Aluminum is a soft metal; even strain-hardened structural aluminum profiles can be cut by a circular saw with a carbide cutting blade. However, anyone who has tried to weld up a strict ninety-degree angle on aluminum knows that extruded aluminum coming off a chop saw is always a degree or two off. If it is cut with a band saw, the seam can have the waves of a choppy sea. If it is a large job with many sawn pieces of aluminum to put together, these inconsistent cuts can slow things down. Knowing how to cut extruded aluminum cleanly is essential.
Problems in Cutting Extruded Aluminum
Cutting extruded aluminum is possible with almost any tool; however, only some tools offer the precision cuts you should aim for. Cutting with a circular saw, chop saw, or band saw can cause the following flaws in the cut.
Extruded Aluminum Cut Flaws
|Curved cuts||Cutting metal requires the application of pressure. Too much pressure can cause the saw blade to flex, changing the direction of travel of the cut. This can result in curves in the cut. Band saws are especially prone to this cutting error, but this is due more to difficulties in stabilizing the saw.|
|Angled edges||Flexing blades can curve in directions other than the direction of travel. This can lead to cut edges that are not perpendicular to the joint, with edges or curves across the thickness of extruded aluminum. This can throw off fitting and joining in subtle ways that are hard to compensate for.|
|Chipping and burrs||Extruded aluminum is a soft metal. This can lead to cut-away metal failing to completely separate from the extruded aluminum. This leads to chips and burrs hanging off the metal, which takes additional effort to remove.|
These flaws are typically not project-ending issues. Instead, they are treated as parts of the cutting process to be dealt with. A shop assistant or helper may be asked to deburr the aluminum before sending it to the fabricator. The fabricator is expected to be able to read the piece and get the desired angle in the finished product, even if the cuts in the material are a few degrees off of true. This additional effort isn’t seen as too burdensome, at least in small jobs.
In large jobs – say cutting aluminum profiles for the windows of an entire commercial construction project – the additional effort adds up. The number of flaws created when cutting extruded aluminum can also add up. Inattention or a rush to get the job done is reasonable when someone is detailed to cut a few hundred pieces of extruded aluminum. Meeting the deadline becomes the priority, and detailed attention regarding how to cut aluminum the right way might be forgotten in the rush.
How to Cut Extruded Aluminum Properly
The easiest way to reduce the number of flaws in cut extruded aluminum is an equipment upgrade. Purchasing a dedicated aluminum cutting circular saw blade will noticeably improve the precision and cleanliness of the cuts. Upgrading from a circular saw to a table saw or a dedicated mounted band saw can result in a similar improvement in the quality of extruded aluminum cuts. Unfortunately, this level of dedicated equipment can cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. This doesn’t make it a realistic solution for cutting extruded aluminum in large quantities. A better answer for how to cut extruded aluminum is to give the job to dedicated aluminum suppliers and precision cutting experts that already have the appropriate equipment and skilled workers to get the job done.
Industrial Metal Service is a trusted aluminum supplier for companies and industrial firms nationwide. Our metal sawing services provide cut-to-order aluminum with unmatched precision, courtesy of our MetlSaw NF12-T12 and Amada 530X/AX pulse cutting saw. Industrial Metal Service will cut and ship process-ready aluminum in your specified sizes. Contact Industrial Metal Service today.