Invar 36 is prized by engineers and product designers because of its ability to maintain its size and shape over a wide range of temperatures. This makes it a very useful and common material in a variety of engineered products ranging from watch parts to satellites.

However, Invar is a tricky material to work with. It can be very difficult to machine and requires special considerations to avoid problems. In this article, we’ll discuss Invar 36 machinability challenges and some methods for overcoming them.

What Is Invar 36?

Invar 36 is an iron-nickel alloy containing 36% nickel. This composition is optimized to have an exceptionally low coefficient of thermal expansion—one-tenth that of carbon steel at temperatures up to 400°F. This means it doesn’t expand or shrink at extreme temperatures nearly as much as other metals do. Invar 36 has the lowest rate of thermal expansion of any metal.

Because it’s so resistant to thermal expansion, Invar 36 is commonly used for applications that demand a high degree of dimensional stability under variable temperatures; for example, radio and electronic devices, aircraft controls, optical systems, surveying tape, and clockwork components.

Invar 36 Machinability Challenges

Although it looks and feels similar to steel, Invar 36 is much more difficult to machine. It is soft and very ductile, especially in the annealed condition. This can make Invar 36 machinability a challenge.

Cutting tools tend to plow into the material instead of cutting it cleanly. Because of this, Invar 36 produces stringy, gummy chips that tend to “bird nest” around the cutting tool, interfering with cutting and coolant flow.

Like other nickel alloys, Invar is susceptible to work hardening. Work hardening occurs when the surface of the metal ahead of the cutting tool plastically deforms, forming a hardened layer that is very difficult to penetrate in subsequent passes or operations. This can lead to poor surface finish, part deformation, and broken tools.

Tips for Machining Invar 36

Though it’s a challenging material to cut, there are ways to improve Invar 36 machinability, including the following best practices.

Getting good results when milling Invar requires a careful balance of tool diameter, number of teeth, cutting speed, feed, and chip space. Machine power, condition, and setup are also very important to reduce chatter and prevent work hardening.

The gummy chips Invar produces can interfere with the cutting tool if too much accumulates. Use a chip breaker and ensure your tooling is sharp and rigidly supported when machining Invar. High-speed steel and carbide tools both work well on Invar, though with carbide tools, it is important to use a powerful machine and a rigid setup to minimize vibration. Helical tools resist chatter and will generally provide the best surface finish. Descaling the surface before machining can make machining significantly easier.

Prevent work hardening by keeping the tool moving and minimizing heat. Maintain a positive feed rate and avoid dwelling so heat doesn’t build up in one area. Machining Invar requires higher feeds and lower speeds than other metals. Ensure you have adequate lubrication volume and pressure to keep the cutting surface cool. When turning Invar 36, use the largest tool possible to provide a large heat sink.

Finally, machining Invar introduces stresses that can change the thermal expansion behavior of the finished product. It may need to be annealed after machining to relieve these stresses and ensure dimensional stability.

We Supply Invar 36 to Machinists and Fabricators

For over two decades, Industrial Metal Service has been supplying Invar 36 and other specialty metals to manufacturers, machinists, and fabricators in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationwide. We sell a variety of new and verified remnant metals, including Invar, steel, aluminum, titanium, and high-temperature alloys. Our metal remnants are verified using x-ray fluorescence analyzers to ensure our customers know the quality of metal they’re receiving.

We can provide one-time or regularly scheduled deliveries of Invar 36 with no minimum order quantity. Call us today to discuss your Invar supply needs. Our goal is to meet all your metal supply requirements quickly and affordably while making it easy for you to do business with us.

IMS Team

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.