CNC Machining vs. 3D Printing: Which is Best for Your Project?

North American CNC Machining Centers

Choosing the right material for CNC machining is a critical decision that can significantly impact the quality, cost, and performance of your final product. For this reason, we recommend that you consult with our North American CNC machine builders at Fadal.

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining is a versatile and precise manufacturing process that can work with a wide range of materials, each with its unique properties and considerations

To help you make an informed choice, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to select the right material for your CNC machining project.

Understand Your Project Requirements

Before selecting a material, you need a clear understanding of your project’s specific requirements. Consider factors such as the part’s function, size, complexity, and environmental conditions it will be exposed to.

Are you looking for high strength, corrosion resistance, thermal conductivity, or electrical insulation? Identifying your needs will guide you in choosing the appropriate material.

Material Properties

Different materials possess distinct properties. Here are some common materials used in CNC machining and their key characteristics:


  • Aluminum: Lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and easy to machine. Ideal for aerospace and automotive components.
  • Steel: Offers excellent strength and durability. Suitable for parts subjected to heavy loads.
  • Brass: Known for its high thermal and electrical conductivity. Often used in electrical components and decorative parts.
  • Titanium: Exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance. Commonly used in aerospace and medical devices.


  • Acrylic: Transparent and lightweight, suitable for prototypes, signage, and displays.
  • Nylon: Offers good mechanical properties and is often used for gears, bearings, and structural components.
  • PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone): Resistant to high temperatures and chemicals. Commonly used in aerospace and medical applications.
  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): Known for its toughness and impact resistance. Widely used in consumer products.


  • Carbon Fiber: Exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and stiffness. Ideal for aerospace, automotive, and sporting equipment.

Cost Considerations

Material costs can vary significantly. Evaluate your budget and project requirements to determine which material aligns with your financial constraints. Keep in mind that the machining process itself can also affect the overall cost, as some materials may require specialized tooling or longer machining times.


Some materials are easier to machine than others. Machinability refers to how easily a material can be cut, drilled, and shaped using CNC machining processes. Aluminum, for example, is known for its excellent machinability, while hardened steel can be more challenging.

Consider the expertise of your CNC machining provider when choosing materials, as their experience can impact the efficiency and precision of the process. If you’d rather handle this process in-house, consult with our team before investing in a CNC machining center.

Related: What are the Different Types of CNC Machines? →

Tolerances and Surface Finish

Different materials may require varying levels of precision and surface finish. Some materials naturally lend themselves to fine details and smooth finishes, while others may be more prone to imperfections. Discuss your tolerance and finish requirements with your CNC machining provider to ensure they can meet your expectations with the chosen material.

If you’d prefer to handle this process within your own company, contact Fadal to learn more about our CNC machining centers for sale.

Environmental Factors

If your project involves exposure to extreme temperatures, chemicals, or outdoor conditions, consider materials that offer resistance to these environmental factors. For example, stainless steel is highly corrosion-resistant, making it suitable for outdoor applications, while high-temperature alloys are ideal for parts exposed to extreme heat.

Request a Quote for CNC Machines

Ready to request an estimate for one of our CNC machining centers? Contact Fadal, your trusted CNC machine builder in North America. To reach our sales team, please call (844) 323-2526 or fill out our online contact form. We’d be more than happy to assist you with your sales request.