Cutting thin aluminum...will it be possible?

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#1

Provided the aluminum has a covering of say…contact paper or something to reduce laser reflection, will the glowforge be able to cut aluminum? Say like 2mm thick?


#2

You would need way more than 40 Watts to cut alumimium.


#3

2mm thick aluminum? I should say not.


#4

Everything I have read and been told by folks with higher powered desktop machines (i.e. 80 - 100W) is that you can’t cut Al in any thickness past foil.
It is simply too reflective, and too good of a heat sink.
The Glowforge is not magic, and the bottom line is that it has a 40W or 45W tube.
That power level is just not enough to cut Aluminum.

Here is a document I have found very informative when I wanted to learn the basic science behind Laser cutting. https://www.boconline.co.uk/internet.lg.lg.gbr/en/images/laser-cutting410_39553.pdf


#5

Unfortunately correct: no aluminum, no magic. Thanks @jkopel - took a quick look and it looks informative!


#6

In the FAQ, I see this: Glowforge can also engrave all of the above plus glass, coated metal, marble, anodized aluminum, stainless steel, brass, titanium, and more.

When you say “engrave” in this instance, do you mean actual engraving where there is some material removed, or is this where you would be using Cermark or Thermark to make permanent marks on these materials, but not truly engraving them? I think I’ve seen other places where you’ve said that engraving on stainless steel will only be possible using Cermark or Thermark, but I had thought that we might be able to engrave aluminum, brass, or copper without those materials. I would love some clarification on what we’ll be able to do to which common metals.

Thanks in advance!


#7

Engrave is probably just a poor choice of words and on metals it should be called “marking” or some such. Here is what I have been able to determine from some experience playing with an 25W epilog machine, and lots of google research.

In many cases (wood, leather, cardboard, glass, stone, etc.) it is an actual removal of material, and engraving is a reasonable word.
But for any of the metals it is not removing enough material to make a difference.

On anodized aluminum you are removing the dye from the anodized coating and maybe the coating itself at high enough power. I doubt you can mark raw Al very well without a thermal marking compound (i.e. Cermark or Thermark) but I don’t have first hand experience.

On carbon steel or stainless you are going to need a marking compound.

On Titanium it is actually causing the formation of a layer of oxide that looks colored due to interference effects.

Brass/bronze/copper/silver/gold are unknowns although they are all excellent heat conductors and very good reflectors of IR light. At the very least you probably need a marking compound, worst case they overdrive the tube. I am really curious to get my machine and experiment with lasering through a patina on brass though.