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Best Aluminum Alloys for Machining

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Henry

15 years of experience in prototyping and manufacturing.

Aluminum alloys are widely used metal in various industries. they are lightweight and have good strength. There are many different types of aluminum alloys with different names in the market. how do you know which one is suitable for your project? where are difference between each type? how they are named? in this blog, we will give you answers to these questions.

What Is Aluminum Alloy?

Aluminum Alloy

Aluminum alloys is mainly composed of pure aluminum, combines with other elements such as copper, silicon, magnesium and zinc to improve its properties. aluminum alloys are lightweight and have excellent corrosion resistance, good electrical and thermal conductivity.

Advantages of Aluminum Alloys

Easy to Process

Aluminum alloys are highly workable because they are soft metals that break, mold, and melt easily. This allows for easy cutting by CNC machines and smooth casting. The easy processing reduces production time and costs, while minimizing the risk of deformation, enhancing the precision and consistency of aluminum parts.

Corrosion Resistance

Aluminum alloys have high resistance to corrosion because aluminum naturedly forms a thin oxide layer on its surface, which protects against chemical wear and oxidization. Different aluminum grades differ greatly in their resistance to corrosion because the additional elements amounts, they have. The most corrosion-resistant grades are Aluminum 6061 which is widely used in the applications with corrosion environment.

Lightweight 

Aluminum alloy is lightweight, its density is 2.7 g/cm³ which is one-third the density of steel. This lightweight contributes a lot in those application needs lower weight such as Automotive industry.

Electrical Conductivity

Aluminum alloys are usually found in Electrical components because aluminum have high electrical conductivity. Pure aluminum has an electrical conductivity of about 37.7 million siemens per meter at room temperature. In aluminum alloy, with other elements added, its conductivity become lower but still much better than steels and other metals but not copper.

Strength-To-Weight Ratio

Even aluminum alloy is lightweight, but aluminum alloys still can provide excellent strength and structural integrity. that is why in automotive and aerospace industries, a lot of CNC-machined aluminum parts are used. the strength-to-weight ratio differ in different grades of aluminum alloy. 7075 is stronger than 6061, so it is used a lot in aerospace and marine applications.

Recyclability

Aluminum is highly recyclable, which is perfect for CNC machining, because CNC machining is a subtractive manufacturing method which means there is a relatively large amount of waste material in the form of chips from the cutting tool. In this way CNC machining applications can use recyclable materials to reduce the cost of machined parts.

How Aluminum Alloy is Named

When we see the name of aluminum alloys. You may wonder what is number and letter means, such as 6061, 6061-T6, 7075-T651. As below, we take an example of 6061-T6 to explain to you.

The first number “6″ represents the aluminum alloy group, its detail meaning as blow:

Group NumberMeaning
1Industrial pure aluminum
2Aluminum-copper series alloy
3Aluminum-manganese series alloy
4Aluminum-silicon series alloy
5Aluminum-magnesium series alloy
6Aluminum-magnesium-silicon series alloy
7Aluminum-zinc-magnesium-copper series alloy
8Other alloys
9Reserved or for future use

the second number “0” Indicates the control of alloying elements or impurities’ maximum content as below:

Second DigitMeaning
0Original alloy, no special control over impurity max content
1-9Modified alloy, special control over one or more individual impurities or alloying element max content

the number “61″ represents a kind of alloys within the same group.

The rest letter’s meaning as blow:

Temper DesignationMeaning
FAs-fabricated condition, suitable for products not requiring special hardening or heat treatment during forming process
OAnnealed condition, results in a material that is easier to machine, tougher, and more ductile; can be followed by a single-digit numeral except 0
HStrain-hardened condition, for non-heat-treatable alloys where strength is increased by strain hardening
WSolution heat-treated condition, unstable and only applicable to alloys naturally aged at room temperature after solution heat treatment
THeat-treated condition to a stable state, for heat-treatable alloys where the product reaches a stable state after heat treatment

For example, “6061-T6” indicates an alloy from the aluminum-magnesium-silicon series that has undergone solution heat treatment and artificial aging to achieve a stable temper.

Methods for machining Aluminum Alloys

Best Aluminum Alloys for CNC Metal Machining

CNC machined part
Alloy GradeKey PropertiesApplication Areas
2024-T4High strength, good fatigue resistanceAerospace industry, aircraft fuselages, transport vehicle components, wing tension members
5052Excellent corrosion resistanceMarine industry, manufacturing marine equipment
6061-T6Good balance of strength and machinabilityCNC machining, chassis manufacturing, bicycle frames, valves, computer components
6063Moderate strength, high ductilityMold forming, structural applications
6082Higher tensile strength, good corrosion resistanceConstruction, structures like bridges, towers, trusses
7075-T6Very high strength, good fatigue strengthAerospace and military industry, aircraft fittings, missile parts, fuses
MIC 6High precision, thermal stabilityProducing stable and high-tolerance sheets, applications requiring strength-to-weight ratios, precision, elasticity

Best Aluminum Alloys for Extrusion

Aluminum Extrusion Prototyping Examples2
Aluminum Extrusion Prototyping Examples2
Alloy GradeKey PropertiesCommon Applications
6005Corrosion resistance, moderate strength, silicon content for enhanced extrudabilityGeneral purpose extrusions, architectural components, window frames, door frames, scaffolding, solar panel mounting systems
6063High-quality finishes, excellent corrosion resistance, suitable for extrusionStructural pipes, seamless tubing, heat sinks, custom/standard aluminum extrusion designs, window and door frames, fixtures, furniture
6463High density, yield strength, composed of 98% aluminum with trace elementsBars, tubes, rods, wire, various custom profiles, automotive components, heavy-duty structures

Best Aluminum Alloys for Metal Casting

Aluminum alloys for die casting have several types like aluminum-silicon, aluminum-copper, aluminum-magnesium, aluminum-zinc and more. The common grades for die-casting aluminum alloys are defined by the standards of Japan’s JIS and ANSI. The table below shows common die-casting grade series under various standards.

Casting aluminum alloy type ANSI SAE J452JISDIN GB
AI-Si-Mg360309n/an/aYL104
A360309ADC3AlSi10Mg (Fe) YL101
AI-Si-CuA380306ADC10AlSi8Cu3FeYL112
A383383ADC12AlSi12(Cu)YL113
A384303ADC14AlSi12YL116
AI-SiA413305ADC6AlSi10MgYL102
C443304ADC7n/an/a
AI-Mg518n/aADC5AIMg9YL302
Alloy GradeKey PropertiesApplication Areas
A360Good formability, corrosion resistance, fatigue strength, medium static strengthAutomobile oil pans, controller shells, motor shells, 5G communication boxes, LED lamp housings
A380High versatility, load-bearing capacity, resistance to high-temperature splittingElectrical equipment chassis, engine mounts, gearboxes, furniture, generators, hand tools
A383Improved corrosion resistance, resistance to hot cracking, fluidity, and high-temperature strengthDie casting applications, equivalent to ADC12 according to JIS standard

Best Aluminum Alloys for Sheet Metal fabrication

Due to their excellent ductility and fatigue resistance, some aluminum alloys are widely used in sheet metal fabrication. Here are some common examples:

sheet metal examples
Alloy GradeKey PropertiesApplication Areas
6061High strength, good ductility, weldability, corrosion resistanceAerospace, automotive, building and construction, transportation, consumer goods
5052Excellent formability, corrosion resistanceMarine applications, heat exchangers, food and beverage industry
3003Good formability, weldability, corrosion resistanceGeneral fabrication, food and chemical processing, roofing and siding
2024High strength, good fatigue resistanceAerospace, aircraft components, structural parts
7075Very high strength, good fatigue resistanceAerospace, high-performance aircraft components, defense applications
8011Excellent formability, low densityAutomotive body panels, heat exchangers, beverage cans

Comparison Table of Common Aluminum Alloys

here is comparison table as below to compare each alloy’s properties in terms of welding, machining, Corrosion Resistance and strength to help have a general view of each aluminum alloy.

Alloy TypeWeldabilityMachinabilityCorrosion ResistanceStrength
Alloy 1100Easily GoodHighly Low 
Alloy 2024Challenging FairLimited High 
Alloy 3003Easily Good Good Medium 
Alloy 5052Easily Fair Excellent Medium 
Alloy 6061Excellent  Good Excellent Medium 
Alloy 6063Easily Fair Good Medium 
Alloy 7075Challenging Fair FairHigh 

Physical Properties of Aluminum Alloys

Here is a table as below to show all the physical properties of aluminum alloys.

AlloyYield Strength (MPa)Elongation at Break (%)Hardness (Brinell)Density (g/cm³)Maximum Temp (°C)
Aluminum 111025-3035-40232.71250
Aluminum 201129010952.82120
Aluminum 2024325-47010-25120-1302.78150
Aluminum 3003110-13020-25402.73260
Aluminum 5052170-21512-20602.68200
Aluminum 6061240-31012-25952.70250-300
Aluminum 6063110-18012-20602.69200
Aluminum 7050460-51010-141502.81150
Aluminum MIC-611015702.70200
A360.01863.5802.63300
A380.01523.5802.71300
A383.0 (ADC12)1753.5802.74300
A413.01245702.66300

FAQ

How to Choose an Aluminum Grade?

Before you chose the aluminum, you will need to consider your machined parts requirement and the machining process you will use. some of general consideration as below:

Strength Requirements
from the above introduction of each aluminum alloy, you will find their strength properties. Aluminum 7075 has the best strength among those.

Corrosion Resistance
Consider the environment in which your aluminum components will be exposed. Some aluminum alloys offer exceptional corrosion resistance like 5052 or 6061, known for their corrosion resistance.

Weldability
If your project requires welding, ensure that the chosen aluminum grade is weldable. aluminum 6061 is more weldable than 7075.

Weldability
If you will use aluminum alloy for CNC machining, it is better to choose the one easy to be machined. Aluminum 6061 has a good Machinability for machining.

Which is more expensive to machine, aluminum alloy or steel?

Under normal circumstances, the material cost of aluminum alloy is higher compared to steel.

However, when it comes to machining, more factors need to be considered. For instance, factors such as Machining Difficulty, Machining Time, and Material Availability should be taken into account.

Therefore, the actual needs must be evaluated to determine which metal, aluminum alloy or steel, offers a more cost-effective advantage in manufacturing.

Which material should be used for aluminum alloy and titanium?

Titanium has a lower density, higher strength, superior corrosion resistance, biocompatibility, heat resistance, and a lower coefficient of thermal expansion than aluminum alloys.

However, it’s more expensive in terms of material and processing costs. The choice between aluminum alloy and titanium should be based on your application requirements, performance needs, budget, and manufacturing capabilities.

Conclusion

Using a proper Aluminum alloy for your products is the key for quality. you may need to choose a professional supplier who are capable of managing different types of aluminum alloys. KUSLA have rich experiences of aluminum machining services can help you for your projects. contact us today to get an instant quotation.

Copyright Notice: Portions of this article “Industry Standards | The Aluminum Association” are included in this post with the copyright belonging to the original author.

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Request A Quote

Get in touch with our professional team today, and we will respond to you within 24 hours.

Employees of Kusla.

Gang Liu

Marketing Director

Employees of Kusla.

Hua Liu

Project Manager

Employees of Kusla.

Yiyang Zhao

Project Manager

Employees of Kusla.

Lu Wang

Technical Sales

Employees of Kusla.

Anming Li

Technical Sales

Employees of Kusla.

Xiaoli Wu

Technical Sales

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