The best way to cut aluminum plates depends on several factors, such as the thickness of the plate and the desired end result. Generally speaking, plasma cutting is the best way to cut thick aluminum plates, as this process uses an accelerated stream of hot plasma to cut through materials. This process is fast, precise and can cut through plates up to 3″ thick.
When cutting thinner aluminum plates, or when a finer finish is desired, waterjet cutting is recommended. This process uses a high-pressure stream of water and abrasive to cut through the material. This process is slower than plasma cutting, but produces a smoother finish with minimal burr or slag.
For smaller or thinner plates, saw cutting is often used. This process uses a circular saw with a diamond-tipped blade to quickly and accurately cut through the material. Saw cutting is generally used for plates thinner than .25″.
Finally, laser cutting is another option for cutting aluminum. This process uses a high-powered laser to quickly cut through the material. Laser cutting produces a smooth edge and high accuracy, but can be slower and more expensive than other methods.
All of these processes have their own benefits and strengths, and the best way to cut aluminum plates will depend on the application, budget and desired result.
The best tools to cut aluminum sheets and pieces
The best tools for cutting aluminum sheets and pieces depend on the type and thickness of the material. If you need to cut thin sheets of aluminum, a jig saw, circular saw, an angle grinder, or a plasma cutter are all good options.
If you need to cut thicker pieces of aluminum, such as bars and rods, then a bandsaw is usually the best tool to use. A bandsaw uses an endless looped blade to cut metal and can achieve more accurate cuts than most other tools.
For sheet metal, metal nibbler tools are a popular choice and can be used manually or with a power tool. Nibblers can be used to cut circles and curves as well as straight lines. A hole saw can also be used for cutting aluminum sheet metal, but it can be tedious, as the hole saw must be repeatedly removed and replaced to cut different shapes.
Finally, if you need to make precise cuts or have large sheets or thin bars of aluminum to cut, a CNC machine may be a good option for you. CNC machines use computer-controlled robotics to make precise cuts and can handle large amounts of material quickly and accurately.
Aluminum cutting tips and tricks
- Use the Right Tools: Before beginning your aluminum cutting project, make sure you have the right tools for the job. Generally, a hand-held circular saw or jigsaw with a blade specifically created for cutting aluminum is recommended. Make sure the blade is sharp and honed to achieve a clean and accurate cut.
- Secure the Aluminum Piece: You should secure the aluminum piece before you begin cutting it. Place the aluminum on a sturdy and level surface to ensure a safe, clean cut. Use clamps to hold the aluminum in place and use a straight edge such as a ruler to line up the desired cut.
- Use Lubricant: Use a lubricant such as polishing cream, WD-40, or other lubricants to reduce friction and heat. Plus, a lubricant reduces the amount of carbide wear which extends the life of your cutting tool.
- Use a Low RPM: Aluminum is a soft heat-conducting material and requires a low RPM setting with smaller teeth to avoid melting the metal. Slower cutting speeds will help maintain an even cutting line and prevent overheating.
- Use a Backing Board: Use a backing board made of either 1/2″ plywood or a hardboard to reduce the risk created by large aluminum chips flying out of the blade. Place the backing board on the opposite side of the aluminum from the cutting blade which will help contain any chips created during the cutting process.
- Maintain a Clean Cut: To maintain a clean cut and reduce chipping, create multiple shallow cuts (1/16″ deep) far apart and then come in for the final cut. This can help avoid large chunks of material flinging off during the cutting process. Additionally, do not force the aluminum through the blade, instead let the tool and blade do the work.
Simple steps to cut aluminum with a circular saw
- Adjust the Angle of the Saw: Make sure to set the bevel of the saw to enable a cutting angle that will enable the saw to easily slice through aluminum. Depending on the thickness and hardness of the particular type of aluminum, you may need to adjust the setting from 0-45° to obtain the optimum cutting angle.
- Equip the Saw with the Right Blade: Ensure that you have the right type of blade for cutting aluminum. Blades for cutting non-ferrous metals such as aluminum feature fine carbide teeth, and can typically cut through curves and angles quickly and accurately.
- Position the Aluminum Properly: Before starting to cut, ensure that the aluminum is in the right position. Clamp it down securely and ensure that it is firmly supported and stabilized on a flat, stable surface. Once the clamp is securely in place, place a piece of scrap wood beneath the sheet. This will absorb any vibration and cut marks, while also protecting the saw’s base plate.
- Mark the Cut Path: Mark the path of the cut accurately with a permanent marker or usage of a helper cutting guide. Check and double-check the cut path, ensuring that the aluminum piece isn’t accidentally introduced to the spinning blade.
- Start the Saw: Once all the preparations have been made, start the saw and make sure that the blade is spinning at yellow-to-green revolutions per minute (RPM) speed range. Move the saw forward, ensuring that it follows the previously marked cutting path accurately. If you’re using a helper cutting guide, make sure to keep it pressed firmly against the aluminum at all times during the sawing process.
- Finish the Cuts: Continue the sawing process until the aluminum piece is freed from the parent sheet. If needed, take short breaks in between to ensure that you stay alert and focused on the task at hand. Once the cut has been completed, switch off the saw and wipe down the aluminum to remove any swarf.