Steel vs Iron: Unveiling the Differences and Applications in CNC Machining(7075 aluminum vs 6061 Vivian)

  • Time:
  • Click:13
  • source:ESKRIDGE CNC Machining


When it comes to CNC machining, choosing the right materials is crucial for achieving optimal results. Two commonly used materials in this field are steel and iron. Both steel and iron possess their unique properties that make them suitable for specific applications. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two substances and delve into how they can be effectively utilized in CNC machining.

Distinguishing Steel from Iron:

Steel and iron may appear similar at first glance, but their composition sets them apart. While both metals primarily consist of iron, the key distinction lies in their carbon content. Carbon imparts strength and durability to alloys, making them ideal for various industrial applications.

Iron Basics:

Iron, classified as a pure metal, originates from mining iron ore deposits. It naturally occurs in an oxidized state known as iron oxide or rust. To obtain pure iron, the iron ore undergoes a refining process called smelting, which removes any impurities present. Pure iron retains its inherent qualities of malleability and thermal conductivity, but lacks sufficient tensile strength necessary for many applications.

Steel Essentials:

To overcome the limitations of iron, steel incorporates carbon during its manufacturing process. By introducing controlled amounts of carbon, usually less than 2%, steels acquire enhanced mechanical attributes such as increased hardness, tensile strength, and resistance to wear and corrosion. Additionally, other elements like manganese, chromium, nickel, or vanadium can be added to fine-tune specific properties according to application requirements.

CNC Machining with Steel:

Steel's versatility makes it a popular choice for CNC machining applications. Its inherent strength and excellent dimensional stability enable precise cutting, drilling, and shaping. Moreover, steel exhibits exceptional heat resistance and durability, allowing it to withstand rigorous machining processes without deformation or loss of accuracy. These characteristics guarantee consistent and reliable production even under high-intensity conditions.

Various types of steel alloys are available for CNC machining, including tool steel, carbon steel, stainless steel, and alloy steels. Each type possesses distinct attributes that enable customization based on specific project needs. For example, carbon steel offers excellent strength-to-cost ratio while stainless steel provides superior corrosion resistance suitable for applications exposed to moisture or chemicals.

CNC Machining with Iron:

Although iron is less commonly used than steel in CNC machining due to its lower tensile strength, it still finds application in specialized scenarios. Cast iron, one of the most prominent forms of iron used in this field, exhibits impressive casting properties, high vibration damping capacity, and exceptional wear resistance. These qualities make cast iron favorable for manufacturing heavy-duty machine bases, engine blocks, and various industrial parts requiring stability, durability, and reduced vibrations.

Production Process:

To produce steel components using CNC machining, several steps need to be followed. Firstly, steel billets or bars are acquired from manufacturers who have subjected them to controlled heat treatment processes, ensuring optimal physical characteristics. The supplied material undergoes computer-aided design (CAD) modeling and programming for precise component specification. Then, utilizing advanced CNC milling, turning, or drilling machines, excess material is removed through automated cutting tools until achieving the desired shape, dimensions, and surface finish.

For iron-based components, the initial steps remain similar until sourcing a specifically formulated cast iron. Using CAD models, molds are created to replicate the desired part geometry accurately. Molten iron is then poured into the mold, left to solidify, and later cooled to room temperature. Post-processing techniques like grinding, polishing, or coating can be employed, if necessary, to improve final product aesthetics and functionality.


In conclusion, steel and iron play pivotal roles in CNC machining, offering unique advantages for diverse applications. Steel, with its vast array of alloys and exceptional strength, enables precision machining of various components. Iron, predominantly cast iron, provides stability and vibration damping qualities necessary in industries dealing with heavy machinery. Understanding the distinctive features of these metals allows manufacturers to make informed decisions regarding material selection for their CNC machining projects. CNC Milling CNC Machining