Steel vs Iron: The Ultimate Guide to CNC Machining(galvanised sheet Myrna)

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In the realm of CNC machining, steel and iron are two commonly used materials. While they may seem similar at first glance, there are distinct differences between the two that determine their applications and performance. This article explores the characteristics, benefits, and production methods of both steel and iron when it comes to CNC machining.

Understanding Steel:

Steel is a form of iron combined with carbon and other alloying elements like chromium, nickel, or manganese. These additional elements enhance the mechanical properties of steel, making it stronger, more resistant to corrosion, and highly malleable. Due to its exceptional strength and versatility, steel is widely utilized in various industries including automotive, aerospace, construction, and manufacturing.

Producing Steel through CNC Machining:

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining plays a vital role in producing intricate and precise steel components. The process involves computer-controlled cutting tools, which remove material from a solid block to create the desired shape or part. With CNC machining, engineers and manufacturers can achieve high accuracy, tight tolerances, and repeatability, ensuring consistency throughout the production process.

When manufacturing steel parts using CNC machining, several steps need to be followed:

1. Designing: Engineers start by creating a 3D model of the component using CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software. The design includes specific dimensions and specifications required for the final product.

2. Material Selection: Choosing the appropriate type of steel is crucial as it determines the part's durability, strength, and resistance to environmental factors.

3. Programming: Once the design is complete, the CAD file is converted into machine-readable instructions using CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) software. These instructions guide the CNC machines on how to cut and shape the steel accurately.

4. Machining: The CNC machine follows the programmed instructions to cut, drill, mill, or turn the steel material into the desired shape. This process eliminates human error, ensuring precision and repeatability.

Understanding Iron:

Iron is a naturally occurring element that is usually obtained through mining iron ore deposits. It is used to manufacture various products due to its high strength and relatively low cost compared to other metals. However, pure iron lacks desirable properties for many applications, which is why alloying elements such as carbon, silicon, manganese, or phosphorus are added to improve its characteristics.

Producing Iron through CNC Machining:

While iron can be machined using similar techniques as steel, it is generally suitable for less demanding applications where strength and corrosion resistance may not be critical factors. CNC machining provides precise shaping of iron parts by removing excess material, resulting in accurate components for further assembly or use in different products.

The production process for iron components typically involves the following steps:

1. Design: Similar to steel, engineers create a detailed 3D model of the component using CAD software, accounting for specific dimensions and requirements.

2. Material Selection: Various types of iron alloys are available, each offering distinct properties. The selection depends on the intended use and performance expectations.

3. Programming: The CAD file is translated into machine instructions using CAM software, outlining the precise movements required for cutting, drilling, or milling operations.

4. Machining: The CNC machine executes the programmed instructions accurately. The speed and choice of cutting tools may vary based on the type of iron being machined.

Steel vs Iron in CNC Machining:

When comparing steel and iron for CNC machining purposes, several key differences emerge:

1. Strength: Steel is generally stronger than iron due to the presence of carbon and other alloying elements. This makes steel more suitable for heavy-duty applications.

2. Corrosion Resistance: Steel, especially stainless steel, exhibits superior corrosion resistance compared to iron. Thus, steel is often preferred in environments prone to moisture or chemical exposure.

3. Machinability: Due to its malleability and ductility, steel is easier to machine than iron. It allows for more intricate designs and precise shaping compared to iron components.

4. Cost: Iron is typically less expensive than steel due to its availability and lower material costs. However, complex machining requirements or specific alloy selections can impact the overall cost of both materials.


Steel and iron are essential materials in CNC machining, each with its own distinct properties and applications. While steel offers superior strength, corrosion resistance, and machinability, iron remains a cost-effective alternative for less demanding projects. Understanding the differences between these materials enables manufacturers to make informed decisions when choosing the best material for their CNC machining needs. CNC Milling CNC Machining