Hey, it’s Justin – let’s talk about routing aluminum.
We’ve done a handful of aluminum projects on our machine but this was the big kahuna: Six sheets of 0.5 inch thick 6061.
This project has been in the works for months and it felt really great to finally make a bunch of chips. Let’s go through what we learned.
Each of these sheet weighs about one hundred and thirty pounds and unfortunately all had cupping and some had a twist too.
Let’s jump into CAM in Fusion 360. We’ll go through the setup of a couple sheets and go cut some parts.
If the layout looks generously spaced, it is. We probably would have spaced them tighter, the client actually nested these parts and ordered the material. We typically like to control that a little better but at least aluminum is one of the best materials to recycle.
Let’s go into the setup for Sheet 2.
We’ve set multiple depths - no one pass cutting like plywood - and used a pretty conservative 90 thousandths as our depth of cut.
In our research we’ve found that we are probably being a little too shallow in our depth of cut.
Harvey Tool has put out a bunch of great research on better machining methods. This High Efficiency Machining example shows an optimal full tool axial engagement of the cutter. Unfortunately we had to slot cut our parts from sheet stock. We tried to mimic this High Speed Machining but in a slotting version with many step-downs.
We use #2 square screws when needed to fixture to our spoil-board. In this case, we used neoprene backed washers to make sure we didn’t mar the surface of the parts. This gave us great hold on any parts that wanted to pop-up from the cupped material and loss of suction from machined slots.
Hand tighten your screws to prevent tearing out the spoil-board - which is very easy to do.
Air & Lube
Chips and heat kill cutters. To minimize wear on our tools we used a reposition-able air hose set to a low pressure push chips out of the way so we aren’t recutting them. We also found that a healthy dose of WD-40* keeps the cutter from chattering and thus improves life of the tool and quality of the cut surfaces.
*Update: We now know that alcohol (not beer) is a better option than WD-40.
Aluminum machining on a CNC router is not glamorous. Without an enclosure, chips literally fly everywhere. Always wear safety glasses, covering your skin is a nice idea too since the chips are warm.
Tools Used in this Project
Amana 51476 O’ Flute 3/16” - https://pdxc.co/amana-51476
Amana 51484 O’ Flute 3/8” - https://pdxc.co/amana-51484
Neoprene Washers - https://pdxc.co/neoprene-washers
Bosch 12v Drill - https://pdxc.co/bosch-12v-drill
Multi-screwdriver - https://pdxc.co/multi-screwdriver
Support us - https://pdxc.co/patreon
Tools We Use - https://pdxc.co/tools
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