Everything You Need to Know About Laser Cutting Aluminum

Everything You Need to Know About Laser Cutting Aluminum

From etching and engraving to carving and cutting, many manufacturers will tell you that if you want to achieve high precision results, you should opt for laser cutting. Laser cutting has revolutionized production and processing of metals allowing for higher precision, faster processing and cleaner finishes. When it comes to cutting aluminum sheets however, there are many factors that should be considered. At FM Sheet Metal Inc. we are experienced to laser cut aluminum. Below, we share some insights into the characteristics of this metal and the best approach to processing it.

Properties and Challenges of Cutting Aluminum

When it comes to laser cutting, the properties of the material being cut have a big impact on what can be achieved. Aluminum is considered a soft metal. It is softer than many of the metals widely used in the market. This delicate nature of aluminum makes it challenging to cut using a laser. Materials that have a more solid and stable molecular structure are much easier to cut than materials that are softer. The malleable molecular structure of aluminum means that the laser is not as effective at piercing through to create a clean cut.

Another property of aluminum that makes processing difficult is its reflectivity. Aluminum is categorized as a reflective metal. It reflects infrared light including laser beams. This makes it difficult for the beam to penetrate the metal and achieve a cut. Manufactures often coat the metal with other non-reflective materials in order to reduce its reflectivity.

A third property of this metal that presents a challenge when it comes to cutting with a laser is its conductivity. This metal is heat-conductive metal. This means that it absorbs heat quickly. Heat is necessary to achieve precise cuts. This makes it harder to achieve high precision cuts on this metal.

Everything You Need to Know About Laser Cutting Aluminum


Benefits of Laser Cutting for Aluminum

Even though processing aluminum can be challenging, it is not impossible. In fact, processing this metal with a laser presents numerous benefits.

  • Greater precision – you can achieve smoother and more precise cuts using this method of processing. With the right adjustments you can eliminate issues and achieve precise cuts.

  • Faster processing – this method speeds up processing of the metal. Faster cutting provides for smoother edges and cleaner finishes.To laser cut aluminum it will require less finishing.

  • Greater efficiency – this technology offers a no-contact way to process this metal. This reduces issues regarding wear and tear of tools and equipment and thus saves time and money. It also reduces waste of materials.

Safety Precautions

Processing this metal can present various risks to workers. It is vital that you take the appropriate safety precautions to prevent injury and to avoid damaging your equipment. Some precautions to consider include:

  • Avoid leaving the cutter to operate unattended

  • Ensure that a fire extinguisher is maintained within the area of operations

  • Keep the area clear of debris, clutter and any flammable materials

  • Ensure that the interior of the equipment is free of debris and is cleaned

  • Never look at the laser beam directly

How to Cut Aluminum Sheets with Laser

The maximum laser cutting aluminum thickness will depend on the density and softness of the metal as well as the wattage of the laser. Both the fiber and the CO2 laser can be used to process the metal with proper precautions and technique.

It is important to pay attention to the speed and focus of the laser beam. Higher speed and a more focused beam are preferred for achieving more precise cuts. You may also want to add a metal cutting head to protect yourself against the reflection of sparks during the processing. Higher wattage lasers are preferred for cutting this material. These provide for a cleaner cut.

It is also essential to use the right pressure. In this case, higher pressure is preferred. Gas assist features may also be required especially when cutting thicker materials. This is to ensure that residual materials that have not been vaporized are blown out of the cut area.

Many modern machines come with features to protect the lasers and provide additional assistance when cutting tricky materials. These features include back reflection features that detect if there is too much radiation being reflected triggering the laser to shut down before the equipment is damaged. This in combination with the safety precautions outlined above will help to reduce the risks associated with processing aluminum.

Aluminum Laser Cutting Service

FM Sheet Metal Inc. provides a wide range of sheet metal fabrication services. Our aluminum cutting service is designed to help clients achieve greater precision while saving on materials and time. Our experienced and skilled staff will help you overcome the challenges of processing aluminum so you can produce high quality parts. Get in touch with us now to discuss your project. We’d be glad to assist you.

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