Aluminum composite material is often cut out on a CNC router. The versatility of this material is what makes it so popular. From outdoor signage and constructing walls to channel letter backing, the possibilities are endless. Compared to single-layer aluminum plate, ACM is lighter and more affordable while still offering durability and rigidity. For those looking to learn how to cut this material, follow along.
For this experiment, we set out to create the backing of a box for a sign. This entailed cutting out the shape of the box, v-grooving the sections that needed to be bent to shape, and drilling holes for attaching the face of the sign.
We cut through 3mm ACM with an X-Edge 1/4″ single o flute upcut bit (XVO2232). This bit does very well on both aluminum and ACM. We found that cutting in climb direction produced the best finish. Our feed rate was 200 inches per minute (IPM) and our spindle speed was 22,000 rotations per minute (RPM). This seemed to do very well, cutting through the entire material in one pass.
V-Grooving To Bend
Some important factors for v-grooving ACM to bend are controlling the cut depth and using the correct tool. The v-groove tool should cut through the first layer of aluminum and the center plastic layer. The goal is to get as close the the second layer of aluminum as possible without cutting through any of it. This allows it to bend while still being durable. Using a tool with a flat tip is very important. When you eventually bend the material, it needs space to ben properly. A bit that comes to a full point does not leave enough room for this. That is why we used an X-Edge 2 flute 90 degree bit with a flat tip (XACM90-V). Our feed rate was 150 inches per minute (IPM) and our spindle speed was 14,000 rotations per minute (RPM). This again seemed to do very well, cutting through both layers in one pass.
If you need to drill multiple holes, I highly recommend using a 2 flute carbide drill bit. These are created for long life and making perfect drill holes on a CNC machine. For this experiment, we needed 1/4″ holes so we used a 1/4″ 2 flute solid carbide drill from X-Edge. Our plunge rate was 100 inches per minute (IPM) and our spindle speed was 4,000 rotations per minute (RPM). This cut through all three layers, smoothly and accurately.
Quick Details / Recommendations:
- Material: 3mm aluminum composite material (ACM)
- Tool # 1 (cut through) single o flute upcut (XVO2232) – BUY HERE
- Feed Rate: 200 IPM / Spindle Speed: 22,000 RPM / 1 Pass
- Tool # 2 (to bend) 2 flute 90 degree v-groove w/ flat tip (XACM90-V) – BUY HERE
- Feed Rate: 150 IPM / Spindle Speed: 14,000 RPM / 1 Pass
- Tool # 3 (1/4″ holes) 2 flute carbide 1/4″ drill bit (XCD2082-S) – BUY HERE
- Plunge Rate: 100 IPM / Spindle Speed: 4,000 RPM
This is the third of many articles to come related to CNC routing on this website. We will also be sharing videos and updates on our social media pages. Stay up-to-date with Multicam Great Lakes by following us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or YouTube.
If you need any help cutting specific materials on your CNC Router or Knife Cutter, please call me at (616) 502-7277. I (Greg Smolka) manage the tooling department, where we are a distributor for CNC tooling. I work with some of the best tooling suppliers in the world, such as Onsrud, X-Edge, Techniks, Whiteside, Belin, Amana and more. Feel free to check out our online webstore to see some of what we offer. Thanks for stopping by.
CNC Tooling Manager at Multicam Great Lakes
Here to help with tooling recommendations (bits, knives, collets, tool holders, cleaners and kits, torque stations, etc.) and cutting recommendations (speeds/feeds, tips/tricks, passes, etc.).