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Detailed Exploration of CNC Machining Magnesium

Sep 18, 2023

CNC Machining Magnesium offers unparalleled benefits. In this blog, insights unfold about machining characteristics. Expect detailed exploration. Unearth magnesium's benefits, challenges, and applications. Dive deep into this pivotal industry segment.


Properties of Magnesium Alloys!


· Lightweight

Magnesium alloys stand out due to their impressively low weight. In the aerospace engineering and automotive sectors, light materials offer substantial fuel savings.

· High-strength

Despite being light, magnesium alloys boast commendable strength. Many industries prize them for their strength-to-weight ratio, which rivals even that of steel.

· Corrosion-resistant

Magnesium alloys exhibit strong resistance against corrosion, especially when treated with protective coatings. Thus, parts made from these alloys require less maintenance.

· Good ductility

Ductility refers to a material's capacity to deform without breaking. Magnesium alloys, with their decent ductility, can undergo significant bending or stretching without failure.

· Thermal conductivity

Efficient heat dispersion is crucial in many applications. Magnesium alloys have a notable thermal conductivity rate, facilitating heat transfer in devices like heat sinks.

· Electrical conductivity

Magnesium's electrical conductivity enables its use in electronic components. Despite not matching copper, its conductivity serves applications where both weight and conduction matter.

· Dimensional stability

In CNC machining processes, maintaining precise dimensions is crucial. Magnesium alloys offer excellent dimensional stability, ensuring that parts retain their shape and size post-production.

· Castability

Magnesium alloys display high castability, making them ideal for intricate designs. Industries needing complex parts frequently opt for these alloys due to this property.

· Weldability

Joining parts becomes simpler with materials that weld well. Magnesium alloys exhibit good weldability, ensuring seamless connections in fabricated structures.

· High vibrational absorption

Machines and vehicles benefit from materials that absorb vibrations. Magnesium alloys excel in this aspect, providing smoother operations in many applications.

· Elastic modulus

The elastic modulus is a measure of material stiffness. Magnesium alloys have a decent modulus, offering rigidity where needed.

· Non-magnetic

In environments sensitive to magnetic fields, like electronics or MRI rooms, non-magnetic materials are essential. Magnesium alloys meet this criterion effectively.

· Low density

Apart from being lightweight, magnesium alloys have a low density. This property further amplifies their desirability in industries keen on weight-saving.

· Recyclability

Environmental concerns dictate the need for recyclable materials. Magnesium alloys are 100% recyclable, contributing to sustainability efforts.

· Biocompatible

Medical implants and devices require biocompatible materials. Magnesium alloys, recognized for their biocompatibility, have found applications in the biomedical realm.


Benefits of CNC Machining Magnesium!


· Fast cutting

Magnesium alloy, when machined, offers rapid cutting rates. In typical machining operations, the cutting speed can reach up to 600 meters per minute. Rapid cut rates translate to quicker production cycles, ensuring maximum throughput in minimal time.

· Reduced tool wear

Magnesium’s soft nature causes less strain on machining tools. Consequently, tools last longer, translating to lower maintenance and replacement costs.

· Lightweight components

Magnesium, with a density of about 1.74 g/cm³, ranks among the lightest structural materials. Components made from magnesium are substantially lighter than those manufactured from other metals.

· High precision

CNC machining of magnesium ensures components achieve tolerances as tight as ±0.005 inches. Such precision fosters the creation of intricate and highly detailed parts, essential for industries demanding strict specifications.

· Efficient material removal

Magnesium’s machinability allows for efficient chip and burr removal. With the correct feed rate and spindle speed, efficient material removal rates (MRR) can be achieved, minimizing the risk of defects.

· Cost-effective

Reduced tool wear, faster cutting, and efficient material removal collectively reduce production costs. Savings also arise from minimized energy usage and tool replacement expenses.

· Environmentally friendly

Magnesium machining generates recyclable chips. Reclaiming and recycling these chips further contribute to resource conservation and environmental preservation.

· Reduced machining time

Given magnesium’s favorable machinability, operations such as drilling, milling, and turning demand less time. Accelerated machining processes boost overall productivity.

· Excellent surface finish

Post machining, magnesium parts often exhibit a smooth surface, eliminating the need for secondary finishing processes. Surface roughness averages at Ra 0.8, making it suitable for most applications.

· Energy-saving

Magnesium’s nature requires less energy during machining processes. Hence, operations are more energy-efficient, contributing to reduced operational costs.

· Less waste

Precision machining of magnesium generates minimal waste. Utilizing advanced CNC technologies ensures optimal material use, thus reducing waste generation.

· Versatile designs

CNC machining allows the creation of complex and customized magnesium designs. Such versatility encourages innovation and meets diverse industry requirements.

· Simplified assembly

Magnesium components often integrate features that simplify assembly processes. Features like built-in fastening elements reduce the need for additional hardware.

· Good thermal dissipation

Magnesium parts dissipate heat effectively. Such thermal characteristics are particularly valuable in applications like electronic enclosures where heat management is vital.

· Enhanced strength-to-weight ratio

Despite its lightness, magnesium boasts an impressive strength-to-weight ratio, making it ideal for applications demanding strength without added weight.


Types of Magnesium Alloys Commonly Used in CNC Machining!

· AZ31B

AZ31B stands as a popular choice in CNC machining magnesium projects. Boasting a solid balance of strength and ductility, this alloy significantly reduces vibrations during operations. Its composition includes 3% aluminum and 1% zinc, thus enhancing its corrosion resistance.

· AZ91D

Recognized for excellent corrosion resistance, AZ91D has a composition of 9% aluminum and 1% zinc. For castings needing high durability, industry professionals turn to this alloy. Its widespread usage attests to its stellar performance.

· AM60B

AM60B, with a composition of 6% aluminum and 0.15% manganese, serves where ductility and energy absorption are paramount. Auto parts industries leverage this alloy for its impact resistance.

· AM50A

AM50A demonstrates slightly lower strength than AM60B but excels in elongation capabilities. Primarily composed of 5% aluminum, this alloy is chosen for intricate CNC machining designs.

· ZE41A

Adding zirconium and rare earth elements to magnesium creates ZE41A. This alloy excels in strength at elevated temperatures, making it suitable for aerospace components.

· EQ21A

EQ21A, containing 2% silver and 1% rare earth elements, emerges as an alloy for superior weldability. For high-strength weldable structures, EQ21A becomes an industry standard.

· WE54A

WE54A, known for its high-strength and low-creep properties under elevated temperatures, includes yttrium and rare earth elements. Industries with stringent fatigue resistance requirements favor this alloy.

· WE43

Rare earth elements, along with yttrium, form the composition of WE43. Noted for its long-term stability under high temperatures, this alloy fits applications like aircraft engine components.

· ZK60A

For high strength and good ductility, look to ZK60A. It contains 5-6% zinc and a minimal quantity of zirconium, earning its position in high-performance applications.

· AZ80

AZ80, consisting of 8.2% aluminum and 0.7% zinc, is appreciated for its substantial strength. It suits applications that demand high strength without a significant weight penalty.

· HM21A

Comprising 2% thorium and 1% zirconium, HM21A finds use where elevated temperature strength is crucial. Nuclear applications and jet engine parts are common applications for this alloy.

· AE42

AE42 stands as a notable choice for elevated temperature applications. With 4% aluminum and 2% rare earth elements, it offers significant creep resistance.

· QE22

QE22 contains 2% silver and 2% rare earth elements, forming a highly stable microstructure. For parts requiring strength and stability at high temperatures, this alloy is exceptional.

· ZC71

ZC71, with its major elements being 7% zinc and 1% zirconium, is engineered for superior strength and hardness. This combination offers a solid alternative to aluminum alloys for many components.

· EZ33

Comprising of 3% zirconium and a dash of rare earth, EZ33 excels in creep resistance. In sectors where long-term high-temperature stability is necessary, EZ33 is a frontrunner.


Alloy Type

Yield Strength (MPa)

Ultimate Tensile Strength (MPa)

Density (g/cm^3)

Corrosion Resistance

Thermal Conductivity (W/m·K)

Typical Application




























General Engineering





Very Good









Industrial Machines








Table on Types of Magnesium Alloys Commonly Used in CNC Machining!


Comparing Magnesium with Other CNC Machined Metals!


· Weight comparison

Magnesium stands out as the lightest of all structural metals, making it a primary choice in aerospace applications. A typical magnesium alloy weighs about 1.8 g/cm³, whereas aluminum alloys weigh around 2.7 g/cm³.

· Machining speed

When you deal with magnesium, expect faster machining speeds. Magnesium's chip formation ensures higher feed rates, leading to productivity gains. In comparison, metals like steel or iron demand slower machining speeds.

· Cost-effectiveness

Magnesium alloys, due to their reduced machining times and lesser tool wear, can be more cost-effective in the long run. Yet, the initial alloy cost might be higher than aluminum but lower than titanium.

· Surface finish

Achieving smooth surface finishes is more straightforward with magnesium. In CNC machining, magnesium often results in less burring and cleaner edges than other metals.

· Heat dissipation

Magnesium offers superior thermal conductivity. Almost 4 times greater than steel and 1.5 times that of aluminum, it helps in efficient heat dissipation in applications like electronics housings.

· Corrosion resistance

Despite misconceptions, magnesium alloys, especially those with rare earth elements, can exhibit excellent corrosion resistance, rivalling aluminum.

· Fatigue strength

Magnesium alloys like AZ91D have commendable fatigue strength, making them suitable for automotive and aerospace components under repetitive stress.

· Weldability

Generally, magnesium alloys present good weldability using techniques like tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding. However, achieving this demands specific expertise.

· Recyclability

Magnesium scrap retains a high value, facilitating recycling efforts. Almost 50% of magnesium used in the U.S. gets reclaimed from scrap.

· Vibrational absorption

Vehicles and electronic gadgets benefit from magnesium's inherent capacity to absorb vibrations, enhancing user experience without compromising structural integrity.

· Conductivity

While magnesium's electrical conductivity falls behind metals like copper, its thermal conductivity plays an essential role in heat-sensitive applications.

· Tensile strength

Depending on the alloy type, magnesium offers tensile strength ranging from 152 MPa to 310 MPa. While this might not rival steel's strength, it's more than adequate for specific applications considering its light weight.

· Elasticity

With a modulus of elasticity around 45 GPa, magnesium alloys find usage in areas where flexibility without deformation is crucial.

· Hardness

The hardness of magnesium alloys can range between 60-100 on the Brinell scale, making them softer than steel but harder than some aluminum alloys.

· Durability

Given the right protection, magnesium parts can offer durability comparable to or even surpassing other CNC machined metals, ensuring longevity in demanding conditions.


Tool Selection for Magnesium Machining!

· Carbide cutters

These remain essential for magnesium machining. Carbide offers extended tool life and precise cuts, making it ideal for intricate parts.

· High-speed steel (HSS)

HSS tools, although not as hard as carbide, offer flexibility. Their toughness ensures they resist chipping under varying conditions.

· Polycrystalline diamond (PCD)

Recognized for its hardness and thermal conductivity, PCD tools promise reduced wear, especially in high-volume machining.

· End mills

It’s essential for profile and contour milling. For magnesium, select end mills with a sharp edge and fluted designs.

· Face mills

These ensure smooth surfaces. Optimally, a face mill with a positive rake angle is most suitable for magnesium.

· Drills

When drilling magnesium, consider the drill's tip angle. A 118-degree point angle tends to be standard, ensuring clean, burr-free holes.

· Turning tools

For magnesium lathes, select a tool with a sharp cutting edge. It reduces the force exerted on the workpiece.

· Taps

Proper threading in magnesium necessitates sharp taps. Dull taps risk binding and breakage.

· Reamers

For precise holes, reamers play a pivotal role. Those with straight flutes ensure the best finish in magnesium.

· Hollow mills

Ideal for producing symmetrical shapes, it ensures the tool's cutting edges are sharp for optimal magnesium removal.

· Thread mills

When threading is essential, thread mills, especially those with a full profile, ensure accuracy in magnesium parts.

· Tool coatings

Coatings such as TiN or TiAlN can extend the tool life while magnesium machining. They reduce wear and friction, ensuring smoother machining.

· Spindle speed

Regulating the spindle speed is vital. Too fast, and magnesium may ignite; too slow, and the tool may wear out quickly. Always consult the tool manufacturer's guidelines.

· Tool geometry

The shape and design of the tool significantly impact machining quality. In magnesium, tools with a positive rake angle and sharp edges reduce cutting forces, ensuring a better finish.


Coolants and Lubrication in Magnesium Machining!

· Water-soluble Coolants

When you machine magnesium, water-soluble coolants prove beneficial. Such coolants offer superb cooling properties. But, ensure the coolant concentration is optimal. Too high or too low concentrations can increase flammability risks.

· Neat Oils

For magnesium machining, neat oils provide a consistent finish. With a high viscosity index, these oils render an even, stable operation. Yet, be cautious with storage; they can degrade over time.

· Emulsion

An emulsion mixes water and oil. For magnesium, an emulsion brings efficient heat dissipation. Thus, the workpiece remains cooler, reducing the potential for warping.

· Synthetic Coolants

Synthetic coolants stand out for their chemical stability. When machining magnesium, opt for those with no sulfur, chlorine, or phosphorus. Such elements can react adversely with magnesium, leading to surface defects.

· Mist Applications

When space and fluidity matter, consider mist applications. These fine sprays disperse directly onto the cutting zone, ensuring precise cooling. Moreover, mist reduces the volume of coolant used.

· Flood Cooling

For high-intensity CNC Machining Magnesium tasks, flood cooling works wonders. It provides comprehensive coverage, ensuring every part cools uniformly. However, keep in mind; excess can lead to waste.

· Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL)

MQL stands for a technique using minimal lubrication. Here, the aim is efficiency. You deliver just the right amount of lubricant to the cutting edge, thus conserving resources and reducing costs.

· Cutting Oil

A staple in the machining world, cutting oil aids in reducing friction. By doing so, it prolongs tool life and ensures smoother cuts on magnesium surfaces.

· Chlorinated Compounds

While beneficial in some applications, chlorinated compounds pose challenges with magnesium. Avoid them as they can induce corrosion.

· Antioxidants

Introduce antioxidants to counter oxidation threats. Oxidation can deteriorate magnesium's quality. So, antioxidants play a crucial role in maintaining the material's integrity.

· Rust Preventatives

Magnesium, though less prone than some metals, can corrode. Apply rust preventatives after machining to safeguard the final product from unwanted rusting.

· Flash Point Consideration

Lastly, always heed the flash point. Magnesium, when ignited, burns intensely. Hence, all coolants and lubricants must have high flash points to ensure maximum safety.


Magnesium Machining Techniques!

· Drilling

Start with magnesium-specific twist drills. Opt for speeds of 300 RPM for 1/4-inch diameter holes, advancing to 1,500 RPM for 1/8-inch diameter holes. Proper drilling prevents unwanted deformation.

· Milling

High-speed steel (HSS) or carbide tools effectively handle milling. Aim for a cutting speed of 285 feet per minute (FPM) using HSS tools, while carbide allows speeds up to 1000 FPM.

· Turning

Employ sharp tools with positive rake angles. Achieve surface finishes of 32 micro-inches or better with feed rates of 0.005 to 0.015 inches per revolution.

· Boring

Use sharp, HSS tools with a feed rate of 0.002 to 0.010 inches per revolution. Correct cnc horizontal boring tool geometry ensures precise holes without chipping.

· Threading

Opt for 10 to 12 threads per inch. A 29-degree tool angle ensures quality threads on magnesium components.

· Tapping

Tap at 60-75 FPM for best results. Employ spiral-pointed or spiral-fluted taps for optimal thread form and finish.

· Broaching

Keep broaches sharp. Employ light, continuous pressure to achieve quality surfaces.

· Grinding

For precision work, use silicon-carbide or aluminum-oxide wheels. Maintain wheel speeds between 4,500 to 6,500 FPM for optimal material removal.

· Honing

Magnesium benefits from the use of standard honing stones. Aim for stone speeds between 120 and 150 FPM.

· Sawing

Band saws and circular saws work best. Blade speeds of 10,000 to 15,000 FPM maximize efficiency.

· Reaming

Achieve hole accuracies of 0.0005 inches or better. Use carbide or HSS reamers at speeds of 150 to 300 RPM.

· Engraving

Precise tool geometry ensures clean, sharp lines. Utilize speeds similar to milling for optimal results. In this case, engraving and milling machine can be helpful.

· EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining)

A non-traditional method, EDM, can shape magnesium without direct tool contact. Dielectric fluid specifics for magnesium enhance the process.

· Deep hole drilling

Prevent overheating by using appropriate coolants. Drill depths of up to 30 times the diameter become possible with specialized equipment.


Tips for Achieving Desired Surface Finishes!

· Optimal feed rates

To guarantee an exceptional surface finish during CNC Machining Magnesium, determine the best feed rate. Remember, higher feed rates can lead to surface blemishes. Utilize values ranging between 0.004 and 0.006 inches per tooth.

· Tool sharpness

A blunt tool damages magnesium surfaces. Regularly inspect and maintain the sharpness of tools. Cutting edges should remain sharp; frequent tool inspection reduces wear.

· Coolant application

Proper coolant use prevents overheating and maximizes tool lifespan. Deliver the coolant directly to the tool-magnesium contact point, ensuring maximum efficiency.

· Rigidity maintenance

Firmly secure all machine components. Increased rigidity ensures consistent contact between the tool and magnesium, preventing unnecessary blemishes.

· Vibration control

Vibrations cause surface imperfections. Employ anti-vibration tool holders and monitor spindle health to reduce these disruptions.

· Proper speeds

Magnesium has an optimal cutting speed of approximately 250-650 SFM. Adjust machine speeds according to tool diameter and type.

· Finishing passes

Integrate light finishing passes after roughing. Decreasing the depth of cut by 0.010 to 0.015 inches during finishing contributes to smoother surfaces.

· Tool selection

For magnesium, carbide tools work best. Tools with large, positive rake angles enhance the chip evacuation process, ensuring an immaculate surface.

· Multi-stage processes

Avoid completing machining in a single stage. Segregate operations like roughing, semi-finishing, and finishing to improve outcomes.

· Deburring

Magnesium edges tend to burr. Immediately after machining, employ manual or mechanical deburring techniques to attain a refined finish.

· Surface treatments

Post-machining, consider chemical or electrochemical treatments. Such processes can improve corrosion resistance and overall aesthetic appeal.

· Clamping strategies

Ensure secure clamping, but avoid excessive force. Over-clamping may deform magnesium, affecting the precision of machining.

· Minimize tool changes

Every tool change introduces potential for errors. Limit changes by using multi-functional tools and optimizing operational sequences.


Applications of CNC Machined Magnesium Components! 

· Aerospace

Magnesium, lighter than aluminum by 33%, stands vital in aerospace components. CNC machining magnesium guarantees precision and durability. Weight-saving remains a priority. Using magnesium components ensures fuel efficiency and improved flight range.

· Automotive

With the push for eco-friendly cars, automakers lean on magnesium. CNC machined magnesium parts enhance structural integrity. Lightweight properties lead to better fuel economy. Magnesium steering wheels, housings, and gearboxes are common.

· Medical Devices

CNC machined magnesium offers biocompatibility. Surgeons use it for critical implants. Over time, these implants dissolve safely in the body. Surgical tools also benefit from magnesium’s lightweight strength.

· Electronics

Portability matters. Hence, lightweight magnesium finds usage in electronic housings and frames. CNC machined magnesium provides thermal conductivity, shielding electronics from overheating.

· Sports Equipment

Durability and weight influence sports performance. Hence, racquets, clubs, and protective gear utilize CNC machined magnesium. Their presence ensures athletes achieve optimal efficiency.

· Military

Military sectors recognize magnesium's value. From missile casings to vehicle components, CNC machined magnesium serves vital roles. Strength and lightness translate to mobility and tactical advantage.

· Telecommunications

Mobile devices and communication gear rely on magnesium. CNC machining ensures precision mold and durability in these critical components. Antenna housings and connectors often employ magnesium.

· Robotics

With automation on the rise, robotics employs magnesium. CNC machined parts, like arms and chassis, benefit from magnesium's weight and strength. Enhanced mobility and longer operational life follow.

· Optical Devices

Cameras, telescopes, and binoculars demand precision. CNC machined magnesium gives them a lightweight and robust framework. Stability and clarity get accentuated.

· Power Tools

Efficiency is paramount. Hence, magnesium contributes to tool housings. CNC machining provides these tools with resilience against daily wear.

· Musical Instruments

Sound quality and instrument longevity matter. Many wind instruments have components from CNC machined magnesium, ensuring pitch perfection and reduced wear.

· Biomedical Implants

Safe, biocompatible, and dissolvable, magnesium stands out. CNC machining crafts precise implants, catering to diverse medical industry needs.

· Drones

Magnesium provides lightweight durability. CNC machined drone parts enhance flight time and stability.

· Railways

Trains demand strength and weight management. Components like seating frameworks benefit from CNC machined magnesium, offering passengers both comfort and safety.



CNC Machining Magnesium brings forward multiple advantages and challenges. From lightweight components to flammability concerns, it's diverse. A range of magnesium alloys enable varied applications. Tool selection and precautions ensure quality and safety.

For unparalleled magnesium machining services, explore CNCYANGSEN. Your next project deserves expertise and precision.

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