Steel vs Iron: The Ultimate Guide to CNC Machining(glass bead finish Maxwell)

  • Time:
  • Click:4
  • source:YESCOM CNC Machining


CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining is a popular manufacturing process that utilizes computer-controlled machines to shape and fabricate various materials with precision. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of CNC machining while focusing on the differences between steel and iron as commonly used materials in this process.

Steel - The Versatile Material:

1. Composition and Characteristics:
Steel is an alloy consisting primarily of iron along with carbon and other elements such as manganese, chromium, and nickel. Its composition gives it exceptional strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion, making it a preferred choice across industries.

2. Types of Steel:
- Carbon Steel: This type of steel has a higher carbon content, imparting enhanced hardness and machinability properties.
- Stainless Steel: Known for its corrosion resistance, stainless steel comprises iron, chromium, and often nickel. It finds extensive applications in medical devices, aerospace components, and kitchen equipment.
- Tool Steel: With added tungsten or molybdenum, tool steel showcases high hardness, heat resistance, and wear resistance, making it ideal for cutting tools and molds.

3. CNC Machining of Steel:
CNC machining techniques are well-suited for steel due to its desirable mechanical properties. Computer-guided precision allows for complex shaping, milling, drilling, and turning processes, ensuring accurate results.

Iron - From Pig Iron to CNC:

1. Understanding Iron:
Iron is one of the most abundant elements on Earth, widely known for its strength and versatility. However, pure iron lacks the necessary properties for robust industrial applications.

2. Transforming Iron into Usable Forms:
The production of machinable iron involves a series of steps:
- Extraction: Iron ore undergoes extraction through mining or processing methods to obtain usable iron.
- Smelting: Through smelting, iron ore is heated with carbon to produce pig iron, a brittle material.
- Alloying: To enhance its properties and usability, pig iron is then combined with other elements like carbon and alloy metals (e.g., nickel, chromium), producing different types of iron alloys.

3. CNC Machining of Iron:
While not as common as steel, machining iron plays an essential role in certain applications such as automotive parts, machinery components, and architectural structures. Advanced CNC techniques allow for precise milling, drilling, and shaping of iron materials while minimizing errors and ensuring dimensional accuracy.

Steel vs Iron - Material Debate:

1. Strength and Durability:
Steel surpasses iron when it comes to strength, making it the preferred choice for load-bearing structures, machinery, and tools. Iron, on the other hand, is known for its high tensile strength but can be more prone to corrosion.

2. Machinability:
Steel exhibits better machinability characteristics due to its composition. With controlled cutting speeds, feed rates, and tool grades, CNC machines perform exceptionally well with steel, resulting in smoother finishes and precise dimensions. Iron may require additional machining techniques or post-process treatments to achieve similar levels of precision.

3. Cost Considerations:
The cost difference between steel and iron can vary based on factors such as availability, demand, and specific alloy compositions. Generally, iron tends to be more affordable compared to specific types of steel, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious industries.


In the world of CNC machining, understanding the distinctions between steel and iron becomes crucial when selecting the appropriate material for diverse projects. While both exhibit unique properties and advantages, steel has emerged as the go-to material for numerous applications requiring high strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion. Ultimately, the choice between these two materials should be determined by carefully considering project requirements, budget constraints, and the desired end results. CNC Milling CNC Machining