Leading CNC Machining & Fabrication.

Nordon Pty Ltd

CNC Machining Specialists


29 Furness Ave. Edwardstown, 5039, South Australia.

Opening hours

Mon – Fri: 9AM – 5PM

CNC Machining Adelaide

Designing aluminium components for CNC machining involves a unique set of considerations and challenges. Aluminium, known for its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance, and machinability, is a popular choice for a wide range of applications from aerospace to consumer electronics.

However, to fully leverage these advantages in CNC machining, designers must understand both the capabilities of the material and the process. Below are the key principles and strategies for designing aluminium components optimized for CNC machining.

Understanding Aluminium Grades

Firstly, it’s important to select the appropriate grade of aluminium. Common machining grades include:

  • 6061: General-purpose grade with great strength and good corrosion resistance.
  • 7075: Aerospace grade with high strength but less corrosion resistance than 6061.
  • 2024: High strength with good fatigue resistance but more prone to corrosion.
  • 5052: Lower strength but high corrosion resistance and excellent weldability.

Each grade has unique properties that affect machinability, such as hardness, which can affect tool wear, and chemical composition, which can impact surface finish

Design Considerations

1. Minimising Complexity

Complex designs require more tool changes, specialized tools, and increased machining time, driving up costs. Simplify designs by using standard geometries and avoiding unnecessary features.

2. Tool Accessibility

Ensure that the design allows tools to access all areas to be machined easily. Tight internal corners, for example, are challenging to machine and often require special tools like lollipop cutters, which can increase costs.

3. Wall Thickness

Maintain uniform wall thickness where possible, as varying thicknesses can cause issues with material removal and lead to warping or distortion due to the heat generated during machining.

4. Tolerances

While aluminium is relatively stable during machining, be realistic about tolerances. Tighter tolerances can significantly increase the cost and time required for machining.

5. Internal Corners

Design internal corners with a radius rather than sharp angles. Sharp internal corners can cause stress concentrations and are difficult to machine, leading to longer production times and higher costs.

Machining Strategies

1. Tool Selection

Use the correct type and size of cutting tools to optimize the cutting conditions. For aluminium, sharp tools with high rake angles and polished surfaces are preferable.

2. Optimizing Feed and Speed

Aluminium allows for higher feed rates and cutting speeds compared to many other metals. Optimizing these parameters minimizes machining time and tool wear.

3. Lubrication and Cooling

Appropriate lubrication and cooling can prevent sticking and tool clogging, especially important in aluminium due to its softness and tendency to adhere to the cutting tool.

4. Chip Management

Design components in a way that facilitates efficient chip removal. Accumulated chips can interfere with the machining process and lead to surface finish defects.

5. Holding the Workpiece

Design the component with fixtures in mind. The workpiece must be securely held, but excessive clamping force can deform aluminium. Consider incorporating features like dovetails or tabs into the design for efficient workholding.

Post-Processing Considerations

1. Finishing Operations

Consider the need for post-machining operations such as anodizing or painting, which can cover minor surface imperfections and enhance corrosion resistance.

2. Stress Relieving

Aluminium components may require stress-relieving treatments, like artificial aging or annealing, to reduce residual stresses from the machining process.

CAD and CAM Integration

In the design phase, utilizing computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software can predict potential issues before machining begins. Simulation tools can help visualize the tool paths and ensure that the chosen strategies are efficient and feasible for the desired design.

Practical Testing

Finally, nothing replaces the value of real-world testing. Prototyping is an essential step in design refinement. Initial runs can reveal unforeseen problems with the design or machining process and allow for adjustments before full-scale production.

In conclusion, designing aluminium components for CNC machining is a balance of material understanding, practical design considerations, and appropriate machining strategies. By keeping these factors in mind, engineers and designers can create aluminium parts that fully utilize the capabilities of both the material and the machining process to achieve cost-effective, high-quality components.