There are a few unique challenges when it comes to machining aluminum. This metal is strong while being relatively soft and lightweight, making it a valuable material for constructing a wide range of components across countless industries. Because aluminum parts are so in demand, being able to mill aluminum quickly and efficiently is crucial for machining businesses. Having the right end mills for aluminum can be the difference between easily meeting your production quotas or having to deal with the headache of mechanical failures. Today we will be looking at a few of the unique aspects of aluminum as a material and the milling cutters used to machine it.
Pros of Aluminum
One of aluminum’s main strengths is its weight compared to its strength. Aluminum alloys are usually employed in areas where strength is essential, but weight is a consideration. Aluminum is also extremely malleable and ductile, though these traits are not often valued in terms of machining. Because it is soft, it can also be machined relatively quickly without putting too much strain on your tools.
Cons of Aluminum
The biggest issue with aluminum as a manufacturing material is its softness. You are probably thinking, “but wait, soft things should be easier to machine!” You would think so, but the softness actually becomes a bit of an issue when you’re dealing with metals at high speeds. When tools cut into hard materials like steel, tiny chips are cut off and thrown clear of the cutter. With soft and flexible aluminum, the same tool would cut long ribbon-like chips instead. These chips can jam up your cutter if they are not properly evacuated from the cutting surface.
Choosing Tools for Aluminum
In order to deal with the chip production of aluminum, special tools have to be used. The best end mills for aluminum will have wide flute spacing to facilitate the easy evacuation of chips. Two and three flute end mills are the most common option, as both of these options provide ample room to break and evacuate chips.
In addition to looking for fewer flutes than you might use with harder materials, you should also be looking for end mills with higher helix angles. The helix angle is the angle of a tangent of a cutting edge compared to the central axis of the tool. This increased angle helps to impart more force on the chips, pushing them up and away from the cutter and clear of the workpiece.
Finally you will want an end mill with a gold colored coating. This golden material is known as zirconium nitride or ZrN and it helps to lower the friction on the end mill’s cutting surfaces. Because aluminum is so soft, especially when exposed to the high temperatures created by milling, it can easily stick to the surface of your cutter. ZrN is a hard ceramic that is deposited onto the surface of cutting tools in order to protect the cutting edges and make it harder for chips to stick to your cutter.
If you are trying to find the best end mills for aluminum for your milling machine, it’s always worth finding high performance tools for an American manufacturer. Online Carbide is one American manufacturer that produces some amazing solid carbide end mills and drill bits. If you have any questions about the tools that they carry, or you are interested in having custom milling cutters manufactured for your shop, feel free to reach out to a member of the Online Carbide team by sending an email to email@example.com.