Steel vs. Iron in CNC Machining: An In-depth Comparison(32 surface finish Mortimer)

  • Time:
  • Click:11
  • source:BREDA CNC Machining


In the world of CNC machining, steel and iron are two prominent materials that have been extensively used across various industries. These metals possess unique properties that make them suitable for specific applications, but their differences often raise questions about which material is better suited for a particular project. This article aims to explore the characteristics, production processes, and potential applications of both steel and iron, shedding light on their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Steel Properties and Production:

Steel is an alloy primarily composed of iron and carbon, with other elements such as manganese, nickel, or chromium added to enhance its properties. The addition of these elements allows manufacturers to achieve varying levels of strength, durability, corrosion resistance, and heat resistance. Due to its versatile nature, steel finds extensive use in numerous industries, including automotive, construction, aerospace, and machinery manufacturing.

The production of steel involves several steps, beginning with the extraction of iron ore from the earth's crust. This raw ore undergoes various refining processes to remove impurities, resulting in pure iron. Carbon is then introduced through either the basic oxygen process (BOP) or electric arc furnace (EAF) method, depending on the desired quality and application of the final steel product. The molten steel is subsequently shaped into desired forms using techniques like casting, rolling, forging, or CNC machining.

Iron Properties and Production:

Iron, unlike steel, is a pure element without any additional alloys. It offers exceptional magnetic, thermal conductivity, and ductile properties, making it ideal for electrical transformers, engine blocks, piping systems, and heavy machinery components. However, its susceptibility to oxidation and moisture necessitates protective coatings or regular maintenance in certain applications.

To produce iron, iron ore is mined and subjected to a series of heating and melting processes in a blast furnace. The intense heat causes impurities to be separated from the molten iron, resulting in a relatively pure form of the metal known as pig iron. Pig iron is further refined through additional treatments like bessemerization or oxygen blowing to reduce carbon content and improve its overall quality.

Steel vs. Iron in CNC Machining:

When it comes to CNC machining, both steel and iron present distinct advantages and considerations. Steel's exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, high durability, and resistance to wear make it an excellent choice for parts and components subjected to excessive stress or intricate designs that demand precision. Its versatility allows manufacturers to select from various types of steel based on their specific project requirements.

On the other hand, iron finds application in areas where magnetic properties are crucial, such as motors or transformers. Additionally, cast iron, a specific type of iron alloyed with small amounts of carbon, exhibits superior vibration dampening capabilities, making it suitable for machinery bases or engine blocks. However, its brittle nature may limit its use in certain applications that require higher impact resistance.


In summary, understanding the differences between steel and iron is essential when considering material selection for CNC machining projects. While steel provides enhanced flexibility, strength, and versatility across industries, iron offers unique characteristics such as magnetic properties and vibration dampening abilities. Careful consideration of design specifications, mechanical requirements, budget constraints, and expected environmental conditions will help determine whether steel or iron is better suited for a particular application. Ultimately, collaboration with experienced CNC machinists can ensure optimal material selection and production processes, leading to successful and reliable end-products. CNC Milling CNC Machining