Gone are the days when operators had to prompt and guide machining equipment via levers, buttons, and wheels to turn a block of material into a useful piece. Nowadays, a sophisticated, versatile, computer-operated CNC machine can perform quickly and accurately, reducing the potential for human error. An automated CNC machine offers huge cost savings and operational reliability over traditional setups while processing high-precision parts.
However, it can still be challenging for small shop owners and fabricators to choose the right materials and prepare them for CNC machining. In this article, we dive into the role of automated CNC machines in the machining industry and explore the various high-quality metals that can be used depending on the properties required for the end product.
The Increasing Role of an Automated CNC Machine
A CNC machine makes use of a computer to control, operate, and automate a machine to produce end products from a block of material like aluminum, steel, or titanium. Its operation can be compared to a 3D machine that cuts down a material to manufacture parts rather than building up material to form it.
Manufacturing and other industries heavily rely on CNC machines, as they can precisely produce a large number of items without compromising efficiency and accuracy. With computer-numerical control, automated CNC machines eliminate human errors and assure faster output. They can perform all the same tasks that a router, grinder, milling, or shaping machine can do.
CNC machines are available in various sizes, axis capabilities, and tooling options. However, depending on the make and model, designs may vary. For instance, advanced CNC machines come with a built-in tool changer that can automatically change the tool you need with the touch of a button.
The machine features a digital touch probe that can easily identify the base position of the workpiece with high accuracy and can automatically modify the coordinates with ease. There are different types of programmed specifications to choose from for particular machining types of engine blocks. Having a basic knowledge of programming is generally sufficient in choosing the right program. On receiving the command, the tool changer automatically selects the appropriate tool head to perform the task.
The machine’s cylinder bore cutting tool can cut the bores in one pass and automatically move the cutter from one bore to another during the operation without any human interference. Moreover, the operator can easily keep track of the work in progress through a simple digital interface that displays cutting location, the amount of chip removed, axis travel, and cutting results on a real-time basis.
However, it’s a common challenge among machinists to find a suitable alloy for CNC machining.
Materials for CNC Machining
No two metal alloys have the same properties; thus, selecting the right metal is a very crucial step in the design process. The choice of material is greatly influenced by the design requirement of the end application.
The table below shows suggested metals to use according to the design properties required for the application.
|Design Properties||Metal Suggestion|
|Tensile strength||A. Medium <500 Mpa
B. High >500 MPa
|Hardness||A. < 90 HRB
B. >50 RC
|High volumes (easy to machine)||
|Temperature resistance||A. Low <250°C
B. Medium <400°C
C. High >500°C
With an exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance, coupled with high thermal and electrical conductivity, aluminum and its alloys (6061, 7075, and 5083) are ideal CNC materials. Aluminum 6061 is by far the highly sought-after aluminum alloy among all of the alloys.
For chemical applications, stainless steel alloys (304, 316, 2205, 17-4) offer the best combination of strength and chemical resistivity, even at high temperatures. Mild steel alloys (1018, 1045, A36) are an ideal choice if formability is necessary for designing products like body parts, plates, and wire products. Brass (C360) is another ideal CNC material for manufacturing decorative materials requiring corrosion resistance and low friction, such as locks, hinges, and valves.
The price of materials and the ease with which they can be machined greatly influence the overall machining cost. Working with an aluminum 7075 alloy would cost more than an aluminum 6061 alloy and much less than a stainless steel 304 alloy. In this regard, one of the best approaches is to purchase verified metal remnants to obtain the same material properties as new alloys sourced from the mill but at a reduced cost.
Similarly, cutting high-strength alloys, such as steel and aluminum, to precision for machining could be costly for small shops and independent fabricators. The absence of the right equipment and required expertise may lead to material waste, unwanted purchases, and increased lead times and project costs.
By smartly utilizing precisely-cut verified metal remnants with an automated CNC machine, the overall production cost can significantly decrease.
Purchase Precision-Cut Metal Alloys for Any Application
Industrial Metal Service has been supplying precisely-cut metal alloys, including aluminum, steel, and titanium, to small machine shops and fabricators in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond for more than two decades. We offer both new metals sourced from U.S. mills and verified metal remnants at the best market price. With our wide inventory, you can meet project requirements without having to worry about supply chain disturbances in the market.
We also offer a state-of-the-art metal sawing setup that enables us to accurately cut metals to the exact dimensions required without any heat distortion or work hardening, saving you time, money, and resources.