Astro adds machining and milling to value chain with investment in a new CNC MicroMill router

Aluminium extrusion and finishing company Astro Holdings has invested in a new Microstep CNC MicroMill router that will give the company the ability to offer 3D CNC milling of aluminium as an extra process to the value chain.

“The company was established in 1998 to supply aluminium extrusions to industry. These extrusions include standard sections in the form of angle iron and tubing, along with rolled product such as anodised quality sheet and tread plate. The business soon evolved to accommodate the supply of purpose specific configurations needed by certain industries. An early objective was to establish a comprehensive manufacturing capability to produce high-quality finished and semi-finished products to client specification,” explained Mark Coetzee, Commercial Manager of Astro Holdings.

“Astro Anodising was founded shortly thereafter to complement the supply side by offering anodising services to a broad spectrum of companies including those in the automotive and architectural sectors. Boasting the largest selection of colours and finishes available in the local market today, we are also proud of our capability to anodise work in sizes ranging from small components measured in millimetres right up to lengths of 7.5 metres,” continued Coetzee.

Aluminium extrusion and finishing company Astro Holdings has invested in a new Microstep CNC MicroMill router that will give the company the ability to offer 3D CNC milling of aluminium as an extra process to the value chain

“Over the years we have added various other processes to our service offerings. These include powder coating, material supply, aluminium welding, mechanical polishing, bending, cutting, guillotining, press work, plastic coating and various forms of fabrication and assembly.”

“The services include processing rolled products such as sheet, tread plate, mesh and plate and on the extruded products side round tube, square tube, round bar, square bar, rectangular tube, angles, channels, flat bar, slat sections and others.”

“We have also developed our own range of products that have been focussed on mobility aids and the vehicle accessory market. These include aluminium elbow crutches in natural or matt colours, walking sticks, walkers and other aids. On the automotive side we manufacture lightweight and durable aluminium side steps and trims in a range of anodised finishes and bicycle carriers and racks.”

“We also supply a number of companies with automotive related components, who in turn supply final product to the OEMS.”

Investment in new Microstep CNC MicroMill router
“However, we are finding that more and more companies are requesting ‘one-stop-shop’ services. In other words fabricating of aluminium and then doing the finishing in either anodising or powder coating. They do not want to move the product or component around because that adds costs and reliability of delivery is tested.”

“Hence we have acquired a brand-new CNC router to further boost our manufacturing capability and enable us to offer enhanced facilities to our customers.”

“When it comes to machining the metals like aluminium, most people think of using high-end milling machines, and there is no denying the fact that such machines are able to carry out really complicated work. Those spindles can spin the cutting tools at a speed comparable to the finest drills. However, a CNC router comes with a spindle that operates at a higher speed than the conventional mill. These are mainly utilised for cutting wood and plastics for operations like slot cutting, rounding edges and lettering.”

Astro Holdings are now able to offer milling work on aluminium profiles, plates and sheets. Extrusion, anodising, fabricating and assembly are other services the company offers

“Though it isn’t always particularly mentioned, CNC routers are able to cut aluminium, as well. Machining metals like aluminium using the CNC router is possible with almost all CNC routers. You can easily cut aluminium by matching this material with the right feed rate and end mill bit.”

“It is important to keep in mind here that cutting refers to the separation of aluminium sheets into pieces and making pockets into aluminium plates. So, basically, using a CNC router you can remove material from aluminium profiles, plates and sheets. It just needs the right use of the end mill cutting bits.”

“While cutting aluminium, you need to remember that it is not the same as plastics or wood. Aluminium has smaller sweet spots for speeds and optimal feeds. The cutters start to break if the sweet spots are left and they wear out fast. The resultant surface finish is poor. You also need to consider the stickiness factor for aluminium. It is the kind of metal that tends to stick to the tools. It sticks to the tool to a point where it practically gets welded on to it.”

Fabricated product ready for delivery

“Just because a CNC router is able to cut aluminium, it does not mean that you can hog out major aerospace parts such as wing spars. You need to slow things down to be successful. You don’t need to slow down the speeds and feeds, but the rate of removing the material will be a lot less than what you can achieve with a purpose-made CNC mill. Calm down and let your machine do its thing. Do not rush the process.”

“You will discover that machining aluminium with a CNC router is not only hassle-free, but very productive. Using a CNC router for machining and cutting aluminium components can be a very successful pursuit with a little care and preparation.”

Strong position
“The addition of the CNC router has put us in a strong position. We are able to offer extrusion and all the various aspects of fabrication and finishing. When further surface finishing like anodising or powder coating is specified, we have all of these facilities under one roof. This means that we can take your projects to the semi-finished or finished stage seamlessly, helping you avoid the negative aspects of shipping your project from one service provider to another. It places the responsibility for quality production on us and relieves you of the concerns associated with products being ruined at some advanced stage of manufacture by a careless vendor.”

For further details contact Astro Holdings on TEL: 011 452 9748 or visit