Tips for Cutting Aluminum with a CNC Router
CNC routers are capable of precisely and efficiently cutting a wide variety of materials, which has always been one of their greatest advantages. While often used to create cabinetry from wood or signage from plastic, CNC routers are also versatile enough to cut a wide range of metals at a high level.
Aluminum is among the most commonly cut materials for CNC routers, helping create everything from signage and precision components to aircraft parts and beyond. Working with aluminum does require a unique mindset, however, as it behaves differently than other materials and must be treated differently to achieve the desired result.
Here are some tips for cutting aluminum with a CNC router.
Determine the Proper Feeds and Speeds
As with any project, determining the correct feeds and speeds is going to have a significant impact on the outcome of the work. This is especially important with aluminum, which despite being a softer metal, has a much smaller “sweet spot” for optimal feeds and speeds than wood or plastic.
It’s important to take your time when cutting aluminum, so as to keep from overly chipping the workpiece or causing the edges to stick to the cutter during execution. But be careful not to slow down too much, though, as you will then risk causing the tool to rub against the workpiece rather than cutting.
There are a number of feed rate calculators online that can help guide you down the right path when it comes to feed rate optimization. If you have any questions or concerns finding the ideal feed rate for your specific project, a CNC expert at ShopSabre is ready and waiting to help you dial in your router’s performance.
Use the Right Router Bits
There is a seemingly endless range of router bits available for any given project, varying based on size, type, material, and several other factors. When working with aluminum, carbide-tipped router bits often work best as they are capable of handling the high RPMs that come with the job.
You may be tempted to go with a high-speed steel (HSS) bit or even a cobalt bit, but in many cases these materials won’t be able to perform at the desired level when working with aluminum. HSS bits, while possessing high heat- and wear-resistance, are still more likely to dull due to heat and friction than carbide-tipped bits.
Use a Misting System
Working with aluminum on a CNC router involves incredibly hot temperatures as one metal cuts through the other at high speed. Using a misting system is a great way to help cool down the bit as it works its way through the material, also providing much-needed lubrication to help minimizing sticking.
This will also help extend the lifespan of both the bit and the workpiece while preserving the integrity of the material.
As we alluded to earlier, aluminum is a material that requires more patience than others. This means making frequent, shallow passes during cutting. It can be easy to want to make deeper cuts to try and save time, but this won’t work well with aluminum.
Making more frequent and shallower passes until reaching your desired depth is a better way to go, also resulting in better access for easier chip removal. Clearing chips is essential to success with aluminum, as a failure to thoroughly do so is likely to result in cutter damage down the road.
Experience CNC the Way It Was Meant to Be
ShopSabre’s industry-best and American-made CNC routers, plasmas, and accessories are designed to help both shop owners and hobbyists grow their production through unmatched precision, repeatability, and automation – all at an affordable price.
Our machines are easy to purchase, set up, and operate, even without any formal training. Our team of dedicated experts offers one-on-one support to help you find the right machine and to make sure it works the way you and your business need it to – both on day one and on day 1,000.
Here are a few of the reasons ShopSabre is able to develop and produce such revolutionary CNC technology:
- Experienced and dedicated in-house engineering talent
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Shop our unmatched collection of CNC routers and CNC plasmas today to experience CNC the way it was meant to be.