A CNC Router is primarily known for cutting plastic and wood.
As a result, people often raise the question, can I use 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.
But, before selecting any one of the below, I want to tell you that it is not an easy task to select a CNC machine. As you are looking for the one for aluminum there are some things which are a must have in your CNC router.
Although every router can cut aluminum. However, there are some routers specially designed for cutting aluminum. We have enlisted those routers below.
What You Need To Know Before Buying The Best CNC Router For Aluminum:
In this journey to finding the best CNC router for aluminum, a buying guide works as the path which must be followed. I am going to give you some short tips and tricks that you should look for in your CNC router. If you make the purchase keeping these things in mind, the risk of buying a bad one can be reduced.
What to get?
There are so many options. Big or small? New or used? 2 or 3 axes? Vacuum hold? Control? Warranty? One good machine or two crappy ones?
There are so many types of CNC routers in the market pick the one that suits your work. I have also seen routers which have five axes. This is a costly one. Your choice will surely narrow down depending on your budget. If it is your hobby it will become easier for you. If you are doing this as a professional then it is hard.
In case of conditions I would recommend to always go for the brand new machines in the market. I don't support using used machines which are this expensive.
Dimensions and work area:
One of the most important factors that is to be considered before buying your CNC router is the working dimension. The size of the table and the working area are completely different aspects. Look for the working dimension you need depending on the size of your project and also the free area in your workshop. Otherwise the table might not fit in.
Once again this is the must check factor. There are some machines that cut wood or plastics. While there are some higher grade units that can also cut soft metals as in aluminum. Pick up the ones as per your milling needs,
Kit or pre assembled:
If you like to build things from the scratch then you should go for a kit. The manufacturers also manufacture machines which are pre assembled. If you don’t have the time or energy to spend on assembling the machine then you should definitely shoot for the pre assembled ones. We have both of these types listed in out top pick.
The CNC routers are driven by software's which are installed in computers. You have to have the basic computer operating knowledge to use them. You might also require some training or guidelines to get along with the software. If you are a quick learner this becomes really easy. Look for the CNC router that has the most simple but effective software.
RPM or revolutions per minute is an important fact for any CNC router. If you are looking for the best CNC router for your metal project, then choose the router with the correct RPM so that you can drill or mill your metal sheet with ease. Most the machines RPM are hover from 6000-10000.
These machines are really expensive. I am sure you don’t want to buy two different machines for different works. This is why you should look for a machine that is as versatile as possible. Look for the machine that can handle other tools or router bits. Some manufactures mention their router being compatible with the spindle or lasers.
It is a fact that can be very effective if you are careful about it from the very beginning. There are some CNC routers in the market which can be run by household electricity. You don’t have to rewire your workshop or deal with those extra electricity bills. It is a plus point if you can find one.
Axis and motor:
Depending on your 2D/3D design you can pick up the motor and the axis for your CNC router. There are servo and stepper motors used in the routers. Choose the one that you prefer and the more the axis the more dimension and volume you get into your design. So, pick up the best suit for you.
So, this is it. These are the facts and things you should keep in mind to reduce the risk of making a wrong purchase. Stay put and follow the guideline for a better purchase of a good quality CNC router.
7 Best CNC Routers for Aluminum Cutting
1. Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO Router Kit - Best For Beginners
The Genmitsu CNC router is specially designed for the beginners. If you are a student who has just started learning and love to make curved words or fancy designs on aluminum or wood, this can be the top pick for you.
It is functioned to help you engrave your coded designs on that aluminum sheet. Your DIY projects might find the best recognition if you are using this.
Attractive Key Features:
The CNC router is capable of routing all sorts of soft materials. It can cut or design on all types of plastics, woods, acrylics, PVCs and PCBs. It is also the best cutter of the sticky soft aluminum which has a risk of damaging.
The machine is also capable of engraving metals. You need to make the surface flat before working on it.
If you are using the appropriate bits, the machine is capable of carving on the surface of aluminum as well.
The machine supports OS. It can be run using windows XP, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
The coolest feature of the CNC router is that it has a SainSmart offline controller.
Yes, It means you can use it without connecting to any computer. You can adjust the X,Y,Z axis manually.
You do not have to seek any help from the computer and download any file. It easily fits in your workshop or garage as well.
Well built and reasonably priced:
The machine is well built and sturdy. You will be happy to see the parts after opening the box.
The parts are really well built keeping in mind the user experience and it has the best value for the price!
You will definitely get better than what you paid for.
I have mentioned at the very beginning that the router is for the hobbyists.
It is a great CNC router for the new learners. Do not expect too much professional or industrial performance from the machine.
Well, I want to mention again if you are a hobbyist on your DIY project then this is the best CNC router for your job. It is user friendly, convenient and not for professional projects. The Genmitsu CNC router will add a great value in your workshop for sure.
2. SainSmart Genmitsu CNC Router Machine 3018-PROVer - Best For Multi-Purpose
Are you looking for a CNC router which is at the same time affordable and meets your professional needs?
Are you willing to climb the curve of the CNC world or eager to start your own business?
Then SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-MX3 is the best choice for you. The machine is the first one to be controlled by the amazing Mach3 software.
The machine is capable of drilling, milling, engraving, etc. It also makes it easier for you to work with Aluminium of all kinds.
Attractive Key Features:
The frame of this outstanding machine is built with aluminum. The Engraving working area is 260 x 144 x 35 mm. This will become a little bit reduced after the installation of the limit switch.
The RPM rate of the spindle motor is 10,000 which is enough for any sort of aluminum works.
The SainSmart Genmitsu CNC Router is supported by Mach3 software. This professional software allows you to be an expert controller of the machine. It might seem a little bit tough to operate, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes easy. The software is customizable and supports Windows and Mac OS.
The two 5mm baffles, attached on both sides of the machine ensures your safety If you want to closely monitor the engraving process.
To limit the engraving faults, the manufacturer has equipped the axis with a switch that limits the spindle from leaving the engraving area.
In case you are working with aluminum, this feature limits the risk of ruining the metals.
You can closely monitor what you are doing and stop/start in case of emergencies.
SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-MX3 is the perfect CNC router for all types of users. It is the best suit from hobbyists and industrial designers to educators, engineers, etc.
You can convert your ideas into that real aluminum sheet you are working with.
It does not only work for Soft aluminum like metals, it also works with materials like wood, plastic etc.
Easy to assemble:
The machine does not come pre-assembled. Do not worry about it. You can easily assemble it by simply watching a YouTube video. There is also a user manual that will guide you through it.
Do you know what makes this machine different from the other conventional woodworking machines?
CNC 3018-MX3 has laser engraving features. You just have to replace the spindle with the laser module and you can engrave your aluminum working sheet with laser cut finish.
The laser module is not included in the machine purchase, you have to contact the manufacturer or your seller for the module and make a purchase for it.
At the end of the review I want to mention that the well manufacturing and the versatility of the products make it hard to find any cons of it.
A perfect CNC machine for aluminum and the best suit for all types of CNC workers. What more do you expect from a CNC router machine than that?
3. MYSWEETY DIY CNC Router Kits 1610 - Best Budget Friendly
My sweety 1610 is a budget-friendly light-cutting CNC machine. This is a completely industrial cutting machine whose components contain mostly aluminum and plastic.
The amazing machine is easy to operate and comes with the latest operating systems.
Attractive key Features:
Best for cutting aluminum:
The GRBL operating software makes it one of the best tools to operate and cut through aluminum.
The best feature for the beginners is that you will be able to create the toolpaths by using the other installed softwares in it.
The motor is able to run at a speed of 7000 rpm, and this allows you to cut through your aluminum projects with ease.
Other working areas:
This CNC router is undoubtedly a good choice for cutting through aluminum. Apart from that, it is also capable of cutting through acrylic, wood, PVC, copper, and plastic effectively.
Sturdy and Stable:
The cutting plate of the router is built with aluminum. This gives it a sturdiness and stability.
You can operate the router completely by your computer. It is compatible with Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 and Linux.
Best choice for DIY:
This machine is completely designed for DIY projects. Keeping in mind the beginning of aluminum cutting the manufacturers have installed the GRBL control software.
Once you get used to it and know how to use it by doing a little bit of research, the experience will be satisfactory.
The router does not come assembled and obviously it requires assembling. This is super easy for the beginners but requires some basic knowledge for assembling. The user manual will guide you through the whole assembling process.
Small cutting area:
The disappointing fact about Mysweety 1610 is that it has a small cutting area which makes the working area limited. As some of its components are made of plastic it can handle light tasks.
As I have mentioned earlier, this is a machine which is destined to meet the beginners choice. This is a cool CNC router which has all it needs to make the operation easy.
If you are new in this field, all you are going to need is the basic knowledge to assemble the machine. Once you start working the features will impress you for sure.
4. Gowe 1013 Inch CNC Router - Best For Heavy-duty
Gowe 1013 is another aluminum cutting CNC router which comes with the outstanding features of a best CNC router.
It does not matter if you are looking to use it for industrial purposes. It is also suitable for all sorts of technology research, student projects, and any sort of Arts creation.
Attractive Key Features:
Suitable for aluminum:
The CNC machine from Gowe is completely automatic and is capable of carving and drilling. The cutting ability of the machine cuts smoothly through the aluminum you are working with.
If you are doing any artwork on aluminum like carving and drilling, you will feel like cutting through butter.
The machine not only makes working with aluminum easy, It also can work with wood, PVC, acrylic, plywood, or other soft metals.
Steady and strong:
The machine is well manufactured and equipped with an aluminum alloy frame.
Aluminum is a sturdy material and after the installation, you will be surprised to see how strong and steady it is.
Controlled by software:
The machine can be easily controlled by using the Mach3 software. Through the DB25 port of your computer, it communicates with the control box.
The software is very simple and intelligent. There is also an easy stop button in case you need while working.
Do not use a laptop:
It will be better if you do not use a laptop in operating the machine.
It requires a high voltage to operate and the voltages are not as high as a desktop. In the worst-case scenario, it might harm your laptop. This is why it is better that you use a computer.
You might also find slower signals to the motors if you are using a laptop.
From the features, you already know that you will need to have a minimum of technological knowledge in order to operate the machine.
From the above description, I am sure you have already got an idea of what this machine is capable of doing. It is one of the aluminum CNC routers which will match your both industrial or hobbyist needs.
Avoid using a laptop and in case of using a desktop be sure that it has a DB25 port installed.
Do not worry if you do not have any software operating experience or knowledge.
The machine comes with a guideline on how to operate the software. The software is simple to operate and doing a little bit of research makes it easier.
5. VEVOR CNC Router 3020 4 Axis - Best For Larger Working Area
Vevor CNC router is a router which is multi-functional. If you work on various types of material substances, then investing on this CNC router might be a great decision for you.
The multi functional router is capable of Engraving through soft metals like aluminum. It can also dig through other materials such as plastic, wood, PBC etc.
Attractive Key Features:
The CNC router is equipped with aluminum parts. The aluminum-built parts make it a unit which you would love to have in your garage.
The aluminum backing plate and the dust-proof plate allows you to clean without any toil.
Being aluminum made this product turns out to be heavy-duty and durable.
The CNC router has a work table which covers 300 mm x 200 mm x 50 mm. Being equipped with 4 rotating axes the bits can easily move around and cut deep holes up to 50 mm depth.
Having such a set up can be really helpful if you are working with soft materials like aluminum. You will be able to craft through easily and make your designs you have fed into your computer.
The manufacturers have added USB ports along with the traditional disc operating. This gives the CNC router the adaptability to work with more operating systems.
As I mentioned earlier that the machine is equipped with 4 axes. The rotating axis helps one to engrave with high precision.
You will find it less noisy while working. All of this makes it an efficient CNC router to work with.
The CNC machine can be operated with windows XP, windows 7- 32/64 bits.
Perfect for aluminum:
The machine's spindle speed is 0-8000rpm/min. Which is perfect for engraving or designing on aluminum. You have to adjust the rpm as per your needs.
Generally (0.8-24000) rpm is required to engrave through softer aluminum or aluminum alloyed materials. The carving speed of the machine is 0-1000 mm/min.
Though carving is not a simple thing and it has so many things to consider. Pick up the best speed you require for your job.
You might sometimes find it difficult for the machine to operate. The fact can be that finding no connection with the computer. You can contact your seller for the cause and find a solution to it.
It's clear from the review what makes it the best selling product among its types. It has all the functions included engraving aluminum. You might not regret it after making that purchase.
6. Benbox DIY Mini 1310 Metal Engraving Milling Machine - Best For Soft Metals
This is a metal engraving machine which comes with the comfort of portability. The machine is well built. The size of it does not hamper its performance at all.
Rather it is able to engrave through as well as the other available routers in the market. Thinking about cutting or designing aluminum?
It performs on it as if it is a piece of cake.
Attractive Key Features:
The machine is a great cutter of softer materials. This can easily cut through copper, silver, aluminum, and other soft metals. It is also applicable for other metals, plastic, wood, acrylic, etc.
Great software support:
The machine runs using the GRBL controller supporting system. The software can be run in Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8.
If the software crashes somehow or you are facing issues using the machine you can download it from the link provided by the company or contact them.
The provided guideline of the machine makes it really easy to use. Though it is very small in size, it is comparatively rigid.
The machine has the motor on a separate power supply to avoid the over drowning of the GRBL shield.
The excellent and heavy-duty motor in the machine makes it a best performer on aluminum.
The machine is solidly built and is rigid and durable. It is long-lasting as well.
The manufacturer tried their best to make it the best. The product is affordable and you will definitely get what you will pay for.
The machine does not come pre-assembled. You have to assemble it yourself. Follow the instructions to reduce the time consumption.
Not for beginners:
If you have just started with milling then this might not be the best product for you. The machine is a bit complex to operate and requires some experience. You have to be aware while using it on your aluminum projects because it might end up ruining the machine.
To sum up, This is the best machine which is best for your aluminum projects. This machine will provide you a great service as well as satisfactory performance.
7. JFT 6040 CNC Router 3 Axis Metal Engraving Machine - Best For Industrial Uses
If you are looking for engraving, making signs, making nameplates, construction models, etc on soft materials like aluminum, then CNC6040 is suitable for the purpose.
It is a versatile machine for all sorts of industrial purposes, art designs, teaching, etc. The product is easy to operate and comes with a 1-year free warranty of the machine parts.
Attractive Key Features:
Steady and durable:
The frame of the machine is equipped with aluminum alloy frame materials. As a result, the machine turns out to be really steady while working and the durability makes it a good choice.
Limited operation trouble:
The machine comes with a travel limit switch which limits The XYZ axis. This limits the trouble while operating the machine.
You will be avoiding mistakes while working by dint of this feature. If you are working with aluminum, this limit switch might prove to be a god-saver.
Best for aluminum:
The machine weighs 72Kg which is the best thing to keep your machine steady while milling your aluminum sheet. The working area is 840×480×20mm which is a large space to work on.
The X, Y, Z, axis traveling range is 400x600x100mm. This allows the machine to move more space which is necessary for working on large space projects.
The max feeding speed is 4500 mm/min which is more than enough to work on aluminum.
The CNC machine is also built with a two-phase stepping motor and a water-cooled spindle. The maximum speed is 24000 RPM which will cut through aluminum like butter.
While working with the machine be aware and always be careful about the cooling. Metals like aluminum get stuck to machine parts and might damage your work if the spindle is not let to cool down.
You do not have to brush the spindle, It comes with a high quality water cooling. But if you are using a blow air cooling machine then you might need to brush.
Well, After reading all this, you might admit it is one of the best CNC machines for aluminum. This has all the features which are required for industrial machining.
In the case of aluminum, you might not find a better option than this.
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.
Cut settings of a CNC router for Aluminum:
Generally, almost all of the CNC routers are capable of cutting aluminum. The routers don’t do it by themselves. It requires to set up the machine before using it to cut aluminum.
The most important fact is that the machine itself should have all the required features to perform excellent on the metal.
Feature for aluminum cutting:
I want to make it clear to you.
Instead of how to cut aluminum, I want to talk about the settings your CNC router must have to deal with aluminum.
Why is this important?
If your machine is imbalanced and you start working without knowing about the proper settings, you might end up breaking the machine parts or your aluminum work-piece. This is definitely what you don’t want.
If you are a beginner in the world of CNC routers or want to design or do art works it is a must that you know everything before making a purchase.
I do not want to extend the talking's more.
First thing first,
If you want to buy the best CNC router, then you should at least have the basic idea of the operating parts. If you don’t, you better start doing it. Go online and research on the spindle motors, feeds and speed, bits and flutes etc.
This will develop a detailed understanding of the machine in you and help you understand the features critically. In the long run you will be also able to understand your CNC router more critically.
The most important fact is...
When we talk about working with aluminum, we mean working with the 6061 alloy plate. Having a low melting point, aluminum gets stuck to the cutting parts easily. As a result, you have to clean the chips and do lubrication so that the parts don’t get stuck.
There are some cutters which are built specially for aluminum. Before buying any of them you have to be sure if they are compatible with your CNC router or not.
Feeds and speeds:
You can’t work without optimizing the feeds and speeds of your CNC router. If you set up the machine as it is required to cut aluminum, then you will get the best out of the router.
When you are milling or drilling with your CNC router the feed rate must be determined. To make it more clear to you, “The Feed Rate” represents how fast the router bit will be moved in by the machine through the metal. To leave a good cut edge it is really necessary to set the perfect feeding speed in your machine.
The speed depends on the hardness of the metal. It should be determined depending on the machinery used and the metal being processed.
The feeding and speed of a CNC router is inter-related. You can cut at a faster feed rate by increasing the spindle. You can also cut in a low feed rate and slow rpm which might result in destroying the workpiece if you are milling aluminum.
This is why,
Determining the proper “feeds and speed” are the keys in getting a better tool life. In a sentence “The faster the machining time, the better the surface finish.”
The milling speed (Using HSS end mills) for
- Aluminum 7075 is 300 SFM (Surface feet per minute)
- Aluminum 6061 is 280 SFM
- Aluminum 2024 is 200 SFM and
- Aluminum cast 134 SFM
If you are using a HSS drill, the drilling speed for aluminum is 250 SFM.
The tool feed in case of end mills for aluminum should be 0.005-0.010
Spindle speed is the rotational speed of your bit. It is measured in RPM (revolutions per minute). The rate of it in a CNC machine depends on the size of the bit that you are using.
You have to calculate the spindle speed depending on the type of aluminum you are using. There are many online calculators available there. You have to put in the diameter of the cutter and other things to find out the best suit spot or RPM. Calculate and use the number to bring out the best of your CNC router.
If you are a lazy head like me and this means a lot of work to you, then look for charts online as per your metal type. Look at my findings below.
Average Tool speed
The chip load is a measurement of the thickness of material removed by each cutting edge during a cut.
Along with the other parameters of tooling aluminum, chip load is equally important. If you want to acquire the desired finish and accuracy you have to be careful about the chip load.
Why should you care about it?
Chip load affects 5 major areas of the machining process. They are..
- The required force to cut a metal is controlled
- Heat controlling assistance
- Controls tool wear
- Affects the metal removal rate directly
- Affects the surface finish
The chip load varies as per the feed rate and the speed of the CNC router you are using. Achieving the proper chip load is also necessary in case of working with aluminum as well.
Look at the table below.
.003” - .004”
.005” - .007”
.006” - .008”
1/2” & up
.008” - .010”
Finally it’s complete. These are the requirements or calculations which you have to keep in mind while using a CNC machine.
If you are working on aluminum and your CNC machine is not capable of giving you the accurate cut setting that is mentioned above then you have invested in the wrong machine.
So, before making a purchase of CNC machines do check and double check if you are doing it right with the cut settings. Otherwise you will keep disappointing yourself every time.
Some additional information if found handy..
If you are using a HSS drill, the drilling speed for aluminum is 250 SFM.
The tool feed in case of end mills for aluminum should be 0.005-0.010.
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.
I am sure that you have all the ideas about the CNC routers that are capable of cutting, milling, drilling into aluminum. Now, go ahead and choose the perfect one meeting your needs.
I have listed the ones for beginners, the top pick, the best seller, the DIY CNC routers, the industrial ones and the best pick.
The fact that might now have an impact on you is the price. Look for the affordable ones with most available features meeting your requirements.
Best of luck !