Best CNC Router for Aluminum

Lightweight and durable, aluminum is among the most commonly used materials for several industrial applications. Its thermal and aesthetic properties make aluminum popular in the automotive, aerospace, railway and marine industries.

Aluminum must be cut precisely, irrespective of the application it is used for, which is where CNC (computer numerical control) routers come in. CNC routers are essentially, automatic 3D cutting machines that are driven by a computer, unlike hand-driven traditional models. These help to reduce errors and minimize wastage compared to other kinds of cutting methods.

CNC routers allow you to cut, mill, drill, carve, engrave and groove on aluminum and other materials like MDF, wood, acrylic, copper, glass, stone, etc. And, the best part is that routers come in several configurations, ranging right from small desktop models to industrial models that are used in manufacturing applications.

Difference between Cutting Plastic, Wood and Aluminum

I find that using a CNC router to cut aluminum is more complex than using one to cut materials such as wood or plastic. To begin with, aluminum is a weak metal and quite sticky too. It tends to stick onto the cutting tool and leaves sticky and gummy deposits of metal on the cutting edges causing the aluminum to weld itself to the cutting tool, making it quite difficult to remove the aluminum shavings and chips.

The other thing is that compared to wood and plastics, aluminum has a much narrower range of suitable feeds and speeds. The cutter will wear out more quickly and even break if you go beyond the acceptable feed and speed range. As a result, the surface finish will also be poor. However, despite these limitations, you can use CNC router machines to cut aluminum efficiently and productively.

Buying Guide for the Best CNC Router for Aluminum

When you’re purchasing the best CNC router for cutting aluminum, you must consider a few important factors so that you get the best one without compromising on the quality. So, when purchasing a CNC router, here are a few things to consider:

Size of the Motor

You must consider the motor of the CNC router. For the best, optimal performance, look for a CNC router having a motor that has 10,000 RPM or more. Machines equipped with servo motors are suitable for fast operations requiring regular load changes, providing high torque capacity. The motor is very efficient and is not very loud, nor does it heat up when in operation.

On the other hand, stepper motors are more affordable. They work on pulses and operate at low to medium speeds and are suitable for applications requiring high torque. These are simple to assemble and operate. These motors are long lasting because any overload does not cause them any damage.

However, stepper motors are fairly loud, especially when they operate at moderate or high speeds. Irrespective of whichever type of motor the CNC router has, it is a good idea to choose one that needs little supervision and works effectively.

Tool Changer System

If you’re purchasing a CNC router machine for your business where you change the tools often during the production process, then it is a good idea to purchase a CNC router with an automatic tool changing system, which will help to reduce the time spent to change the tools between jobs and also minimize the operator’s chances of making an error.

However, if you’re a hobbyist and are planning to use just one tool of your CNC router at a time, then there is no need to choose a machine with an automatic tool changing system. If you manufacture complex components, then it may be a good idea to invest in specialized software for your CNC router and also updating the software regularly will help you achieve precise cuts.

Spindle

This is essentially the motor of the machine that cuts through the cutting tool, which comes in various different shapes and sizes. The spindle ensures the efficiency and stability of the machine by holding the milling tool and enabling the machine to cut properly.

You should consider the factors like cycle time, as well as application, which will enable you to make heavier cuts. Before you purchase a CNC router, it is a good idea to check out the spindle capacity, which will involve factors such as the type of motor of the spindle, power requirements, torque, etc.

Size of CNC Router

An important aspect to consider when purchasing a CNC router is the size of the machine, which you must determine after factoring in your current, as well as future production. For instance, if you’re running a small production unit, the production should not be limited because your CNC router is unable to handle larger materials.

It is best to select a CNC router machine that is scalable and allows you to expand without the need to purchase a new CNC router to accommodate your growing cutting requirements.

Weight of the CNC Router

A heavier CNC router in general has better construction and is likely to be more long lasting. However, if you require to move the machine around, then it is better to get a lightweight, yet sturdy and durable machine.

Vacuum System

An important factor to consider when purchasing a CNC router is the ability of the machine to hold the material that requires it to be cut properly. The vacuum pressure of the machine will essentially determine the weight of the material the router can handle.

Metal Shavings and Dust

When you’re cutting aluminum or any other materials using a CNC router, a lot of metal shavings, sawdust or dust is produced and having a vacuum system in the area will help you to keep your workspace clean.

You must have an understanding of the amount of dust, metal shavings or debris that the CNC router will produce and this will enable you to determine where to place the vacuum system so that you get maximum coverage.

Also, ensure that your computer system is sufficiently far away so that it is not damaged by the dust and debris produced while cutting.

Cost

The cost of CNC routers can vary. You can get a small-size hobby bench-top CNC router for as little as $1,500 to industrial models for over $120,000. Apart from just the cost, you must also consider the configuration of the machine, your specific requirement, the trustworthiness of the CNC router manufacturer, warranty offered, etc. before making your purchase decision.

If you’re considering purchasing a CNC router, then you will realize that plenty of choices can make things rather overwhelming and so I have shortlisted and reviewed some of the best CNC routers for cutting aluminum. Read on to know more.

Reviews of the Best CNC Router for Aluminum

Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO Router

If you’re on the lookout for the best CNC router for aluminum, then the top of my list is the Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO Router. Manufactured by the renowned Genmitsu brand, this CNC router is easy to assemble and comes with the GRBL open-source software that controls the movement and runs on Arduino, which is perfect for both commercial, as well as personal use.

The CNC machine is integrated with the mainboard perfectly, which helps to reduce the chances of errors. The CNC router can cut, mill or engrave different materials such as aluminum, PVC, PCB, acrylic and wood.

Features

  • Working Area: 300 x 180 x 45 mm
  • Integrated mainboard
  • Custom GRBL open-source software
  • Runs on Arduino
  • Offline controller
  • Allows you to manually adjust the XYZ axis
  • CE, FCC, UL approved
  • 1-year warranty

Pros

  • Sturdy, heavy-duty build
  • Long lasting
  • Versatile and can cut different types of materials
  • Easy to assemble

Cons

  • The file conversion is tricky.
  • Lacks software instructions.

You can buy the product here.

MySweety CNC 3018 Pro

The MySweety CNC 3018 Pro is an upgraded version of the 3018, which is a high-quality CNC router machine for a very affordable price. Made of aluminum and plastic, the router machine is lightweight, yet sturdy. The router is compatible with most operating systems above MacOS 10.9 and Windows 10. It has a 775 spindle that delivers more than 10,000 RPM.

The router has a working area sufficient for personal use. The machine is quite easy to assemble and can cut, mill or engrave several materials such as aluminum, PVC, plastic, wood and acrylic. The best part of the MySweety CNC 3018 Pro is that you can operate it online instead of connecting it to the computer or internet.

Features

  • Working Area: 300 x 180 x 45 mm
  • Wood Router Engraver with Offline Controller
  • 3-Axis PCB Milling Machine
  • Control Software: GRBL
  • Spindle: 775 spindle motor
  • RPM: 10,000
  • Supported System: MacOS 10.9 and Windows 10
  • Offline Controller: 1G capacity
  • Integrated driver chip
  • External fan
  • Fixed heat sink
  • Self-contained short-circuit protection
  • 1-year warranty

Pros

  • Sturdy machine
  • Easy to assemble
  • Affordable price
  • Small and compact

Cons

  • Not suitable to cut harder materials like metals but works well for softer woods, plastics, etc.
  • Technical support for the product is poor.

You can buy the product here.

SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-MX3 CNC Router

If you’re on the lookout for a professional CNC router that is affordable too, then I would recommend the SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-MX3 CNC Router. Made of aluminum, the router has a spindle motor with 10,000 RPM.

Controlled by the Mach3 software, the router can cut, mill, drill and engrave and allows you to work with different types of materials including aluminum. The Mach3 software is customizable and supports MacOS and Windows.

The CNC router has two 5 mm baffles on both sides that help to contain the dust and ensure your safety while you monitor the engraving process closely.

The axis has a switch, which prevents the spindle from moving away from the engraving area and also stops the machine in case of any issues.

Very versatile, the SainSmart Genmitsu CNC Router is excellent for professionals, hobbyists and DIYers.

Features

  • XYZ Working Area: 300 x 180 x 45 mm
  • Open-source GRBL v1.1
  • Toshiba TB6S109 drivers
  • Mach3 software
  • 10,000 RPM spindle
  • All-aluminum body
  • 5 mm acrylic safety baffles
  • 1.8” display
  • Emergency stop control

Pros

  • Easy to assemble
  • Versatile machine
  • Offers offline control
  • Can be connected via USB

Cons

  • Assembly takes a long time
  • Difficult to operate if you don’t have software knowledge

You can buy the product here.

Cenoz CNC 3018 Pro

I think that the Cenoz CNC 3018 Pro is a good CNC router machine for beginners to learn the basics of CNC routers.

The open layout of the machine allows you to see how to make adjustments very easily. The lightweight CNC router is easy to assemble and can be put together in just under 20 minutes. The CNC router has an all-metal body that has integrated units, which makes it sturdy, yet lightweight.

The machine is equipped with a motor producing 10,000 RPM and offers precise cutting and engraving of various types of materials such as aluminum, woods, plastics, PVC, PCB and acrylics.

The Cenoz CNC 3018 Pro features the GRBL software with a 3-axis control that enables the device to work seamlessly. The software is compatible with Windows 7, 8, XP and Linux; however, it does not support MacOS.

Features

  • Working Area: 300 x 180 x 45 mm
  • 3-Axis PCB
  • Software: GRBL controller software
  • Open layout
  • All-metal body
  • Motor Speed: 10,000 RPM
  • Compatible with Windows 7, 8, XP and Linux

Pros

  • Quick and easy assembly.
  • It is a nice and well-built CNC router machine.
  • Sturdy mechanics.
  • Works very well.

Cons

  • Does not support Mac OS.
  • Clamps that hold the material are too large and take up a lot of space.

You can buy the product here.

Final Words

In conclusion, a CNC router is a very versatile tool, which is an excellent investment for any workshop. CNC routers can cut through various types of materials like plastics, wood, PVC, acrylics, metals, etc. precisely, which makes it an excellent option for working with aluminum.

Obviously, your budget is an important factor that will play an important role in determining which router is the best for you. However, if you have been confused about which CNC router to purchase for your workshop, after reading my reviews and buying guide, I hope you have sufficient information that will allow you to go ahead and pick the right one that suits your requirements the best.

Leave a Comment