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View Full Version : General Metalworking Cutting shapes out of 1/8 aluminum?



Keith Upton
01-28-2014, 12:50 PM
What type of tools would be required to cut something like the below product out of 1/8 aluminum? The too/method would need to be able to support low production runs with tight tolerances.

http://www.aerodromeaccessories.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/a/d/advcockpit-2.jpg

http://www.aerodromeaccessories.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/a/d/advcockpit-4.jpg

I would have these anodized after they were cut and then laser engrave the markings... so I'm only looking for the method to cut out the "blanks" if you will.

Thanks for any help.

Keith Outten
01-28-2014, 1:16 PM
Keith,

I would find someone with a Kern Laser to cut the parts, my second choice would be a local company that has a water jet. If you own a CNC Router you can cut them yourself but the edges won't be as smooth as either of the other options above and you would have to file the edges to debur them which would be a pain.
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Carroll Courtney
01-28-2014, 1:21 PM
I have a blade on my bandsaw that is just for cutting aluminum,using a rip fence to cut to plate to shape.I have also use carbide router bits to round over the edges of aluminum.For the small slots I would drill a hole the width of the slot then using the router table with a spiral route bit cutting the slots which means that the end of each slot would be round.Using the router table with one edge of the plate up against the fence having another fence on the back side so that it will not kick out.The only travel would be to the left or to the right having stops for each direction.Now if you were making several of these then flip stops on your fence would be great.Just a thought----Carroll
Anodizing:I think that 6061 is a better aluminum to use than others so you may want to check into that
Keith ideal is awhole lot better unless your a 100% DIY'er

Keith Upton
01-28-2014, 1:59 PM
Keith,

I would find someone with a Kern Laser to cut the parts, my second choice would be a local company that has a water jet. If you own a CNC Router you can cut them yourself but the edges won't be as smooth as either of the other options above and you would have to file the edges to debur them which would be a pain.
.

Thanks Keith. There is only one waterjet in town that I've been able to locate and their pricing is way to high for what I'm doing. Is there a way to find members here on SMC that would have a Kern that could do this... or is that even allowed?


I have a blade on my bandsaw that is just for cutting aluminum,using a rip fence to cut to plate to shape.I have also use carbide router bits to round over the edges of aluminum.For the small slots I would drill a hole the width of the slot then using the router table with a spiral route bit cutting the slots which means that the end of each slot would be round.Using the router table with one edge of the plate up against the fence having another fence on the back side so that it will not kick out.The only travel would be to the left or to the right having stops for each direction.Now if you were making several of these then flip stops on your fence would be great.Just a thought----Carroll
Anodizing:I think that 6061 is a better aluminum to use than others so you may want to check into that
Keith ideal is awhole lot better unless your a 100% DIY'er

Thanks Carroll. I'm a long ways away from being a DIY'er on a project like this. lol

Keith Outten
01-28-2014, 2:38 PM
Keith,

You can search our Friends of The Creek Directory to see if anyone here owns a Kern Laser. I know that there are at least a couple of our Members who do. You could also call Kern Laser and ask if they can refer you to someone in your area that owns one of their machines. Kern is a sponsor here, no doubt they would be glad to help you find an owner of one of their machines.

The reason I picked laser cutting as my first choice is that I have had some of my projects (aluminum letters) cut on a water jet and the edge was not always nice and smooth. For large engraving and cutting jobs I have been outsourcing to Norva Plastics the last couple of years. Norva has a new 4 by 8 Kern Laser that is 150 watt but I don't think it will cut 1/8" aluminum.

Your parts are small and light so shipping would not be costly, you could outsource to any company that owned a Kern Laser. If I had enough work to support one I would purchase one in a minute :)
.

Keith Upton
01-28-2014, 2:51 PM
Thanks again Keith, I'll do some searching. Unfortunately, this is the only product that I currently want to expand to aluminum. The only reason I even bought my Epilog Mini 24 was because I was tired of outsourcing $7k+ a year for someone else to cut my products for me (and the shipping involved). It made more sense to me to put that same money towards paying for my own machine.

Keith Upton
01-29-2014, 8:39 AM
I contacted Kern and they said their lasers are not able to cut .125 aluminum... they can only cut up to .06. I guess waterjet or plasma cutting might be my only option.

Chris Fournier
01-29-2014, 9:51 PM
A laser won't do the job that you are after, the cut edge is not 90 degrees square nor tidy enough. You are looking for someone who has CNC capabilities, this work would be simple and to the .001" without breaking a sweat. My shop neighbour would knock that out with his CNC in his sleep, low cost to boot.

Dave Verstraete
01-30-2014, 9:20 AM
Find a Fabricating shop near you. This one is across the street from us and cuts aluminum all day long. profabgr.com

Keith Upton
01-30-2014, 9:21 AM
Thanks Chris, I thought it would be slow on a CNC machine. But then I always thought those were more for producing 3D parts out of blocks of metal.

Keith Outten
01-30-2014, 4:32 PM
Kern Laser cutting 1/8" thick steel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc4KKkLyFYw)

Kern Laser cutting metal (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDxIupC3EDM)

Kern Laser cutting aluminum (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjIuLTgGPdw)

I have held laser cut 1/8" thick parts in my hand on more than one occasion, the edges were perfect and as smooth as glass.

Another option is to find someone with a CNC plasma cutter (http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=cnc%20plasma%20cutting%20mach ine&sm=3) which will cut 1/8" to 1/2" thick aluminum like paper. I own a Miller 625 Extreme plasma torch that will cut 5/8" thick aluminum but its a hand held torch, better to find a CNC plasma machine.

Camaster CNC Plasma cutting 1/4" thick steel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb_SJTl6Ai4)

I own a CNC Router that will cut aluminum with ease but as I said earlier it will leave a nasty edge that has to be de-bured which is not an easy task for the small parts Keith Upton needs to have fabricated. You could tumble the parts in an abrasive but that takes time.

Camaster CNC Cutting 1/8" aluminum (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxpgtBMe_Tw)

Camaster CNC cutting 1/8" aluminum (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZjjsSEfsXM)

A router will produce round internal corners. A plasma will produce square corners but there is dross to clean up on the edges. A laser will produce perfect square corners, smooth edges and not require any de-buring.
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Bruce Boone
02-02-2014, 5:13 PM
Parts like that are normally done on a turret punch. It's a punching machine with moveable dies. They are the things used to make computer housings and similar things. Sheet metal fabrication places have them.

Kev Williams
02-04-2014, 6:29 PM
I've been machining fiberglass electric boxes, and building aluminum operator panels for many years with my engraving equipment. For cutting aluminum to size, or basic shapes I just use my safety saw and a little coolant. For cutting holes and intricate shapes I use one of my bigger engraving machines fitted with a collet spindle and a 1/16" 2-flute carbide endmill. I cut 1/8" fiberglass with a 5/64" endmill. The majority of aluminum I cut is .094" thick, 1/8" is slower but still do-able. Some of the slots in that piece look to have very sharp corners, but if the .031" radius left after the cut is an issue, the corner can probably be "Y" cut slightly, and if that won't work either, a small file will sharpen the corners in short order. Since these will be anodized after the fact, the edges don't have to be perfect, a combo scotchbrite/sandpaper flap wheel will clean up the cut edges in no time.

My business is built around one-off custom jobs, done FAST. I produce same-day, one-of-a-kind operator panels all the time. I mention this because I have no idea what a "low production run" means to Keith. 5? 25? 500? My way isn't the fastest, but it works great for me. I'm not exactly sure how much is really involved with what I see in the pics, but just guessing, once I got 'tooled up', I'm thinking I could cut all those pieces out in 10 minutes or less. Whether that's too slow or not depends on what a "low" production run is, and when it's needed...
:)

Keith Upton
02-04-2014, 9:58 PM
Thanks for the info Kev. Low production to me means 20-25 units at a time maybe 2-3 times a year. Turn around time is not a huge issue as they are just a retail product.

Dave Sheldrake
03-31-2014, 7:52 PM
Pretty much any industrial laser will do them Keith, Aluminium isn't much fun on a laser but anything with a raw output of 2.5kW + will cope with 1/8th quite easily , 5kW and above are quite common place these days in industry. If you were UK based I could have helped :(

cheers

Dave

Keith Upton
04-01-2014, 10:29 AM
Thanks for the additional info Dave. That at least gives me some specs to be looking for.

Mike Heidrick
04-27-2014, 6:02 PM
I own a CNC Router that will cut aluminum with ease but as I said earlier it will leave a nasty edge that has to be de-bured which is not an easy task for the small parts Keith Upton needs to have fabricated.
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Here is 1/4" 6061 alum on my DIY Joes machine I built. Edges are perfect. Not sure why you are getting those edges Keith.



http://i39.photobucket.com/albums/e169/BloomingtonMike/Cast%20CNC/P2240028_zpscc65f4ad.jpg
http://i39.photobucket.com/albums/e169/BloomingtonMike/Cast%20CNC/5116_zpsf45e589c.jpg

Scott Shepherd
04-27-2014, 10:45 PM
Dave has is pegged. You need 2500W type equipment. Look up sheet metal shops in your area. Anyone with a laser on one of those shops will be able to blow through those in no time. They'll also be able to bend them up as well.

I have 2 suppliers of mine that do that exact type of thing. I see things like that in stacks all over their shops all the time.

You'll probably get decent pricing around 75-100 units.

Richard Grano
10-06-2014, 2:25 AM
My son in law uses this machine - http://www.plasmacam.com/indexfla.php - for his metal artwork and hasn't had any negative results yet