Aluminum is one of the most commonly used industrial materials. Its strength-to-weight ratio makes it ideal for several applications in the marine, aerospace, and railway industries, all of which value lightweight durabiility. It’s a favorite in the automotive industry especially for its thermal and aesthetic appeal. In all of these sectors, aluminum needs to be cut precisely, and that’s where CNC routing comes in.
CNC (computer numerical control) routers are automatic 3-dimensional cutting and milling machines that, compared to other cutting methods, eliminate waste and reduce errors. These machines come in many configurations, ranging from small DIY “desktop” CNC aluminum routers to industrial “gantry” equipment used in manufacturing plants. The choice of DIY or pre-assembled largely depends on one’s needs. For example, you’re better off purchasing a pre-assembled CNC aluminum router if you want to spend your time cutting rather than building. However, if you love to get your hands dirty, a DIY kit will do.
In this piece, we list six great machines for cutting aluminum. They are all benchtop CNC routers that are convenient for the small shop owner or the regular maker. And since we wanted to accommodate everyone, our list includes both kits and pre-assembled CNC routers.
Note: Many of these machines are from China, where copying and repackaging the same machine is common. Thus, exercise caution when purchasing because quality may not be consistent.
The Mysweety 1610 is a 3-axis CNC machine that comes with a budget-friendly price as well as all the necessary features for light cutting applications. It’s a kit containing mostly aluminum components, with a sprinkle of plastic ones in the mix. Think of this CNC aluminum router as a scaled down industrial machine whose operation you will enjoy watching.
The cutting plate is made of aluminum, and even though the Grbl software is provided, you can still run several programs for creating toolpaths. Getting it to work may require some technical aptitude, but all the wiring is done for you and the board is preprogrammed, which greatly simplifies things.
This aluminum router is a perfect choice for beginners, and the assembly instructions are still available in case one gets stuck.
The CNC 3018 Pro GRBL (Upgrade Version) is another gem for home projects, as it provides a standard working area that most makers will find sufficient. Built mostly with aluminum and phenolic resin, this CNC aluminum router has an offline controlling feature whereby cutting can be carried out without having to connect the router to a computer. Besides a spindle motor, it features a stepper motor that produces 0.25 N/M of torque.
The BobsCNC E3 CNC router is a home-built kit that’s perfect for beginners. The working space is fairly large, and it comes with a DeWalt 660 router that has 1/8″ and 1/4″ collets. The gantry and cutting head run on a rail system while an Arduino-based processor is responsible for controlling the parts – this microprocessor can be connected through USB to make operation easier.
This CNC aluminum router uses a GT2 belt drive on the X- and Y-axes, and a 5/16-18 nut on the Z axis. It also uses an MDF spoil-board with threaded parts and has home switches on all axes. This aluminum CNC cutter is made up of various materials, but mostly laser-cut wood.
The Piranha XL, from Next Wave Automation, has features that resemble those of the Shark, except it’s more affordable. Besides coming with the Virtual Zero workpiece mapping software, this CNC aluminum router has auto-edge and auto-sensing capabilities, which automatically locate the workpiece to identify the starting point, regardless of how the piece is positioned.
The machine can run DeWalt, Bosch and several other similar palm-style routers. It has XYZ travel dimensions of 12 x 24 x 4 inches, and you don’t need to attach it to the computer at all times; plug a flash drive into the USB port, and you’re ready to cut.
The touch plate makes it possible to “zero” this CNC router whenever one pleases, and the dust boot helps to control dust and debris. The aluminum slotted table track is excellent for custom clamps.
Since the router comes fully assembled, and most operations are plug-and-play, it’s a great choice for first-timers who want to avoid lower-end machines.
Another offering from Next Wave Automation, the Shark HD 4 has a heavy-duty gantry that has been reinforced with aluminum to give it heavier machining capabilities – no wobble and backlash here. This CNC aluminum router has been built to handle large routers like those in the Bosch 1617 and Porter-Cable 890 series. Apart from having high precision screws, which are anti-backlash and wear-compensated, on all its three axes, this router has an interlocking aluminum table with rigid channels for flexible and fast clamping.
This Shark Pro Plus upgrade can handle heavy cutting because it features adjustable bearings that give it more stability. Furthermore, it uses an exclusive CNC Shark software that “maps” the surface of your workpiece for maximum accuracy. The detachable cradle allows for several attachments or height configurations.
The fact that it uses the map as a dynamic reference point means it virtually does away with problems caused by warped workpieces. Lastly, you don’t need to have a computer tethered to this machine as you can save the G-code on a USB drive. This is convenient for repetitive runs.
The JFT CNC 3040 CNC Router is a Chinese machine with industrial-grade features, a 16-mm ball screw, and hard allow aluminum gantry. This CNC aluminum router is an all-metal construction with powerful two-phase stepper motors that can produce up to .59 NM of torque. The router is water-cooled and can work for long continuous hours without malfunctioning.
You may have to toil a bit setting this up, but once you’re done, you’ll appreciate its performance and quietness. This CNC aluminum router gladly bridges the gap between hobbyist and pro-level equipment at a reasonable off-brand price.
License: The text of "Aluminum CNC Machine: Best CNC Routers for Aluminum" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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