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cnc machining abs

Mastering ABS CNC Machining: Tips for Precision Engineering

Plastics are core to various industries since they are mostly affordable and lightweight. Depending on the plastic, these materials provide unique properties, including elasticity, and chemical and electrical resistance.

ABS finds use in applications requiring strong, stable plastic with moderate formability. It is a suitable 3D printing and rapid prototyping material for various applications ranging from automotive interiors, plumbing fittings, home appliances, musical instruments, and consumer goods. Manufacturers rely on ABS CNC machining to produce top-quality, precise ABS parts with tight tolerances.

This article discusses ABS plastic and the benefits and setbacks of CNC machining ABS plastic. Continue reading to learn about typical ABS parts applications and expert tips for effective machining!

What Is ABS?

what is abs
What is ABS

ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is a popular plastic material with an excellent combination of material properties. This thermoplastic polymer exhibits various customizable properties besides good heat, electrical and chemical resistance, high impact strength, and toughness based on the additives introduced to its chemical composition. However, it has a relatively low melting point compared to certain engineering plastics like PEEK and PC.

ABS is usually created from monomer compounds such as acrylonitrile, butadiene, styrene, and other preferred additives. You can melt and reshape ABS plastic stock with 3D printing, injection molding, or extrusion. Precision ABS CNC machining is your go-to option for machined parts with stringent quality requirements and tight tolerances.

Benefits of CNC Machining ABS

cnc machined abs conic parts 1
CNC Machined ABS Conic Parts

CNC machining ABS plastic offers several advantages, making it a widely embraced choice across industries. Here are some of the expected benefits:

  • It is a cost-effective method for producing ABS parts with complex geometries and tight tolerances since you don’t have to create a mold when CNC machining ABS plastic.
  • CNC machining ABS plastic allows it to retain its mechanical properties, such as high toughness and tensile strength.
  • Manufacturers can deliver ABS prototypes and end-use parts to customers faster using CNC machining processes.
  • The cost-effectiveness of ABS CNC machining makes it well-suited for producing low- to medium-volume ABS parts.
  • ABS CNC machining allows manufacturers to produce precise plastic components with complex geometries and intricate designs.

Common ABS CNC Machining Challenges

abs cnc turning
ABS CNC Turning

Despite the extensive advantages ABS plastic offers, machinists encounter some setbacks during its machining. Some of these ABS CNC machining challenges include:

  • ABS CNC machining requires special tools and expertise to create top-quality precision machined parts.
  • CNC-machined ABS parts are often susceptible to machining defects like poor surface finish and distortion.
  • Scratches or lines made by CNC machines can cause leaks in ABS fittings or make transparent ABS parts look foggy.
  • Incorrect cutting parameters, cutting tools, and extreme heat build-up often affect the surface quality of ABS plastic in CNC machining.
  • Since ABS plastic experiences high thermal expansion when exposed to heat, excessive material can be removed, which becomes evident when the workpiece cools and shrinks.
  • ABS plastic experiences high heat buildup at the cutting zone because of its relatively low thermal conductivity and heat deflection temperature range. Hence, the material softens and deforms easily.

Typical Applications of CNC Machined ABS Parts

precision cnc machined abs part
Precision CNC Machined ABS Part

ABS plastic is a versatile material with vast applications in different industries, especially for machined prototypes and structural components. Here are some of the typical uses of  machine ABS plastic parts:


CNC-machined ABS parts are used extensively in the automotive industry due to their low cost, rigidity, low weight, and shock absorbance characteristics. Typical ABS automotive parts include driveline spares, wheel covers, protective bumpers, steering, vehicle dashboards, and suspension components.

Electronics and Electrical

Manufacturers in the electronics industry often use ABS plastic for various applications, including computer keyboards, enclosures, power plugs, insulators, power-tool housings, and power plugs.


CNC-machined ABS components have different uses in the medical sector. Typical medical ABS parts include drug delivery systems, compressors, lab equipment housing, pharmaceutical packaging, and ultrasound equipment.


Manufacturers in the defense industry CNC machine ABS plastic for different parts and components because of its remarkable toughness and high-impact resistance. Typical uses of ABS plastics in safety and defense field include hard hats, protective headgear, defense pads, and hard hats.

Food Processing

The food processing industry utilizes various ABS parts because of the material’s good heat resistance and chemical resistance properties. CNC-machined ABS plastics are commonly used in food dryers, refrigerator liners, ovens, food processors, and juice presses.

Expert Tips for  Effective ABS CNC Machining

abs cnc machined part
ABS CNC Machined Part

Despite ABS’ excellent balance of materials, several pitfalls are associated with machining acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. In this section, we will explore the helpful tips for efficient ABS CNC machining:

Use Machine-Grade ABS Plastic

Generally, ABS plastics are of different grades, each with distinct formulations optimized for machining, extrusion, or casting. Hence, consider using machine-grade ABS plastics when drilling, milling, or turning to ensure better chip formation and excellent surface finish.

Adjust Your Cutting Parameters

Adapting your cutting parameters is essential to achieve the best results in ABS plastic machining. Making extremely deep or shallow cuts in a single pass can lead to machining chatter or deform your machined ABS parts. Besides, incompatible feed rates or cutting speeds can result in excessive heat build-up that affects your ABS products.

Although you need an experienced expert to find suitable cutting parameters for your parts, significant quality improvements compensate for optimizing this aspect of the machining process. However, ensure the ABS workpiece is firmly held in the CNC machine without being over-compressed to avoid distortion in the final part.

Consider Annealing the ABS Plastic

Unannealed plastic parts may have large internal stresses not usually visible in the stock material. These internal stresses could distort finished products if the ABS material is heated during machining or use, warping its dimensions outside tolerance limits.

However, machining experts recommend putting ABS plastic in a heat treatment oven before machining. Heat the material slowly, maintaining the annealing temperature, then cool it slowly to relieve internal stresses.

Use Suitable Cutting Fluid

cnc milled abs part
CNC Milled ABS Part

Overheating and deformation can occur when machining ABS plastic. Use an appropriate coolant to mitigate heat build-up and prevent the workpiece from machining complications or defects. Although ABS plastic exhibits good overall chemical resistance performance, machining it with coolants designed for ceramics or metals can lead to contamination.

Experts recommend using a non-aromatic, water-soluble coolant for plastic machining when fabricating ABS parts. Depending on the machined part’s design and preferred coolant, you can apply plastic coolant as a continuous mist, a jet of pressurized gas, or a flowing liquid.

Use Appropriate Cutting Tools

The machine tools suitable for CNC milling titanium alloys or high-strength steel are unsuitable for ABS plastics. Experts recommend using the cutting tools designed for plastic in CNC machining ABS parts, such as carbide end mills or router bits. Moreover, it is crucial to ensure these CNC tools have sharp edges to prevent damaging the surface of the plastic parts, especially when machining thin or intricate parts that can be easily distorted.

AT-Machining: Your Reliable ABS Machined Parts Supplier

abs acrylonitrile cnc machining
ABS (acrylonitrile) CNC Machining

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic is a common thermoplastic with good mechanical properties and manufacturability for low-volume production and custom parts. CNC-machined ABS parts are widely used in different industries due to this cost-effective material’s excellent impact strength, rigidity, and toughness characteristics. However, understanding the basics of ABS CNC machining is critical to ensuring the desired outcome and preventing complications.

AT-Machining is your best bet when you need high-quality parts at an affordable rate. We leverage our cutting-edge CNC machines and machining capabilities to ensure your ABS parts meet surface finish and tolerance requirements. We also have various quality assurance certifications. Our expert technicians have extensive experience in the different secondary processing and surface finishing treatments for your machined parts. Are you curious about how we can help you with your next ABS machining project? Contact us now to talk to a machining expert at AT-Machining.

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Hey there, I’m Sam!

From AT-Machining, I’m a CNC Machining Expert in this field for more than 20 years.  We offer cost-effective machining services from China. Ask for a quote for your ongoing or upcoming projects now!

Best Regards, Sam, Co-Founder

AT Machining

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