Zinc Machining: Types, Process, Application, and Machining Tips

In manufacturing and CNC machining, selecting a suitable material is as critical as designing the part. Today, I’ll dive into the fascinating realm of zinc machining—a field where precision meets durability.

Zinc machining involves shaping zinc or its alloys into desired forms using various techniques ranging from milling and turning to more advanced CNC machining processes. The versatility of zinc, combined with its favorable mechanical properties, makes it an excellent choice for a wide range of applications, including automotive, electronics, and aerospace parts.

Let’s embark on this journey together, exploring the depths of zinc machining and unveiling the secrets to optimizing its processes for your projects.

What Are the Different Types of Zinc Alloys Used in Machining?

ZA Alloys

The ZA series, which stands for Zinc-Aluminum, includes several alloys with varying aluminum contents—ZA-8, ZA-12, and ZA-27. The numbers indicate the percentage of aluminum in the alloy. These alloys are known for their high strength and hardness, which make them suitable for casting components that require high wear resistance.

ZA-8, with its good castability, is often used for small parts in high-volume production. 

ZA-12 offers an excellent balance between castability, strength, and cost. 

ZA-27, the strongest of the three, is used for heavy-duty components, though its high aluminum content makes it less fluid than its counterparts.

Zamak Alloys

Zamak alloys are a family of zinc-casting alloys with a base metal of zinc and alloying elements of aluminum, magnesium, and copper. Common types include Zamak 3, Zamak 5, and Zamak 7.

Zamak 3 is the most commonly used alloy due to its excellent balance of mechanical properties, castability, and finish. It’s the go-to material for decorative and functional hardware, automotive components, and consumer electronics. 

Zamak 5, with slightly higher copper content, offers better strength and hardness than Zamak 3, making it suitable for mechanical parts that require extra toughness. 

Zamak 7, with a lower magnesium content, provides superior flexibility and is often used in casting operations requiring high detail and finish.

ACuZinc Alloy

This is a relatively newer addition to the zinc alloy family, known for its superior strength, hardness, and creep resistance compared to traditional Zamak alloys. ACuZinc is favored for its ability to withstand mechanical and thermal stresses, making it an excellent choice for automotive safety components, complex mechanical hardware, and specific precision instruments.

Zinc-Aluminum Alloy (ZA-22)

Not to be confused with the ZA series mentioned earlier, this specific alloy is designed for permanent mold and gravity casting. It offers an excellent combination of strength, hardness, and thermal conductivity, making it suitable for heat sinks, electrical components, and automotive parts that require efficient heat dissipation.

What Are the Key Processes in Zinc Machining?

CNC Machining

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining is a bedrock process for zinc alloys, leveraging computerized controls to manage complex tools and machinery. This method allows for precise cuts, drills, and shapes, creating intricate and detailed parts with high accuracy. The flexibility of CNC machining makes it indispensable for producing prototypes or small batch sizes, where customization and precision are paramount.


Turning involves rotating the zinc workpiece while a cutting tool moves linearly, peeling material away to shape the part. This process is particularly well-suited for creating cylindrical parts, such as shafts, knobs, or bushings, offering excellent surface finish and dimensional accuracy.


Milling removes material from the workpiece using rotary cutters. It’s versatile and capable of producing a wide range of shapes and features, including slots, holes, and complex contours. Zinc’s excellent machinability makes it an ideal candidate for milling, allowing for efficient material removal and detailed part geometries.


Drilling creates round holes in the workpiece and is often used with other machining processes. For zinc alloys, specialized drill bits, appropriate speed, and feed rates are essential to prevent material galling and ensure clean, accurate holes.

Die Casting

Die casting involves forcing molten zinc alloy into a mold cavity under high pressure. Die casting is celebrated for its ability to produce parts with tight tolerances, excellent surface finish, and intricate details that would be challenging or impossible to achieve with other machining processes. The high fluidity of zinc alloys makes them ideal for die casting, allowing the material to fill intricate mold designs effectively and solidify with minimal shrinkage or imperfections.

Where Is Zinc Machining Most Commonly Applied?

Industry Application Examples Benefits of Zinc Machining
Automotive Gearbox parts, carburetor bodies, fuel systems, ornamental fittings Durability, wear resistance, withstands harsh environments
Electronics Connectors, circuit board housings, heat sinks, EMI shielding cases Electrical conductivity, heat dissipation, interference protection
Consumer Goods Toys, sporting goods, jewelry, musical instruments Aesthetic appeal, functional durability
Aerospace and Defense Communication devices, control systems, navigational instruments High strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance
Medical Equipment Surgical tools, equipment housings, diagnostic device components Biocompatibility, sterilization capability
Building and Architecture Door handles, locks, fittings, architectural metalwork Corrosion resistance, complex shape casting capability
Industrial Machinery Gears, bearings, components for industrial machinery High wear resistance, vibration absorption

4 How Does Zinc Machining Compare to Other Metals?

Comparison Table

Feature Zinc Aluminum Steel Brass
Machinability Excellent Good Moderate Excellent
Strength High Moderate to High High to Very High Moderate
Corrosion Resistance Good Excellent Poor without coatings Good
Wear Resistance Very Good Good Very Good to Excellent Good
Cost-Effectiveness Very Good Moderate Moderate Moderate
Surface Finishing Excellent Good Good with coatings Excellent
Melting Point Low (380-390°C) Moderate (660°C) High (>1,370°C) Moderate (900-940°C)

Strengths of Zinc in Machining

  • Excellent Machinability: Zinc’s low melting point and good fluidity make it easier to machine, leading to less wear on tools and equipment. This translates to lower manufacturing costs and faster production times.
  • High Strength and Durability: Despite its lower melting point, zinc alloys can offer high strength and hardness, making them suitable for durable parts that must withstand significant wear and stress.
  • Superior Surface Finishing: Zinc’s ability to accept a wide range of finishes, from electroplating to painting, allows for aesthetic versatility and enhanced corrosion resistance, making it ideal for both functional and decorative applications.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: The efficient machining process, combined with zinc’s abundant supply, contributes to its cost-effectiveness, particularly for large production runs.


  • Corrosion Resistance: While zinc has good corrosion resistance, it is not as inherently resistant as aluminum, especially in marine environments. However, protective coatings can mitigate this.
  • Strength Comparisons: While zinc is strong and durable, certain steel grades offer higher strength. Zinc’s advantage lies in its balance of strength, machinability, and cost.
  • Thermal Properties: Zinc’s lower melting point compared to metals like steel means it may not be suitable for high-temperature applications. However, this same property makes zinc excellent for casting and reduces tool wear during machining.

What Are the Key Considerations for Effective Zinc Machining?

Material Selection

Choosing a suitable zinc alloy is the first step toward effective machining. The specific alloy can significantly affect the final part’s machining behavior, surface finish, and mechanical properties. Strength, hardness, corrosion resistance, and casting ability should meet the application’s requirements.

Machining Parameters

Optimizing machining parameters such as cutting speed, feed rate, and depth of cut is crucial for zinc. Due to its relatively low melting point, zinc requires careful handling to avoid overheating, which can cause the material to stick to the cutting tools. Using the correct parameters minimizes tool wear and maximizes efficiency.


The choice of tool material and geometry plays a significant role in zinc machining. Tools with sharp edges and high wear resistance, such as carbide or coated tools, are recommended to achieve a smooth finish and extend tool life. Proper tool maintenance is also vital to prevent defects in the machined parts.

Cooling and Lubrication

Effective cooling and lubrication are essential to prevent overheating and ensure smooth machining operations. Zinc’s low melting point makes it particularly sensitive to heat buildup, so using appropriate coolants can help maintain optimal temperatures and improve tool life.

Surface Finishing

Given zinc’s excellent surface finishing capabilities, selecting the appropriate finishing technique can enhance the aesthetic and functional properties of the machined part. Techniques such as polishing, plating, or powder coating improve appearance and provide additional corrosion resistance.

How Can Surface Finishes Be Optimized in Zinc Machining?

Precise Machining Practices

The foundation of a superior surface finish is precise machining. Using sharp, adequately maintained tools and optimizing machining parameters like speed, feed rate, and depth of cut can significantly reduce surface roughness. Smooth machining operations minimize imperfections, providing a better base for subsequent finishing processes.

Surface Treatment Techniques

After machining, several surface treatment techniques can enhance the appearance and properties of zinc components:

  • Polishing: Mechanical polishing can smooth out surface irregularities, improving the visual appeal and preparing the surface for further finishing.
  • Plating: Electroplating with metals such as chromium, nickel, or silver can significantly enhance corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and aesthetic appeal. The choice of plating material depends on the application’s specific requirements.
  • Powder Coating: This process involves applying a protective and decorative powder coating cured under heat to form a skin-like layer. It offers excellent durability and corrosion resistance and is available in a wide range of colors.
  • Passivation: Although more commonly associated with stainless steel, specific passivation processes can improve zinc’s corrosion resistance by creating a protective oxide layer on the surface.


Are you looking to elevate your zinc machining projects to the next level? Connect with us at Worthy Hardware. Our team of experts is ready to guide you through the maze of machining options and help you unlock the full potential of zinc in your manufacturing endeavors. Let’s create something remarkable together.