My experiences cutting Aluminum

I’ve posted a couple of photo albums, one is primarily the un-boxing of my Nomad but at the end of the album there is some of information on my initial attempts at cutting aluminum.


The second album is about my latest tests and results, there is a also a youtube link to a short, unfortunately vertical oriented and dark video in the descriptions as well.

Nomad Cutting Aluminum

I’d be happy to hear any comments or answer any questions.

That’s interesting that cutting the depth of cut in half and doubling the feed rate removed most of the squealing that you mention in your first link. I haven’t cut aluminum with my Nomad yet, but typically squealing is indicative of tool chatter. This means that your tool is rubbing, not cutting.

I did a quick calc on FSWizard’s free speeds and feeds calculator. It states that you want something like your second run for your settings. It should cut better with a 2-flute, rather than the 3-flute, cutter. You have to run higher feed rates with more flutes, so that you keep the chip load the same. Otherwise you run into squealing like you did.

Also, with more flutes, you need more spindle horsepower. I’m not sure the Nomad can cut as aggressively with metal as your 3-flute tool needs. You’ll need to reduce the spindle speed and reduce depth of cut slightly to find an optimal cut for that tool. Often with milling, you have to experiment to find a balance between the machine, tool, and material, as there are a lot of variables that effect each other.

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I’m a real beginner with anything CNC related. I’ve done the wrench tutorial and cut my small part about 8 times with various settings now. I did, however, just return from a 4 day Intro to CNC Machining class at Tormach about 2 weeks ago. Lot’s of CAM and machine time and it provided me with a good listen to aluminum being cut correctly on both of their machines. Admittedly both of them have a ton more power, weight, rigidity and cost than our little Nomads.

This was all just experimenting based on real world observation. The small variable 3 flute with ZrN coating was recommended as a very good cutter for aluminum and the one I used is only 1/8" so it’s not like I was trying to push a “big” tool. I originally used the recommended settings from an aluminum feeds and speeds thread here on the forum, which I believe was .01" DOC and 10 IPM, and it was a ear splitting painful nightmare. Tried a ton of variations … kept the depth of the cut the same and lowered the feed rate, same squeal and chatter. Decided to give the much lower depth of cut while increasing the feed rate and cranking up the spindle speed a try and it became “acceptable”. The Anchorlube I tried didn’t seem to help much but that Tap Magic for Aluminum seemed beneficial and pretty much silenced the initial plunge squeal on the waterline cut pass.

Just thought I’d pass my findings along and hope to hear and see others results as the forum grows.


Thanks for sharing the great pictures, I really appreciate the info.

What were the final meshcam feeds and speeds you ended up using for the small part you designed?

Did you have to change the feeds and speeds for the wrench example?

Is the stepper motor sticking out of the back of the 883 normal??? It does not seem to have
any protection, and would imply you cannot put the machine flush against the back of the workbench.

Why did you order an ER11 collet set from I have lots of 3D printer experience but am new to CNC
and want to make sure I have all the things I will need when the 883 is delivered.

What list of accessories for the 883 do you suggest people order?

Does the meshcam version that comes with the 883 include the simulator shown in one
of your pictures, or is that something extra we need to get?

How thick was the material for the part you designed and cut from from 6061-T6 aluminum? Did you use that
exact dimension for stock in meshcam or did you tell meshcam is was different so the 883 would machine the top
of the piece? I am still trying to figure out exactly what numbers to feed meshcam to cut 2D parts from different thicknesses of stock material.

Glad to see a fellow 3D Printer enthusiast. I have had a Rep2 for two years and designed (ViaCad, Sketchup, and OpenSCAD) and made hundreds of parts using the Rep2. I ordered an 883 because I need some designs made out of
something stronger than PLA.

Woah! Lot’s of questions there 3dsteve! :wink: I, honestly, don’t mind. Hope I can help at least a little bit.

The final speeds and feeds for that variable flute end mill are in the second photo of the second photo album.

When I did the wrench I downloaded the pre-created file and followed the tutorial and didn’t change anything.

I assume the stepper motor out of the back of the machine is normal for the Nomad. I don’t like that design decision either.

There are different sized collets in the set I purchased to let you hold tools with different shank diameters up to .25" inch, which I think is the ER11 maximum size.

I couldn’t really tell you what accessories I’d recommend, this is all new to me! If you’re going to cut metal I’d start researching end mills, coatings and also cutting fluids like that Tap Magic for Aluminum that I purchased. Having an air source nearby is handy to blow the chips, or rather metal dust away, but you don’t need something super strong. I just use a hand squeeze air bulb.

That simulation shot is from MeshCam so it’s definitely included in the software. I’m hoping to actually start experimenting with the CAM that is in Fusion360 where I do all of my modeling. There isn’t a post-processor for the nomad but I’ve been comparing output from MeshCam and a generic Mach3 post.

The aluminum I cut was 1/8" thick. MeshCam kind of starts with a bounding box that exactly fits the part when you import it. Then I go in and add a 1/4" margin on all sides so that the entire part gets cut. I just set up my x,y and z zero somewhere the part will fit on 6"x6" sheets of aluminum that are double side taped to a waste board. I’m an inner circle backer but haven’t received the vise or flip jig yet and my research hasn’t turned up any other small vises that look viable so tape is the only current option.

I have a Makergear M2 printer at home but also have a lot of printing done at Shapeways on the SLS machines.

The Nomad was an interesting first foray into CNC but I’m already looking to sell it because I’m buying a Tormach 770 … very, very soon. Just need the electrical contractor to get here to install a heater and some additional power in my garage.

Hope that helps a little.


Thanks for the feedback it is very helpful.

On one of the other threads Rob recommended and that article
is full of good info.

Looking foreword to seeing some more things you make on the 883.


Have you learned yet how to use Fusion 360 CAM with the Nomad 883 yet?

I ask, because this is my intended workflow, but am a first timer at CNC who doesn’t know how to go about this.

I’ve played with the CAM in Fusion and have been watching a lot of tutorials on the setup for tools, materials and work coordinate system. My hope is to try an actual cut with the output from Fusion soon, maybe this weekend. I’ll post back after I’ve had a chance to cut something and report my findings.

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Continuing the discussion from My experiences cutting Aluminum:

jonniemac, a Tormach ?!! you lucky, lucky guy :smile:
I guess you are familiar with John’s youtube channel NYCCNC? Great Tormach and general milling tutorials, mostly aluminium.

Thanks, and yes I’ve watched everything from NYCCNC, John Grimsmo and TacticalKeychains on youtube.

Small photo album of my trip to the January 2015 “Intro to CNC Machining” at Tormach. Class was very interesting, they only take 8 students for each monthly 4 day class and you get a good amount of CAM instruction and plenty of time on the machines.

Trying to wrangle contractors and electricians has proven a bit more challenging and is taking more time than I’d like but as soon as I add some additional power and heat in my garage the order is being placed. Garage is insulated well but gotta have heat here in Minnesota .

I tried aluminium myself for the first time today and it started okay. I think the feeds and speeds was ok, I might test to go up a bit in feed rate in the future. I used WD-40 as cooler. I think it seems to work ok as that but it does not work well together with the double sides tape so for the second item I did everything came loose on the last round (so I miss some holes that I will have to drill manually). I think I will try to find a different way to fasten it next time. The aluminium I use is 3mm EN 5754-H22/H32.
Feed rate 244mm
Plunge rate 122mm
Sted Down 0.1mm
RPM 10000
1/8" End mill (#102)


these parts look great! How often did you need to apply the WD40?

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Not so often, maybe a little spray every 30-60 sec or so.


thanks! can’t wait to cut into the Al stock on its way to my shop :slight_smile: