Best alum alloy for bending up an enclosure
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    Default Best alum alloy for bending up an enclosure

    I need to make bend up small (12" x 12" x 5") box to hold small cnc router control stuff. Wondering what grade will be easiest to bend. and still not too gooey to mill and drill cutouts?

    Don't have a brake, will be bending over wood blocks. Primitive, but it's worked ok for me with steel sheet in the past.

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    3003 or 5052

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    If the whole reason for going with aluminum, is the ease of routing afterwards, might look at having a steel sheet laser/waterjet cut instead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Dickman View Post
    3003 or 5052
    3003 H-14. Fantastic for forming and welding.

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    This page: Which Aluminum Alloy Bends Best? - Clinton Aluminum

    has useful data showing alloy, temper, and relative bend inside radius per common thicknesses. You can use it to figure out what alloys-tempers that are easy to get in your area would have for bend properties.

    Generally, softer will mean worse milling and drilling, but if needed you can use coolant or a spray mist to keep cutters clean(ish).

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    You can find charts online giving maximum recommended bend radius for a given thickness material. The softer the material, the easier to bend and more PITA to mill and vice versa. You will probably want one of these common materials listed from hardest to softest: 5052-H32, 3003-H14, or 1100-H14.

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    It's interesting that the Clinton website shows that 3003, 5052, and 6061 are all rated "A" for cold working and "D" for machinability in the annealed state.
    Heat treat them and the 3003 and 5051 are rated "B" for cold working, and 6061 is rated "C", but all of the machinability ratings rise to "C". If you believe such things.

    The folks here seem support these ratings. It strikes me that, unless you want to anneal large sheets or heat treat your panels, purchasing 3003 or 5052 in HT form gives you pretty good formability and ok machinability.

    FWIW, some popular NEMA enclosures are made from 5052 with HT to H32. Per robert123's point, this is likely the hardest of the easily formable alloys.

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    We have done a ton of forming work over the years and I can say without hesitation that 5052 is the
    best overall alloy for general work. It forms easily with relatively tight radii and is easy to work when
    cutting or drilling for access holes or ports. 3003 is pretty soft and easy to mark when you're working
    it--would definitely not be my first choice.

    If you're doing a bunch of these I would highly recommend laser cutting before forming. We used to
    make large electrical enclosures--up to 60" x 60" x 144"--and we would have all the individual panels
    laser cut before forming. You can even cut tabs and slots for locating specific parts--a little more work
    up front but it made the assembly process a breeze...

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    5052-H32 without a doubt. kinda gummy to machine, but not anything at all like 3003.

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    I have had good luck with plain old 6061. I used thicknesses from 0.040 to 0.063". No problems cutting or bending even with import 3 in 1 sheet metal machine. And I have done it by hand as you anticipate. It also drills easily and it is dead easy to punch holes in it with chassis punches and other types of punches. I have made hundreds of custom chassis and have never seen a reason to look for another alloy.

    But you may want to consider just buying a stock aluminum chassis. They are available in a wide range of sizes.

    Internal Error

    (Note: This is a link to a DigiKey search for "aluminum chassis" and it does work. I do not know why it shows up as "Internal Error' but you can click on it.)

    and

    https://www.mouser.com/Enclosures/En...hassis&FS=True

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    5052-H32 or 3003-H14
    If you must use 6061 make the bend radii BIG!

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    Thanks for the replies, 5052 or 3003 it will be!

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    6061 is usually T6 and would be described as not bendable. If you found it in a softer temper or as mentioned used a big radius.....

    5052 is usually, uhhh, H32? and works nicely without being squishy

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    5082 1/2 hard in the UK - great mtl to use. So 5052 would be very similar.
    Stay way clear of 6061 (6062) in the UK if bending. You can bend it but anneal it first, but it still needs a big rad and you want to bend with the grain

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    He is talking about making an electronic enclosure. To my mind that means a fairly thin gauge: in my post above I mentioned thicknesses from 0.040 to 0.063". I will repeat my claim that, in those gauges, it bends quite nicely. NO PROBLEMS!

    Now I would not recommend bending, straightening, and bending it again in the same place. In that case, all bets are off. But a simple 90 degree bend with a normal radius really is OK. I have done hundreds of such bends with no problems.

    Now, if you are talking about 1/4" or 1/2" and a small radius, then YES you need a better alloy.



    Quote Originally Posted by gustafson View Post
    6061 is usually T6 and would be described as not bendable. If you found it in a softer temper or as mentioned used a big radius.....

    5052 is usually, uhhh, H32? and works nicely without being squishy

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    Not what was asked...but there are quadrillions of enclosures floating around on places like eBay, and they're cheap, well built, gasketed and available in steel, aluminum as well as plastic. Can't imagine trying to make one versus buying one..and I make all kinds of goofy shit.

    Stuart

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    I already pointed that out and even gave some links. But, from experience, I can tell you that the usual reason for making one is that, even with the wide variety of sizes that are available, you may not find one that meets your requirements. Too short/too high. Too wide/not wide enough. Not the right shape. The cover does not work the way you want. Etc. Been there many, many times. So you make one.



    Quote Originally Posted by atomarc View Post
    Not what was asked...but there are quadrillions of enclosures floating around on places like eBay, and they're cheap, well built, gasketed and available in steel, aluminum as well as plastic. Can't imagine trying to make one versus buying one..and I make all kinds of goofy shit.

    Stuart

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    Sheesh..didn't mean to rain on your parade.

    When I say 'enclosure', I'm not referring to a little aluminum hobby box but more to an item like this. Hoffman A-241206 24" x 12" x 6" Steel, Type 12 / 13 Wall Mount Enclosure. New! 7835102806013 | eBay

    A tad tough to make on the bench with a rusty pair of vice-grips.

    Stuart

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    Quote Originally Posted by EPAIII View Post
    He is talking about making an electronic enclosure. To my mind that means a fairly thin gauge: in my post above I mentioned thicknesses from 0.040 to 0.063". I will repeat my claim that, in those gauges, it bends quite nicely. NO PROBLEMS!

    Now I would not recommend bending, straightening, and bending it again in the same place. In that case, all bets are off. But a simple 90 degree bend with a normal radius really is OK. I have done hundreds of such bends with no problems.

    Now, if you are talking about 1/4" or 1/2" and a small radius, then YES you need a better alloy.
    shrug

    I select unmarked aluminum from my bin by putting it in the press brake. If it bends it is 5052, if it breaks it is 6061, without exception

    even if 6061 T6 bends at .06 it is at the limit of its ability to do so.

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