Aluminum milling: solutions, technologies, phases. The best services.

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Aluminum milling: a definition

Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) milling is a subtractive technology suitable for the production of mechanical components in plastic, metal and wood.

This manufacturing process is very consolidated in all sectors of the manufacturing industry.

Before starting the production of a milling component it is necessary to have completed all the design steps. For this purpose it might be useful to read the guide on How to optimize the design of CNC machining parts.

Aluminum milling tool path preparation

Generally, before notifying engineering, the designer has chosen the material for its intrinsic characteristics and the use to be made of it.

In this article we will focus on aluminum milling which is one of the most used materials due to its characteristics and workability.

Characteristics of aluminium

Aluminum occurs naturally and is the most abundant metal in nature.

It is one of the most used metals after steel, superior in terms of strength-to-weight ratio.

Let’s try to list the main features:

  • Electrical and Thermal Conductivity: electrical conductivity measures the propensity of a material to allow current to pass through it; Thermal conductivity refers to the ability to transfer heat between two bodies.

  • Corrosion resistance: aluminum naturally develops an impenetrable oxide film on exposed surfaces. This is one of the reasons why the use of aluminum milled components is widespread. To optimize the resistance of the oxidation layer, anodizing treatments can be used.

  • Strength to weight ratio: Aluminum, for the same mass, offers greater strength and rigidity than other metals and alloys. To give an example, with the same volume, aluminum weighs a third of steel. This feature also positively affects the costs of aluminum milling because it is easier to handle and less expensive to transport.

  • Surface Finishes: Aluminum milling finishes are used to improve the surface and performance of parts. The most frequent ones are sandblasting, polishing, sanding, painting and galvanic treatments such as anodizing, Surtec and chrome plating.

  • Easy availability: Aluminium, unlike other materials, is constantly replenished. This is for two main reasons, it is 100% recycled and does not lose its original characteristics.

  • Malleability and ductility: make milling aluminum easier than other materials.

Aluminum alloys

The level and quality of the above characteristics depend on the type of aluminum alloy.

The classification of aluminum alloys is done using a 4-digit code from the 1000 to 9000 series.

In our workshop we mostly use:

  • Avional Serie 2000: the main alloying element is Copper. The characteristics of this alloy after heat treatment are comparable to carbon steels. Furthermore, they enjoy excellent workability on machine tools.

  • Peraluman 5000 series: the main alloying element is Magnesium which gives excellent qualities of ductility, workability and corrosion resistance.

  • Anticorodal series 6000: alloy with silicon and magnesium which contribute to optimizing formability, chipability, weldability and workability.

  • Ergal 7000 series: Zinc alloy that develops excellent mechanical characteristics.

The choice of the alloy to use is important to have a production that conforms to the necessary characteristics.

Our staff has extensive experience in the technical characteristics of materials and workability, so before procuring the material and starting production it is necessary to collect the specifications adequately.

The process

The milling process, for all materials, involves the creation of a designed component starting from a full block of material, which is why it is defined as subtractive.

The first step to optimize the production, times and costs of the aluminum milling process is to carefully follow a good design of 2D and 3D drawings.

Design and production are always closely connected, so it is optimal for the designer to know the manufacturing process well to be sure that what he designs is achievable.

First of all it is always advisable to create a simple design, the geometry must be designed for its functionality, avoiding inserting complexities that are not strictly necessary.

Precision is the second element to take into account. The milling processes are very precise but it is useful to maintain the tolerances that serve the functionality of the component.

Avoid, where possible, inserting text because it is quite expensive to create. Beyond this it is better to avoid high walls, narrow pockets, thin walls, very deep holes, sharp corners and pay close attention to the design of the threads.

Thread milling

Once the geometry has been defined, it is possible to start the aluminum milling process which is divided into two main steps:

  • Creation of the tool path which consists in defining the path that the machine must follow with relative simulation and the choice of tools to be used for machining.

  • Machine start-up: generally aluminum milling is divided into three steps: Roughing, Semi-finishing and Finishing.

Our case studies

Our services

Our service always includes file verification by workshop department operators to validate production and report any production critical issues.

Very often customers ask us for dimensional checks on milled aluminum prototypes, which is why we have equipped ourselves with an optical dimensional control system.

Finally we can carry out surface finishes on request which we carry out through external partners.

Why contact us

Different production technologies “coexist” in our workshop, from milling to 3D printing to vacuum casting to moulding.

Added to all this is a 2D and 3D CAD design department that can make the most of all the experience and knowledge of the operators in production.

This is a notable value that contributes to the quality of the prototypes, the reduction of time as well as a perfect co-design with the customer who followed the design steps.

Added to all this is the possibility of producing complex geometries thanks to 5-axis machining centers, as well as evaluating production alternatives in DMLS.

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