Aluminum CNC vs Stainless Steel CNC: What Are The Differences

Author: Date Published: Dec 07,2023


stainless steel and Aluminum are two of the most common materials used in CNC machining

Both materials have their unique advantages and disadvantages, making them suitable for different applications.

In this article, we will compare stainless steel and aluminum in terms of weight, cost, durability, range of applications, 

thermal conductivity, and machinability. We will then conclude with a discussion of which material is more suitable for CNC machining.


Stainless steel is significantly heavier than aluminum. A cubic inch of stainless steel weighs about 0.28 pounds, 

while a cubic inch of aluminum weighs about 0.09 pounds. This difference in weight can be a significant factor in 

applications where weight is a concern, such as aerospace or automotive manufacturing.


Stainless steel is typically more expensive than aluminum. The cost of stainless steel can vary depending on the grade,

but it is generally about twice as expensive as aluminum.


Stainless steel is more durable than aluminum. It has a higher tensile strength, 

which means it can withstand more stress without breaking. Stainless steel is also more resistant to corrosion,

which makes it a good choice for applications where the material will be exposed to harsh environments.

CNC machining process

Range of applications

Both stainless steel and aluminum can be used in a wide range of applications. 

Stainless steel is often used in applications where strength, durability, 

and corrosion resistance are important, such as food processing, medical devices, and industrial equipment.

Aluminum is often used in applications where weight, cost,

and machinability are important, such as aerospace, automotive, and consumer electronics.

Thermal conductivity

Stainless steel has a higher thermal conductivity than aluminum. 

This means that stainless steel can dissipate heat more efficiently than aluminum. 

This can be a benefit in applications where heat dissipation is important, such as heat sinks and cooling systems.


Aluminum is generally easier to machine than stainless steel. 

This is because aluminum has a lower hardness and is more forgiving of errors.

Stainless steel is more difficult to machine because it is harder and more brittle.

This can lead to increased tool wear and scrap rates.

Which material is more suitable for CNC machining?

The answer to this question depends on the specific requirements of the application. 

In general, stainless steel is a good choice for applications where strength, 

durability, and corrosion resistance are important.

Aluminum is a good choice for applications where weight, cost, and machinability are important.


Stainless SteelAluminum
Costtwice as expensive as aluminumInexpensive
Durabilityhigher tensile strengthless durable
Range of applicationsfood processing, medical devices and industrial equipmentaerospace, automotive and consumer electronics
Thermal conductivityhighlow
Machinabilityharder and more brittlelower hardness

Related articles:

①Process of CNC Rapid Prototyping

②How to Maximize the Efficiency of CNC Machining

③CNC Machining Tolerance Guidelines

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