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The Machinability of Aluminum Alloys

The machinability of aluminum alloys depends on the material’s properties and the process used. Compared to other metals, aluminum alloys are particularly well-suited to machining because they chip and shape easily. Aluminum is also highly accessible and affordable. For these reasons, aluminum alloys are a popular choice for machining applications.

Why Is Aluminum an Ideal Material for Machining?

In addition to its abundance and cost-effectiveness, aluminum provides a variety of benefits for machining applications. Combined with other metals and finishing processes, aluminum alloys are highly customizable to achieve nearly any desired properties. Here are some of the greatest benefits of machining with aluminum:

  • Excellent formability
  • Low-temperature resistance
  • Good strength-to-weight ratio
  • High scrap value
  • Corrosion resistance
  • Vast selection of custom finishes

Applications for Machined Aluminum by Classification

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Applications for Machined Aluminum by Classification

Pure aluminum is a very soft metal. Various alloying elements help make the metal into sheets, bars, and plates with enhanced physical properties suitable for specific applications. The Aluminum Association has categorized these properties into the following aluminum alloy series. 

Aluminum Alloy Series 1xxx

Consisting of 99% aluminum and 1% silicon and iron, the 1xxx series has high ductility, low mechanical properties, and good electrical and thermal conductivity. Applications for these alloys typically include heat sinks and bus bars. 

Aluminum Alloy Series 2xxx

Mainly alloyed with copper, the 2xxx series has excellent strength and workability. Although they lack sufficient corrosion resistance, weldability, and brazeability, these alloys can be heat-treated to produce better mechanical properties than mild steel. Aluminum alloy series 2xxx is a popular choice for home-built aircraft.

Aluminum Alloy Series 3xxx

Aluminum alloy series 3xxx is a general-purpose alloy not meant to be heat-treated. It provides moderate strength and good workability because manganese is its main alloying element.

Aluminum Alloy Series 4xxx

With the primary alloying element of silicon, the 4xxx series has a lower melting point without compromising toughness or malleability. Therefore, these alloys are ideal for welding wire. Adding an anodic oxide finish turns the metal dark gray, making it desirable for architectural applications.

Aluminum Alloy Series 5xxx

The 5xxx series alloys have manganese and magnesium as their main alloys, resulting in high tensile strength, excellent formability, and corrosion resistance. These properties make this alloy ideal for transportation and marine applications. 

Aluminum Alloy Series 6xxx

With silicon and magnesium as primary alloying elements, the 6xxx series alloys are the most versatile aluminum alloys. Heat-treated, they provide superior formability, corrosion resistance, and medium strength, which make them perfect for custom extruded shapes in piping, consumer goods, electrical parts, and architectural components.

Aluminum Alloy Series 7xxx

Zinc, copper, chromium, and magnesium are the primarily alloying elements in this aluminum alloy. The 7xxx series can be heat-treated to produce high strength but limited machinability. Thus, they are typically used in mold-making for the aviation, defense, automotive, and marine industries. 

Common Aluminum Alloys for Machining

Each aluminum series includes specific grades of aluminum alloys. Listed below are some of the most common types of aluminum alloys. Aluminum 2024, 6061, 7075, MIC 6, and 6082 are heat-treatable, while the others are not.

Aluminum 2024

This aluminum and copper alloy has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and fatigue resistance. Aluminum 2024 is often used in the aerospace, automotive, and transportation industries. 

Aluminum 6061

Aluminum 6061 is a versatile alloy made of magnesium and silicon. This alloy is usually machined to produce structural parts, valves, truck bodies, computer parts, and aircraft components.

Aluminum 7075

This alloy is ductile, tough, and strong. Best used in highly stressed structural settings, Aluminum 7075 is ideal for aircraft products, sports equipment, and tooling.

Aluminum MIC 6

Aluminum MIC 6 is specifically developed to provide a high-tolerance, stable material for machining. Its stress-relieving, contaminant-free, and nonporous qualities make this lightweight metal ideal for electronic and laser applications. 

Aluminum 6082

This alloy is usually best for general-purpose applications that require an extra level of tensile strength. In fact, it’s the strongest 6xxx series alloy and is commonly found in infrastructures such as bridges and towers.

Aluminum 3003

Alloyed with manganese, Aluminum 3003 is ideal for cooking equipment and other household goods. 

Aluminum 5052

Aluminum 5052 is resistant to saltwater, so it is perfect for marine applications. This alloy combines aluminum, magnesium, chromium, and other elements to strengthen the material against corrosion and improve its workability for other heavy-duty industries like energy and aerospace.

Aluminum Alloy Machining by Superior Metal Shapes 

Superior Metal Shapes offers full-service aluminum machining services, from CNC machining to sawing to cutting to deburring. Secondary services include anodized painting, heavy etching, buffing, and military-grade finishing. Our ISO 9001 and AS9100 certified facility ensures the highest quality for every project. Contact us or request a quote to see how our capabilities can serve you. 

Aluminum Extrusion Costs Less Than You Think

Aluminum is a material that offers numerous benefits, making it a popular option for a wide range of applications. This metal features superior strength, lightweight nature, corrosion resistance, durability, and minimal maintenance requirements. Some applications specifically use extruded aluminum parts of various shapes. The aluminum extrusion process entails forcing the metal through a die that features a particular cross-sectional profile, similar to pushing toothpaste through a tube. Aluminum is considered one of the best materials to undergo extrusion because of its unique qualities and benefits.

In this blog, we’ll review how the aluminum extrusion process works, its advantages, the costs associated with it, and the extrusion capabilities at Superior Metal Shapes.

What Goes Into the Aluminum Extrusion Production Process?

During the extrusion process, several steps produce the aluminum part, from setup to surface treatment. Specifically, these steps include:

Preparation & Setup

Prior to extruding aluminum, operators need to load tooling plates into position and heat them to the appropriate temperature.

Pressing Process

Following preparation and setup, the pressing process begins. This involves forcing a hydraulic ram into the chamber, which presses the heated and softened billet through the system’s tooling plates, also known as dies. As it travels through, the metal forms a stable profile shape that emerges from the other end until it sits on the runout table.

Stretching Process

In some cases, parts may twist or curl if the profiles are poorly balanced, requiring stretching to return them to the desired shape.

Heating Process (Aging)

The next step involves stacking stock segments on carts that are slightly separated and heat treated, which is also known as “aging”. This lends added strength to the final product.

Machining Process

Some designs may require the system to cut ends at particular angles or lengths, mill sections of material away, or drill holes in the material.

Surface Treatment

Following production, certain surface treatments can be applied to the end product. This may entail painting, texturing, powder coating, or using a chemical finishing process known as anodizing.

Aluminum Extrusion Costs

Extruders who provide aluminum extrusion will vary greatly in their capabilities, equipment, and expertise, making it important to look for the right extruder and determine what is ideal to help minimize costs. Ultimately, the primary aluminum extrusion cost is the extrusion die, which could cost thousands of dollars. However, this cost is low when a large project relies on custom extrusion.

The lead times for aluminum extrusion are shorter, often taking less than a month. Combined with the main cost of the die, this advantage can help make the process even more affordable, allowing for cost-effective prototyping and revisions as required. 

Keep in mind that tooling for bending machines and check fixtures contribute additional costs to aluminum extrusion, which is why it’s important to work with an extruder with ample experience to help avoid potential issues and increased costs.

Finally, order minimums could further add to the total cost of extrusion. A majority of extruders produce extrusions of a minimum size, often ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 pounds per extrusion. Some may also offer order charges as opposed to small batches. However, extruders may allow customers to negotiate order minimums if needed.

Other potential factors that could impact the price of aluminum extrusion processes include:

  • The alloys used for extrusion
  • Profile designs, including tubular, rectangular, or L, C, I, or custom profiles
  • Finishes used to protect or strengthen the final product

Affordable Custom Aluminum Extrusion from Superior Metal Shapes

At Superior Metal Shapes, we offer custom aluminum extrusion services to produce high quality parts at prices you can afford. To achieve this, our long list of capabilities includes:

  • Two 3.5-inch 850-ton presses and a 5.125-inch 900-ton press
  • Minimum order of 25 pounds
  • Maximum circle sizes of 4.75 inches
  • Tolerances within ± 0.002
  • A maximum weight per foot of 1.3 lbs. and a minimum of 0.015 lbs.
  • Extrusion for thin or complex custom shapes
  • Hollow and multi-void hollow shapes
  • Prototyping and product samples
  • Traceability marking
  • Order fulfillment in as little as 3-5 weeks for many parts
  • Varied packaging and shipping options

Get Started on Custom Aluminum Extrusion Today

Aluminum extrusion is a cost-effective and invaluable service for producing many types of aluminum parts. If you would like to get started on your next project with Superior Metal Shapes, request a quote today for our services.