CNC Machining VS Die Casting: How to Choose?

As a CNC Machining Service leader, I often encounter clients perplexed by the choice between CNC machining and die casting. It’s a crucial decision that can significantly impact the quality, cost, and efficiency of your product manufacturing. So, let’s dive into this vital decision-making process together.

Choosing between CNC machining and die casting is not just a technical decision; it’s about aligning your production needs with the proper process. It boils down to understanding the specifics of your project, from precision requirements to production volume.

In this article, we’ll explore both techniques in detail. As an industry expert, I’ll guide you through each process’s intricacies, helping you make an informed decision for your next project.

Introduction: Understanding the Core of CNC Machining and Die Casting

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining is a subtractive process where material is removed to create parts. It’s renowned for its precision and flexibility, capable of producing complex designs with high accuracy.

Die casting, on the other hand, is a formative process. It involves forcing molten metal under high pressure into mold cavities. This method is ideal for mass production, offering consistency and cost-effectiveness for large quantities. It’s a go-to for industries requiring high-volume parts runs with relatively more straightforward geometries.

Material Considerations: Which Process Suits Your Needs?

CNC Machining: A Broad Material Spectrum

CNC machining excels in its ability to handle a diverse array of materials. Metals like aluminum, steel, stainless steel, brass, copper, titanium, and even superalloys are well-suited for CNC machining. Not just metals; plastics, composites, and even wood can be precisely shaped using CNC machines.

Key Advantage: The versatility in material choices makes CNC machining ideal for specialized applications requiring specific material properties. Whether it’s aluminum’s lightweight nature, titanium’s strength, or stainless steel’s corrosion resistance, CNC machining can accommodate.

Die Casting: Focused on Non-Ferrous Metals

Die casting, on the other hand, primarily uses non-ferrous metals. Aluminum, zinc, and magnesium are the most common. These materials are chosen for their excellent flow characteristics, which are crucial in ensuring the molten metal fills the mold completely and uniformly.

Key Advantage: Aluminum is particularly popular in die casting for its lightweight, strength, and corrosion resistance, making it ideal for automotive, consumer electronics, and various other industries.

Precision and Complexity: Comparing Tolerances and Design Capabilities

CNC Machining: The Pinnacle of Precision and Design Complexity

CNC machining is synonymous with high precision and the ability to produce complex geometries. The level of detail that CNC machines can achieve is unmatched.


With CNC machining, we often talk about tolerances as tight as ±0.0005 inches (±0.0127 mm) or even tighter. This degree of precision is crucial in industries like aerospace, medical devices, and any application where minute inaccuracies can have significant consequences.

Complex Geometries

The ability to produce complex shapes and intricate features is another hallmark of CNC machining. With advanced multi-axis machines, we can create parts with undercuts, deep cavities, intricate channels, and complex surfaces that would be challenging or impossible to achieve with die casting.


Die Casting: Consistency in Simpler Geometries

Die casting, while not matching the ultra-high precision of CNC machining, still offers a respectable level of accuracy and consistency, particularly suitable for simpler geometries.


Typical tolerances for die casting can range from ±0.002 inches (±0.05 mm) to ±0.005 inches (±0.13 mm), depending on the material and size of the part. While these tolerances are more comprehensive than those achievable with CNC machining, they are often adequate for many applications, especially in consumer goods and automotive components.

Design Simplicity and Consistency

Die casting produces parts with uniform wall thickness and less complex geometries. It’s ideal for designs that prioritize consistency and repeatability over intricate details. This process ensures uniformity across thousands or millions of parts, essential for mass-produced items.

Production Volume: Analyzing Scalability and Cost-Effectiveness

CNC Machining: Ideal for Low to Medium Volumes

CNC machining is highly adaptable and scalable for low to medium-volume production. This flexibility is a significant advantage for prototypes, custom parts, or short production runs.

Cost Dynamics

With CNC machining, the cost per part is relatively stable, regardless of the quantity produced. However, the initial setup and tooling costs can be significant. These costs might constitute a considerable portion of the overall expense for small batch sizes. As the batch size increases, the price per unit decreases, making CNC machining more cost-effective for medium-sized runs.

Scalability and Flexibility

One of the critical benefits of CNC machining is its ability to adapt to design changes easily, even during production. This flexibility is invaluable for projects requiring customization or iterative design improvements.


Die Casting: The Champion of High-Volume Production

Die casting is the preferred method for high-volume production runs due to its excellent scalability and lower per-unit costs at large scales.

Cost Advantages at Scale

The initial cost of creating molds (dies) is substantial in die casting. However, once the dies are made, they can be used to produce a large number of parts very cost-effectively. The per-unit cost decreases significantly with the number of factors produced, making die casting an economical choice for mass production.

Speed and Consistency

Die casting allows for rapid production once the setup is complete. The process ensures consistent quality across thousands or even millions of parts, essential for large-scale manufacturing.


Surface Finish and Aesthetics: A Comparison

CNC Machining: Superior Surface Finish and Detail

CNC machining is renowned for its superior surface finishes and ability to create highly detailed parts.

Exceptional Surface Quality

The precision of CNC machining tools allows for exceptionally smooth surfaces right out of the machine. This level of finish is often sufficient for many applications without additional processing. Processes like sanding, bead blasting, or anodizing can be employed for even higher quality requirements.

Intricate Detailing

The capability to achieve fine details makes CNC machining ideal for applications where aesthetics are essential. This includes consumer electronics, custom automotive parts, and medical devices, where both functionality and visual appeal are critical.


Die Casting: Consistent, Good Quality Finishes

Die casting also offers good surface finishes and can incorporate textures or logos directly into the mold.

Good Surface Quality with Post-Processing

While the initial surface quality from die casting is generally good, it may require post-processing (like sanding or painting) to achieve the desired aesthetic. This is particularly true for parts that need a high-gloss or specific surface texture.

Uniformity in Mass Production

One of the strengths of die casting is the consistency it offers, especially in mass production. Each part will have a uniform surface finish, which is essential for maintaining aesthetic standards across a large volume of products.


Durability and Strength: Which Process Offers More?

CNC Machining: Robustness Through Material Choices

CNC machining stands out for its ability to produce highly durable and robust parts, primarily due to the wide range of materials it can process.

Strength of Machined Parts

The materials used in CNC machining, such as steel, titanium, and high-strength alloys, inherently possess high tensile strength and durability. Machined parts are ideal for applications requiring substantial mechanical strength or endurance under stress.

Customization for Durability

CNC machining allows for the customization of parts to enhance their durability. Specific machining techniques and design optimizations can be employed to reinforce stress points and improve the overall longevity of the parts.

Die Casting: Inherent Strength with Material Limitations

Die casting also produces solid and durable parts, but its material options are more limited than CNC machining.

Strength of Cast Parts

Die-cast parts are generally robust, with good dimensional stability and resistance to impact. Aluminum and zinc alloys used in die casting are known for their durability and are often sufficient for many applications.

Considerations for Strength

In die casting, the design of the part plays a crucial role in its strength. Uniform wall thickness, including ribs and gussets, and eliminating stress concentrators are essential design considerations to maximize the power of die-cast parts.


Customization and Flexibility: Adapting to Design Changes

CNC Machining: The Epitome of Customization and Flexibility

CNC machining is inherently flexible and adaptable, making it ideal for projects requiring customization or frequent design changes.

Easy Adaptation to Design Changes

One of the greatest strengths of CNC machining is the ease with which it can accommodate design changes. Since software controls the process, modifications can be made relatively quickly and without significant additional costs, especially in the early stages of production.

Customization Capabilities

CNC machining excels in producing custom and complex designs. Its ability to handle intricate geometries and fine details makes it perfect for prototypes, bespoke parts, or any application where customization is key.

Die Casting: Limited Flexibility but Efficient for Stable Designs

Die casting, while efficient for mass production, offers less flexibility regarding design changes once the molds are made.

High Initial Investment in Molds

The molds (dies) used in die casting require a substantial initial investment and are typically specific to each part design. This makes design changes costly and time-consuming, as new molds may need to be created.

Best Suited for Stable, Unchanging Designs

Die casting is most cost-effective when producing parts with stable, unchanging designs. Once the mold is made, the process can produce large quantities efficiently, but it needs to be better-suited for projects where design changes are expected.

Here’s a table summarizing the key comparisons between CNC Machining and Die Casting:

Factor CNC Machining Die Casting
Precision High precision with tight tolerances. Ideal for complex designs and intricate details. Respectable precision, suitable for simpler geometries. Tolerances are generally wider than CNC machining.
Material Range Broad spectrum including metals, plastics, and composites. Ideal for specialized applications. Primarily non-ferrous metals like aluminum, zinc, and magnesium. Limited to materials with good flow characteristics.
Production Volume Suitable for low to medium volumes. Flexible and adaptable for small batches and prototypes. Ideal for high-volume production due to lower per-unit costs and efficient scalability.
Surface Finish Superior surface finishes and detail. Capable of achieving fine details and high-quality aesthetics. Good quality finishes with consistency in mass production. May require post-processing for higher aesthetics.
Durability and Strength High-strength materials and customization options for enhanced durability. Good durability with material limitations. Design plays a crucial role in strength.
Customization and Flexibility Highly customizable and adaptable to design changes. Excellent for complex and bespoke designs. Limited flexibility due to the high cost of mold changes. Best for stable, unchanging designs.
Cost Implications Higher cost for small quantities but cost-effective for medium runs. Flexible in design changes. Lower per-unit cost for large volumes. High initial investment in molds.



At Worthy Hardware, we specialize in providing top-notch CNC machining and die casting services. Our expertise and state-of-the-art technology ensure that your manufacturing needs are met with the highest standards of quality and efficiency.
Contact us at Worthy Hardware. Our team of professionals is ready to guide you in choosing the right manufacturing process for your project. Whether it’s a custom, one-off piece or a large-scale production run, we have the skills and resources to bring your vision to life.