A Complete Guide to Aluminum CNC Machining

Aluminum is one of the most bountifully occurring natural elements typically found as an amalgamation consisting of other elements such as silicone and oxygen. It is not only durable but is also lightweight with the added advantage of having enhanced resistance to corrosion. Its machinability makes it applicable to an extensive range of applications.

What is CNC Machining?

CNC Machining is a specialized technology used for manufacturing procedures that involve cutting tools that are automated and controlled by a computer program. This advanced technology is highly versatile and is applicable in various industries.

Benefits of Aluminum CNC Machining Services

These benefits include;

  • Aluminum is a malleable mineral which enhances its machinability making it compatible with CNC router equipment. This makes processes like chipping easier allowing you to produce complex components.
  • One of the benefits of the metal is its enhanced resistance to corrosion thanks to oxidization when exposed to air increasing its resistance to chemicals.
  • You can use this metal for a wide range of projects as it can be recycled making it sustainable and environmentally friendly
  • The metal is lightweight while maintaining a relatively increased strength-to-weight ratio which allows it to withstand the machining process without any damage.
  • With aluminum, there are diverse options you can choose from when it comes to surface finishing which allows you to further customize the machined components.
  • The metal is relatively cheaper compared to other materials used in CNC machining prototype. This affords you a cost-effective alternative.
  • The various amalgamations of aluminum have enhanced electrical conductivity which broadens the range of its application.
  • With its increased durability and moisture resistance among other advantages aluminum is an ideal choice for the machining process.

Machines to use in CNC Machining Aluminum

Drilling Aluminum

Drilling Aluminum

There are a variety of technologies you can use to machine aluminum. Some of these machines are specialized for select uses and they may therefore vary from one configuration to the next. The most commonly utilized equipment in this process includes;

  • CNC metal lathes: This equipment functions as a support mechanism holding the material in firmly as it rotates. The cutting or drilling equipment is fitted in the tool head resulting in an accurate and efficient fabrication process.
  • CNC plasma cutters; In this tool, compacted air with highly elevated temperatures is used to form the equivalent of a plasma arc which is used to shape the material by melting through it. A computer program determines the path the arc takes while the compressed air removes the molten pieces from the part.
  • CNC laser machines; The tools function by emitting beams that shape the piece by vaporizing, melting, or burning away the unwanted sections. The computer program guides the beam path against the material that is secured on the table.
  • CNC water cutters; A slim nozzle is used to provide a pathway for highly pressurized water jets that are used in the cutting process. Abrasive materials are mixed into the water to allow it to cut into the aluminum.

Other tools used in this process include metal mills, inserts, carbide, polycrystalline diamond tools and drill bits among others.

Common Processes in Aluminum CNC Machining

The machining procedures may vary depending on your specific application requirement. Some of the commonly utilized processes include;

This is an automated procedure used to design high tolerance and complex components by progressively subtracting the material. This process is carried out by rotating cutting tools that are placed at multiple points. The procedure is conducted at a controlled pace using various angles.

This procedure is suited for applications that involve products that require fitting together such as bolts and screws. The procedure involves cutting holes into the material with a cutting tool that rotates while maintaining a straight course that is positioned perpendicular to the surface.

This is a procedure that is better suited for applications that involve cylindrical components. The procedure involves a cutting tool that remains stationary while the material is placed on a rotating surface allowing it to design the cylindrical shape.

Aluminum Grade Suitable for CNC Machining

Aluminum Alloy Grade Ease for CNC Machining Properties
1000 Has a superior workability but requires carbide or polycrystalline diamond tools because of its softness. · Enhanced corrosion resistance

· Increased electrical conductivity

2000 Excellent machinability thanks to its superior strength-to-weight ration · Features elevated strength

· Decreased corrosion resistance

3000 Has great workability and can undergo heat treatment · Average in strength

· Superior resistance to  corrosion

4000 This grade is better suited for welding purposes and its compatibility depends on the tools used for the machining process · Excellent flow properties

· Reduced melting point

5000 It has great compatibility but requires specific parameters for excellent results. · Excellent corrosion resistance

· Average to elevated strength

· Great weldability

6000 Has excellent machinability and can be heat treated increasing its compatibility with the machining process · Moderate strength

· Superior corrosion resistance

· Excellent formability

· Weldability

7000 This grade has elevated strength that requires specialized tools when conducting the machining process · Very high strength

· Reduced corrosion resistance

Common Challenges in CNC Machining Aluminum

There are some problems that you are likely to encounter when using CNC for aluminum-related processes. These challenges include;

  • The material’s malleability can prove to be a challenge as it often results in the formation of chips, poor finish, and burrs during the manufacturing process. This property can also cause build-up in the cutting tool edges which eventually damages the tools.
  • Given the elevated thermal conductivity of the material heat is easily dispelled during the processing which can lead to reduced accuracy, increased tool wear, and possible thermal deformation.
  • Alloys that contain silicon have increased abrasiveness which increases the rate of wear and tear of the tools. Increased damage to the tools will force you to keep changing the tools to maintain optimum function which increases production expenses.

Applications of Aluminum CNC Machined Parts

Turning Aluminum in CNC Machine

Turning Aluminum in CNC Machine

There are a multitude of applications for aluminum components produced using CNC machining. These applications include;

  • Aerospace industry for body panels, secondary structures, fasteners and fittings
  • Automotive industry for engine components and chassis and suspension system
  • Industrial equipment and machinery such as fixtures, calipers, enclosures, and panels
  • Consumer electronics including housings and components


CNC machining is high-tech and has several advantages which make it advantageous especially for aluminum which has a diverse range of applications. This procedure allows you to create complex and precise designs that can be used in a multitude of industries. It is however important to understand the type of aluminum you have which allows you to select the best tools for your application.

More Resources:

CNC Machine Types – Source: TSINFA

What is CNC Machining – Source: THOMASNET

CNC Machining Aluminum – Source: 3ERP