What makes CNC machining so great? One of the main reasons is the vast selection of materials.
Aluminum stands out as one of the most popular of all those materials. Lightweight, robust, and relatively inexpensive, almost every industry uses CNC-machined aluminum parts.
Learn all about the benefits, the most popular alloys, the best finishes, and more to ensure your next project succeeds.
Why Aluminum? Benefits of CNC Machined Aluminum Parts
Aluminum has long held a prime position in various industries, from aerospace to electronics. But what makes it a preferred choice for CNC machining?
Lightweight yet strong: Aluminum exhibits a remarkable strength-to-weight ratio. This benefit is critical for applications where weight savings are essential without compromising structural integrity.
Excellent thermal and electrical conductivity: This makes aluminum the material of choice for heat sinks and several electronic components.
Natural corrosion resistance: An inherent oxide layer forms on aluminum surfaces, shielding them from corrosion. The appropriate finishes increase this corrosion resistance.
Ease of machining and finishing: Aluminum's malleability and softness mean it can be machined at high speeds. That means less energy and time compared to harder metals.
Cost-effectiveness: The abundant availability of aluminum and its ease of machining often result in competitive prices for CNC-machined aluminum parts. It's a budget-friendly choice for both large-scale and small-batch projects. To see just how cost effective aluminum is, try out MakerVerse's instant quoting.
Popular Aluminum Alloys for CNC Machining
Not all aluminum is treated equally. Various alloys amplify specific characteristics of aluminum, tailoring them to different applications. Some of the most machined aluminum alloys:
Aluminum 6061: This alloy combines good strength, weldability, and corrosion resistance.
Aluminum 6060: Slightly softer than 6061, this alloy is known for its formability and weldability. It's commonly used in intricate extrusions and fittings.
Aluminum 5083: With superior resistance to corrosion, especially in seawater, 5083 is a primary choice for marine applications.
Aluminum 7075: Boasting impressive strength, 7075 is ideal for high-stress applications where strength is paramount.
Aluminum 6082: A structural alloy, 6082 offers a balance between strength and corrosion resistance. It finds its use in highly stressed applications, including trusses, cranes, and bridges.
For engineers and designers, the nuanced differences between these alloys can dictate the success of a project. Our experts can help you make the right choice on the MakerVerse platform.
Want to know more about the metals popular for CNC machining? This article outlines the benefits.
Overcoming Challenges in CNC Machining Aluminum
While aluminum offers unique advantages, there are some considerations to take into account if you’re managing the machines yourself.
Avoiding Material Welding onto the Cutting Tool: Aluminum is known to be "sticky" during machining. This stickiness can cause the material to weld onto the tool, especially at high speeds. To avoid this, ensure proper tool coatings like titanium carbonitride (TiCN) and use suitable coolants to dissipate heat and prevent material buildup.
Ensuring Precision and Reducing Tool Wear: The adhesive nature of aluminum can accelerate tool wear, impacting precision over extended runs. Use carbide tools or diamond-tipped ones to enhance tool life and maintain accuracy.
Addressing the Softness and Malleability of Aluminum: While aluminum's softness makes it easier to machine, it's also prone to deformities, especially when clamped improperly. Ensure proper work-holding fixtures and avoid excessive force to maintain the part's integrity.
Post-processing and Finishing CNC Machined Aluminum Parts
Beyond aesthetics, finishes can enhance a part's wear resistance, electrical conductivity, or thermal properties, depending on the application.
At MakerVerse, some of the most popular finishes for CNC-machined aluminum parts include:
Anodizing: Increases wear and corrosion resistance while offering a variety of color options.
Powder Coating: Provides a durable, uniform surface finish with a wide range of colors.
Sandblasting: Achieves a matte, uniform appearance and can also prep surfaces for further finishing.
Source CNC-Machined Aluminum Parts
If you’re looking for an easy way to source aluminum machined parts, MakerVerse can help.
Our on-demand manufacturing platform offers you instant quotes and expert support, ensuring you get yours parts quickly and with industrial-grade quality. See the platform for yourself and upload designs to get your instant quote.