Metal Machining – Not All Materials are the Same

Metal machining has come a long way over the past few decades. Thanks to computer numeric control and other high tech methods, boring, milling and many other processes are extremely accurate, fast and very dependable. However, not all materials are the same. For example, aluminum and stainless steel have special needs and can present unique problems to the machine shop.

Problems with Stainless Steel

Stainless steel can be troublesome to work with at times. In fact, many machine shops simply avoid working with this material altogether. So, what happens if a customer needs stainless steel materials? These businesses can refuse the work (and let another shop reap the benefits) or they can outsource the work to a machine shop with experience and expertise in stainless steel.

Why is Stainless Steel Hard to Work With?

Stainless steel tends to be rigid and stiff. For example, when grinding or boring into this metal, it is easy for chipping or cracking to occur. In addition, stainless steel can cause some machines to vibrate excessively. It takes special equipment to handle this metal and the machinist must be experienced and familiar with the proper metal machining methods.

Heat buildup can be a real problem with stainless steel and lubricant has to be used during the process. This helps to eliminate overheating, which can drastically reduce corrosion resistance.

Working with Aluminum

Aluminum is softer than steel. During the process of cutting or grinding, it can become sticky and adhere to cutting edges. This buildup can be particularly problematic. It will not take long for aluminum to dull standard cutting tools. One must choose coated tools to help reduce buildup. In addition, it is essential to use high speed cutting techniques.

Doing the Work Yourself

Should you decide to work with difficult metals like stainless steel or aluminum, you will want to invest in equipment specially made for the process. This can be a substantial investment and the small machine shop may not be able to afford this. Hiring a machine shop makes a great deal of sense if you wish to continue to meet the needs of your customers. You won’t have to buy new equipment or hire additional skilled labor. Also, think about this: if a customer must go somewhere else, he or she may decide to give all their business to the shop capable of taking care of all their metal machining needs. You could lose some valuable customers.

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