Cast aluminum plates are created by heating aluminum to extremely high temperatures, letting the molten metal cool, and molding it into a shape. A tooling jig plate produced through the casting process displays a thickness tolerance of +/- 0.005 with a machined surface for superior flatness. The surface smoothness, precise thickness, and dimensional stability of cast aluminum tooling plates make them viable for high-grade, critical machine applications such as aircraft and automotive tooling. Below, we discuss some of the major types of cast aluminum plates, their uses, and how sourcing a quality cast aluminum plate from a trusted supplier can help you meet your production requirements.
Cast Aluminum Plate: Types and Uses
Cast aluminum tooling plates were first explored in the 1950s during the development of large, commercial jet aircraft that required high levels of tooling accuracy and stability. Materials such as rolled aluminum, rolled steel, and wrought aluminum lacked the stability needed to properly assemble giant fuselage and wing sections under a wide range of temperatures. The first approach to casting aluminum plates was through open molding which resulted in non-uniform surface quality and thermal stress. Casting techniques have evolved considerably over the years with companies such as the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) and Alumax Inc. developing processes to create advanced cast aluminum plates. The following are some of the most common types of cast aluminum plates:
The manufacturing of MIC-6 involves a patented casting technology that allows precise casting to near-net thickness. Parameters such as molten aluminum flow, casting speed, and rate of solidification are tightly controlled in the process. Additional filtration and degassing obviate internal defects while heat removal from both surfaces of the plate stabilizes the thermal gradients. Post casting, a MIC-6 plate undergoes thermal treatment at temperatures beyond 700 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 10 hours—eliminating internal material stresses developed during the casting process.
The unique casting process makes MIC-6 highly machinable for applications involving high-temperature conditions and precise control of dimensions and tolerances. Even with high-speed machining operations, MIC-6 aluminum produces small, uniform chips with minimal risk of plate distortion. It is a preferred component in the manufacturing sector for medical instrumentation, chip and circuit printing machinery, semiconductor holding trays, and robotics. It is also used as base plates, jigs, fixtures, routing tables, gauges, and framing in automotive and aircraft tooling. MIC-6 has limited weldability and requires extreme care to prevent corrosion cracking during welding.
ALIMEX ACP 5080
ACP 5080 features unique material properties including a fine grain structure and low porosity. Low porosity, in turn, lends exceptional dimensional stability and improves fatigue toughness, corrosion resistance, and the mechanical strength of the alloy. During production, a special heat treatment homogenizes and removes the tension of the pore-free, fine-grained aluminum structure. The latter provides high-yield strength and stress relaxation resistance. Due to the higher grain refinement, an ACP 5080 plate can withstand more tensile bending during machining without developing cracks. The double-sided and precision-milled surface is a key feature of ACP 5080 that makes it suitable for CNC machined components, aerospace tooling, precision engineering, mold making, and gauge making.
PCP ALCA 5
Used as a common alternative to MIC-6 aluminum plates, Alca 5 is manufactured through a vertical direct chill casting process. A patented product of PCP Aluminum, Alca 5 is virtually non-porous and can maintain its structure in high-vacuum and pressure applications. Compared to MIC-6, Alca 5 displays superior anodizing characteristics. This particular cast aluminum plate is also known for its exceptional dimensional stability which minimizes the risk of deformation during machining. Typical applications for Alca 5 tooling plates include tools and jigs, fixtures, prototype molds, construction equipment, machine parts, and backing plates.
Vista Cast ATP-5
ATP-5, a patented product of Vista Metal Corp., is a porosity-free precision tooling plate used for a wide range of manufacturing applications, including medical testing equipment, computer and electronics, thermoforming tools, packaging machinery, and others. Produced from an aluminum-magnesium alloy, it is characterized by higher strength and elongation, superior anodizing and hardening response, dimensional stability, excellent weldability, and improved corrosion resistance. As a unique aluminum tooling plate, ATP-5 is known for its outstanding machinability, exceptional feed rates, and ability to withstand high-speed cutting rates. All of these features result in reduced machining time and improved efficiency.
Usable remnants from high-volume manufacturing processes are not large enough to be reused by manufacturers. They are, however, large enough to be used in smaller shops for machining and fabrication processes. Depending on their production requirements, machinists can enjoy significant cost savings when opting to source verified remnants of cast aluminum plates over purchasing new stock.
Sourcing Cast Aluminum Plates from A Trusted Supplier
At Industrial Metal Service, we purchase usable remnants of aluminum plates and trim them to standard shapes that are suitable for a variety of operations in machine shops. The quality and composition of cast aluminum plates are verified using x-ray fluorescent scanners. As a reliable and trusted local metal supplier in the San Francisco Bay area for over two decades, we can address all your material needs for aluminum tooling plates.