August 13, 2019
Aluminum can be hard to drill, despite its easy rep
When drilling, perhaps no variable is as important as the workpiece material. It dictates drill geometry and substrate, tool coating, coolant application, and speeds and feeds.
While known for its relative softness and ductility, misconceptions abound among those who regularly drill aluminum.
“Aluminum is considered by many to be one of the easiest machining materials, but it does present its own unique challenges”—particularly when drilling, explained Elliott Frazier, a product manager at Tungaloy America Inc., Arlington Heights, Ill. “Aluminum is a generally soft, nonferrous, ductile material with low density and naturally high resistance to corrosion. Aluminum is difficult to drill because its ductility and softness causes the material to make constant prolonged contact with the rake face, or cutting edges, of a drill.”
While there are many different aluminum alloys with unique machinability characteristics, Frazier said the most widely drilled aluminum alloys are 6061 and 7075, adding that there are pockets of aerospace and medical work that use specialty alloys exclusively.
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