Etching bare aluminum with the aura

Hi, everyone!
Got a couple pieces of aluminum which is not anodized, hoping to etch something onto them. Is this possible? If so, what should my settings be? And should I still purchase some sort of spray/coating to apply before attempting to engrave? So sorry if this has already been asked.

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Welcome to the community :slight_smile:

You can definitely etch into it using a marking spray, there are quite a few designed just for that - but most of our metal posts on here are about the 40W CO2 lasers, and yours is a Diode laser.

SO! You may get to add to our knowledge! Folks here have discovered everything from vinegar to a wet paper towel can work!

Some marking sprays:
https://www.amazon.com/OMTech-Laser-Marking-Spray-Metal/dp/B09L4GDCN9

Whatever you end up using, be sure to search for “diode” aluminum marking spray.

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Thank you so much for the speedy reply and information! If I’m reading information on the internet correctly, this laser can’t really “etch” onto the aluminum, but rather the heat and spray bond to form a dark coating. Is that correct?

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Welcome to the forum. Even the large CO2 models cannot do anything with metal. They also need to use a marking medium. You are correct…the heat and the medium form a chemical bond creating black images / text. I’ve used Laser Bond on things I’ve done it with my old basic, but I’ve not yet even tried anything using my Aura. Let us know your results.

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For a breakdown of a bunch of different things people have done with metal and the Glowforge you can check out number 11 on this list:

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I have not had occasion to try it yet, but Titanium oxide has been flying about the internet as a marking material. It is used in most white paint to varying amounts and as Aluminum has about the highest “grab” for oxygen of any metal it ought to work best there, leaving black titanium embedded powder. where the laser has been.

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I’ve read that diode lasers struggle to mark aluminum even with the spray, though they can do other metals like stainless steel. Probably because aluminum conducts the heat away quickly, so it needs a more powerful machine to bond the chemical. It won’t hurt to try, but you might end up eating the cost of the materials.

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I’m certainly going to need to experiment. I’m fortunate to have a decent amount of aluminum to test with but of course it’s finite!

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Hello @dana.tassler! Welcome to the forum.

May I suggest another option for actually etching aluminum, not with your :glowforge:, but using your :glowforge: as a tool to create a chemical etching mask.

You can follow any of these instructables:

The first uses a solution of water and copper sulfate and table salt only.

The second uses a solution of water and table salt with a low voltage direct current electricity source which I consider cleaner and easier.

  • Clean your aluminum piece with solvent to remove any residue.
  • Spray your piece on all sides with 2 or 3 coats of black paint that will serve as mask.
  • Use your :glowforge: to etch your image on the piece to vaporize the paint and leave the exposed metal. This will be your etching mask.
  • Follow the chemical etching process in either instructable.
  • Clean your piece.

Please share with us your result if you decide to try this.

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This. The successful folks mention doing 10+ passes.

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