Almost sixty years ago, Alumax (now Arconic) set the standard for stability and consistency with the introduction of MIC-6 aluminum tooling plate. In comparison to rolled aluminum plate, the superior flatness and exacting thickness tolerances made MIC-6 the preferred choice for tooling and base plates. Of course, these qualities come at an expense, but in the years since the first production of MIC-6 aluminum, other mills have developed cast plate techniques that produce aluminum tooling plate comparable to MIC-6. Manufacturers and machine shops have welcomed these alternatives to MIC-6, which are typically less expensive and offer extreme flatness and dimensional stability, with little to no distortion, even after extensive machining.
Popular Aluminum Tooling Plate Alternatives
Three of the most frequently used alternatives to MIC-6 aluminum tooling plate are ATP-5 from Vista Metals, K-100S from Alpase, and Alca-5 from PCP. These products are manufactured using a vertical direct chill casting process. The result of the process is a billet that is virtually porosity-free. It can maintain its structure in vacuum and pressure applications including heating and cooling plates, plastic molds, vacuum forming tools, and similar applications where a solid structure is required.
ATP-5, K-100S, and Alca-5 have very similar properties, with only a few characteristics that are significantly different from MIC-6. The alloys—magnesium for the alternatives and zinc for MIC-6—are responsible for differences in density, elongation, and tensile strength.
The table below compares several of the key properties of both MIC-6 and the three alternative aluminum tooling plate products. With these differences, the alternatives would be viable choices for applications where higher strength and lighter weight are required. For applications where dimensional stability is the paramount consideration, MIC-6 remains the best choice.
|Property||ATP-5, K-100S, Alca-5||MIC-6|
|Surface finish||20 RMS or better||20 RMS or better|
|Surface condition||Precision milled||Precision milled|
|Flatness deviation||1/4″ – 1/2″ within .015”||1/4″ – 5/8” within .015”|
|Alloy||5083 modified||7000 series|
|Elongation in 2”||12 – 15%||3%|
|Typical tensile||41 ksi||24 ksi|
|Density||096 lb. / in.³||.101 lb. / in.³|
Alternative Sources for Aluminum Tooling Plate
When indicated by the product or component specifications, machinists can use ATP-5, K-100S, and Alca-5 and realize cost savings in comparison to using MIC-6 aluminum tooling plate. Machine shops in the San Francisco Bay Area can realize even greater value when purchasing verified aluminum tooling plate remnants from a local metal supplier that specializes in high-quality metals.
Usable remnants of ATP-5, K-100S, and Alca-5 are often remaining from high-volume manufacturing processes that utilize new aluminum tooling plate stock for machining. While these scraps aren’t large enough to be reused by the manufacturers, they’re large enough to be used for machining and fabrication processes in smaller shops. Full-service metal suppliers like Industrial Metal Service purchase these usable remnants, trim them to standard shapes, and sell them at discounted prices. The composition and quality of these aluminum tooling remnants are verified using x-ray fluorescent scanners.
Local, Low-Cost Alternative to Purchasing New Aluminum Tooling Plate
Whether it’s MIC-6 or a lower-cost alternative tooling plate, if you’re looking for a regularly scheduled supply of aluminum tooling plate, a one-time, special-project order, or a last-minute piece to finish machining a prototype, we can address your needs.