When it comes to machining different materials, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Composites, aluminum, foam, plastics, and woods each have different strengths—and each presents its own challenges for a CNC router. Machining processes need to be dialed-in for the unique qualities of each material.
With decades of expertise as a CNC manufacturer, Diversified Machine Systems (DMS) understands the complexities of different materials, and how to select the best machining process for each particular application. Drawing on that experience, we wanted to share some recommendations on the uses of five common manufacturing materials.
Versatile, durable, and lightweight, composites are used to produce anything from jet engine fan blades to electronic equipment, recreational vehicles, and household fixtures. Industry leaders like Airbus and Boeing prefer carbon fiber because it’s stronger and half the weight of steel and saves on labor costs. Carbon fiber cloth can be manufactured to cover large areas, removing the need for riveted seams and more labor-intensive connection hardware.
Machining composites can be challenging, due to variations in the fiber reinforcement material and the specific type of matrix resin. Managing different tools, feed rates, and spindle speeds is required to maintain the integrity of the material during the fabrication process. Using the incorrect tool can result in damaging, splintering, or de-laminating the composite material, causing the layers to separate.
A heavy-duty CNC machine like our 5-axis Yellowstone model can be customized to exacting specifications and parameters in order to meet any set of production requirements. This machine features an all-steel frame, which is stress relieved and welded in-house to ensure the structural integrity and flexibility you need for composites.
Wood and wood composites are used for architectural panels, custom furniture, signs and lettering, cabinets, and wood moldings—to name a few. The category of “wood” is surprisingly diverse, including composite materials, plywood, particle board, OSB, and MDF. The natural differences between these materials means that products can have a distinctive quality, even when mass-produced.
Wood is one of the oldest uses for CNC routers, but not all machines rank the same. For example, for large pieces that need to be fitted together, you may need to work in sections that are later fitted together. DMS software takes into account the manner in which the pieces will be fit together, allowing extra gaps for glue or caulk if needed, or precise fitting if no visible bonding is preferred. Our machines are renowned for precision and accuracy, making them ideally suited for intricate designs and layouts. And we have several options for vacuuming and lubrication, ensuring that you have a safe and workable machine for years to come.
Aluminum is used in nearly every industry, especially transportation industries like aerospace, nautical, or automotive, which relies on aluminum for its thermal and aesthetic appeal. The lighter material means that less energy is required for acceleration and deceleration of the car. Its strength-to-weight ratio makes it an ideal material for applications that require lightweight durability.
A highly accurate, rigid machine is needed for refined aluminum trimming. Aluminum is a non-ferrous material, which means that it is not magnetic and tends to hold heat more than ferrous materials. You will want to pay attention to your cooling system when cutting aluminum. We recommend avoiding the use of flood coolants as you machine the aluminum down to its final cut and shape. Instead, many DMS machines utilize micro-misting to create stability during the final shaping and product finishing.
Because it is inexpensive and readily available, foam is a popular choice for producing molds, models, and prototypes. Foam gives machinists and technicians the freedom to experiment with multiple layouts and options without worrying about expense.
However, machining foam can be difficult because it is lightweight and non-heat resistant. These issues, combined with the often complex nature of the 3-D foam shapes being produced, necessitate an advanced, high-performance cutting and shaping solution.
A CNC machine like the DMS 3-axis Bryce model is ideal for cutting and shaping foam in a variety of industrial and manufacturing applications. Its moving gantry and many customization options for vacuuming and alternate table dimensions make it a great choice for foam manufacturing applications.
The plastics industry is the third-largest manufacturing industry in the United States. Lightweight, easy to mold, and corrosion-resistant, plastics are now a staple of the automotive, communications, aerospace, medical, electronics, and packaging industries—and more.
Even so, machining plastics can be challenging due to the unique nature of the material. The melting temperature for plastics is much lower than that of metals and composites. Plastic is also a far more elastic substance than metal. Selecting the right equipment for plastics machining is critical.
Among plastics fabricators, who require tight tolerances and accurate repeatability, Diversified Machine Systems has a reputation for superior quality and effectiveness. Our machines are designed to be robust and flexible enough to deal with inconsistencies in plastic materials. From high-speed trimming of 3-D plastics products to machining of plastic sheets, our multi-purpose CNC routers and machining centers can accommodate a wide range of requirements.
To find out more about which machine is a good fit for your industry and the unique materials you use, reach out to our team of experts.