The Ultimate Guide to CNC Machining Zinc: Tips, Techniques, and Safety Considerations


About Zinc

The widespread use of zinc in various industries stems from its versatility and adaptability. Among the diverse range of materials, zinc alloys, such as zinc-aluminum and zinc-copper, hold a prominent position in CNC machining applications. These alloys are favored due to their remarkable strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion.

What sets zinc apart is its exceptional malleability, enabling easy shaping and formation of intricate geometries through CNC machines. This quality makes it a perfect fit for manufacturing parts and components that demand intricate designs and precise tolerances.

Beyond its mechanical properties, zinc is renowned for its aesthetic charm. It can be effortlessly enhanced with various surface treatments, including plating, painting, and powder coating. Consequently, zinc remains a sought-after choice for decorative parts and fixtures.

Considering all aspects, zinc stands as a reliable and cost-effective material for CNC machining applications. Its unique combination of strength, malleability, and aesthetic appeal makes it a favored choice across a wide array of industries.


Zamak 3 (Zinc alloy 3)

Zamak 3, also known as Zinc alloy 3, is one of the most commonly used zinc alloys in the CNC machining industry. It is a versatile and reliable material that offers a range of advantages for various applications. Zamak 3 is composed of zinc, aluminum, magnesium, and copper, and is known for its excellent mechanical properties, high fluidity, and low melting point.

Advantages: There are several advantages of using Zamak 3 for CNC machining. Firstly, it is highly versatile and can be easily molded into complex shapes and geometries. This makes it ideal for producing intricate parts and components. Secondly, Zamak 3 has excellent strength and durability, making it suitable for applications that require high load-bearing capacity. Thirdly, it has a low melting point, which means it can be easily cast and machined using low-energy methods. Finally, Zamak 3 is cost-effective, making it an attractive option for many applications.

Disadvantages: While there are many advantages of using Zamak 3, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. One of the main disadvantages is that it is relatively brittle compared to other metals, which can make it more prone to cracking and failure under high stress or impact loads. Additionally, it is not as corrosion-resistant as other alloys, which means it may not be suitable for outdoor applications or harsh environments. Finally, the high zinc content in Zamak 3 can make it more difficult to recycle than other metals, which can impact its overall sustainability.

Surface Finishes

Zinc is a popular material for CNC machining due to its unique combination of strength, malleability, and aesthetic appeal. To enhance its appearance and protect it from wear and tear, zinc parts can be finished with a variety of surface treatments. Two of the most common surface finishes for zinc are painting and chrome plating.


Painting is a popular surface finish for zinc parts because it offers several advantages. Firstly, it provides a high level of corrosion resistance, which is essential for parts that will be exposed to harsh environments. Secondly, painting allows for a wide range of color options and can be used to create custom finishes that match specific branding or design requirements. Finally, painting is a cost-effective finish option that can be applied quickly and efficiently, making it ideal for high-volume production runs.

Disadvantages of Painting: While painting offers several advantages, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. Firstly, painted finishes may be less durable than other surface finishes, particularly in high-stress or high-temperature environments. Secondly, painted finishes may require more maintenance and touch-up over time to maintain their appearance and functionality. Finally, painted finishes may be more prone to chipping, cracking, or peeling, which can impact the overall appearance and durability of the finished part.

Chrome Plating

Chrome plating is another popular surface finish for zinc parts. It provides a durable and attractive finish that is highly corrosion-resistant and offers excellent wear resistance. Additionally, chrome plating can be used to achieve a high level of surface hardness, which makes it ideal for parts that will be exposed to high wear and tear. Finally, chrome plating provides a high level of aesthetic appeal and can be used to create custom finishes that enhance the appearance of the finished product.

Disadvantages of Chrome Plating: While chrome plating offers several advantages, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider. Firstly, chrome plating can be more expensive than other surface finishes, particularly for smaller production runs. Secondly, chrome plating may require more time and effort to apply, which can impact production timelines. Finally, chrome plating may not be suitable for all applications, particularly those that require high levels of thermal or electrical conductivity, as the chrome layer can act as an insulator.

Design Tips

  1. Consider draft angles: Zinc is a relatively soft and malleable material, which means it can be prone to warping or distortion during machining. To avoid this, it’s important to include draft angles in your design to ensure that parts can be easily removed from the mold or die.
  2. Design for uniform wall thickness: Uneven wall thickness can cause uneven cooling and can result in parts that are prone to warping or cracking. To avoid this, it’s important to design parts with uniform wall thickness wherever possible.
  3. Avoid sharp corners: Sharp corners can create stress points in zinc parts, which can lead to cracking or failure over time. To avoid this, it’s important to design parts with rounded corners or fillets wherever possible.
  4. Consider the orientation of features: The orientation of features such as ribs, bosses, and through-holes can have a significant impact on the strength and durability of zinc parts. It’s important to consider the orientation of these features to ensure that they are aligned with the direction of expected loads and stresses.
  5. Avoid undercuts: Undercuts are features that cannot be easily machined using CNC methods and can require additional tooling or processing steps. To avoid this, it’s important to design parts with minimal undercuts wherever possible.


Can you CNC zinc?

Yes, zinc is a popular material for CNC machining and can be machined using a variety of cutting tools and techniques. However, it’s important to note that zinc is a relatively soft material compared to other metals, which can impact the optimal cutting speed and feed rates.

What cutting speed for zinc?

The cutting speed for zinc can vary depending on the specific grade of the material, the tooling used, and the type of machining process being used. However, generally speaking, cutting speeds for zinc typically range from 50 to 150 meters per minute (165 to 500 feet per minute).

Can you cut through zinc? 

Yes, it is possible to cut through zinc using CNC machining methods. However, the specific cutting tools and techniques used may vary depending on the thickness of the material and the specific design requirements of the part.

How toxic is zinc?

Zinc is generally considered to be a relatively low-toxicity material. However, it’s important to take appropriate safety precautions when handling and machining zinc, as prolonged exposure to zinc dust or fumes can cause respiratory irritation and other health issues. It’s important to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling and machining zinc, including respirators, gloves, and eye protection. Additionally, it’s important to work in a well-ventilated area and to follow all appropriate safety protocols to minimize the risk of exposure.

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