Tooling choices for solid surface

Tooling and feed speed info for machining solid surface materials. November 7, 2000

Has anyone had any experience with solid surface? What tooling works best in a router/machining center? And what kind of feeds and speeds can I expect? Also, I have cut acrylics before and found that in some cases back cutting as opposed to climb cutting gives a better finished edge. Is this the case with solid surface?

Forum Responses
Solid surface has great machining qualities and so is very easy to work with. In general, much of what you know from cutting acrylics can be applied to solid surface, since it is a type of cast acrylic. More specifically, the following tooling works very well.

Chipbreaker tools are good for roughing passes or edges that are not exposed. A 2 or 3 flute finishing tool does a great job when taking a small finishing pass. There is no clear cut answer as to whether climb or conventional cutting works best; it depends on the material and sometimes even the batch. Start with conventional cutting, but experimenting is the best way to be sure.

As far as feeds and speeds, it depends on what type and make of machine you are using. On a good solid cnc router, feed speeds of 500 inches per minute at 15,000 rpm are very realistic, cutting with 1/2 inch 3-flute tools in 1/2 inch solid surface. In lighter machines, you will need to slow down somewhat and take multiple depth passes. Keep your chiploads in the range of .005" to .012" per tooth.

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Something to consider is that the static generated from cutting the plastic with CNC machinery in addition to the static the dust extraction system creates mandates that something be used to counteract the attraction the plastic dust/chips will have to your machinery parts.

Antistatic air curtains seem to work best. While they won't eliminate the sticky situation entirely, they will help a great deal.

This is something you should be aware of if you are planning to machine a good deal of plastic.

As far as feed speeds, 5-6 meters per minute for linear cuts on average, slower on arcs/curves depending on the radius.

We have had great results from our distributors-customers using standard 2 flute upcut spirals to do edge work as well as sink cut outs. As you know solid surface dust is some of the finest around. You need to get the chips/dust up and out as quick as possible.