Steel vs Iron: Understanding Their Role in CNC Machining(what is non ferrous metal Dwight)

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CNC machining is a highly precise and versatile manufacturing process, widely used in various industries. It involves the use of computer-controlled machine tools to remove material from a workpiece, creating intricate and complex shapes with high accuracy. The choice of materials plays a crucial role in the performance and outcome of CNC machining projects. In this article, we will explore the differences between two commonly used materials in CNC machining – steel and iron.

1. Steel - The Optimum Choice for Precision Machining:

Steel is an alloy composed primarily of iron and carbon, along with other elements depending on specific grades. Its exceptional strength, durability, and machinability make it a preferred material for CNC machining applications. With its wide range of alloy options, including stainless steel, tool steel, and mild steel, manufacturers can choose the most suitable grade based on desired properties such as hardness, corrosion resistance, and heat resistance.

Producing Steel:
To meet the diverse requirements of CNC machining projects, steel production involves several stages. Firstly, iron ore is smelted in a blast furnace to extract pure iron. This crude iron is then refined by adding varying amounts of carbon, typically through the Bessemer or basic oxygen processes. Additional alloying elements like chromium, nickel, and manganese may be added during refinement to impart specific characteristics to the steel.

2. Iron - A Robust Material with Limitations:

Iron, unlike steel, is not an alloy but a pure metal characterized by its strength and natural magnetic properties. Although less common than steel in CNC machining, iron finds application in certain situations where its unique qualities are advantageous. Cast iron, for instance, offers excellent vibration damping capabilities, making it ideal for components requiring stability and reduced noise levels.

Producing Iron:
The production of iron employs similar methods to extracting iron from iron ore as in the initial stage of steel production. However, iron lacks the deliberate inclusion of alloying elements present in steel production, making it less customizable and more brittle. The molten iron is cast into molds to form various shapes, such as engine blocks, pipes, and architectural components.

3. Choosing Between Steel and Iron for CNC Machining:

When selecting between steel and iron for CNC machining projects, several factors come into play:

Strength and Durability:
Steel, being an alloy, generally offers superior strength and durability compared to pure iron. Its toughness ensures longevity and resistance to wear and tear, making it suitable for applications subjected to high stress or mechanical load.

Both steel and iron can be machined effectively, but steel tends to provide better results due to its controlled composition and increased flexibility. Iron, on the other hand, may pose challenges due to its brittleness, especially during intricate shaping processes.

Specific Requirements:
Certain projects may require the magnetic properties of iron or the corrosion resistance offered by stainless steel. Analyzing project specifications and material requirements beforehand enables a wise choice concerning material selection.


In the world of CNC machining, the choice of materials greatly influences the end result. Steel and iron, though similar in their composition, exhibit distinct characteristics that impact CNC machining operations. Ultimately, manufacturers must consider factors such as strength, durability, machinability, and specific project requirements when determining whether steel or iron is the most suitable material for their CNC machining needs. By understanding the unique qualities of each metal, companies can make informed decisions, ensuring optimal performance and quality output in their CNC machining endeavors. CNC Milling