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Machining Aluminum - Why It's Not So Simple

When it comes to machining aluminum, it’s not a simple task.  There are many grades of aluminum, all of which have different recommended machining techniques.  This tool tip helps break down some of the different grades of aluminum and our recommendations for tooling and surface feet per minute.

1100 Grade Aluminum

This grade of aluminum is commercially pure aluminum and easy to machine though very ductile and difficult to control chips.

SFM = > 1000

2024 & 6061 Grades Aluminum

These grades are high strength and heat treatable aluminum alloys.  They are very commonly used in Aircraft, Recreation, and Automotive body components.

SFM = > 600

7050 & 7075 Grades Aluminum

These grades are some of the highest strength aluminum alloys available.  They are used in the manufacturing of Aircraft and Marine Vehicles.

  • This grade of Aluminum reacts much like tool steel when being machined. It is recommended to use high speed machining techniques when machining these materials. Using these types of techniques promotes the use of light radial cuts.
  • The use of heavier radial depths of cut and higher feed rates will promote the movement of the material due to the higher stress levels in the material.
  • Speeds – You can use higher SFM when machining these types of materials but you must use light RDoC and control the feed rates.

Cast Aluminum

A319 – 5% Silicon
Standard Tooling can be used very effectively.

A356 – 7% Silicon
Standard Tooling can be used very effectively.

A380 – 10.5% Silicon
PCD Tooling is the preferred tool for this material. TiB2 or ZrCN coatings must be used if using a carbide tool.           

A390 – 17% Silicon
PCD Tooling or Coating is the only tool material that will effectively machine this grade of Aluminum. Lower SFM is preferred for this grade, < 1000 SFM.

Have more questions about machining aluminum?  Contact our team at 989.799.4550 or 855.722.7243.

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