Rapid Prototyping Services & Part Manufacturing

CNC Aluminum: How does it work?

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Henry

15 years of experience in prototyping and manufacturing.

Aluminum is widely used in various industries in the world, its perfect property makes it the most popular material in the market. CNC Aluminum Machining, As a high-precision machining method, is preferred by manufacturers both for prototypes and products. Today, in this article, KUSLA, as a leading aluminum machining supplier, will share with you a complete guide about CNC Aluminum including best settings and practices.

CNC aluminum

What is CNC aluminum?

CNC aluminum involves using a CNC(Computer Numerical Control) machine to cut aluminum blocks to the desired shape of the product. it is one of the most widely used methods for prototyping or mass production. it can create high-precision aluminum parts with complex geometry quickly and cost-effectively.

CNC Machines for aluminum

CNC Router

CNC Router is designed to cut soft materials such as wood, plastics, and foam. it is also ideal for cutting aluminum because aluminum is a soft metal compared with others. CNC router cutting aluminum provides a very good solution for aluminum parts for low cost and fast turnaround. However, for some complex aluminum parts with high precision requirements, a CNC router will not be the best solution.

CNC router

CNC milling machine

CNC milling machines can be used for creating high-precision aluminum parts with more powerful structures equipped than a CNC router. it is designed to cut hard materials like steel and titanium, but it is also applicable to aluminum. 5 5-axis CNC milling machine can work for more complex geometry aluminum parts at one-time machining, this is not a job CNC router can do.

CNC lathe

Similar to CNC milling machines, the CNC lathe is designed to make cylinder shapes such as threads and studs. it uses a fixed tool to cut rotated workpieces which gives a perfect solution for the aluminum parts that are not easy to machined on a CNC milling machine.

Benefits of Aluminum for CNC machining

Easy to machine

Aluminum has excellent machinability because it is a soft metal that can chip and shape easily. This means it can be cut by CNC milling and CNC turning cutting tools easily. This kind of easy-to-machine property can reduce the machining time and cost and also reduce the risk of deformation improving the precision and repeatability of the machined aluminum parts.

Diversity

There are hundreds of Aluminum alloys in the market with different properties for different applications. you can easily find the best type of aluminum alloy for your CNC-machined aluminum part.

Cost-Effective

Thanks to the easy-to-machine property of aluminum, CNC machining aluminum can make it in a short lead time which saves manufacturing costs. and meanwhile, Aluminum is an abundant and low-cost material that could save material costs for you. its lightweight property also contributes a lot to the transportation cost.

Recyclable

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.

Common aluminum grades used for CNC machining

There are a lot of different aluminum grades that can be used for CNC machining, here we introduced the three most common grades below:

Aluminum 6061-T6

Aluminum alloy 6061 is widely used in CNC machining because of the good balance between strength and machinability. it is used in across various applications including chassis manufacturing, bicycle frames, valves, and computer components.

Aluminum 7075-T6

Aluminum alloy 7075 is also popular even though not like the 6061. it is known for its high strength and corrosion resistance, which is good for components in aerospace and military industries such as aircraft fittings, missile parts, and fuses.

Aluminum 2024-T4 

Aluminum alloy 2024-T4 is primarily used in the aerospace industry. This is because of its mechanical properties, like great weariness resistance, and high strength.

Read more in our blogs about Common Aluminum Alloys for Machining.

How to make aluminum parts by CNC machining?

To get a perfect CNC machined Aluminum part, let us walk through the process step by step:

Step 1: Prepare the CAD model.

you can get the 2D or 3D CAD model from your clients or you can create the CAD model with CAD software. However, the design of the part should be feasible for the CNC machining process.

Step 2:  Programming.

Use CAM(Computer Aided Manufacturing) software to translate CAD models into G-code &M-code programs which can be read by the CNC machine. the program will contain instructions for the machine such as the cutting path, tool speed, and cutting depth.

Step 3: Set up the machine.

Choose the right bits, and ensure the aluminum workpiece is properly positioned on the machine with the proper fixture.

Step 4: Start machining.  

Let the machine run according to the CNC program till the end of the program. CNC machines will use cutting tools to remove material from the aluminum block, following the cutting path in the program.

Step 5: Check the quality.

Once the program is finished, check the parts if any adjustments need to be made, if yes, modify the program and run it again.

Step 6: Post surface finishing.

Remove the milling marks and burrs on the aluminum parts from the machining. or customer surface finishing according to the design specification such as Anodizing.

Tips for CNC Machining Aluminum

Choose The Right bits

The carbide tool is a great choice for CNC aluminum, However, A specialized CNC aluminum router bits is your best Choice.

Optimize Cutting Speeds And Feeds

Use higher cutting speed above 18000rpm and reduced feed rates of around 300-600 meters per minute for milling your aluminum products. This is because Too slow feed and speed may impair the tool’s cutting action and would just cause rubbing between the part and the tool.

Use Coolant And Lubrication

Aluminum generates high temperatures during the CNC milling process, so to control the temperature, lubricating aluminum and cooling aluminum is very important, especially for extremely precise operations. Use a high-quality cooling lubricant solution to dissipate the heat and increase part surface quality.

Watch Tool Wear

A dull cutting tool may cause a bad surface finish because it does not cut the material with the desired quality, and also it will increase heat generation and machining times. Replace the end mill in time to achieve the best results.

Secure Clamping Rigidly

aluminum workpieces need to be clamped rigidly. because if not, this will cause undesired shifts in the workpiece while milling. The rigid clamping of the workpiece will result in a high precision and good surface finish.

Keep Saftey

Always wear safety glasses and hearing protection during aluminum processing for your safety. Aluminum chips can fly around when milling aluminum, so you need to well protect yourself.

Use of CNC aluminum

CNC Aluminum Prototype

CNC aluminum can be used for making prototypes even if the design material is plastic, CNC aluminum can get a better precision result and better strength than plastic, this can be found commonly in automotive lighting prototypes, used for the reflector prototype.

Also, when the product material is not aluminum or the production method is not CNC machining, a CNC aluminum prototype can provide lots of benefits such as low cost, and short lead time.

CNC Machined Aluminum Parts

CNC aluminum is a good choice for making aluminum parts in low-volume manufacturing when the aluminum parts can be made by other processes such as casting. However, CNC aluminum is the only choice to make those aluminum parts with very complex geometry and high precision needs which can be made by other processes.

Conclusion

CNC aluminum machining is widely used in many industries, if you have any complex parts and also request high precision, welcome to contact KUSLA. We provide professional CNC machining services with many years of experience in the production of metal parts and prototypes, especially aluminum. Contact us to start your project today!

FAQ

What is the most common type of aluminum used for CNC Milling?

Generally, Aluminum 6061 is the most common aluminum alloy for CNC milling. it has a good balance between strength and machinability.

Can a CNC router cut aluminum?

Yes, A CNC router can cut aluminum. there are many types of routers designed for cutting aluminum.

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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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