- VSM ALU-X significantly reduces chip adhesion; this reduces tool changes
- Increased performance facilitates faster machining and reduces process costs
- Grease- and oil-free grinding ensures a clean workplace
- Reduced disposal costs thanks to fewer abrasives
- Ceramic abrasive grain is ideal for coarse grinding applications
- Aluminium oxide produces a matt scratch pattern and is particularly recommended for contour machining
- The additional layer VSM ALU-X significantly reduces chip adhesion
- Specially developed for machining aluminium and non-ferrous metals
ALU-X: Versatile in use
- ALU-X demonstrates high performance in machining non-ferrous metals such as aluminium, bronze and copper
- Ideal for preparation and levelling of welded seams
- Suitable for removing burrs and castings and grinding out defects during repair grinding
- For achieving a specified technical surface quality
You can really feel how aggressively ALU-X grinds in the first few seconds. And even after intensive use, it still bites – without clogging!
X-treme performance meets reduced chip adhesion
Longer grinding with ALU-X
The new ALU-X additional layer reduces chip adhesion and thus significantly reduces clogging of the abrasive. This results in an improved stock removal rate over the entire grinding time. With conventional abrasives, the performance is significantly affected by clogging.
Ideal for non-ferrous metals
Non-ferrous metals tend to clog the abrasive. Instead of being cleared, the chips start forming deposits on the grains, A built-up cutting edge is created. The abrasive grain can no longer work and the abrasive is unusable.
VSM ALU-X prevents chip adhesion and thus clogging of the abrasive. Apart from extending the service life, this also maintains a high rate of stock removal.
Try it out
Would you like to put ALU-X through its paces? Then feel free to order samples without obligation:
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We also share expert knowledge and extensive practical tips in our live webinar “ALU-X?! The new expert for aluminium grinding!”
Grind aluminium like the professionals
The light alloy aluminium has a number of special features that must be taken into account when processing it, especially when grinding and polishing. But what exactly is aluminium? What material are we dealing with and how do its properties affect grinding?
What is aluminium?
Aluminium is ubiquitous in our everyday lives and, after steel and iron, it is the most widely used metallic material. If we consider the world’s resources, it is even the most common metal on Earth, albeit exclusively in bonded form. The manufacturing process is complex and energy-intensive. Aluminium is mainly extracted from bauxites, weathering products of limestone and silicate rock. The aluminium oxide produced from the bauxite using the Bayer process is transformed into aluminium (and oxygen) by melt flow electrolysis. 58 million tonnes of so-called primary aluminium are produced in smelters worldwide, by far the largest of which is in China, most recently (2022) 40 million tonnes per year.
In Germany, 3.3 million tonnes of crude aluminium were produced in 2022, most of which as recycled aluminium (almost three million tonnes). The production of aluminium is extremely energy intensive: 40 percent of the production costs of aluminium for cabins are incurred for electricity. Recycling, on the other hand, requires only five percent of the energy required for new production. The light metal can be integrated back into the material cycle − in other words recycled − without loss of quality.
Aluminium: Products and industries
Due to its excellent forming properties and very high load-bearing capacity, aluminium is used in all areas of the economy. Nevertheless, there are some focus industries: According to the industry association Aluminium Deutschland, almost half of the aluminium products go to the transport industry (46 percent). The construction industry and packaging industry, on the other hand, use around 26 percent together. Industry, especially mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and the iron and steel industry, also uses a lot of aluminium, namely 19 percent of German aluminium production.
The most quantitatively important production area of the German aluminium industry is the semi-finished aluminium product, of which rolled and extruded products are the most important in terms of volume.
Pressed and drawn products are distinguished by profiles, bars, tubes and wires.
Another very important production area is aluminium die casting, i.e. finished components that are manufactured using different casting processes such as sand casting or die casting. Aluminium's low melting temperature makes it suitable for the production of cast parts. The main customer here is the automotive industry.
The many applications of aluminium
Aluminium is a very diverse material. Consumers know it, for example, as aluminium foil or a drinks can; other well-known products that catch your eye every day are household objects and appliances, furniture or facade systems.
If you take a closer look, it is really apparent how ubiquitous aluminium is. This is mainly due to its versatility. Aluminium is a multi-functional raw material – light and stable, but tough. Its outstanding forming properties and high load capacity are impressive. And: Compared to steel, aluminium components have less than half the weight, with the same strength (around 60 percent less weight).
This is why aluminium – usually in the form of alloys – is always used where weight savings, stability and a protective function are required.
The most important applications of aluminium are:
transport and traffic: Vehicle manufacturers value aluminium primarily for its lightness, because it saves energy and fuel. The automotive industry uses it for bodies, chassis, engine blocks, cylinder heads, transmissions, doors, rims and wheels, among other things. Aluminium is also used extensively for bicycles, motorcycles, trains, ship and aircraft construction and even in aerospace.
Packaging and containers: In addition to the classic aluminium foil, aluminium is used as drinks or spray cans, bottles and tubes, as yoghurt cup lids, coffee capsules, grill pans, medicine blister packaging and much more. It is ideally suited for use as packaging material: It is lightweight and therefore reduces transport costs, stays tight, withstands heat and cold and has no inherent taste. It is also often used as a container and system for the food and chemical industry.
Construction: Aluminium is of particular interest to the construction industry as a construction material for lightweight construction and as a functional material. It is easy to process, non-combustible and weather-resistant – making it ideal for windows and doors, facades, shower cubicles, fittings and handles, tubes, railings or wall and roof systems. And last but not least, the increased use of alternative energies has opened up further areas of application for the material aluminium, for example in wind and solar power plants or in heat exchangers.
Electrical engineering and mechanical engineering: Good to process, non-magnetic and above all good electrical and thermal conductivity – these properties are appreciated by mechanical engineering and the electrical engineering industry. Aluminium can therefore be found in capacitors, housings of electric motors, switch cabinets, tubes, high and low-voltage cables and busbars, in microchip production, in cooling fins and storage plates of IT installations, as a precision part, in cylinders and much more.
Household and leisure: If you look carefully in your home, you will discover aluminium almost everywhere. On the one hand because it is light and stable, and on the other because it has a particularly decorative and beautifully designable surface. It is considered to be a particularly “aesthetic” material. You can find it in the kitchen in pots, pans, crockery and cutlery, mobile phones and TVs, furniture, ladders, garden chairs and dozens of other everyday products.
Grinding properties of aluminium: Lightweight and soft
How does aluminium behave when grinding?
Basically, grinding aluminium is just like grinding any other metal. Nevertheless, the popular light metal has special properties in terms of its machining behaviour and its physical properties.
Machinability: In general, the machinability of pure aluminium can be described as very good. You need significantly less energy than when machining steel, iron or copper, for example.
Lubrication tendency/clogging: Pure aluminium has low strength, is a very soft metal and therefore tends to smear and form build-up edges during grinding. In the form of alloys, it becomes stronger or has a tougher machining behaviour.
Conductivity: Aluminium has a high thermal and electrical conductivity. The thermal conductivity is four times higher than that of ferrous metals, which is why the material heats up faster during grinding – but the heat is distributed well throughout the workpiece.
Oxidation: The non-ferrous metal immediately forms a layer of oxidation that is only a few atoms thick on the surface, which protects against corrosion. These can be quickly removed by grinding. But within a very short time, in just a few minutes, it is formed again: This passive layer is "self-healing".
Compression: Because aluminium is so soft, it tends to compress massively. This is practical for fine work such as polishing, as a high-gloss surface can be created relatively quickly, which is even quite close to chromium plate.
Aluminium: The most important grinding applications and tasks
The entire range of grinding applications, from coarse to fine, is used throughout the entire production process for the surface processing of aluminium.
First, the deburring: Sharp edges and burrs on the cut edges must be removed in the same way as welds. In addition, weld seam preparation plays an important role. Abrasion of casting and bevelling of workpieces are also among the most important applications in the manufacture and processing of aluminium products.
Surface unevenness and imperfections are ground out during repair grinding or cleaning grinding. The final step is then finishing toward fine surfaces with a desired technical surface quality.
Depending on the workpiece size and requirements, aluminium is processed either by flat grinding, by backstand grinding (also known as a grinding trestle) - or with a hand power tool, such as an angle grinder or drum grinder.
Aluminium: How to grind correctly
With regard to the above-mentioned properties of aluminium – above all very good machinability, a strong tendency to smear and high thermal conductivity – it is good to follow a few basic machining or grinding rules.
If you want to achieve the highest possible stock removal when grinding aluminium, you start with a coarse grit size – with VSM ALU-X this is already possible from grit size P24 – and refine the grit size with every work step, for example in increments of 100. This allows the grinding marks from the previous steps to be ground out well.
ALU-X grinding wheels XF733 or the XK733X abrasive belt excel particularly in rough grinding work with high power over the entire grinding time and provide maximum stock removal with little chip adhesion. For intermediate sanding, for example, you can switch to ALU-X KK732F, an abrasive with versatile aluminium oxide abrasive grain on a flexible cotton fabric carrier. It is available in grit sizes from P80 to P600.
High cutting speed results in smaller chips. This reduces clogging and build-up of cutting edges. The cutting speed recommended by experts is vc = 35−40 m/s.
The choice of grinding pressure should always depend on the nature and possible alloys of the material. Particularly deep scratches usually require a high pressure at the beginning – but always with sensitivity, otherwise too much is quickly ground away and the effort for further processing is sometimes greater than before.
The grinding of aluminium requires constant cooling so that the surface does not burn or damage the material. Finer grit sizes tend to generate more friction and therefore higher temperatures in the workpiece. A cooling lubricant (KSS) can also help here.
Tip: Avoid contamination
Aluminium cannot “rust” (it can, however, corrode), but metal chips or residues of other ferrous metals can be “worked” into the aluminium by using contaminated abrasives, and in the worst case, rust there. For this reason, abrasives with which aluminium has been processed may only be used for this purpose. The tools for aluminium processing should also only be used for this material. And last but not least, we recommend storing the different abrasives separately.
Tip: Carry out test grinding
Grinding aluminium requires a great deal of dexterity and, ideally, experience. Therefore, it is always advisable to test the pressure and speed for a new grinding operation on a pattern or a small area of the material before attempting a complete workpiece and large-area machining.
The best abrasives for aluminium processing
Ideal for non-ferrous metals such as aluminium: VSM ALU-X
VSM has developed a new series of abrasives to meet the specific requirements of grinding non-ferrous metals. VSM ALU-X, formerly known as VSM Stearate or Stearate Plus, combines two VSM technologies in one product: It is based on the proven VSM CERAMICS grinding technology with continuous self-sharpening. The ceramic grain abrasives with semi-open scattering stand for high stock removal with aggressive, fast cuts and long service life.
They are perfectly complemented by the additional layer VSM ALU-X for significantly better chip removal. It ensures consistent separation of the chip from the abrasive, which significantly reduces chip adhesion of the material to the abrasive grain – and effectively prevents annoying clogging. This allows ALU-X to optimise the processing of non-ferrous metals.
VSM CERAMICS with ALU-X is available as:
- Fibre disc XF733 in grit sizes 24, 36, 60 and 80: ideal for rough grinding with low to medium pressure
- Abrasive belt XK733X in grit sizes 24, 36, 40, 60, 80 and 120: optimised for rough grinding at medium pressure, also suitable for wet grinding
VSM ALUMINIUM OXIDE with ALU-X:
- The ALU-X series also includes the aluminium oxide abrasive belts KK732X, KK532F and KP532E. These products come in grit sizes from P36 to P600, making them true all-rounders. The grains produce a matt scratch pattern and are particularly recommended for contour machining.
Other VSM abrasives for aluminium machining:
VSM ACTIROX: The latest, removal-oriented generation of VSM abrasives is based on 100 percent geometrically shaped, upright VSM ceramic abrasive grains. These break down in a defined manner and continuously form new, extremely sharp cutting edges. The result is a particularly aggressive cut that provides market-leading stock removal when grinding aluminium – with up to 50 percent more stock removal than conventional ceramic grain abrasives. The AF799 fibre disc significantly reduces machining time and increases productivity, especially with hard aluminium alloys.
Safety notices: Safety first, especially when grinding aluminium
The grinding, brushing and polishing of aluminium produces fine dusts that are highly combustible and – under certain circumstances, i.e. a sufficient mixture ratio with oxygen from the air and an ignition source – can even cause an explosion.
The legislator has therefore decided via the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) specific occupational safety regulations for handling aluminium and for “preventing dust fires and dust explosions”.
In DGUV Rule 109–001 is recommended for grinding, brushing and polishing aluminium, among other things:
- only with eye ear protection and in non-combustible clothing,
- reliably remove and keep away sources of ignition from the processing area,
- do not grind any spark generating materials in the vicinity,
- avoid dust turbulence,
- use the wet method for processing if possible,
- make sure that the extraction system is always in operation, and
- clean workplaces regularly and with suitable means (industrial vacuum cleaners).
In addition, aluminium dust is considered to be a major health risk if inhaled and can cause lung diseases such as aluminosis, cancer or damage to the central nervous system. Workplaces should therefore not only be well ventilated, but must also be equipped with an extraction system. The use of suitable respiratory protection is also mandatory.