Steel vs Iron: Understanding the Differences in CNC Machining(chamfered edge Webb)

  • Time:
  • Click:15
  • source:ESKRIDGE CNC Machining


Steel and iron are two commonly used metals in various industries, including CNC machining. These materials offer unique properties that make them suitable for specific applications. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of steel and iron in the context of CNC machining, highlighting their characteristics, production processes, and key differences.

1. The Basics of Steel and Iron:

Steel is an alloy composed primarily of iron and carbon, along with small amounts of other elements such as manganese, chromium, or nickel. It is known for its exceptional strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion, making it highly sought-after in many industrial sectors.

Iron, on the other hand, is a pure metal element extracted from iron ore through a smelting process. It possesses high tensile strength but lacks the same level of resilience against corrosion compared to steel. However, iron's affordability and malleability still make it an attractive choice for certain applications.

2. CNC Machining Processes for Steel and Iron Production:

CNC machining, which stands for Computer Numerical Control machining, refers to the automated manufacturing method that utilizes computer-controlled tools to shape raw materials into finished products. When it comes to producing steel and iron components using this technique, several processes are involved:

a) Steel Production:

The first step in steel production involves extracting iron ore and refining it through processes like blast furnace or electric arc furnace methods. Subsequently, carbon and other alloying elements are added in controlled proportions to achieve desired chemical and mechanical properties. Once molten steel is obtained, it can be shaped into various forms through hot rolling, cold rolling, or forging processes. Finally, CNC machining techniques help create precision parts according to precise specifications.

b) Iron Production:

As mentioned earlier, iron is derived from iron ore. To produce iron, the ore undergoes a series of steps such as mining, crushing, and grinding. The resulting iron concentrate is then processed in a blast furnace to remove impurities and transform it into molten iron. Unlike steel production, iron manufacturing involves fewer alloying elements. CNC machining can be applied to shape iron products into desired forms like rods, sheets, or components with intricate details.

3. Steel vs Iron: Key Differences in CNC Machining:

a) Material Strength:
Steel possesses higher tensile strength than pure iron due to its carbon content and alloying elements. This makes steel highly suitable for applications requiring robust materials, such as structural components, heavy machinery parts, or tools.

b) Corrosion Resistance:
While both steel and iron are susceptible to oxidation and corrosion, stainless steel types offer superior resistance compared to iron. Stainless steel alloys incorporate chromium, which forms a protective oxide layer on the surface, preventing rust formation and increasing longevity.

c) Machinability:
Steel generally exhibits better machinability than iron due to its lower carbon content. It allows for easier cutting, milling, drilling, and shaping processes during CNC machining. Additionally, steel's malleability enables the production of complex designs and precise tolerances with ease.

d) Cost Considerations:
Iron is more economical compared to various steel grades, making it an ideal choice for applications where cost-effectiveness outweighs other factors. However, when specific properties like corrosion resistance, mechanical strength, or precision machining requirements are necessary, steel may be preferred despite the higher price point.


In summary, steel and iron play crucial roles in CNC machining processes. While steel provides exceptional strength, corrosion resistance, and versatility, iron stands as a cost-effective option that still offers notable mechanical attributes. Understanding the key differences between these metals helps in selecting the most appropriate material based on specific project needs. By utilizing CNC machining techniques, manufacturers can transform steel and iron into high-quality components, structures, and products across various industries. CNC Milling CNC Machining