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Aluminum Tooling Plate: Exploring Alternatives to MIC-6


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.

Industrial Metal Service is located in San Jose. We can deliver to any location in the San Francisco Bay Area. For machine shops that don’t have a reliable, local metal supplier, we’re happy to ship aluminum tooling plate nationwide. There’s no minimum order quantity. Call us to discuss your aluminum tooling plate requirements.
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Published by IMS Team

Industrial Metal Service has decades of experience and over 1.1 billion pounds of metal sold and recycled. Our founder, Jeff, has spent his life in the industry and prides himself on offering fair, efficient, trustworthy, knowledgeable, outstanding customer service. We offer metal salesmetal recycling pickup service, and other associated services, such as precise metal sawing, machinery teardown, and warehouse cleanupGive us a call and we’ll get it done.