10 Ways to Make Your Aluminum CNC Machining Easier  

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Quick doesn’t always mean low quality. Easy doesn’t always mean substandard. Here are a few aluminum CNC machining tips that are sure to make your job so easy, you won’t believe.

As part of innovation, we are always looking for ways to make our jobs easier, more expedient, and more efficient- whilst maintaining a high quality of output. This has led man to invent so many novel methods, equipment and procedures to that end. It then goes without saying that as an aluminum CNC machinist, you can expose yourself to methods that can expedite your process and in doing so, make your job all the more efficient and easier. Here are 10 tips to help ease your aluminum CNC machining process.

  • VMC or HMC process: For shops that rely heavily on Vertical Machining centres, it is always a good idea to add a Horizontal Machining Center to the mix. These Horizontal Machining Centers add a slew of extra benefits including better chip control, B axis rotation and pallet indexing as part of their make-up.
  • CNC control: In order to properly machine aluminum alloys into complex shapes, a capable control system is required. This system should allow for the programming of control contour, CAD/CAM interface, control contour, etc.
  • Thermal stability: As aluminum and its alloys can damage or prove unworkable in high temperature variations, every machining tool has to be designed in such a way that it is thermally stable, allowing for the worker to precisely hold tolerances.
  • Flood coolant and through spindle: whilst machining aluminum, it is important for efficiency sake that you retain the ability to apply coolant at pressures of at least 1000 psi. Also, it is important to install a system to flush away chips and other materials whilst in the machining process.
  • Horsepower: aluminum, despite being more free- cutting than other metals, still requires a high amount of horsepower. This is especially more apparent in situations with aggressive speeds and feed rates. Spindles are recommended to be capable of speeds higher than 10,000 RPM as well as have a good enough amount of horsepower.
  • Use a feeds and speeds calculator: For both optimum safety as well as optimum performance, it is imperative to employ the use of a feeds and speeds calculator. Some of the settings that it should include are: minimum rpm setting, deflection, rubbing warning, chip thinning, derating horsepower, etc.
  • Smaller Diameter cutters: A technique that helps speed up the rpm’s is to utilize smaller diameter cutters. Leave your ½” endmills in favor of ¼” or even less (if you can). Important to remember though whilst moving to smaller cutters is to make sure that they are rigid, lest deflection begins to occur.
  • Always clear chips: As the material has a proclivity towards bonding with the cutter, it is very important that you clear out the chip excess regularly during the machining process. A usual cause of broken cutters is recutting chips. A reliable means to evacuate chips is to use an air blast implement that is affixed on the spindle and positioned to point where the cutter meets the work material.
  • You can try mist lubrication to reduce the tendency for chips to stick to cutting edges. It is a tried and tested method and it allows for the work material to stay clean and the cutting tool sharp throughout the machining process.
  • Always remember that working on aluminum sheets is different from working on aluminum plates. It is an important distinction that always needs to be made.

Machining aluminum using CNC is a very common practice and as the experienced veterans will tell you, taking care of your tools is almost as important as anything else involved in the job.