When it comes to milling, aluminum is one the most common materials being machined. Like all milling operations, the key to machining aluminum is speed and accuracy. Having the right end mills for aluminum will guarantee that you can operate at high speeds and feeds while also producing incredible results. If you try to attack aluminum with the same tools you would use on steel or other hard materials, you are going to run into some issues.
Aluminum is an extremely versatile metal. It is both strong and lightweight, especially when compared to other metallic materials. Aluminum’s softness can be a bit of a double edged sword when it comes to machining. It is soft enough to machine quickly and easily, but that softness comes with its own unique challenges.
When you machine a hard material like steel, the material is cut away and quickly creates tiny fractures as the cut portion is pulled away, breaking the chips into smaller pieces. Aluminum is so soft and flexible that this does not occur. Instead, the chips continue to bend until they form a long ribbon like chips before finally breaking. These longer chips are what can make aluminum so difficult to tackle from a milling perspective.
When machining metal, the usual approach is to go with end mills that have more flutes and make a large number of smaller cuts. While this is definitely advantageous when it comes to cutting into steel, the long chips produced by aluminum can quickly gum up the works with high flute count end mills.
If aluminum chips cannot be properly evacuated from the flutes of your end mills, a lot of different issues can occur. If they remain in the flutes, they can jam your end mill. This can cause damage to both the cutter and your workpiece. Aluminum trapped in the flutes can also be continuously heated to the point where it solidifies into a mass, causing an even more serious problem.
In order to avoid these issues, it is important to use the correct end mills for aluminum. In order to facilitate proper chip evacuation, most end mills for cutting aluminum will have a low flute count. Three flute end mills tend to be the most popular. In addition to having fewer flutes and more room for chip evacuation, these end mills also typically have a high helix angle. This helps to put more vertical force on the chips, forcing them away from the mill. Another common feature on these cutting tools is a gold colored ZrN coating. This material has a very low coefficient of friction, which prevents soft aluminum from clinging to the tool’s cutting edges.
The best aluminum end mills and end mills in general will also be constructed from carbide. Speed is the name of the game in a production environment and carbide end mills can operate at much higher speeds than steel tools. If you want to machine at high speeds, using carbide tools will help to avoid the risk of your tools losing their tempered cutting edges due to continued exposure to high temperatures.
If you are interested in finding some high quality end mills for aluminum, then Online Carbide is the place to start your search. They manufacture all of the end mills and drill bits from solid tungsten carbide tool stock, giving their cutters amazing edge retention, heat resistance, and tool life. If you have any questions about any of the tools they manufacture, you can reach out to a member of their team by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.