Safe Machining of Magnesium: Risks and Essential Tips

Magnesium is a versatile material suitable for various applications across industries. Although magnesium alloys can be used to produce high-quality components with excellent corrosion resistance, it’s important to note that magnesium is highly flammable during CNC machining operations. Therefore, taking the necessary precautions to machine magnesium safely is essential. Implementing caution when machining magnesium in CNC operations helps mitigate any safety risks.

Safe Machining of Magnesium: Risks and Essential Tips

Risks Of Magnesium Machining

Machining magnesium alloys requires careful management of potential risks, especially in CNC machining processes.

Flammable Nature of Magnesium

Magnesium is prized for its lightweight and machinable properties but presents a significant risk due to its extreme flammability. This substance can undergo rapid ignition upon exposure to air, particularly under elevated temperatures or when finely ground. These risks during machining processes require specialized safety precautions.

Heat Generation

Magnesium has poor heat conductivity, leading to high heat concentration in the cutting zone. This increases cutting temperature, reducing workpiece deformation, tool life, and tool wear.

Tool Wear

Due to its relatively soft and abrasive properties, magnesium CNC machining leads to faster tool wear than other metal materials. This results in significantly reduced machining efficiency and increased tool replacement costs.

Surface treatment Deformation

Magnesium alloys often produce burrs and machining-induced deformation, making it challenging to achieve high-quality surface finishes without proper machining strategies and tooling selection.

Essential Tips For Machining Magnesium Safely

By taking the required precautions, CNC precision machining can safely and efficiently handle magnesium. Below are some tips to ensure safe magnesium machining.

Maintain Proper Tooling Condition

Using sharp cutting tools can decrease the fire hazard when machining magnesium. Dull tools can rub and create friction, resulting in sparks and heat buildup as sensitive magnesium chips are produced. Sharp tools also yield better parts. Most machinists utilize a carbide cutting tool with a large relief angle for machining magnesium.

Avoid Tight Clearance Angles

When machining magnesium alloys, it’s best to avoid tight clearance angles. Although machining at higher speeds is possible without sacrificing part quality, tight clearance angles form longer, unbroken chips that can easily get tangled in the rotary cutting tool. It leads to a significant buildup of heat, while the flammability of magnesium alloys poses a severe fire hazard.

Safe Handling and Disposal of Magnesium Chips

After machining, magnesium chips, and residues can be highly flammable, so it’s crucial to handle them with extreme caution. The chips should be regularly collected using non-static tools and equipment to prevent buildup. Upon collection, it is crucial to dispose of them in securely sealed metal containers to prevent ignition from external factors. Proper containment and timely disposal can help reduce potential hazards, creating a safer machining environment and preventing environmental damage.

Avoid Water-Based Coolant

Coolants are used to reduce machining temperatures, but it’s important to note that a water-based coolant can pose a risk of a magnesium fire by producing hydrogen gas. To prevent this risk, it’s recommended to either avoid coolant altogether or use light mineral oil instead of the standard coolant. Additionally, compressed air or argon gas can lower temperatures without increasing the potential fire risk.

Use an Explosion-proof Vacuum for Chips

Discontinuous magnesium chips can remain hazardous during machining even when the necessary machining parameters are adhered to. Advanced CNC machine shops now use explosion-proof vacuum systems and extractors to remove magnesium chips and dust from CNC machines safely.

Do Not Use Water to Extinguish a Magnesium Fire.

Whenever a fire fueled by magnesium occurs during machining, it is not suggested to be extinguished with water. This is because using water will only make the fire worse. Thus, it would help if you used dry, Class-D fire extinguishers to control the magnesium fire quickly. Alternatively, dry sand can be used to extinguish small fires.

Essential Tips For Machining Magnesium Safely

Why Choose Magnesium For CNC Machining?

Despite the hazards associated with CNC machining magnesium, its benefits are clear. With strict safety measures, magnesium’s lightweight nature, superior surface finish, and excellent machinability make it an excellent choice for CNC processes.

Lightweight Features

Magnesium is among the lightest structural metals accessible. Its lightweight nature allows components made from magnesium to decrease the overall weight of products substantially. Magnesium components are in high demand, particularly in the aerospace and automotive industries, where weight reductions can improve fuel efficiency and performance.

Excellent Machinability

Machining magnesium is easier with CNC processes due to its excellent machinability. Magnesium alloys reduce cutting forces and tool wear.

High Strength-to-Weight Ratio

Despite its lightweight nature, magnesium doesn’t compromise on strength. It boasts an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, allowing products to maintain structural integrity and durability even when using thinner magnesium components, thus saving material and reducing weight.

Complex Geometries

Magnesium alloys are highly machinable, making them ideal for creating custom parts with complex geometries. CNC magnesium machining allows for producing magnesium components with precise and intricate features that meet the strict requirements of modern engineering projects.

CNC machining leaves no room for error when creating magnesium parts with microscopic precision, as the process is based on programmed instructions. Additionally, the machining center of multi-axis CNC machines features multiple axes capable of machining magnesium alloys from different angles to meet specific requirements.

Versatility in Finishing

Magnesium components can be finished using painting, plating, or anodizing methods, providing flexibility for aesthetics and functionality. Incorporating magnesium through CNC machining offers aesthetic, performance, and environmental benefits, making it an excellent choice for many applications.


Magnesium material and its alloys are recyclable and environmentally friendly, making them ideal for sustainable manufacturing operations. CNC machining generates recyclable magnesium waste.

Why Choose Magnesium For CNC Machining

Choosing The Proper Cutting Tool For CNC Machining Magnesium Alloy

Choosing the right CNC cutting tool is crucial when machining magnesium alloys. Using sharp tools to prevent excessive heat buildup during operations is important. Here are some typical tools used in machining magnesium:

High-Speed Steel Tools

High-speed steel (HSS) tools are versatile and cost-effective. They are tough, resilient under stress, and capable of handling interrupted cuts. Additionally, they can be easily re-sharpened, making them suitable for various applications.

Solid Carbide Tools

Solid carbide end mills, reamers, and drills are commonly used in magnesium CNC machining due to their exceptional heat resistance and hardness. These tools offer outstanding wear resistance and heat dissipation, making them ideal for challenging machining tasks involving magnesium alloys.

Coated Carbide Tools

Cutting tools with specialized coatings, such as titanium aluminum nitride (TiAlN) or titanium nitride (TiN), have a thin layer that enhances their resistance to wear. This helps to prevent the formation of built-up edges when machining magnesium. Additionally, these coated tools have impressive thermal stability, allowing them to perform well even at high temperatures produced during magnesium machining.

Polycrystalline Diamond Tools

PCD tools are one of the toughest cutting materials, boasting exceptional wear resistance. They allow for high-speed machining and maintain sharpness over prolonged periods, making them ideal for consistent, high-volume production.

Various CNC Machining Methods For Magnesium

CNC machining methods effectively cut magnesium and create various parts for different applications.

CNC Drilling

CNC drilling is a versatile method for creating holes in magnesium workpieces using rotating cutters or drill bits. Most applications require precise drilling, and CNC machines offer the high accuracy needed to create intricate hole patterns.

CNC Milling

CNC milling is a popular CNC machining technique used for processing magnesium material. This method utilizes a rotating tool cutter to create the desired shape when milling magnesium. CNC milling is highly effective and well-suited for machining simple and intricate geometries.

CNC Turning

The CNC turning method involves cutting material from a rotating magnesium alloy held in a chuck. This method is ideal for machining cylindrical shapes such as pins, shafts, and threaded parts.

Laser Cutting

Laser cutting is another standard method for CNC machining magnesium. High-powered lasers make precise cuts on magnesium sheets or plates, making them ideal for quickly and efficiently creating thin and complex parts.


Tapping is a reliable method for machinists to create internal threads in machined magnesium components. CNC machining helps automate this process, allowing for precise thread dimensions and pitch.


CNC machining of magnesium produces lightweight, strong parts with consistent dimensions and high impact resistance. Its excellent machinability makes it suitable for various applications using various CNC processes. However, safety concerns are inherent to magnesium machining. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of magnesium alloy machining is crucial for ensuring operational safety.