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How To Choose the Best Type of Metal for CNC Machining

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What Is Metal?

Metals are a type of material distinguished by their strong malleability, ductility, heat and electrical conductivity, and light reflection. Metals, like iron and aluminum, which make up three-quarters of all known chemical elements, are essential to most industries. Metals are usually crystalline solids with atoms packed densely in a basic crystal form that determines their mechanical characteristics.

What Is the Use of Metal?

Metals are essential for making wires and other parts for many kinds of electrical products because of their outstanding conductivity. This includes commonplace devices like: laptops, cell phones, refrigerators, irons, and electric ovens. Metals are essential elements because they efficiently conduct electrical current, which powers the backbone of modern society’s technology.

What Is the Fundamental Composition of Metal?

The fundamental composition of the metal is a sea of delocalized electrons enveloping positively charged ions. They have a densely packed metallic lattice structure. Electrons delocalize to create metallic connections, which facilitate the effective conduction of heat and electricity. Metals are known for their conductivity, which is a characteristic that is essential to their wide range of applications.

What Are the Different Types of Metal?

The different types of metals include:

1. Sodium (Na)
Sodium is a reactive, soft metal with a low melting point, belonging to the alkaline metals. It rapidly reacts with water, producing sodium hydroxide, and is utilized in alloys, soaps, and metal purification. Sodium chloride, a vital compound, makes it a crucial component in the environment. It is essential in organic compound manufacturing and ester production. Sodium, the sixth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, is sourced from minerals like feldspars and halite

2. Gold (Au)
Gold is a thick, malleable metal with a striking yellow hue. Because of its corrosion resistance and malleability, it may be pounded into thin sheets and lasts a long time. Beyond decoration, gold is used in the production of solar panels, as an embroidery thread, and in medicinal procedures such as tumor therapy in which it utilizes the radioactive isotope Au-198. It is useful in many applications due to its conductivity and rarity.

3. Beryllium (Be)
Beryllium, a lightweight, toxic alkaline earth metal, possesses a high melting point and thermal conductivity and is non-magnetic and corrosion-resistant. It is crucial in alloy production, X-ray diagnostics, computer peripherals, nuclear reactors, satellite structures, and heat-sink construction. Occurring naturally in minerals, beryllium plays a significant role in enhancing material properties in diverse technological applications.

4. Chromium (Cr)
Chromium is a hard and brittle transition metal. The thin oxide coating it forms protects the underlying metals when used in electroplating and alloy production. Its presence and uses are numerous, ranging from emerald crystals to glossy automobile wheel caps, and its alloys—like stainless steel—show superior endurance. In many different sectors, chromium is a desirable element because of its resistance to rust and its visual appeal.

5. Magnesium (Mg)
Magnesium is a lightweight and reactive alkaline earth metal that finds diverse applications. Commonly used in aluminum alloys, die-casting, and steel production, magnesium showcases similar thermal and electrical conductivity to aluminum. Its use in lightweight materials, alloys, and specific strength enhancements with silicon carbide nanoparticles illustrates its versatility in modern applications.

6. Silver (Ag)
Silver has the highest electrical conductivity and is a shiny metal. It is a valuable metal for both decorative and functional purposes. Silver has applications in many different industries, including: jewelry, coin minting, air conditioning, and water filtration. Its other qualities make it a sought-after material in a variety of sectors, but its high conductivity goes mostly unutilized in electronics due to its high cost.

7. Lithium (Li)
Lithium, the least dense metal, is a reactive alkali metal used in diverse applications. Lithium displays unique properties. Its reactivity with water and involvement in various reactions, along with high specific heat and thermal conductivity, contribute to its significance in both industrial and medicinal realms. It is used in forming alloys for aircraft parts and in air conditioning systems.

8. Cobalt (Co)
The ferromagnetic element cobalt is used in a variety of applications. Cobalt’s stability in air, magnetic qualities, and gradual reactivity with diluted acids add to its versatility in a variety of applications such as: superalloys, magnets, and catalysts. Cobalt is essential to modern technological breakthroughs, finding applications in the aerospace, petroleum, and chemical industries.

9. Barium (Ba)
Barium is a silvery-white metal. It is employed in spark-plug electrodes, vacuum tubes, and drilling mud in the oil & gas industry. Its compounds, used in fluorescent lamps, exhibit phosphorescence after exposure to light. With a density of 3.51 g/cm3, barium serves various industrial purposes, showcasing its versatility and unique properties.

10. Antimony (Sb)
Naturally occurring as the sulfide mineral stibnite, antimony is a gray metalloid. Antimony’s conductivity and capacity to expand on cooling make it useful in a variety of applications, including: cosmetics, semiconductors, and battery manufacture. It is found in valentinite and stibnite ores found in the crust of the Earth.

11. Aluminum (Al)
Aluminum is a lightweight and corrosion-resistant metal. It is characterized by its low density and high strength-to-weight ratio. It comprises properties like malleability and ductility. Aluminum is widely used in: the aerospace, construction, and packaging industries. Metallurgically, aluminum is extracted from its ore through electrolysis. It exhibits good electrical conductivity, moderate heat conductivity, and non-magnetic properties. Notably, aluminum forms a protective oxide layer, providing excellent corrosion resistance. Applications range from aircraft components to beverage cans.

12. Tin (Sn)
Tin is a ductile and malleable metal that has a distinctive silvery-white color. The common components of soldering and coatings are pure tin or tin alloys. Tin is derived from cassiterite ore in metallurgy. It exhibits moderate heat conductivity and fair electrical conductivity. Tin is non-magnetic yet has corrosion resistance; in particular, it keeps iron from corroding. Tin cans, electrical solder, and protective coatings are examples of common uses.

13. Copper (Cu)
Copper, a versatile and highly conductive metal, is known for its reddish-brown color. It is commonly used in a relatively pure form or copper alloys like bronze and brass. Metallurgically, copper is obtained from ores through smelting. Copper excels in electrical conductivity and good heat conductivity. It is non-magnetic and exhibits corrosion resistance, forming a protective green patina over time. Copper finds widespread applications in: electrical wiring, plumbing, and various industrial components.

14. Calcium (Ca)
The alkaline earth metal calcium is known for its high water reactivity and silvery-white color. Its chemical makeup includes calcium in a variety of compounds, which often occur in gypsum and limestone minerals. Because of its strong reactivity, calcium is not removed in its elemental form in metallurgy. Although calcium has excellent heat conductivity, it is not recognized for its electrical conductivity. It is prone to corrosion and is not magnetic. Calcium compounds have an important function in construction materials and biological processes, despite their uncommon usage in metallic form.

15. Iron (Fe)
Iron, a crucial transition metal, is characterized by its lustrous, silvery appearance and magnetic properties. Its chemical composition involves pure iron or iron alloys like steel. Metallurgically, iron is extracted from iron ore using a blast furnace. Iron exhibits moderate electrical conductivity, high heat conductivity, and ferromagnetic properties. While prone to corrosion, iron is widely used in construction, manufacturing, and transportation industries.

16. Cadmium (Cd)
Soft and bluish-white, cadmium is a common metal found in alloys, pigments, and rechargeable batteries. Cadmium is poisonous, but its specific qualities—such as: low melting point and resistance to corrosion—help it find use in certain industries. In certain technological applications, cadmium is advantageous due to its electrical conductivity and chemical makeup.

17. Bismuth (Bi)
Bismuth, a brittle and crystalline metal, is known for its low thermal conductivity and diamagnetic properties. Used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and alloys, bismuth’s distinctive characteristics contribute to its niche applications. Its low toxicity compared to other heavy metals enhances its use in various medical and consumer products.

18. Platinum (Pt)
Due to its scarcity and catalytic qualities, platinum is a highly prized metal that is dense and corrosion-resistant. Platinum has several uses, including: jewelry, catalytic converters, and laboratory equipment. Its high melting point and desirable chemical makeup make it a valuable material. Because of its special qualities, it is essential to many important scientific and industrial activities.

19. Potassium (K)
Potassium, an alkali metal, is highly reactive and not commonly used in its metallic form. However, its compounds find applications in: fertilizers, soaps, and pharmaceuticals. With its low density and electrical conductivity, potassium’s chemical composition and properties contribute to its essential role in agriculture and various chemical processes.

20. Nickel (Ni)
Nickel, silvery-white in color, is the fifth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and core. Although the human body needs this transition metal, excessive ingestion can have negative health effects, such as cancer. Nickel alloys are used in: wires, coinage, and corrosion-resistant applications such as gas turbines. They also contribute to materials like Monel® and armor plating. Nickel naturally occurs in: soil, water, and meteorites. It has excellent heat conductivity and dissolves slowly in acids. It is essential for many industrial applications and promotes plant growth.

21. Mercury (Hg)
Mercury is a unique transition metal known for being the only common element in liquid form at standard temperature and pressure. It has a silvery-white appearance, is dense, and exhibits a measurable vapor pressure at room temperature. Mercury’s chemical composition remains constant over time, cycling through natural and human activities. Its applications thrive in electrical devices and electrochemistry due to its volatile liquid nature. Furthermore, its compounds find use in various fields. For instance, mercuric chloride (calomel) serves as a standard in electrochemical measurements, while mercuric chloride acts as an insecticide and disinfectant.

22. Lead (Pb)
The heavy metal lead is known for being pliable and soft, and has a low melting point. When newly cut, the metal has a bright, gray look and resists corrosion; with time, it tarnishes to a dull gray. Since the Roman era, lead has been used for paintings and pipes. More recently it has found extensive use as a primary component in lead-acid batteries despite being a poor conductor of electricity. Due to its dangerous nature, lead is harmful to people and can cause lead poisoning when it targets important internal organs. Lead is used in soldering electrical equipment, which makes it a crucial component of many industrial operations.

23. Vanadium (V)
Vanadium is a rare, hard, and ductile gray-white element. It is known for its corrosion resistance and is primarily used in ferrovanadium and steel alloys. Vanadium contributes to the strength of critical components in: aircraft, nuclear reactors, and high-speed airframes. Vanadium oxide is used as a catalyst in the manufacture of sulfuric acid and ceramics, while its presence in glass imparts a green or blue tint. In biological contexts, vanadium plays a role in certain enzymes, such as the vanadium nitrogenase used by nitrogen-fixing microorganisms.

24. Tungsten (W)
Tungsten, also referred to as wolfram, is a powerful transition metal with a high melting point and intricate chemistry. Abrasives, electron tubes, light-bulb filaments, and specialty steel tools are just a few applications for tungsten alloys. In the mining, petroleum, and metalworking industries, tungsten carbide is an essential chemical. Tungsten is thought to be hazardous in greater quantities due to its ecotoxicity, even though there is little evidence for a biological role. It is significant economically and under some circumstances can replace molybdenum.

25. Uranium (U)
Uranium is a radioactive element in the actinoid series. It is a vital nuclear fuel, constituting about two parts per million of Earth’s crust. Uranium ores, like pitchblende and uraninite, are used as sources of nuclear fuels, providing more energy than known recoverable deposits of fossil fuels. Uranium is dense, hard, and silvery white, tarnishing in air. It is a key component in nuclear reactors, yielding energy comparable to millions of kilograms of coal from one pound of uranium.

26. Molybdenum (Mo)
Molybdenum is a hard, silvery-white transition metal known for its high melting point. It makes steel stronger at high temperatures, which is advantageous for engine applications. In addition to being a fertilizer for plants like cauliflower, molybdenum is utilized as a catalyst in the petroleum sector. Molybdenum has 35 isotopes and is used in both biological and industrial situations.

27. Zinc (Zn)
Zinc is a slightly brittle metal at room temperature, having a shiny-grayish appearance. Chemically similar to magnesium, zinc is the 24th most abundant element in Earth’s crust. It is used in manufacturing roofing materials, creating zinc oxide, and as a white pigment in oil-based paints. Zinc is crucial for enzymes in the human body, and its oxide withstands high temperatures, preventing tires from breaking apart in automobile applications.

28. Titanium (Ti)
Titanium is a transition metal, well-known for its strength, glossy appearance, and resilience to corrosion. Titanium is widely used in alloys and is utilized in: medical implants, pipes, spacecraft, airplanes, and naval vessels. Paints usually include the white ingredient titanium dioxide. Additionally, titanium plays an important role in many technical developments, including pacemakers, hip and knee replacements, and electrodes.

29. Palladium (Pd)
Palladium is a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal. It is part of the platinum group metals (PGMs) and has the lowest melting point in this group. Palladium is widely used in: catalytic converters, electronics, dentistry, medicine, and jewelry. It catalyzes chemical processes, absorbs hydrogen for storage, and has applications in fine art photography. Ore deposits of palladium are rare, with recycling being a significant source.

30. Manganese (Mn)
Manganese is a hard, brittle, gray-white metal. It has a variety of applications and is found in combination with iron and other minerals. It is a vital trace element for living things and plays a significant role in the manufacture of metal alloys, especially stainless steel. Painters employ manganese dioxide, a black-brown pigment, and jail bars, safes, rifle barrels, and railroad tracks use manganese steel, a strong metal. It serves as a catalyst and is also utilized in dry-cell batteries.

How To Choose the Best Type of Metal To Use?

Listed below are some tips when choosing the best type of metal to use:

Consider functionality, environmental conditions, strength, durability, and budget.
Evaluate material properties, availability, and environmental impact, and conduct testing or prototyping.
Consult metallurgy, engineering, or materials science professionals for expertise, optimization, and risk mitigation. This systematic approach ensures cost-effective, performance-aligned metal selection, saving time and enhancing project success.

What Are the Different Characteristics of Metal?

Metals exhibit distinctive characteristics:

Efficient heat and electricity transfer.
Ability to deform without breaking.
Capability to stretch into thin wires.
Shiny appearance.
High mass per unit volume.
Transition from solid to liquid.
Resistance to stretching.
Ability to withstand environmental decay.

What Is the Best Type of Metal To Use for Cable?

The best material for cables is copper. Copper is a popular and affordable metal that is highly electrically conductive, second only to silver. Its outstanding conductivity makes it the industry standard for cable applications by ensuring effective power transmission while balancing cost and performance.

What Is the Best Type of Metal To Use for Electric Wire?

Copper is the ideal material for electrical wiring. Its excellent electrical conductivity is the reason for its widespread use. Copper is also the best material because of its pliability and simplicity of wrapping or soldering, particularly for large wiring requirements. The best metal for electrical lines is copper, which has both conductivity and useful handling qualities.

To learn more, see our guide on Electric Wire.

What Is the Best Type of Metal To Use for Valves?

The recommended material for valves is stainless steel, an iron, chromium, (and occasionally nickel) alloy that resists corrosion. It is exceptionally resistant to a wide range of substances, including alkalis and acids. On the other hand, because of their exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, titanium valves function exceptionally well in high-performance engines even though they are affordable.

What Is the Best Type of Metal To Use for Packaging?

Tin plate is the paramount choice for food packaging. It refers to steel coated with a thin layer of tin, ensuring excellent corrosion resistance. Its widespread use in the food industry attests to its reliability, preventing contamination and preserving product quality.

which Metal  is the Best for CNC Machining

Ferrous Metals
Ferrous Metals are those containing Iron, such as Steel and its many alloys, or Cast Iron. If strength is the most important characteristic you’re looking for, you probably want a Ferrous Metal.

Aluminum is the most commonly used non-Ferrous Metal. It has a great strength to weight ratio as well as some resistance to corrosion. Plus, it’s relatively easy to work with.

Brass and Other Copper Alloys
Choose brass or copper alloys for their decorative properties, electrical/heat conductivity, excellent corrosion resistance, or because they’re easy to work with.

Hi-Temp Nickel Alloys
These alloys are the only ones available for the demanding conditions found in the hot sections of turbine engines used for aerospace and marine applications.

Other Non-Ferrous Metals

Material Grade Strength* Hardness+ Machinability Cost Typical applications
Aluminum 6061 Medium Medium ★★★★★ $ General purpose Aircraft components Automotive parts Bicycle frames Food containers
6082 Medium Medium ★★★★★ $ General purpose Automotive parts Food containers
7075 High Medium ★★★★ $$$ Aircraft & aerospace components Automotive parts Marine applications Sports equipment
5083 Medium Low ★★★★★ $$ Marine applications Construction Pressure vessels
Stainless steel 304 High Medium ★★ $$$ General purpose Medical devices Food industry Marine applications Chemical processing
316 High Medium ★★ $$$$ Food preparation equipment Marine applications Architecture Surgical implants Chemical containers
2205 Duplex High High ★ $$$$$ Oil & gas Marine applications Chemical processing Heat exchangers
303 High High ★★★ $$$$ Aircraft components Machine parts Nuts, bolts, gears, bushings
17-4 High Very High ★★ $$$$$ Turbine blades Marine applications Chemical vessels Oil & Gas Nuclear applications
Mild steel 1018 Medium Medium ★★★ $$ General purpose Machinery parts Jigs & fixtures
1045 Medium High ★★ $$$ General purpose Machinery parts
A36 High Medium ★★★ $$ Construction Machinery parts Jigs & fixtures
Alloy steel 4140 Medium High ★★ $$$ General purpose Machinery parts Tooling
4340 High High ★★ $$$ Aircraft landing gear Power transmission Tooling
Tool steel D2 High Very High ★ $$$$ Cold-working tooling Dies & stamps Cutting tools & knives
A2 High Very High ★ $$$$ Cold-working tooling Dies & stamps Cutting tools & knives
O1 High Very High ★ $$$$ Cold-working tooling Dies & stamps
Brass C36000 Medium Medium ★★★★★ $$ Mechanical parts Valves & nozzles Architecture
: Tensile Yield Strength – Medium: 200-400 MPa, High: 400-600 MPa
: Hardness – Medium: 50-90 HRB, High: 90 HRB – 50 HRC, Very High: above 50 HRC
Material Strength* Operating temperature+ Machinability Cost Typical applications
ABS Medium Up to 60oC ★★★ $$ Automotive Electronic enclosures Pipes & fittings Consumer products
Nylon High Up to 100oC ★ $$ Automotive parts Mechanical parts Fasteners
Polycarbonate (PC) High Up to 120oC ★★ $$ Architecture Automotive Electronic enclosures Food containers
POM (Delrin) Medium Up to 82oC ★★★★ $$ Mechanical parts Electronic enclosures Bushings & fittings
PTFE (Teflon) Low Up to 260oC ★★★★ $$ High-temperature applications Chemical processing Electronic enclosures Food processing
HDPE Low Up to 80oC ★ $$ Chemical containers Pipes & fittings Consumer products
PEEK High Up to 260oC ★★ $$$$ Medical applications Chemical processing Food processing High-pressure valves.


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