View Full Version : 3003 Aluminum, how does it mill?

08-31-2011, 11:29 PM
Hi Guys,

I recently picked up some sheets of 3003 aluminum in 0.080" thickness. I'm hoping to mess around with it tomorrow. Has anyone worked with this type of aluminum on their mill and is there anything to be concerned with? I figure that a regular HSS or carbide EM would do fine for profiling. Does that sound right?


09-01-2011, 03:02 AM
This data sheet from the web might give you some information. As I read it it might not machine well.


Lew Hartswick
09-01-2011, 10:01 AM
If it's what I think, about like chewing gum.

09-01-2011, 10:57 AM
If it's what I think, about like chewing gum.

Not quite that bad, more like pink gum eraser. It's really the stuff you want to forming operations and not for machining. Sharp tooling and good lube help a lot, but it'll build up on an edge and smear like you wouldn't believe.

09-01-2011, 11:42 AM
Yup - what he said.

09-01-2011, 03:04 PM
It depends on the condition. 3003 works hardens but isn't heat treatable. If it is in a hard condition then it should machine well. In the soft condition all aluminum alloys are difficult to machine cleanly.

See here for a complete explanation of the designation system for aluminum. The not heat treatable alloys will have an H designator for different hardness grades.


09-01-2011, 08:08 PM
I've use 0.080" 3003 annealed with a torch to make hammer/english wheel formed panels for motorcycle tanks and stuff. I'm not that great with welding aluminum so I haven't done much but some test panels so far. The stuff does form like butter when it is annealed but work hardens a bit as you stretch and shrink it with the hammer.

As others have said I would suspect it to machine poorly, but its probably useable if you take your time and oil it to death and check your buildup as you go.

09-01-2011, 08:51 PM
To help prevent built up edge use new high rake carbide tooling with WD40 for lube. Aluminum doesn't stick to carbide as badly as it does to HSS. The best tooling is Polycrystalline Diamond inserts. They will do a clean job on the softest aluminum. I speak from experience.

The Doctor
09-02-2011, 05:07 AM
I've machined 3003 on a few occasions, regrettably. It's always been like fresh chewed gum. In addition to sharp tools & plenty of lube, fairly lite cuts are needed to prevent chip packing. And chip clearing of some sort is 100% essential. If you start re-cutting lots of chips, the cutter will still pack solid, even if you are cutting fully submerged in oil.

The good news is that you can cut it cleanly if all conditions are met.


09-02-2011, 10:09 AM
Any of the form-able alloys pretty much suck to machine. Flood coolant with a rich water soluable oil helps, but you are much better off with something designed for machining.

09-02-2011, 12:52 PM
Well I only paid about 25 bucks for five 12" x 48" x 0.080" sheets. I'll figure something to do with it but I guess that machining isn't that good of an idea. I'll test some anyway and probably pick up one of the cutters that Evan suggested.

Thanks for all of the tips guys. Sounds like it's going to be a mess to machine. Maybe I'll cut it on the saw with coolant and use for signage.

Thanks again. This Forum is priceless!!!