How Thick of Material Can a CNC Machine Cut?

Using a CNC machine to cut materials is a precise and versatile process, but many wonder about the limits of this technology, particularly the thickness it can handle. This article explores the capabilities of CNC machines in cutting various material thicknesses.

CNC machines can cut a wide range of material thicknesses, from fragile sheets to several inches thick, depending on the material and the specific machine you use. For example, CNC routers typically cut up to 2 inches of wood. High-end CNC plasma cutters can cut steel plates up to 60mm thick.

Understanding the limits and capabilities of CNC machines can help you make informed decisions about your custom machining projects.

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What materials are unsuitable for CNC machining?

Some materials are not suitable for CNC machining due to their properties or the potential hazards they present. For example, materials like PVC, vinyl, leather, artificial leather, ABS, polycarbonate, and fiberglass can be problematic. These materials can release harmful fumes or be challenging to machine accurately. It’s essential to know the limitations of your CNC machine and avoid these unsuitable materials.

How thick can materials be cut using CNC plasma technology?

CNC plasma cutters do a great job cutting thick materials. Performance-wise, you can cut up to 32mm thick steel on a mid-range CNC plasma machine; on industrial systems, you can cut up to 50 mm-60 mm steel plates. That’s a fairly thick material, and that’s why you see CNC plasma typically integrated into the heavy-duty end of the market. If you need to cut stuff and make precise deep cuts into it, you will use CNC plasma.

Can CNC machinery be used to cut steel?

Yes, you can cut steel with a CNC machine. The quality and accuracy of the cut depend on the strength and hardness of the steel, the type of CN machine you’re using, and the cutting tools. People use CNC milling machines and lathes to cut steel all the time. You can get a nice, clean cut and make precise steel cuts.

How deep can materials be cut with a CNC machine?

The depth you can cut with a CNC machine depends on the type of machine and the material you’re cutting. Typically, CNC routers can cut up to 2 inches deep in wood. For metals, CNC milling machines can cut pretty deep. It’s a function of the cutting tool’s length and the material’s hardness. You need to make sure you have the machine set correctly and the right tooling to cut the depth you want and to cut it precisely.

What are the best CNC machines for cutting thick materials?

The best CNC machines for cutting thick materials include:

  • CNC Routers: Ideal for wood, plastics, and soft metals, handling thicknesses up to 2 inches.
  • CNC Plasma Cutters: Suitable for cutting thick steel and aluminum, capable of handling materials up to 60mm thick.
  • CNC Milling Machines: Versatile for various metals, offering deep and precise cuts with appropriate tooling.

How is thick metal machined using CNC techniques?

Thick metal is machined using CNC techniques using the right tools and settings. CNC milling and turning are standard methods. The process involves multiple passes, gradually removing material to achieve the desired depth. Using coolant helps manage heat and ensures precision. The choice of cutting tools and machine rigidity also plays a crucial role in machining thick metal effectively.

What is the thickness capability of a CNC router?

CNC routers are typically used for cutting wood plastics and soft metals. Depending on the bit size and machine power, they can handle material thicknesses up to 2 inches. Multiple passes are often required for thicker materials to achieve the desired depth, ensuring clean and accurate cuts.

How deep can a CNC mill cut?

The cutting depth of a CNC mill depends on the tool length and the material being machined. Generally, CNC mills can achieve depths of several inches, particularly when machining metals. For precise and deep cuts, selecting the proper tooling is essential, as ensuring the machine is correctly set up to handle the required depth without compromising accuracy.

What cutting tools are used in CNC machining?

CNC machining employs a variety of cutting tools, including:

  • End Mills: Used for milling operations and available in various sizes and shapes for different applications.
  • Drill Bits: Essential for drilling holes of various diameters and depths.
  • Lathe Tools: Used in CNC turning and different geometries for cutting, facing, and threading operations.
  • Plasma Torches: Used in CNC plasma cutting for thick metals, providing precise and clean cuts.

What are practical cutting tools for CNC plastic production?

For CNC plastic production, the following cutting tools are practical:

  • Single Flute End Mills: Ideal for plastics, providing a smooth finish and preventing material melting.
  • Spiral O Flute Bits: Suitable for softer plastics, offering clean cuts and reducing chip load.
  • Compression Bits: Perfect for laminated plastics, minimizing chipping and ensuring clean edges.

How can a fiber laser be used to cut an aluminum sheet?

A fiber laser can cut an aluminum sheet with high precision and speed. The process involves focusing a high-powered laser beam onto the material, which melts and vaporizes the aluminum. Fiber lasers are highly efficient for cutting thin to medium-thickness aluminum sheets, offering clean and precise edges with minimal heat-affected zones.

In summary, CNC machines offer incredible versatility and precision for cutting materials of varying thicknesses. Understanding these capabilities ensures you choose the right machine for your custom machining needs.


On-demand CNC Machining prototyping and parts with Custom Finishes and low volume manufacturing.

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