Milling Aluminum on the Inventables X-Carve
Milling and engraving metals on the Inventables X-Carve is much like milling and engraving softer materials, with a couple key differences: speed, safety, and mid-cut maintenance.
In order to mill anything on the X-Carve, I set up a design on easel.inventables.com. I will usually run a simulation of the cut to see how long it will take, and measure my materials and bits and input them at this point. Then, I connect and home the machine (some setup might be required based on your machine), and turn on the spindle (the Dewalt 611 router).
To mill aluminum, I have been using the basic 1/16 inch double-flute (2F) fishtail bit that comes with many Inventables X-Carve starter packs. It doesn’t seem to produce very large chips and generally rids its path of waste material and chips. (N.B. My bit looks slightly different than the normal 1/16" bit because I partially melted it accidentally.)
During milling, I run the machine at VERY slow speeds, and apply cutting oil at intervals to keep the bit cool. However, because many aluminum cuts are very long and slow to prevent the bit overheating, I don’t apply an excess of oil.
As the machine runs it’s final pass, I usually stop the cut around one half-inch from a complete cut to prevent the final piece from flying off. I’ll then be able to pry the final piece away from the waste material. This is also possible with ‘tabs’, but requires significantly less post-processing. I use double-sided tape to secure PCBs during milling (the PCB boards tend to very finely warp if clamped down in a more conventional manner) but I am not convinced of the heat-resistance of the double-sided tape, and the aluminum pieces tend to heat up, at least slightly, during cuts.