Advantages of Using Aluminum for CNC Machined Parts

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Aluminum, a widely used material option for CNC machines, contains many practical characteristics and properties. Its strength makes it perfect for use in mechanical parts. The oxidized layer on its surface protects them from the environment. For these reasons, aluminum components can prove useful in a broad spectrum of industrial products. This includes automobiles, aircraft, healthcare facilities and consumer electronics goods.

There are further benefits unique to aluminum that make CNC machining more effortless and effective. In this article, you’ll learn why aluminum CNC machining is among the most high-demand techniques in prototyping and manufacturing services.

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Top 7 Advantages of Utilizing Aluminum in CNC Machines and CNC Machine Parts

1. Excellent Machinability Characteristics

Aluminum’s ease with machining proves a significant draw for engineers looking to produce machined components. It helps both the company that needs the part made and the consumers who end up using it.

CNC machine tools can make quick and precise cuts in aluminum because the metal chips easily conform to a wide range of shapes. This has two significant implications:

  • A shorter machining timeframe equals lower costs (due to fewer operator time and equipment operating hours). 
  • A more machinable part means less distortion because of the way the cutting tool moves through the workpiece. 

Because of this, the machines perform more accurately, depict higher repeatability, and are able to achieve tighter tolerances (as thin as 0.025 mm).

Laser metall cut cnc machine. Fly fire sparks background.

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2. Extensive Alloy Alternatives with Distinct Material Properties

Because aluminum is so versatile, several alloys have been developed from it. Each alloy has unique properties and applications.

There are a total of nine series in aluminum alloys; a separate thousand-series number denotes each one. After that, it’s divided by another digit.

A few of the most prominent aluminum grades include:

  • 5083 – A marine grade with increased magnesium concentration, making it very resistant to corrosion.
  • 7075 – A high-strength aerospace grade with a favorable distribution of properties, especially in situations involving high static loads. 
  • 6082 – A general application, aerospace grade alloy widely used because of its high strength-to-weight ratio, excellent ductility, and high corrosion resistance.
  • 2024 – Another aerospace-grade alloy that sacrifices ultimate tensile strength (UTS) for higher ductility/toughness.

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3. Outstanding Strength-To-Weight Ratio

Aluminum lies amongst the most suitable metals for mechanical and aesthetic applications due to its favorable physical properties. The greater strength of the metal and the fact that it is lightweight are among the material’s essential characteristics. They also make it desirable for critical manufacturing components like those in the automotive and aerospace industries. Aluminum’s optimum strength-to-weight ratio allows it to be effectively machined into a variety of parts; some examples of these items include automotive shafts and aircraft fittings.

4. CNC Machines: Superior Resistance to Corrosion

Aluminum is an excellent option if corrosion resistance is a priority. However, this property varies with grade. The metal and its alloys share an optimum oxygen affinity level. While more reactive metals, like magnesium, oxidize quickly, lesser reactive ones, like iron and steel, create a loose oxide coating.

Aluminum, on the other hand, generates an oxide passivation layer when exposed, sealing the surface against further oxidation and degradation. Due to the self-healing nature of this layer, the materials do not necessarily require repainting or surface treatments. This saves you money during both production and maintenance. What’s more, aluminum’s intrinsic resistance to corrosion can be further enhanced through anodizing.

5. CNC Machines: Higher Electrical Conductivity

Because of its reasonable price and lightweight nature, electrical systems are commonly built using aluminum. It is also employed for applications like battery cables, connectors, and busbars, specifically in automotive and electric vehicle settings. And, owing to its high thermal conductivity, aluminum is frequently utilized for heat sinks and other forms of heat dissipation.

6. Better Recyclability with CNC Machines

Aluminum’s high recyclability proves an additional perk that appeals to businesses that aspire to reduce their ecological footprint or that simply want to cut down on wasteful practices and recuperate some of their investment. Indeed, CNC machining generates a lot of waste material in the form of chips from cutting tools, making recyclables especially crucial.

7. Splendid Aesthetics Achieved Through Anodization

The consumer electronics industry relies heavily on machined aluminum components to meet the industry’s stringent requirements for durability and portability, but also because of the sector’s emphasis on design and aesthetics. Aluminum can be anodized, which strengthens the protective oxidized outer layer of the product, in addition to being painted or tinted into hundreds of colors.

Concluding Remarks

The properties you require from your component will guide your material selection. The advantages mentioned above about aluminum make it a popular material choice, but it is just one of many metals and plastics used for this reason.

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About the Author:

Peter Jacobs

Peter Jacobs is the Senior Director of Marketing at CNC Masters. He is actively involved in manufacturing processes and regularly contributes his insights to various blogs on CNC machining, 3D printing, rapid tooling, injection molding, metal casting, and manufacturing in general.

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