Aluminum is a pretty amazing material. Unlike most other metallic alloys, aluminum alloys are shockingly light, but still strong. This makes aluminum an extremely popular building material for a wide range of products. When it comes to machining aluminum, special material specific cutting tools should be used in CNC milling applications. Finding the right end mills for aluminum can help speed up your production process without risking your tool life or damaging your workpiece.
So what makes aluminum so special? Aluminum is strong, but it is also fairly soft for a metal. This means that it is slightly easier to machine, but this softness is something of a double edged sword. Aluminum can be cut using lower forces than harder materials like steel, but the flexibility of the material means that cuts often produce long unbroken chips instead of the small chips produced by harder materials.
This creates chip evacuation problems when using typical metal cutting end mills. The long chips produced when machining aluminum can easily get stuck around the tool, leading to jams and even causing aluminum to build up around the base of a tool, where the heat and pressure can cause it to resolve and damage your end mill.
This means that end mills for aluminum typically feature unique flute designs that are meant to increase the metal removal rates without putting your workpiece or tools at risk. One of the biggest factors when choosing any end mill is flute count and less is more when it comes to aluminum. Most aluminum end mills will feature three flutes, which helps to distribute the cutting force while also providing ample room for chip evacuation.
However flute count is not the only factor to consider, the design of the flutes also matters. Milling cutters for aluminum tend to have a high helix angle compared to other cutting tools. This means that the angle of the cutting edge is higher and provides more upward force on the chips, facilitating easy evacuation. End mills that fall somewhere between a 35° and 45° helix are usually the best choice for machining aluminum.
Your final consideration should be material composition. For many manufacturers, machining aluminum is all about speed. High speed machining puts a lot of strain on your tools, so it is important to choose options that can handle the heat. High speed steel tools might seem like the obvious choice, but these tools cannot handle the same speeds and feeds as solid carbide end mills.
Carbide tools are made from a composite material that contains both ceramic and metallic components. The metal offers strength and flexibility while the ceramic carbide provides superior edge retention and heat resistance. This means that you can run your carbide tools faster without having to worry about the edges softening due to high heat.
If you are interested in finding some high performance end mills for aluminum, there are many quality manufacturers online. Online Carbide is one American manufacturer that specializes in making solid carbide end mills and drill bits. Their store includes a line of aluminum cutters with e flutes, a 37° helix angle, and a coating of golden colored ZrN. This coating helps to lower the friction of the tool, making it harder for chips to stick to the body of the tool. You can see their full inventory of cutting tools at www.onlinecarbide.com. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to a member of their team by sending an email to [email protected]
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