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Cutting aluminum

Norman R. Pease


Tooling suggestions welcome on this. I have a 3 axis CNC with no Coolant feed. Client wants the attached photo cut in 3/8" T aluminum. Need a clean finished surface, as it will be plated with nickle. Size 43 x 19. Use a ball mill, or have a cutter made? I assume multiple passes to achieve depth.

11/22/14       #2: Cutting aluminum ...

What machine do you have? If you got a heavy machine like KOMO, HAAS, North Wood, etc. you should be able to cut and get a decent surface finish. I would pass on this, unless your sure the customer will pay. Aluminum is a mess on a router. The chips get every where. And unless your machine and work holding capability is rigid enough to handle solid cuts it would take hours and hours to cut and hand finish this. Be cheaper to sub it out to my neighbors machine shop. Mark it up 20% and be done with it. Good luck.

11/22/14       #4: Cutting aluminum ...
Norman R. Pease  Member


Thanks Todd. I have a lower end machine....ShopSabre, no vacuum hold down, so would be multiple passes. I already told the client it would VERY expensive. I am inclined to pass on this, but a long term customer, and need the work. That is why I was thinking having a cutter made to get a clean finished cut at depth. I am guessing applying WD 40 or similar continuously as the parts are machined.

11/22/14       #5: Cutting aluminum ...

I had a shopsabre. Its not a bad machine. But it will take some time to cut this without having a bunch of chatter. I'd start by getting material Aluminum 6061-T6 45" x 21" . Lap the back side flat and clean

The best finish would be by using a form tool to cut. May have to have it custom ground. Personally, if I could find a wood working tool that was close I'd try it. I'd 3D cut with a ball mill first and profile with form cutter. My tool path strategy would be
1) profile "holes" cut outs with 1/4 o-flute
2) Remove "holes" center waste material
3) 3D rough out "holes" feature with 1/2 Ball mill
4) Trace "holes" profile with form tool. (start under size and work your way out, full depth)
5) Cut outer profile to 43x19

Holding down the material and cooling the tool is going to be tricky. I would use the excess material to do a bolt pattern around the finish area. Then screw down to the spoil board. I also like to use spray adhesive or double sided tape to dampen any vibration. I apply TransferRite transfer tape to aluminum to keep glue off material. If you can get a mister system, do it. WD40 will work. But you have to be vigilant, once a chip welds to the tool its done. A mister is constant and consistent.

Do it one step at a time, one "hole" at a time. Just use your head and take your time. Good luck

KOOL MIST Single Mist Unit

11/23/14       #6: Cutting aluminum ...
james mcgrew Member


Good to see Todd had not seen a post in a while !

I am making .1875 Brackets of a starfish design for a childrens clinic, I ran the main bulk yesterday and has seen this post, to do what you are asking is a matter of money and value. the brackets needed could be purchased in a generic (radius form) for a 100.00 I added 40 for the custom file so 140 X 14 is 1960.00

cost one sheet .1875 - 6061alu (always use a hard ALU) 135.00 broke 2 bits (.25 "O" flute From Southeast tools, Thanks for the Gum Chuck !!)) 80.00 pay welder 25 unit = 350.00 and machining took 2 hours (10000 rpm at 80 IPM)

so 1950.00 - 485.00 leaves me 1465.00 for my machining and profit. this can be profitable, find a good local aluminum welder, make sure he is good, lots of welders are alien to aluminum and the weld can look like crap. these are welded by using a tab in the top and bak plates (hides the weld) and requires one slight visible at the bracket corner, (sometimes we create small Rabbit and hide all welds.)

Machining aluminum is not so hard, the chips suck (I do not use dust collection, just blow them off and sweep up) the learning curve can be a real bit@H but at the end of the day it has worked for me.

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11/23/14       #8: Cutting aluminum ...
Norman R. Pease  Member


Hi James and Todd. Thanks for the info Todd, that pretty much would have been my strategy for machine, though I thought to rough cut the hole first, then remove the centers, giving less material for the 1/4" o flute to deal with. The mister...I assume you locate it so it is misting on the area being cut, then move it to the next hole? James, you mentioned just blowing off the chips, Are you not using any coolent then?

11/23/14       #9: Cutting aluminum ...


Hi, james. Have you seen user #3dtexturedpanels on instagram has been taking credit for images off websites.
I saw one of your panelusions pictures there. Along with some from "cutting edge doors" and my product. Crazy, people taking credit for others work. I have a feeling he doesn't like me bothering him. But if he was good, he wouldn't need to steal pictures from us. His company is actually "Keystone cabinets" in California. And hes a scum bag who steals images to add to his portfolio.

Norman, link shows basic idea. Pretty much set it to the tool and let it run. As for the centers, I like to just get it out of the way. Being only .375 you should be no problem either way. If you don't push it to hard.

cnc router with mist cooling system:

11/23/14       #10: Cutting aluminum ...
james mcgrew Member

Thanks for the heads up,, I looked but the only one that came close to one of mine was a basic texture that I did direct from the texture toolpath in Aspire. he definitely has way to much of a body of work to be realistic in his offering, I can tell he has done some of it for sure.

your site looks Good you have come a long way !!

11/23/14       #11: Cutting aluminum ...

There's been a little bit of everything on there. Interlam, modular arts, soelberg etc. The guys playing with fire by posting their stuff. I just consider it annoying, those companies consider it a crime.
You know as well as anybody, it takes a lot of time and work to get things together. Then to have some guy cut and paste your pictures after cropping out the logo is lame. Good luck Jim. If I ever get to your neck of the woods, have to stop by for a life size game of chess.

11/23/14       #12: Cutting aluminum ...
james mcgrew Member

Definitely far more work than one thinks,, I am not in the retail panel business I am in the Architectural Application Business. I have a few samples which show I can produce the work, but no inventory nor effort to retail the panel itself, I have out competed a few of the Big boys locally but not by using their work to do it ! I am with ya on Intelectual property theft, but then it is the buyer who gets hurt. all mine is AWI and SPEC work we provide actual submittals and Invite all interested to come see the product made !

Come on by anytime,, we still hold the Camp in the Spring and with seven years under our belt it now draws a good 150 to 200 real talented fellows ! Hoping to have Brady Watson dive deeper into scanning this Year !

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11/23/14       #14: Cutting aluminum ...
Norman R. Pease  Member


Thanks for the help guys. I will move forward with at least offering a quote, now that I have a plan in place. Todd, the mister looks pretty straight forward. On your other comments, I wonder how he can reproduce what others have done? Maybe close enough I guess. It is a shame that we all can't just stand on our own work. Love the textured look James. Did a texture in aluminum a while back for the same client as this job. I attached the photo. 3-4x8 sheets. Took a long time with a 1/8" ball.

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11/23/14       #15: Cutting aluminum ...
james mcgrew Member

Now that is Cool !

11/24/14       #16: Cutting aluminum ...

"Did a texture in aluminum a while back for the same client as this job. I attached the photo. 3-4x8 sheets. Took a long time with a 1/8" ball. "

Wow! Thats cool. Does your shopsabre have ballscrews? Seen they switched to a stationary ballscrew with a rotating collar that rode the gantry around. Mine the 8ft ballscrew turned, it rattled like crazy at high feed rates. Did OK but stationary ballscrew looked way better.

11/25/14       #17: Cutting aluminum ...
Norman R. Pease  Member


Thanks Todd. Yes, I have rotating ball screws on mine driven by servos. The Y axis used to be quiet, now it rattles the first 28" or so at speed. I replaced the bearings front and back for the screw, and have replaced all 6 linear bearings on the y axis. Need to do the X axis as well. Have the bearings, just haven't wanted to take the spindle off again.

11/25/14       #18: Cutting aluminum ...
Chuck Hicks  Member



If you can hook up air to blow on the tool or have a cool gun, that would be a big help also.

Jim, Glad you are happy and you are welcome on the gum.

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