We’ve got some 0.006" thick black anodized aluminum sheet we use on the laser cutter at work. It doesn’t take a lot of oomph to cut through it. Our laser machining center is good up to about a 6" diameter work area, but we got a request for a part 8" in diameter. It’s too big for us to cut on our machine.
Would you guys be interested in giving some of this aluminum sheet a try on your laser machining center? I’d be happy to send you some.
We have tried various thin metals and foils in the past, and the laser always just got reflected. What kind of laser do you have? We have ~75 watt CO2 lasers with wavelengths around 10 um. My understanding is that lasers used for cutting metal are in the kilowatt range. However, we have not tried anodized metals and we would be happy to try cutting your material.
If you are interested, please send a sample that lays very flat (no bowing or warping) to my attention to the address shown at pololu.com/contact.html . Please include your name, email, and day-time phone number with the material as well.
We’re using a 25 watt CO2 laser. Reflection has been a big bugaboo for us, too, but the black anodizing and matte surface seems to work well.
I won’t be able to get a sample of the material until later this week, but I’ll get some in the mail to you ASAP.
Two labs here at the University of Michigan have ULS laser cutters with 65-80 watt lasers, and we’re only allowed to etch away anodization to mark metal at very low power settings.
I’m not sure if this is true or not, but the reason given to me as to why I couldn’t try to etch metal directly is that at those higher powers the reflected laser can actually damage the optics of the cutter.
Now ULS sells “high density optics,” whatever that means (denser glass?) which they advertise as being able to directly mark bare metal, but we don’t have any of that so I don’t know what the real deal is.
Anyway, I’m interested to see how this turns out too!
Samples should be in the mail tomorrow. (Sorry for the lag… it was a while before I was able to get to the material.)
We received the samples; thanks! I will keep you posted on test results.
Sweet! Thanks for the update. Hope the results are good!
So, how did this all turn out after all?
In a somewhat related question, how do you guys feel about etching black anodized aluminum? I’m not talking about cutting or marking the metal directly (which is 1/16" so way to thick anyway), just burning off the black so the aluminum shines through. There have been some staff shakeups so for at least the rest of the summer I don’t have access to the university shop with the laser cutter we usually use.
I’m sorry I never posted the results from the metal testing! Our lasers could not pierce the 0.006" aluminum. The lasers did remove the black anodized layer to expose the metal underneath, but even with multiple passes, the laser did not pierce the metal at all (there were a lot of sparks, but no sign of cutting through the metal).
Our machines are capable of etching anodized aluminum but we have little experience with the process; we could give it a try if you do not need a quick turn (since we’re booked with regular plastic laser cutting right now). If you are interested, please email me a file of what you need cut (to my first name at pololu dot com). A DXF, CDR, AI, PDF, or JPG of a representative part would suffice for a rough quote. The file should show the outline of the piece, the etching within it, and the rough part size.
I will get back to you with lead time and pricing for a test run once I receive the file. For a rough estimate for etching larger quantities, please specify how many pieces you would like.