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March 24, 2021

Aluminum vs. Steel Gantry CNC Construction

By scribe


Young man with protective mask welding in a factory

When beginning down the path of purchasing a CNC machine, there are a number of key variables to consider as you make your way through the research process. Is a CNC router or a CNC plasma better-suited for your application? Should you go with a rack-and-pinion machine or one that utilizes ball screw technology? What about servo vs. stepper motors?

Right at home in these important decisions is the choice between aluminum and steel as it pertains to the construction of your CNC machine’s gantry. This choice will impact the cost of your machine, but it will also impact the quality of your production and the ROI you see as a result.

Here is a closer look at aluminum vs. steel gantries to help determine which may work best for your particular application.

Aluminum gantry

The primary reason a shop owner or hobbyist would decide to go with an aluminum gantry is typically because of its reduced cost. But the cost savings isn’t necessarily tied to the aluminum material – it’s tied to what the aluminum means for the rest of the machine.

Aluminum is considerably lighter than steel, meaning it doesn’t take as large of motors to accelerate or decelerate in order to move the gantry back and forth. If you can get by with less expensive motors and drives, aluminum may be a worthwhile option.

But it does come with consequences, primarily in its inability to dampen vibrations as effectively as steel. Vibrations are a prominent and inevitable aspect of machining, and when using an aluminum gantry, these vibrations can end up showing in your edge finish and resulting in a lower-quality product.

Structural tube steel gantry

Structural steel, on the other hand, excels in dampening these vibrations to produce better edge finishes. The steel construction does lead to greater mass, requiring larger motors and drives in order to work effectively.

While a steel gantry machine may be a bit more expensive, it will produce better results and ROI down the road by eliminating rough edge finishes and inconsistent performance. The bottom line is if you can afford the up-front cost of a steel gantry CNC machine, it will likely be worth the investment later on.

Steel in ShopSabre’s machines

All ShopSabre CNC routers and plasmas come standard with a structural tube steel gantry that has been performance-milled and stress-relieved during manufacturing. Our gantries are designed with the same FEA software used on the frame to ensure bearing space, tube size, and wall thickness are all properly fitted for machine capacity. Our higher-end routers come with the same gantry construction found on high-production tables that can cost upwards of $100,000 – for a fraction of the cost.

We use a paired set of oversized structural steel tubes for our gantry uprights, allowing operators to push machines harder and faster under load with less deflection and vibration and fewer cutting issues. Our gantries provide higher clearances than the competition – and equip you to produce better results.

Experience CNC the way it was meant to be with ShopSabre

Many are concerned with the increased difficulty of welding steel frames and gantries – but not ShopSabre. Our in-house engineering talent has extensive expertise and always aims to provide hobbyists and shop owners alike with unmatched precision, efficiency, and versatility. Whatever your goals may be, we are dedicated to helping you produce outstanding results at a fraction of the labor and cost.

Our Industrial Series (IS) and PRO Series CNC routers provide industrial capability for a fraction of the price, while our SideKick CNC plasmas deliver professional quality at an entry-level cost.

Here are a few of the reasons ShopSabre is able to develop and produce such revolutionary CNC technology:

  • Experienced in-house engineering talent
  • The ability to totally fabricate and test designs onsite
  • The ability to place the designs into production in-house

These are just a few of the advantages of being an American machine tool manufacturer. We offer commercial financing on our CNC equipment to help meet the needs of your budget.

Shop our unmatched collection of CNC routers and CNC plasmas in Minneapolis today to experience CNC the way it was meant to be.

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