatigue resistance, for example, aircraft wings and fuselage structures.
A medium-strength alloy with a primary alloying element of manganese.
Ductwork, sheet metal work, cooking utensils, food containers, pressure vessels, and chemical equipment.
Aluminum 6061 combines great mechanical properties with workability and corrosion resistance to satisfy a broad range of application requirements.
Aircraft and truck frames, electronic parts, chemical equipment, heat exchangers, military and commercial bridges, and marine components.
A medium-strength alloy with manganese and silicon as its primary alloying elements. It has good mechanical properties and is fairly machinable.
Suitable for architectural applications like window frames, doors, roofs, railings, shop fittings, and sign frames.
A high-strength alloy with a primary alloying element of zinc. It is fairly machinable and has high fatigue resistance.
Aerospace and defense parts like missile parts, aircraft wings, fuselage structures, gears, and shafts.
Is Aluminum the Right Choice for Your Project?
As you may have realized, aluminum offers several desirable properties and is easily machinable using CNC machines. But is aluminum the right choice for your product design project?
If you’re looking for a readily available metal with a high strength-to-weight ratio and good machinability, aluminum could be the right choice for your project. In addition, you should opt for aluminum if your part or component will be exposed to moist environments since aluminum alloys are generally resistant to corrosion.
But even after you take the plunge with aluminum for your project, you still need a high level of CNC machining expertise to create your parts accurately and precisely.
Gensun Precision Machining is a leading provider of CNC machining services across the globe. We have a team of highly qualified engineers, machinists, and quality control experts capable of creating aluminum parts accurately and precisely.
As you may have realized, CNC machining is an exceptionally versatile way to manufacture your steel part. However, you may be wondering what type of steel is the best option for your project and how you can tell if you are choosing the correct one.
This article will explain the properties you must consider for your steel machined part and our top 10 types of steel for CNC machining to give you some excellent options for your next project. This way, you can be sure to get the best results.
The Benefits of Steel and its Challenges for CNC Machining
While the CNC machining process can produce high-quality and precise parts from many materials, those materials with poor machinability often produce unsatisfactory results. When it comes to the wide variety of steel alloys available on the market, you’ll find a large number of steel alloys with good machinability. In fact, the AISI machinability rating is generally determined relative to B1112 alloy steel.
As we’ve explained previously, to determine a material’s machinability, you should, at a minimum, consider the material’s hardness, allowable heat inputs, and the desired surface finish to assess if it is a suitable material for CNC machining.
Hardness is a key indicator of machinability, and if the material is too hard or too soft, it can cause delays, extra labor time, or even require special equipment. Many of the steels you would consider for your projects are not free machining steels. So they will typically exhibit a higher hardness than free machining steel and feature a machinability rating below 100%.
While hardness generally directly correlates with machinability, the impacts of heat input can be more challenging to determine. Some materials behave differently at high temperatures, and some can even melt. The high heat inputs from machining can affect the microstructure of some materials more than others. For instance, Grade 17-4 stainless steel may need to be solution heat treated after machining to maintain certain desirable properties.
Finally, while higher hardnesses and different sensitivities to heat effects impact the machinability of steel alloys, they can exhibit excellent surface finishes. While this does depend on the grade, materials that exhibit a suitable machinability index generally also exhibit a good surface finish, which can often be further enhanced by a polishing treatment, either chemical or physical.
The Top 10 Steels for CNC Machining Compared
There are many steel alloys available to consider for your project, but to help narrow down your search, we have compiled the top 10 steels for CNC machining. While this list is not all-encompassing, the common steels listed in the table below all exhibit suitable machinability along with a variety of other desirable properties.
Heat treatment may be required before and after machining or welding.
Gears, crankshafts, forged connectors, and block valves.
Is Steel the Right Choice for Your Project?
All in all, steel is a highly versatile material, which is why it is one of the most common metals in our daily lives. There are numerous options available that offer specific material properties, all depending on what you need from your final product.
For instance, if you are in the marine applications industry, you may want to avoid the SS 303, even though it has excellent machinability. Instead, you may want to consider the SS 304, which has excellent corrosion resistance.
Likewise, a good option for a relatively inexpensive but very hard carbon steel can be AISI 4140, but stronger options include AISI 1144 and AISI 8630, along with the various stainless steel options.
Our experts can provide CNC machining services for a wide variety of steel alloys. If you have questions, reach out to us or check out our CNC machining services page for more information!
Take a look around, identifying and naming all the products in your surroundings, including phones, tablets, laptops, wrist watches, vehicles, and desks. Most, if not all of these items, are end products of CNC machining.
CNC machining is a manufacturing process that uses computerized instructions (or a computer program) to accurately and precisely create the parts you need.
The computerized nature—coupled with the high accuracy, precision, and broad range of material compatibility—of CNC machining make it one of the most in-demand manufacturing processes today. For example, Tech Giant Apple had to ditch conventional machining and rely on this technology to manufacture the unibody outer shell of the MacBook.
Do you want to learn about how CNC machines work, the machining process, and the different types of machines available today? You’re in the right place!
What is CNC, and How Do CNC Machines Work?
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control; this is simply a method for automating the control of machine tools.
Computer numerical control machines rely on computer instructions and a CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) program to control, automate and monitor machine tools’ movement to create the desired part.
Look at it this way. A CNC machine takes a stock piece of material (for example, an aluminum block) and transforms it into a finished product through controlled material removal processes.
Let’s break the CNC machining process down even further.
The CNC Machining Process Explained
We can break the machining process down into four distinct steps:
#1 Create Your 2D and 3D Designs
The first step of the CNC machining process is to create the 2D and 3D drawings of your part using computer-aided design (CAD) or computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software like SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor. When creating your 2D and 3D drawings, you must specify all important dimensions, features with tolerances, and surfaces with specific surface finishing requirements.
The goal is to make an accurate representation of the part (or product) you’re looking to create.
#2 Generate the Toolpath
A toolpath is a series of coordinate locations (or the path through space) that a CNC cutting tool will follow during the machining process to produce the desired geometry of the workpiece.
To help better understand “toolpath” in CNC machining, let’s consider the image below where we have a block whose features reside on the XY plane. To create the desired part (a block with two cuboid cavities), you must first position your cutting tool to make cuts along the Z-axis before moving along the XY plane.
CAM software typically has functionalities that allow you to define your machining strategy, including the types of cutting tools to use, feed rates, and cutting tool speed, among others. Once you’ve generated the toolpath and defined your machining strategy, proceed to the next step of the process.
#3 Convert your Machining Parameters into CNC-compatible File
The final step you need to take on the CAM software is to convert your machining strategy into what is called the G-code. A G-code is a computer language that a CNC machine can understand and execute; it tells the machine precisely what steps to execute to make your part.
After generating the G-code, export it to the CNC machine.
#4 Execute the Machining Operation
This is the phase where you insert the workpiece into the CNC machine and install all the cutting tools required for the machining operation. Once these steps have been completed, initiate the machining program and watch the machine create the part you need autonomously.
Types of CNC Machines
CNC machines come in several types, with each type having its functions and machining capability.
CNC milling machines (or CNC mills) allow you to produce flat, helical, and contoured surfaces of various configurations. In contrast, CNC lathes are better suited for machining cylindrical shapes; they allow you to perform turning operations, including taper turning, drilling, knurling, grooving, and parting operations.
CNC plasma cutters, laser cutting machines, and electric discharge machines (EDM) have similar functions and machining capabilities. However, they differ in their modes of operations and their cutting mechanism. For more information, take a look at our article about the different types of CNC machines.
CNC Machining: Gensun Precision Can Help
Now that you know what CNC machining is, how it operates, and the broad range of machine types, you are familiar with one of the best manufacturing technologies available today.
But even with the numerous benefits of CNC machining, the success of your manufacturing project primarily depends on the machine shop you work with. Therefore, you want to work with a manufacturer with state-of-the-art equipment, highly qualified engineers and machine operators, and a track record of producing high-quality parts consistently and on time.
Gensun Precision Machining is a leading provider of CNC machining services across the globe. Backed by nearly two decades of experience, we have a reputation for creating high-quality parts for customers in a broad range of industries. We have completed over 100,000 projects with several innovative companies serving different industries.
Tell us about your project and let our highly qualified engineers, machine operators, and quality control team create parts precisely to your specification.