How Does Laser Engraving Aluminium Work?

Aluminium is the most common metal on the Earth’s crust, and its properties make it a great fit for many manufacturing applications.

Aerospace, automotive, building, and construction industries flock to aluminium for its lightweight, anti-corrosive, durable, and flexible properties. Regardless of the difference in application, many uses of aluminium require some mark, whether that be for traceability, part assembly, or identification.

Since aluminium is such an easy metal to work with, any marking method like ink, labeling, and printing can be used for adding these marks. However, that doesn’t mean they are the best choice. Enter in: laser engraving aluminium.

In this blog, we discuss laser engraving aluminium and why it goes hand in hand with the properties of the highly sought-after aluminium.

Understanding Laser Engraving on Aluminium

Aluminium’s best-selling qualities are emphasised with laser engraving aluminium. Laser engraving withstands harsh environments that aluminium is used for, survives extra manufacturing processes, and doesn’t add extra consumables to ensure aluminium’s sustainability.

Laser markers are able to engrave into the surface of the aluminium or create contrasting marks, all in a fully permanent sense. These marks could add traceability, create logos or images, or simply mark a manufacturing date.

Types of Aluminium Suitable for Laser Engraving

Laser engraving aluminium is a broad category, and within aluminium engraving, there are different types of aluminium and types of lasers.

Bare Aluminium

Bare aluminium is the most basic type of aluminium, and it’s exactly what it sounds like; it’s the bare sheet of aluminium with no additional coating. This type of aluminium generally purposes a fibre or hybrid laser as their wavelengths are optimised for absorption by metals.

These lasers are able to create a great deal of contrast and mark extremely fast due to their high output power.

Bare aluminium engraving applications include but aren’t limited to electrical components, construction materials, heat sinks, and substrates. For these applications, laser marking aluminium adds traceability and assembly marks. Laser engravers excel at laser marking aluminium of different shapes and sizes, and non-geometric products are typical for these applications.

Many manufacturers are curious about the possibility of using other popular laser machines like CO2 or diode lasers for bare aluminium. This is a common question, and it is possible. However, these other lasers are not the best for bare aluminium engraving.

To mark with a CO2 laser, the bare aluminium requires a temporary pre-treatment paste to prevent the bare aluminium from reflecting the beam. The paste ensures that sublimation occurs, and after the CO2 laser finishes, the paste is washed off with water.

Anodised Aluminium

Anodised aluminium is bare aluminium with an additional permanent oxide layer coating. The oxide coating increases resistance against corrosion and UV damage.

Like bare aluminium, laser engraving on anodised aluminium also utilises sublimation. However, because of the additional layer, there are more options for laser engraving. CO2 lasers, fibre lasers, and hybrid lasers are all commonly purposed on anodised aluminium.

Anodised aluminium engraving is popular in the aerospace and aircraft industry for interiors and components. These industries have strict traceability requirements, so laser engraving is ideal because of its permanency.

Using laser engraving for anodised aluminium is especially beneficial because this type of aluminium often has dyes, paints, lubricants, and adhesives attached. The laser-engraved mark withstands all of these additional layers. These lasers can either fully remove the anodised layer in order to show the bare metal below (CO2) or partially remove the anodisation in order to create a high level of contrast.

Powder-Coated Aluminium

Powder-coating aluminium is another type of bare aluminium with an additional coating. But instead of an oxide layer, the coating is a powder coating applied with a spray gun. Similar to anodisation, this provides an additional layer of protection against rust, corrosion, and scratches and also provides a level of aesthetics.

Like anodised aluminium, powder-coated aluminium is engraved with sublimation and is generally conducted using a fibre or hybrid laser, with some uses for a CO2 laser as well.

Powder-coated aluminium makes up metal railings, home decor, and outdoor furniture.
Using laser engraving for these applications is perfect for the sleekness of these applications.

Customisation and Personalisation with Aluminium Engraving

Aluminium and laser engraving are highly customisable processes. Anodised and powder-coated aluminium can be coloured beyond just black, white, or grey—even blue, pink, green, or red.

Laser engraving is customisable because a laser engraver can do many tasks of different shapes, sizes, and designs.

Do You Need to Laser Engrave Aluminium?

Laser engraving aluminium is the best way to keep up with industry standards and get the most benefits from your aluminium. Aluminium is known for its durability, lightweightness, and anti-corrosion, so why not use a marking method that is permanent, precise, and adds no additional consumables?

KEYENCE offers Fibre, Hybrid, UV and CO2 laser marking systems that you can choose from depending on your type of aluminium and other manufacturing needs. If you want to learn more about turning your aluminium engraving into a laser-automated process, contact us today!