Expert Tips for CNC Machining of ABS: Advantages, Disadvantages, and Best Practices


About ABS

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a commonly used thermoplastic polymer that is popular in the manufacturing industry. It is a versatile material that is known for its strength, durability, and high impact resistance, making it ideal for a wide range of applications.

ABS can be easily machined using CNC machining technology, which makes it a popular choice for producing parts and components with intricate designs and complex geometries. It also has good heat resistance, making it suitable for use in environments with high temperatures.

One of the benefits of ABS is its ability to be easily molded and shaped, which allows for the production of parts with tight tolerances and smooth finishes. It can also be easily colored or painted to match specific design requirements.

Overall, ABS is a reliable and cost-effective material that is widely used in the manufacturing industry for a variety of applications, including automotive parts, electronic housings, toys, and consumer goods. Its versatility and machinability make it an ideal material for CNC machining processes.


General ABS

ABS is easy to machine and has excellent dimensional stability. CNC-machined ABS is ideal for applications that require hard-wearing, low-cost parts like tool enclosures or casings.

Surface Finishes


As-Machined finish refers to the surface finish that is left after the part is machined with CNC tools. This type of finish is characterized by tool marks and surface texture, which can be either rough or smooth, depending on the cutting parameters and the type of tool used. The advantage of as-machined finish is that it is a cost-effective option that requires minimal post-processing. However, the surface may not be suitable for all applications, as it may not have the desired aesthetics or smoothness.

Bead Blast

Bead Blast is a post-processing technique that involves shooting small glass beads at high velocity onto the surface of the ABS part. This process removes any burrs or rough edges, and creates a uniform, matte finish. Bead Blasting can be an effective way to improve the aesthetics and functionality of ABS parts, as it provides a smooth, consistent surface finish. However, the process can be time-consuming and may add to the overall cost of the manufacturing process.

The choice between as-machined and Bead Blast surface finishes for ABS parts depends on the specific requirements of the application. As-machined is a cost-effective option that may be suitable for parts that do not require a high level of aesthetics, while Bead Blast is a more labor-intensive but effective way to achieve a smooth, uniform surface finish.

Design Tips

  1. Avoid sharp corners: ABS has low impact strength and can be prone to cracking or chipping at sharp corners. To avoid this, it is recommended to use rounded corners and fillets in the design.
  2. Keep wall thickness consistent: Uneven wall thickness can cause warping or distortion during the CNC machining process. To prevent this, ensure that the wall thickness is consistent throughout the part.
  3. Use proper support structures: ABS can be prone to warping or distortion during the machining process, especially for large parts or those with thin walls. Using proper support structures and fixtures can help prevent this and ensure accurate and consistent machining.
  4. Consider part orientation: The orientation of the part during machining can have an impact on the surface finish and accuracy of the part. It is important to consider the best orientation for the part to ensure the desired results.
  5. Optimize tool selection: Choosing the right tool and cutting parameters can help optimize the machining process and improve the quality of the finished part. Consider factors such as tool geometry, feed rates, and cutting speeds when selecting tools for CNC machining of ABS.


Recommended Read: Mastering the Art of Plastic CNC Machining: A Comprehensive Guide


Is ABS plastic good for machining?

Yes, ABS plastic is generally considered to be a good material for CNC machining. It is a versatile thermoplastic that is easy to machine, and can be used to produce parts with tight tolerances and intricate geometries. ABS can also be easily colored or painted to match specific design requirements.

What are the disadvantages of ABS plastic?

While ABS plastic has many advantages, there are some potential disadvantages to consider. For example, ABS can be prone to warping or distortion during the machining process, especially for large parts or those with thin walls. It is also relatively brittle, which can make it susceptible to cracking or chipping at sharp corners. Additionally, ABS can be sensitive to environmental factors such as heat and UV radiation, which can affect its mechanical properties over time.

Is ABS stronger than PVC?

ABS and PVC are both types of thermoplastic that are commonly used in manufacturing. While both materials have their own advantages and disadvantages, ABS is generally considered to be stronger and more durable than PVC. ABS is known for its high impact resistance and toughness, making it a popular choice for applications that require strength and durability.

Can you drill holes in ABS?

Yes, ABS can be easily drilled using standard drilling equipment. However, it is important to use the appropriate drilling speed and cutting parameters to avoid overheating the material and causing warping or distortion.

Can you vacuum form ABS?

Yes, ABS can be easily vacuum formed using standard vacuum forming equipment. It is a popular material for vacuum forming due to its ease of processing, good impact resistance, and ability to be colored or painted. However, it is important to use the appropriate forming temperature and vacuum pressure to avoid warping or distortion of the material.

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