Aluminum is in high demand, with various advantages such as lightness, corrosion resistance, and low cost. Aluminium can also be recycled after use, saving production costs.
Aluminum is commonly used for QR codes, serial numbers, and many applications requiring permanent engraving marks.
With our traditional method of engraving aluminum, the process can take a lot of work.
This is why many manufacturers are now choosing the laser engraving aluminum technique to engrave aluminum.
If you need to start a laser engraving aluminum business or are experiencing difficulties, you are in the right place.
In this article
- How does laser engraving aluminum work?
- What kind of laser can engrave aluminium?
- Types of aluminium that can be laser engraved
- Best aluminium laser engraver
How does laser engraving aluminum work?
For laser engraving aluminum, I recommend the fiber laser cutter or the diode laser engraver, which uses the interaction between the electric current and the fiber core to convert electrons into photons. The photons are transformed into photons of the same wavelength by the doping elements in the laser, which are then converted into a laser beam by optical elements such as reflectors and focusing mirrors.
Laser engraving aluminum machines can produce powerful laser beams that instantly fall on aluminum to sublimate the material in contact. Some engineers also say that laser engraving works by melting the material, when in fact melting the material is the working principle of laser etching.
Aluminum laser engraving requires far more laser power than etching and is able to instantly turn a solid into a gas without the whole process passing through a liquid. This is the reason why smoke is produced when laser engraving aluminum.
Aluminium has a boiling point of 2,327°C, and the temperature emitted by the engraver can easily sublimate the material on the surface of the aluminum sheet.
You can also think of the laser beam as a chisel, it's a tool for engraving aluminum.
What kind of laser can engrave aluminium?
Not just any laser engraver is suitable for engraving aluminum, and choosing the right laser aluminum engraver is crucial if you want to leave a clear engraving mark on aluminum. Different types of lasers are available for different types of aluminum, so take an in-depth look at the capabilities of different lasers for aluminum.
- CO2 laser engraver: The CO2 laser is suitable for engraving non-metallic materials such as wood and acrylic. Therefore it is not suitable for engraving aluminum.
- Diode laser engraver: This is a type of aluminum laser engraver for home use, which is generally small and inexpensive.
- Fiber laser cutter: Two fiber laser cutters are available: desktop and CNC. A desktop fiber laser cutter has a higher engraving capacity than a diode laser engraver. At the same power, the fiber laser cutter can engrave deeper marks.
Types of aluminum that can be laser engraved
Many different types of aluminum can be divided into 2 categories depending on their appearance.
Bare aluminum, also called pure aluminum, has not been treated in any way. The best choice for engraving bare aluminum is the fiber laser cutter, which has a wavelength of 1064 nm and is easily absorbed by the aluminum. So you don't need to treat aluminum in any way and can easily make beautiful engravings on it.
CO2 laser cutters are not an option for engraving on aluminum, as CO2 cutting will reflect the laser and seriously affect the life of the laser tube.
Similarly, the diode laser engraver is not suitable for engraving bare aluminum. The wavelength of the diode laser is extremely unsuitable for aluminum absorption, and you will need to repeat the engraving several times to leave a slight engraving mark on the aluminum.
We usually oxidize aluminum in two ways. Aluminum oxide is bare aluminum that has been oxidized. Generally, alumina is more resistant to corrosion and oxidation than bare aluminum. Aluminum oxide can be treated to change into many colors, such as red, blue, and yellow. Many coffee capsules made from aluminum are made from aluminum oxide.
- Electrolyte anodized aluminum, where a positive charge is bonded to aluminum ions by electrolytic water to adhere to the surface of the aluminum.
- Powder-coated aluminum is also a common way of oxidizing aluminum and is usually chosen by spraying the powder evenly onto bare aluminum using a spray gun. Unlike electrolyte anodizing, the powder has a negative charge.
A fiber laser cutter is available for aluminum oxide, and CO2 and diode laser cutters are available. A diode laser engraver is a very economical alternative.
How to choose an aluminum laser engraver
The CO2 laser cutter is more suitable for engraving non-metals, so I would not recommend buying any CO2 laser cutters for engraving aluminum.
The next point is to compare the difference between diodes and fiber lasers.
Diode laser engraver
The diode laser engraver is a low-cost laser engraving aluminum machine selling for around $200-$1000. The small size of the diode laser engraver makes it ideal for use in the home.
For many beginners, the diode laser is preferred. It is portable and easy to handle.
The cons of the diode laser engraver are only suitable for engraving aluminum oxide and other non-metallic materials, and the engraving depth is small. The engraving of bare aluminum requires the application of pigment to the surface of the aluminum or the pasting of patterned paper.
Also, how the diode laser engraver works means it can not support large laser powers. Currently, the largest diode laser engraver has a laser power of 20w.
This means that cutting aluminum with the diode laser engraver is very difficult, and it can take more than two hours to cut a 1mm sheet of aluminum.
Fiber laser cutter
There are two types of fiber laser engravers, hobby and industrial. The industrial fiber laser cutter is very large and costs over $15,000. The hobby fiber laser cutter is small and costs from $1500-$6000.
The aluminum laser engraver has a definite advantage when engraving/cutting aluminum. It not only cuts aluminum sheets with ease but is also highly productive and fast. Its laser wavelength is easily absorbed by aluminum, making it the most suitable laser for cutting/engraving metal.
The Fiber laser cutter has a long service life, typically around 2-3 times longer than the diode laser engraver.
It also supports extremely high laser power, from 20w to 150,000w.
Its cons are the high upfront purchase cost, with a 20w aluminum laser engraver costing over $1500. And as laser power increases, the price of the machine increases.
Best aluminium laser engraver
The Gweike G2 is a very advanced 20w fiber laser engraver that can easily engrave aluminum oxide. And you can also use it to do deep engraving on a variety of metal materials easily. Here is an unboxing video of the G2 to help you better understand this machine.
This compact aluminum laser engraver is perfect for students, beginners, small businesses and professionals. The machine's 20w output is sufficient for engraving aluminum, and the CE-compliant guard effectively insulates the laser from fumes. The laser engraving aluminum machine has air assistance for better engraving results. It also supports image extraction, live preview, and safety warnings.
Laser engraving aluminum suggests you choose between diode and fiber lasers. The fiber laser is the best choice if you want a more refined engraving.
The Gweike G2 also has a rotary axis to enable cylindrical engraving of rings, water pipes, etc.
If you already own a CO2 laser cutter, take advantage of it. You can spray a coating on aluminum to achieve CO2 laser engraving.