Many people often question if the CNC router can cut aluminum because they are used to finding them primarily cut plastics and wood. The response to their subject is always yes if the operator does it appropriately. This article will introduce the complete system of aluminum cutting with a CNC router device. Machining aluminum with these particular devices is not only easy by also highly productive. Utilizing a CNC router for metal pieces can be a successful approach with a bit of preparation and care. However, there are few things to remember about cutting these materials, making them different from wood and plastic.
Aluminum materials have minor sweet spots for optimal speed and feed. If the operator leaves the sweet spot, it can beak the cutter or wear out a lot faster and cause a poor surface finish. Depending on the demanding product and project, there are several sweet spots to consider. Another factor to consider is the stickiness meaning that the aluminum tends to stick to the cutting tool due to its physical properties. The material will eventually stick to the point that it welds itself to the cutting tool. Once they are stuck aluminum deposits on the cutting edges, the device is no longer suitable for further usage, especially for 20,000 rpm or more.
Despite these challenges, manufacturers can successfully cut aluminum on almost any CNC router by following the steps below.
Never Rush During Aluminum Cutting
The CNC router machine can cut aluminum with high quality. However, it is not the perfect tool for hogging out significant industrial parts and building materials such as aluminum sidings. The price customers pay for the best results can slow down the process. This does not mean slowing down the feeds and speeds, but the overall material removal rate will be less than what can be achieved using a purpose-built CNC mill. Thus, this method for cutting aluminum requires patience and waiting for the machine to do its job. A good-sized router can be suitable for many more materials on its table than most of the CNC mills. The only responsibility of the operator is to load up the machine with the material and leave it until the work is done.
Using a Speed and Feed Calculator
The machine will eventually reach its limits, and cutting aluminum with the CNC router requires precision. Everything can go well if the operator utilizes all of the efforts on the steps. If the tip of the cutter is dodged, it can break the tool, and as a result, the cutting will be a failure. All CNC machines can benefit from speed and feed calculator, but then it is near the edge of the working process; it will require extra attention. They are many practical calculators available in the market for this purpose. However, it is essential to choose the one that has the right features for the routers. A few of the vital attributes that speed and feed calculators have are:
- Minimum RPM setting: The calculator will not help if it keeps noting that the operator should set the machine at a slower pace than it possibly can.
- Cutter Types: There are various cutter types available for fabricating aluminum sheets, such as V-bits and compression bits. Thus, it is essential to make sure the calculator can handle all of them.
- Deflection: The calculator can figure out the tool deflection and provides data to find the best solutions for avoiding excessive deflection.
- Rubbing Warning: Rubbing occurs when the operator slows down the feed rate too much, and the cutter stops slicing off perfect clean chips followed by plowing along the material’s surface.
- Chip Thinning: Taking light cuts with less width than half the diameter of the cutting tool, chip thinning can occur. The calculator needs to compensate for this to prevent permanent tools wear out.
Utilize CNC Router Bits for Aluminum Cutting
CNC routers utilize various specialized cutters that are not appropriate for cutting aluminum. Thus, having a unique cutting tool for aluminum materials is crucial. Most manufacturers prefer to use 2 or 3 flute carbide endmills for the job. These cutters are helpful to bump up the efficient rpm to ensure the blades function correctly at high-rate operations. The measurement for determining this is called surface speed, and the carbide mills can go much faster than other cutters. It is essential to have in mind to avoid using cutters such as compression cutters and HSS cutters for aluminum. They will cause damages and will not let the operator achieve its best result.
In the CNC router aluminum cutting tips (part 2) article, we will discuss other essential steps for fabricating aluminum materials.