Aluminium is one of the most used metals in the production of everyday objects, from furniture to kitchen equipment to sporting goods and equipment used in sectors like transportation, communication, and engineering.
In CNC machining, aluminum is one of the most commonly used materials because of its excellent properties, which enhance its machinability. Its excellent thermal and mechanical properties make aluminum easier to drill, cut, and shape, making it a preferred choice among CNC machinists.
Below, we’ll delve into everything you need to know about CNC router aluminum, including its properties, alloys, and the qualities to look for in your CNC router when cutting aluminum.
Properties of CNC Routing Aluminum
Aluminum is famous for its attractive chemical and mechanical properties for CNC machining.
These include the following:
- Malleability and Ductility. Malleability refers to a metal’s ability to be flattened into thin sheets like aluminum foil, while ductility refers to its ability to be drawn into rods and wires. These qualities allow the material to be shaped into configurations – a suitable quality for manufacturing numerous products for end users.
- Corrosion Resistance. Aluminum has a protective oxide layer that acts as a barrier when the metal is exposed to air. This gives it excellent resistance to corrosion, which is even greater than that of carbon steel.
- High Thermal and Electrical Conductivity. While these qualities do not directly impact the machining process, they are still sought after as they allow the material to be molded into products across a wide range of potential applications.
- Machinability. A metal’s machinability refers to its “softness,” which allows it to be subject to the machining process with relative ease. Aluminum is a highly sought-after material because of its good machinability, making it easier to work with and faster to process than steel.
- Good Strength-to-Weight Ratio. Despite aluminum’s relative softness and machinability, it doesn’t compromise its durability. In fact, it possesses one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios among metals, which is highly suitable for machine parts.
- Recyclability. While metals are generally easy to recycle, aluminum holds up exceptionally well when recycled, as you can save up to 95% of the energy necessary to produce virgin aluminum.
Common Alloys Of Aluminum For CNC Router Cutting
While aluminum already possesses desirable properties suitable for machining, its combination with other metals as alloys leads to the developing of newer qualities that can be used in other applications.
Your choice of material to work with depends on your specific application. As such, it is vital to understand the different properties possessed by these alloys to find the right material that matches your needs.
That said, the following are some of the most commonly used aluminum alloys in CNC router machining operations:
Aluminum Alloy Series 1xxx
This aluminum alloy series is made from 99% pure aluminum mixed with mostly silicon and iron. This alloy series is known for its high ductility, enabling the production of materials used in the chemical and electrical industries.
It also offers good machinability, corrosion resistance, and electrical and thermal conductivity, making it ideal for electrical applications.
Aluminum Alloy Series 2xxx
The series 2xxx of aluminum alloys are commonly referred to as copper alloys since copper is the primary alloying element. They are also famed for their excellent machinability while also offering excellent mechanical properties on par with mild steel when heat-treated.
Aluminum Alloy Series 3xxx
Manganese is the primary alloying element in this series. It allows aluminum to retain its excellent machinability. This series is not heat-treated and is often used as a general-purpose material in applications that require easier workability while boasting improved material strength.
Aluminum Alloy Series 4xxx
The alloying of silicon significantly lowers the material’s melting point without making the material brittle. This unique characteristic enables its usage as welding wire while also enabling its application in several architectural settings, especially when applied with anodic oxide for a dark gray finish.
Aluminum Alloy Series 5xxx
Magnesium and manganese are the primary alloying elements. With their addition, alloys with high tensile strength and formability are created.
These materials possess good corrosion resistance and are typically used to produce parts for bridges, transportation, and marine applications.
Aluminum Alloy Series 6xxx
Alloyed primarily with magnesium and silicon, the 6xxx series is often considered the most versatile among all other alloy series. This series of alloys are easily formed and are incredibly corrosion-resistant while possessing a good amount of durability and strength.
Most applications in this series include architectural products, electrical components, piping, and consumer goods.
Aluminum Alloy Series 7xxx
The 7xxx series of aluminum alloys is known for its incredible strength. Aluminum alloys in this series are alloyed with zinc with a mix of chromium, copper, and magnesium. They can be heat treated to achieve a high level of strength in the material, although their machinability is negatively affected.
Important Tool Qualities For CNC Router Cutting Aluminum
While working with aluminum, CNC router operators need to consider the material’s qualities to select a suitable cutting tool. But generally, you need appropriate cutting tools capable of cutting and processing aluminum.
The following are some of the essential cutting tool qualities to look for when cutting aluminum:
- Great Chip Clearance. As a soft material, aluminum produces chips that can plug up the system. This is why selecting cutters with much space between flutes is important to provide clearance for the chips to clear out during cutting.
- High Strength. The malleability of aluminum means the material is relatively soft. However, choosing a hard cutting tool is still essential to prevent it from breaking.
- Smooth. The amount of friction generated when CNC routing aluminum tends to generate ample amounts of heat, causing the material to weld together with the cutter. To prevent this from happening, decrease the amount of friction generated by choosing a smooth cutting tool.
- Up-Cutting Capabilities. The soft nature of aluminum can also wreak havoc on your machine when using down-cutting tools, which are commonly used when cutting plastic. To ensure smooth cutting operations, choose a cutter with a solid angle on the flutes that lift the chips up and away from the cutter.
Maximize Your Production Capabilities With Reliable CNC Routers From CAMaster
At CAMaster, we understand how important the cutting of aluminum is for your operation. As a leading manufacturer and supplier of highly efficient CNC machinery, we pull from our extensive experience and expertise to deliver high-quality solutions for aluminum processing using our top-quality CNC machines.
We offer complete technical support and superior service to support your operations. Get in touch with our experts should you require any assistance.