A CNC Router is primarily known for cutting plastic and wood.
As a result, people often raise the question, can I used a CNC router for cutting aluminum?
The answer to this question is definitely yes. No matter what CNC Router you may use, you can use it to cut aluminum – provided that you do it in the right way.
If you know all the necessary tips and tricks to successfully cut aluminum using a CNC Router, you will find it to be both productive as well as easy-to-do.
Although every router can cut aluminum. However, there are some router specially designed for cutting aluminum. We have enlisted those routers below.
5 Best CNC Routers for Aluminum Cutting
1. Gowe 1013 Inch CNC Router- Top Pick
The 1013 Inch CNC Router by Gowe is a ready-to-use machine that comes with all the necessary items you need in order to start using the machine almost right after unboxing.
This CNC Router can be used to work with various materials, including soft metal such as aluminum.
It can be used straight out of the box:
The Gowe 1013 Inch CNC Router comes mostly assembled in the package. With the help of a manual provided by the company, you just need to do some easy assembling in order to start using the machine.
No more manual tool setting...!
This CNC Router comes with automatic tool setting function of Z-axis – which is much more powerful.
You do not have to buy any other software to operate it...
Since this CNC Router is well-known to be a ready-to-use package, everything required to successfully operate the machine comes along with it.
So, the Mach 3 software is provided in the package and you do not need to buy any additional software.
It cannot be operated using a laptop:
This CNC Router can only be operated using a desktop. This is because the signals to the stepper motors are slower and the voltages in a laptop are not as high as a desktop.
This Router is ready to be used machine that including all tools you need. However, you can successfully cut aluminum with this machine if you know the cutting process properly.
2. DIY CNC Router Engraving Kit- Best Budget
The DIY CNC Router Engraving Kit is a light-duty machine that can be used to engrave plastic, wood, PVC, or soft metals such as aluminum.
However, it cannot be used to engrave any hard metals or materials.
If you are on a low budget, looking for a CNC Router machine for successfully cutting aluminum, this machine can be your best friend.
Easy to assemble:
This CNC Router is fairly easy to assemble even without assembly instructions.
The large working area for the price point...
This CNC Router has a considerably larger working space as compared to the others in this price range.
It takes longer to finish off:
The mounting bracket for the spindle is not metal, but some sort of plastic. As a result, if you route too deep in a pass, it can stutter a little.
Therefore, you need to keep your passes light to ensure that your final piece is nice and clean.
In a nutshell, the DIY CNC Router Engraving Kit is a really good budget-friendly, light-duty machine if you love to DIY and want to get into the world of CNC.
3. DIY CNC Router Kits 2418 GRBL Control 3 Axis
The DIY CNC Router Kits 2418 is a pretty basic machine that comes complete with everything you need in order to operate the mill.
This CNC Router is overall a really good machine for the price it comes in, compared to the others of the same price range.
It has everything you need...
This CNC Router kit is a complete kit that has thoughtfully supplied everything you need in order to operate it, including a simple software, and even spare screws!
It is a well-made machine.
The machine has a very rigid structure due to the well-built, extruded aluminum components.
The plastic parts flex when tightening screws:
The spindle holder and the carriage bearing supports are made of plastic. As a result, they tend to flex when you tighten the attachment screws.
To sum up,
The DIY CNC Router Kits 2418 is a price-worthy and also a good kit that is complete as it comes with everything required to successfully operate the machine.
4. Uttiny 3018 Pro CNC Router Kit
The Uttiny CNC Router comes with a well-built machine that has a large working area, an offline controller and a powerful spindle.
Easy assembling process:
This kit comes with its core components pre-assembled. This makes it much easier to install it, following the assembly instructions and software.
This CNC Router kit has an offline mode – which means, no more connecting to the computer and downloading files!
Due to the availability of the offline mode, you do not need to carry your laptop or computer to the workshop.
Large working space:
This machine comes with a large working area which gives you enough room to work with aluminum with precision.
The aluminum parts come with machine oil...
Most of the machine is made of aluminum. The package comes with quite a bit of machine oil on the aluminum parts which can be quite annoying.
To summarise, the Uttiny CNC Router Kit is considerably a very good machine and a complete package for an entry-level price.
5. BobsCNC E3 CNC Router Engraver Kit
The BobsCNC E3 CNC Router Engraver Kit is a complete kit that comes with a strong machine and everything else you need to start building things.
It is a rock-solid machine!
This CNC Router is made of wooden parts that are laser cut plywood. To add on, an adequate number of screws hold this machine together.
Assembling the machine is easy:
This kit comes with instructions that are adequate and easy-to-follow. Nearly every parts have tabs that fit into slots on the part it needs to attach to.
It comes with everything you require...
This CNC Router kit has everything you need in order to start working on projects. To add on, every item is of good quality.
The speed of the router is too fast for aluminum.
With a speed of 30.000 RPM, the speed of this router is not ideal for cutting aluminum.
Therefore, you need to buy a DC motor control in order to adjust the speed.
Overall, the BobsCNC E3 CNC Router Engraver Kit is a really good investment as not only the machine is durable, but everything else in the kit is of good quality.
The difference between wood or plastic and aluminum cutting
To begin with, cutting aluminum using a CNC Router has its complexities as compared to cutting plastic or wood with it.
Firstly, aluminum is a weak and sticky metal which tends to stick on to the cutting tool, leaving gummy metal deposits on the cutting edges.
As a result, aluminum tends to weld itself to the tool and it can be quite challenging to remove the chips.
Secondly, aluminum has a much narrower range of acceptable feeds and speeds than plastic or wood.
If you go outside the range of acceptable feeds and speeds, cutters tend to begin to break and they wear out much quicker.
Consequently, the surface finishing will be poor. In a nutshell, in spite of these complexities, you can productively cut aluminum using any CNC Router.
How to cut Aluminum with CNC Router?
Use CNC Router Bits:
A CNC Router uses various specialized cutters that do not need to be used for cutting aluminum, such as Compression Cutters and Downcut Spirals.
Therefore, you need cutters particularly made for cutting aluminum. Majority of CNC Routers use two or three flute carbide endmills for cutting aluminum.
This aids in bumping up the suggested rpm to ensure that your cutters are good with the high rpm CNC Router Spindles to work at.
“Surface Speed” is the measurement that determines this. You can favor Carbide cutters instead of HSS cutters as they can work much faster.
Use Bits with three or fewer flutes:
When cutting aluminum, you produce large chips. Therefore, fewer flutes provide more space among the cutting edges, and hence, providing more area for large chips to go through.
On the contrary, if there are too many flutes, the chips would jam up the flutes and you will end up with a broken cutter.
Use cutters with smaller diameter:
Using smaller diameter cutters is another way of bumping up the rpm. You can reduce to a quarter-inch maximum and usually less.
When using smaller diameter, you need more rigid cutters in order to avoid the problem of tool deflection. Carbide cutters are an example of rigid cutters.
Using a Feeds and Speeds Calculator:
Whether a person is cutting plastic or wood or aluminum, anyone that uses a CNC Router can benefit from using a Feeds and Speeds Calculator.
However, cutting aluminum using a CNC Router is not a walk in the park.
So, you need to know the right way to do it. When cutting aluminum, unlike cutting plastic or wood, you would have a much narrower window for your feeds and speeds.
Therefore, in this case, you need to be particularly precise when calculating the feeds and speeds.
Whichever Feeds and Speeds Calculator you may use, make sure that it has the correct features for a CNC Router.
Here are some of the significant features for a CNC Router that you need to look for in a Feeds and Speeds Calculator:
1) CNC Router Cutter Types: Some of the important features that come of use to CNC Router users are down-cut bits, compression bits, and V-Bits.
2) Deflection: Tool deflection is a crucial feature that explains a lot of damaged tools.
Make sure that the Feeds and Speeds Calculator you have can determine the deflection and it can aid in looking for solutions that abstain from too much deflection.
3) Minimum rpm setting: Make sure that the Feeds and Speeds Calculator does not keep informing you to go slower than possible.
4) Chip Thinning: In order to abstain from prematurely wearing out the tools, the Feeds and Speeds Calculator needs to compensate when you take light cuts.
To elaborate, when you take light cuts that have a breadth less than half the diameter of the cutter, you end up with chip thinning.
5) Rubbing Warning: When you reduce the feed rates too much, the cutter stops cutting the chips in a nice and clean way, rather it starts cutting along on the surfaces.
This is known as rubbing and it can potentially shorten tool life as it generates heat.
Therefore, having a Feeds and Speeds Calculator that provides you with rubbing warning would help you prevent this.
Do not rush
Even though you can cut aluminum just fine using a CNC Router, it is not a suitable tool to cut out large aerospace parts such as wing spars.
Therefore, in order to succeed in effectively cutting aluminum using a CNC Router, it is crucial to take things slow.
By “taking things slow” we do not literally mean slowing down the feeds and speeds.
What we mean is that your total Material Removal Rates will be less than what you can get using a purpose-built CNC mill.
In other words, you need to slow down your removal of material because rushing things could potentially lead to errors and imperfections in your work.
Therefore, load up the CNC Router, press the green button, then just sit back and let the machine do its thing.
At The End Of The Day...
No matter what brand of CNC Router you may choose to use, with the right techniques and knowledge, you can use any CNC Router to successfully cut aluminum.
Therefore, deciding which of the above CNC Router is best for you, depends on your particular demands.