Aluminum Cutting

KDM provides precision and accurate aluminum shapes and thicknesses, thanks to our advanced cutting machines and techniques.

Aluminum Cutting

One of the processes of sheet metal fabrication is aluminum cutting. Separating sheet metal pieces to create an aluminum metal product of the desired shape is the goal of sheet metal cutting processes. KDM cut sheet metal aluminum using shearing or non-shearing processes.

Blanking and punching are shearing processes, whereas nonshearing procedures cut sheet metal with a water jet, plasma, or laser. These processes are especially useful for various industrial sector manufacturing products found in architecture, landscaping, computer hardware, appliances, airplanes, automotive, and so on.

As your skilled sheet metal fabrication provider, KDM has the knowledge and skills, equipment, and experience to complete any aluminum cutting job. Our sophisticated facilities are designed to support ISO Standard practices.

Other than aluminum, we support metal cutting in different alloys of steel, stainless, copper, mild steel, bronze, brass, titanium, nickel, and more. We use specialized tools such as CNC laser cutter, breaker, shears, punches, or presses equipment to cut metal in a variety of weights and thicknesses.

Depending on your needs, we can guarantee short lead times, excellent finish, and cost-effective services.

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Aluminum Cutting: The Ultimate Guide

Aluminum is one of the metals widely used in different fabrication applications across various sectors.

In most fabrication processes, you will need to cut aluminum to suit the particular needs of the application.

This guide explores the different ways of aluminum cutting operations that enable you to get parts and products quickly and efficiently.

Here are some aspects surrounding aluminum cutting processes;

Ways To Cut Aluminum

Advanced technology makes it easier to cut aluminum into different shapes and dimensions for multiple uses.

You can use numerous methods to cut aluminum by using basic manual operations and highly advanced technology.

Depending on what you want, some aluminum cutting techniques may yield better results than others.

The notable processes you can use for cutting aluminum include the following;

Grinding Aluminum

It is an abrasive machining operation that uses a grinding wheel as a cutting tool.

Ordinarily, this process uses frictional force from the rotating grinding wheel to cut down aluminum material.

This cutting technique is vital to rid aluminum components of rough edges.

It deburrs, smoothens out welds and in other instances, creates sharp edges.

The advantage of grinding as aluminum cutting method is that you can do it without necessarily applying too much pressure.

Also, you tend to control the cutting speed, and it allows you to cut aluminum surfaces with relatively large wall thicknesses.

The main shortcoming of grinding is that it is a manual process hence can be time-consuming in large scale applications.

Turning Aluminum

It entails rotating a disc or a tube at high speeds to enable it to form metal in the desired shape.

In some instances, it is referred to as spinning, and it is often conducted through use of a lathe or by hand.

The technician operating this process should be highly skilled at forming different parts and components.

Its main advantages include shorter lead times, flexible material removal rate and good tolerance.

On the other hand, the main shortcomings of turning include relatively high equipment cost, significant tool wear and restriction on rotational parts.

Drilling Aluminum

Drilling aluminum

Drilling aluminum

This method is mainly used in creating holes of exact specifications in aluminum surfaces or components.

It works by exerting pressure and rotation on top of the specific aluminum component or surface.

However, the specific amount of pressure applied depends on the particular aluminum alloy you are drilling.

When drilling the material, it is easy to attain high precision leading to less rejection.

Also, drilling gives a short cycle period, makes it easy to make bigger holes, and you can increase hole size by counter boring operation.

The main disadvantage of drilling aluminum is that it only creates circular holes.

Besides, drilling tends to build up heat on the bit relatively fast, limiting the efficiency of the process.

Using Welding Machine To Cut Aluminum

This process involves applying high heat to the aluminum surface, bringing it up to a temperature that softens and breaks it along an accurate line or pattern.

In some instances, it is referred to as burning, and it is usually common in small scale applications.

The benefit of cutting aluminum using welding is that it is reasonably cheap.

Moreover, it does not portray problem of stress concentration.

On the flip side, using metal welding method to cut aluminum is that it causes an uneven surface, and it is likely to distort the surface.

Laser Cutting Aluminum

Aluminm laser cutting

Aluminum laser cutting

It is arguably aluminum cutting technique guaranteeing utmost precision and control.

This method is reasonably same as using a concentrated beam of light that is easily reduced to a single point at an extremely high temperature.

Hence, it allows actual precise shapes to be cut out of the aluminum material.

Lasers are usually regulated by computer software to attain maximum accuracy.

This cutting process is ideal for applications where adherence to plans and precision is paramount.

It is also faster and allows you to cut the material into complex shapes, which you can hardly get with most conventional methods.

Moreover, the use of computer programs in laser cutting makes it possible to attain a neat finish.

The main shortcoming of aluminum laser cutting is that it is quite expensive and requires a considerable capital investment.

Plasma Cutting Aluminum

Plasma cutting aluminum

Plasma cutting aluminum

This method is relatively new in metal fabrication industry.

It uses a plasma torch to pump inert gas or oxygen out of the nozzle as it sends an electrical arc through gas simultaneously.

This essentially blows away unwanted aluminum molten material and melts the surface to enable forming and shaping.

You can use plasma cutting for aluminum parts with complex geometries.

The result of plasma cutting is more or less similar to laser cutting since it is just as clean and effective.

However, the precision level in laser cutting is higher than what you can obtain in plasma cutting.

Advantages of using plasma cutting in aluminum include; high versatility, fast cuts, moderate precision and higher piercing speed.

However, this technique is not efficient for aluminum with thicker or denser surfaces.

Also, it is noisy and often generates a lot of fumes during cutting operations.

Waterjet Cutting Aluminum

Waterjet cutting aluminum

Wwaterjet cutting aluminum

It is a technique that involves mixing water with abrasive metals and applying it forcefully to the aluminum material.

The machine directs the intense and concentrated stream into aluminum surface, cutting it accordingly.

Ideally, this method is also known as erosion technology since it mimics effect of water on material surface in a natural setting but at a higher rate.

Aluminum, in this case, erodes through waterjet technology, and it is thus cut easily.

You can cut different aluminum materials with a thickness of up t0 4 inches using waterjet technology simultaneously.

It is commendable to carry out this process underwater to reduce mess likely to splash in the workspace.

The main advantages of using this method include ability to cut all types of aluminum materials effectively irrespective of thickness.

Furthermore, it hardly distorts the material and does not require additional surface finishing.

But on the flip side, it takes more time to cut the material, thus unsuitable to use in urgent applications.

Oxy-fuel Cutting Aluminum

It is also known in other applications as flame cutting.

Ideally, this process enables cutting of aluminum material by an oxy-fuel gas flame.

Primarily, the outer ring of jets assists by preheating the aluminum material surface.

The gas flame reaches a high temperature of more than 3,500° C, and it heats the material to melting point and directs stream of oxygen on the spot.

In return, the material melts along the pattern or line accordingly.

The main benefit of using this technique is that it is overwhelmingly efficient since you can control it manually or computerized.

Also, it is highly portable since it does not require power supplies, and this makes it a pretty convenient choice for fieldwork.

Besides, you can use it to cut thick aluminum materials effectively.

But one downside of oxy-fuel cutting is that it rarely produces clean cuts on aluminum materials.

Punching Aluminum

It entails using a machine exerting extreme pressure that forces sharpened blades into or through aluminum material to cut it in desired shapes.

Ordinarily, the machine punch generates a greater amount of pressure than you could ever obtain from a human worker.

It is a productive cutting technique, especially for aluminum materials, since you can achieve up to 1,000 hits per minute.

You can also use it to create holes of different shapes, giving you the ideal flexibility.

CNC Cutting Aluminum

This is a fully computerized manufacturing process that uses preprogrammed software and code controls to direct cutting of aluminum material.

The G-codes used in CNC machines provide precise measurements for cutting the material.

Remarkably, this technique requires an apt setting of different cutting parameters such as feed rate and speed.

Once the settings are in place, the machine coordinates all the cutting processes accordingly based on the given commands.

This method produces little to no waste since the settings guarantee high-cut precision.

Furthermore, it generates zero defects, greater accuracy, improved personnel safety and reduces energy consumption.

It allows for quicker assembly and promotes faster and more efficient production.

A major drawback of CNC cutting is that it is more expensive to acquire and maintain the equipment making it a costly investment.

Aluminum Cutting Tools

You can cut aluminum material with a wide range of manual tools, advanced equipment and industrial systems.

Some remarkable factors determining the ideal tool, equipment or system to use when cutting aluminum include; speed, cost, flexibility, accuracy, finish and automation.

Here are the common tools used for cutting aluminum categorized into different classes;

Hand Tools For Cutting Aluminum

Hand tool for cutting aluminum sheet

Hand tool for cutting aluminum sheet

These are inexpensive tools often useful for cutting aluminum in a garage or custom shop.

Cost of such tools ranges from $20-$100 depending on quality, design, construction, material and size.

Also, they are ideal for applications where speed, accuracy levels and final finish are not necessarily of significant concern.

Examples of hand tools used in cutting aluminum materials include the following;

  • Tin Snips- These are rugged and highly leveraged scissors used to cut through aluminum. It is effective but limits you to the specific aluminum gauge you can cut comfortably.
  • Hand shear – It is a specialized can opener featuring a round cutting blade and snips. This tool is suitable for cutting tight corners since it leaves a neat edge.
  • Hack saw – This tool is effective in cutting small lengths of aluminum sheet but most profound for cutting tubing and bar stock.
  • Chisel and hammer – It merely involves hitting a chisel pointed on aluminum sheet metal using a hammer. This process is relatively slow and quite labor-intensive.

Bench Tools For Cutting Aluminum

Bench tool for cutting aluminum

Bench tool for cutting aluminum sheet

These tools offer a medium-range cost of between 100-1000 USD but are ideal in small to medium production.

They exhibit low accuracy, moderate finish and speed depending on the specific tool.

The common tools under this category include the following;

  • Straight bench shears – You can cut reasonably thick aluminum sheets using this method but the specific design limits the cuts to straight lines.
  • Stationary nibbler – It features a single tool punch press designed to perform a nibbling operation. This tool can cut aluminum to any profile within its throat.
  • Throatless shears – This is a versatile and reliable shear type suitable for cutting small aluminum materials, especially in metal shops.

Power Tools For Cutting Aluminum

Most power tools for aluminum cutting exhibit better flexibility, speed and accuracy than bench and hand tools.

They use electricity to power the cutting operation, thus guaranteeing medium surface finish quality.

Cost of aluminum cutting power tools varies but often ranges from $75 to $1000 depending on specific features and capabilities.

The notable ones used widely in different applications are as follows;

  • Power shears – These are hand-held micro-shears and highly effective for cutting aluminum sheets since it’s easy to direct them across the material.
  • Angle grinders – It is a multipurpose hand-held power tool you can use for cutting aluminum by tilting it to a specific cutting line or pattern on surface material.
  • Electric jig saw – This power tool uses a bit or a blade designed to easily cut through thick aluminum metal sheets.
  • Nibbler – It cuts the metal with minimum distortion by punching surface material with a blade moving in linear motion against a fixed workpiece.

Cutting aluminum with power tools

Cutting aluminum with power tools

Heat Cutting Tools

These tools essentially use heat, flame or gas compounds to slice aluminum material into desired patterns.

They include the following;

  • Plasma torch – It works by ionizing aluminum metal with a sturdy electromagnetic field. Your cutting speed determines the edge quality; thus advisable to use higher speeds for aluminum.

Plasma torch is versatile and easily maneuverable along the material in tight spaces.

  • Oxy-Hydrogen torch – The functionality is similar to a plasma torch, only that it oxidizes the metal rather than ionizing it.

The heat emanating from this torch combines with a constant oxygen stream and rapidly oxidizes sheet metal, and blows weakened pieces away.

It moves at high speeds and can cut thick aluminum sheets.

Industrial Cutting Tools

The average cost of these tools ranges from 10,000 to 500,000 USD but offers excellent precision, accuracy, finish and flexibility.

You also get a high-quality surface finish and many automation options.

The common equipment in this category includes the following;

  • Plasma bed – It is a CNC controlled instrument offering cheapest form of industrial aluminum cutting. This component provides accurate, and high quality finishes when cutting aluminum at high speeds.
  • Laser – It is ideal for cutting light to medium aluminum since this material can easily absorb more heat. Laser requires a high amount of power to melt aluminum and enable gas to blow through.
  • Water jet – This machine focuses on a thin water stream mixed with metal abrasives at extreme pressures and high speed into aluminum. It can cut thick aluminum sheets with high precision and yield high-quality finished edges.
  • Punch Press – It uses shaped tools to eliminate geometry in aluminum sheet metal. Punch press is moderately fast and can easily roll and form the metal while cutting.
Challenges When Cutting Aluminum

Normal challenges you are likely to encounter when cutting aluminum include the following;

  • You need to cut it at a higher spindle speed, and this may push the machine to its outside limits and resulting in breakage.
  • It requires thorough clearing of chips since they have some stickiness factor, which may cause excess tear and wear in machines and poor quality work.
  • You need to stick with frequent shallow passes since making deeper cuts may make it difficult to access chips for removal in some cutting machines.

More Resources:

Metal Grinding

Metal Turning

Drilling Metal

Plasma Cutting

Waterjet Cutting

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