How to Mark Aluminum with a Laser?
Laser marking on aluminum has a wide variety of applications, including gift personalization, signatures, product markings, logos, barcodes, QR codes, data matrix codes, serial numbers, and so much more.
This article covers various aspects of marking and engraving aluminum using lasers, along with information on types of aluminum, engraving methods, and equipment that effectively accomplish these jobs. Read on to learn more about laser machines.
Fiber Laser Marking Systems for Aluminum
Fiber laser marking machines are most typically used for engraving aluminum. Aluminum coatings used for these applications usually have anodize or other chemical coatings like alodine or iridite. Laser marking removes this finish where it is applied, creating visual contrast and definition.
Several techniques may be employed to achieve the desired result and the final finish. Coated and uncoated aluminum substrates are especially favored, as they produce attractive marks when used with a fiber laser. The laser marking process vaporizes the finish while making way for a naturally-occurring oxide to form on the aluminum's surface.
There are different types of engraving on aluminum:
- Ablation: This process involves the removal of a chemical film or an anodized coating from the aluminum surface to achieve a specific bold look
- Engraving: This method uses vaporization technology to create cuts in the metal, and the depth is typically several thousandths of an inch.
- Dark Marking: This method darkens the surface color of the aluminum to achieve the desired effect.
Different Types of Aluminum
- Type II Anodized Aluminum Coatings: This aluminum coating is achieved with a chemical process that makes the material corrosion-resistant and more abrasive. The anodized layer can be clear or dyed with different colors to achieve an excellent decorative effect. Type II anodizing uses a sulfuric bath, which causes the aluminum oxide to concentrate onto the surface. Type II anodizing is extremely thin; its thickness is merely .0003", allowing for precise ablation with no apparent indentation into the substrate.
- Chem Coated Aluminum: This type of aluminum features a protective coating against corrosion and is also an excellent option for laser engraving. The metal goes through a chemical reaction process. Once complete, the aluminum will have a highly protective and durable exterior.
- Bare Aluminum: Bare aluminum is simply aluminum that has not been treated.
Anodized aluminum is an excellent medium for laser marking. It offers a durable, permanent, visually contrasting surface, and at the same time, thanks to the superior finish, it has a great degree of resistance to corrosion and abrasives. Whether on colored aluminum or bare, anodized aluminum surfaces take to lasers very well. You can expect excellent contrast between the engraving surface and the engraving that is easily achieved without deep indentation or harming the aluminum surface.
Laser marking anodized aluminum is an excellent option for producing high-quality engraving on the metallic surface without losing the protective nature of the finish from the anodized layer.
If you use aluminum with a transparent anodized coating or a light-colored one, laser marking aluminum foil may be an option to create a bolder look. These foils come in a wide array of color options, offering stylistic variety that can enhance the look of your finished project. They are straightforward to apply and can deliver stunning visual effects.
One of the best choices for dramatic, noticeable results is laser marking aluminum black, which will reveal bold white markings after the engraving process. Colored and black anodized aluminum finishes offer the best results for laser markings compared to natural anodized aluminum, which produces markings with minimal visibility. Transparent anodized aluminum and light-colored anodized aluminum, on the other hand, will take on a much more subtle, much less noticeable marking due to the inherent white background and lack of contrast.
Laser engraving provides the most lasting and substantial markings on bare aluminum, allowing excellent contrast and readability. Laser engraving on raw aluminum provides permanent and precise results, ideal for marking serial numbers, QR codes, logos, and barcodes.
What Laser Will Engrave on Aluminum?
There are numerous lasers available on the market that will engrave aluminum successfully. Fiber laser marking machines are the preferred laser type for engraving and marking aluminum with precision and efficiency. LASERS ONLY online store carries a range of high-quality laser machines with power capabilities ranging from 30W to 120W.
What Laser Power Do I Need to Engrave on Aluminum?
There is no one answer to this question. Several aspects should be considered while determining the ideal laser power of your fiber laser. Even a 30W Fiber Laser will produce wonderful engravings on aluminum. Still, handling production volume with less powerful lasers might require more time than 50W and higher power machines. 50W fiber laser is ideal for engraving anodized aluminum for both speed and precision.
Fiber Laser Engraving Settings for Aluminum
In addition to having a high-quality fiber laser system for engraving and marking aluminum, the machine's settings are just as essential to ensure the best results. The correct settings will ensure proper marking, cutting, and engraving while also preserving the integrity of the machine's parts.
Engraving Aluminum with a Router
It is possible to engrave on aluminum with a router, but such a task is time-consuming and requires skills to achieve professional results. Using a router with special attachments and other tools is possible for a hobby-type project. Investing in a fiber laser machine should be considered for a business with large-scale operations or need for consistent, repeatable engraving results.
Can a CO2 Laser Engrave on Aluminum?
Generally speaking, no. CO2 lasers are typically not used for engraving aluminum, and CO2 lasers are much better suited to working with wood, leather, paper, and other non-metal materials. Though certain modifications may make it easier to use a CO2 laser to mark aluminum, a fiber laser is a much better option to engrave aluminum.