CNC router machines commonly cut and carve wood, plastic, and acrylics, but many manufacturers question whether they cut metals. The short answer is “yes,” but we’ll explore how CNC routers for metal fabrication work. Plus, we’ll discuss how to find the right CNC router machine for metal and get set up for production.
What is CNC Router Metal Fabrication?
CNC metal fabrication involves milling, engraving, hollowing, and cutting non-ferrous metals. CNC routers use bits to remove material from a workpiece in a variety of angles.
This process relies on numerical code when feeding a metal workpiece to a cutting tool, which is far more efficient and accurate than labor-intensive traditional machining. Non-ferrous metal materials often include aluminum and brass.
The advantages of CNC metal fabrication include:
- High-quality replication.
- Cost-effective and timely mass production.
- Precision and ability to produce complex items.
- It cuts out the need for repetitive manual labor.
Metal fabrication isn’t just limited to two-dimensional and three-dimensional cuts. The tools used on CNC routers can carve, engrave, and drill in-depth parts and products. We often see this with large signboards, nameplates, and building exteriors.
How a CNC Router Machine Works
Many types of CNC routers exist for specific production needs – from small businesses to high production facilities. The same machine used for cutting and engraving non-metallic materials are often used for metal fabrication. Unlike traditional manufacturing machines, CNC routers are given digital instructions on how to cut, drill, carve, and embed parts and products. The process starts with the initial 2D or 3D design on CAD software. The CAD file is then translated to the CNC router via computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software down to the exact detail of each cut.
How to Use a CNC Router to Cut Metal
You don’t need a specific CNC router to cut metal; they all perform the same function. The tools you use and the techniques you employ when programming and setting up are critical.
However, you don’t want to apply the same methods used for cutting other materials to metal parts. For example, you can cut wood on a CNC router at high speed but doing the same with metal often damages the cutting tools.
The cutting speed required depends on the type of metal. Soft metals such as aluminum have a melting point of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, which occurs at speeds greater than 13,000 RPM.
For soft metals, you can control tool temperature by doing the following:
- Applying a cooling liquid to the tool along with the cutting fluid.
- Spraying the tool end isopropyl alcohol.
- Using a vortex cold air gun system to blow cool air on the tool end.
- Finding the right balance between spindle RPM, depth per pass, helix angle, feed rate, and end tool flute.
How Much Does a CNC Router Machine Cost?
The cost of owning and operating a CNC router for metal fabrication depends on the size of your business and production demands. You can find some CNC routers for as little as a few thousand dollars, while complex machines can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The more complex your production needs, the more additional tools you’ll likely need. Many of these parts are purchased separately.
Common factors that affect the cost of CNC metal fabrication include:
- The production processing time.
- The cost of CAD time
- Cost of materials.
- The need for quality control and special tools.
- The amount of automation needed in the production process.
Finding the Right CNC Router Machine for Cutting Metal
Before deciding which CNC router is right for you, consider working out a budget and weighing it with your production needs, capabilities, and configuration requirements. If you’re only producing 2D metal signs, a CNC machine with simple features will likely suffice. However, if your company produces high-end parts, you’ll need a more sophisticated product.
You should also compare the standard CNC machines and the more advanced machines to ensure that you’re getting the return on investment that you desire.
Once you’ve settled on a CNC machine, be sure to sign a contract with the manufacturer. A contract will protect your legal rights and provide details on the price, purchase, delivery, and after-sales service.
CAMaster has tons of CNC routers for metal fabrication to choose from. Plus, we offer financing options to make your purchase more affordable. Contact us today to request a quote.