Tackling the biggest challenge with high nickel alloy machining

Nickel is one of the most interesting metals in the world. Many people know it primarily because of its decorative uses. However, if you use it as the primary element in an alloy, it gives the material really impressive strength and excellent corrosion resistance. These properties make it a top option for things like aerospace and power generation components. However, you need to think about high nickel alloy machining; it can be tricky.


The reason it can be tough to deal with alloys that contain a lot of nickel is the strength. While it is what people want for their materials, it causes a challenge here.

With other substances you have different options to help deformation. For example, you could try increasing the temperature. Or, you could target a weak point and chip away until you get the result you want.

However, these strategies won’t work with high nickel alloys. The substances will have excellent heat resistance, so they won’t deform or weaken easily at high temperatures. Plus, the strength is uniform here. What that means is that the alloys will resist shear, tension, and compression forces. It will make it much trickier to get the deformation you want.


Many people don’t help themselves when they attempt high nickel alloy machining either. Often they begin with the thought that the material will be similar to high strength heat treated materials. As a result, they try to use the same tooling they use for these substances. But, they are missing an important fact here.

There are two reasons why you may be able to cut heat treated substances with your current tools. Firstly is that they have a decent tendency to chip away. Secondly, the heat in the cutting area can help to weaken the material.

As we said above, high nickel alloys have strong resistance to heat and deformation. If you try to cut them with standard tools, you will struggle. In fact, the end result will probably be worn tooling and waste material. What you need is higher quality tools. They need to be a stronger build and must have high cutting capabilities. Any systems should also be rigid enough to deal with the high deformation resistance.

What else to change?

As well as upgrading to higher quality tools, there are two other things you should adapt when you take on nickel alloy machining. Firstly is the feed rate. You should reduce this and be careful not to rush the process.

Secondly, you need to reduce the RPM of the tools. Many people expect higher rotation to speed up the machining. However, with the strength and resistance of these alloys, that is unwise. It would simply result in high deflection and much faster tool wear.

What you must do is specify longer cycle times. Be patient with the machining and you will get fantastic results.

Speak to us about nickel alloy machining

At Brindley Metals we strive to help each client choose the best materials for their needs. We don’t want people to use inferior substances because they don’t have the capacity to machine them or can’t source a suitable metal in the right form. This can result in big issues for them and the end user. Instead, we can offer solutions, including arranging machining and sourcing high quality metals.

So, if you need to use high nickel alloys, speak to us. We can source several specialist ones and then organise nickel alloy machining for you.

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