Laser Cut Aluminum: Custom Aluminum Parts Manufacturing

custom metal parts

Aluminum is a top material in many industries, the most common being electronics, automotive, architecture, and aerospace. Its lightweight, strength, durability, and other attributes further contribute to its appeal.
The material can be fabricated using a variety of techniques, including die casting, CNC machining, and, more recently, the well-liked laser cut aluminum method.
Every fabrication technique has a distinct working mechanism, use, and final product. On the other hand, aluminum cutting is an amazing process that is well-known for its adaptability, precision, and suitability for intricately designed laser cut aluminum parts.
Let’s examine the laser cut aluminum procedure, its real-world uses, and the variables that influence it.

laser cut aluminum parts - aluminum laser cutting technique

What is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is a manufacturing technique that employs laser beams to cut through various materials, encompassing plastics, metals, and composite materials. Utilizing a laser cutting machine, the process generates a highly concentrated and intense laser beam with significant heat energy, enabling the melting, vaporization, or burning through the designated material.

If you’re wondering about the feasibility of laser cut aluminum, the answer is affirmative. Laser cutting can effectively handle different types and alloys of aluminum due to the material’s low melting point and the precision inherent in the process. Laser cut aluminum is as prevalent as other manufacturing methods, such as CNC machining, showcasing its capability to manage intricate designs of aluminum parts without compromising precision.

Advantages of Laser Cutting Aluminum

Laser cut aluminum offers a cost-effective process with notable advantages, as outlined below:

Non-contact Process

Laser cut aluminum parts is a non-contact process, safeguarding the surface integrity of the aluminum part. This is crucial for industries emphasizing the importance of surface quality and aiming to avoid additional expenses related to surface finishing processes like powder coating or annealing.

Flexibility in Thickness

Aluminum laser cutting exhibits compatibility with alloys of varying thicknesses while maintaining consistency and accuracy. The range of thicknesses depends on the type of laser employed. For instance, a 6000W CO₂ laser cutting machine can cut aluminum plates up to 16mm thick, while a 4500W laser efficiently handles thicknesses up to 12mm. This flexibility enables the utilization of laser cut aluminum components in diverse industrial and domestic applications.

Repeatability and Efficiency

The laser cut aluminum process, being computer-controlled, ensures precision, consistency, and accuracy. This feature is particularly advantageous for industries engaged in high-volume production, allowing for the incorporation of laser cutting to optimize production time and enhance overall productivity.

Challenges in Laser Cutting Aluminum

While laser cut aluminum is a valuable process, it presents certain challenges that demand careful consideration:

High Reflectivity

Aluminum’s highly reflective nature poses challenges for laser-cutting machines. The reflective surface can cause the laser beam to reflect back, potentially damaging the laser head. Attempts to address this by covering the aluminum surface with paint or masking tape may not be effective. Instead, opting for a high-frequency laser cutter or selecting aluminum alloys with lower reflectivity (containing elements like magnesium, zinc, and silicon) can mitigate this issue, albeit potentially at an increased cost.

Good Thermal Conductivity

The excellent heat dissipation of aluminum can complicate laser cutting by preventing the material from reaching a sufficiently high temperature. To counteract this, a high-speed laser cutter with a high pulse frequency can be employed to melt the surface before excessive heat dissipation occurs.

Secondary Machining Requirements

Laser cut aluminum often results in the formation of sharp edges and burrs along the cut, necessitating a secondary machining process to achieve a smooth edge. The use of high-pressure nitrogen gas assist can help eject molten metal, facilitating a faster cutting rate and a smoother edge.

Preparation for Laser Cutting Aluminum

The unique nature of the aluminum laser cutting process requires careful preparation for successful operations. Three essential procedures of laser cut aluminum are involved:

Material Selection and Preparation

Choosing aluminum alloys compatible with the process is crucial. Factors such as parts’ thickness, surface condition, and composition need consideration. For instance, selecting the aluminum 5000 series, which contains magnesium, reduces reflectivity and is suitable for various laser cutting machines. Material preparation involves thorough cleaning to ensure optimal laser beam absorption, removing dirt, grease, and other contaminants affecting the cutting process.

Determining Optimal Laser Cutting Parameters

Precision and efficiency in aluminum laser cutting depend on using the right parameters, including laser power, lens focal length, cutting speed, and beam diameter. The optimal cutting parameters vary based on factors such as aluminum alloy, thickness, cutting quality, and speed, balancing considerations like edge quality and heat-affected zone.

Fixturing and Positioning of Aluminum Sheets

Stable, flat, and secure positioning of aluminum sheets is crucial for successful laser cutting. Utilizing fixtures such as jigs and clamps ensures stability, preventing sudden movements or vibrations that could lead to inaccuracies. Proper fixturing also ensures that the laser cutter follows the preprogrammed CAD file, maintaining precision in the cutting process.

Aluminum Laser Cutting Techniques

Various laser types can be employed for aluminum laser cutting, with the primary options being CO₂ lasers, fiber lasers, and YAG lasers. Each laser type possesses distinct characteristics, making them suitable for cutting aluminum parts made from different alloys.

CO₂ Lasers

CO₂ lasers are the conventional choice for cutting aluminum parts. These lasers generate a laser beam by exciting carbon dioxide gas with an electrical discharge, hence the name CO₂ lasers. With a wavelength of approximately 10.6 um, falling within the absorbable range of aluminum, CO₂ lasers can effectively cut aluminum parts of various thicknesses.

A CO₂-powered laser ensures a smooth cutting edge and is compatible with both thin and thick sheets, making it particularly effective for cutting thicker aluminum parts.

Fiber Lasers

Fiber lasers stand out as the preferred choice due to their broad material compatibility and high speed. Operating at a wavelength of 1 um, fiber lasers utilize a fiber-optic cable for laser beam delivery, allowing for high power density and precise focusing.

Fiber-powered lasers boast high cutting speeds, making them an excellent option for industries engaged in high-volume production. They are efficient, providing a high laser beam quality for precise and clean cuts. Fiber lasers are generally suitable for cutting aluminum with thin to medium thickness, emphasizing speed, and offering cost-effectiveness.

YAG (Yttrium-Aluminum-Garnet) Lasers

YAG lasers utilize a solid-state crystal doped with neodymium or ytterbium to generate laser beams, operating at a wavelength of around 1.064 um. Known for their high precision, YAG lasers can generate substantial laser power, making them effective for cutting thin and medium-thickness aluminum parts.

Factors Influencing Laser Cutting Aluminum

This section delves into the factors that affect the laser cutting process for aluminum, offering insights on tailoring it to specific project requirements.

Thickness and Composition of Aluminum Sheets

Thick aluminum parts (>8mm) necessitate a cutting machine with high power output, and a slower cutting speed is essential for a quality-focused and successful operation.
For thinner materials (1-8mm), a laser cutting machine with lower power output can be employed, allowing for a higher cutting speed. CO₂ lasers are generally suitable for thick sections, while fiber lasers excel at cutting thin sections.
The choice of laser cutting machine may also depend on the specific properties of different aluminum alloys, including melting points, reflectivity, and thermal conductivities based on alloying materials.

Laser Power and Beam Quality

Laser power plays a pivotal role in the machine’s capability to cut aluminum parts of varying thicknesses. It directly influences cutting speed, affecting factors like edge smoothness, heat generation, and the potential for material distortion.
Beam quality is crucial as it directly impacts the laser’s focus, determining the ability to achieve precise cuts while minimizing thermal damage to the material.

Gas Selection for Assisting the Cutting Process

Assist gases are crucial for removing molten materials during the cutting process. Nitrogen and argon are the most common gases used when laser cutting aluminum.
These gases not only facilitate material removal but also prevent debris buildup in the cutting area. They create a protective atmosphere that prevents oxidation of the aluminum part to aluminum oxide, ensuring a smooth cut.

Applications of Laser Cut Aluminum Parts

Laser cut aluminum parts find diverse applications in various industries, including:

Automotive Industry

Utilized in fabricating body panels, engine components, chassis elements, and more, laser cut aluminum parts contribute to the automotive industry’s lightweight designs, enhancing fuel efficiency. The precision of the laser cutting process supports intricate designs and precise shapes.

Aerospace Industry

Laser cut aluminum parts are crucial in the aerospace sector for their lightweight properties and high strength. These parts are integral in crafting aircraft structures, interior panels, fuel systems, landing gear, engine components, and other aerospace parts. The accuracy of laser cutting aligns with the industry’s stringent requirements for tight tolerances.

Electronics and Electrical Industry

In the electronics and electrical sector, laser cut aluminum parts are employed to create electronic enclosures, heat sinks, PCB components (Printed Circuit Board), and other electrical elements. The material’s excellent heat dissipation and the precision of the laser cutting process enable the achievement of tight tolerances, meeting industry standards.

Industrial Machinery

Laser cut aluminum parts play a crucial role in constructing machine frames, structural components, brackets, gears, and various other components in industrial machinery. The high precision and durability of these parts significantly contribute to the overall performance and reliability of industrial machinery.

Architecture and Construction

Aluminum parts are widely used in the architecture and construction industry for their aesthetic appeal and structural functionality. Laser cut aluminum contributes to the fabrication of screens, signage, railing systems, and other architectural components, enhancing both the visual and structural aspects of construction projects.

Aluminum Laser Cutting Services

When it comes to cutting aluminum, laser cutting is the most versatile and accurate method available. In order to cut through aluminum sheets and create different aluminum parts, this process uses a laser beam. As this article discusses, successful outcomes in laser cutting require an understanding of the machines and factors involved.

It is advised to rely on reliable laser cutting services for components that are precise and customized. Our laser cutting expertise is unmatched in various industries, delivering superior outcomes with aluminum and other materials. Let’s begin working on your project right now!


What is the optimal aluminum for laser cutting?
The most suitable aluminum alloys for laser cutting are in the 5000, 6000, and 7000 series. These alloys exhibit lower reflectivity, ensuring improved interaction with assist gases. This, in turn, enhances the edge quality post-cutting and facilitates easier cutting processes.

What is the cost of laser cutting aluminum?
The cost typically ranges from $10 to $20 per hour. However, the overall cost is contingent on factors such as design complexity, material thickness, quantity, and the specific laser cutting service provider.

What is the maximum thickness of aluminum that can be laser cut?
The thickness achievable in laser cut aluminum depends on the cutting machine’s output power and type. Generally, CO₂ lasers are optimal for thick aluminum parts and can handle thicknesses up to 16mm. Enthusiasts suggest that laser cut aluminum yields the highest quality in parts with thicknesses ranging from 6 to 8 mm. Beyond this range, there may be a noticeable impact on quality. It is advisable not to use laser cutting for parts exceeding 20 mm in thickness.

Which is the best laser cutter for aluminum?
The most prevalent laser cutters for aluminum are CO₂ and fiber lasers. Both can provide precise and clean cuts depending on the thickness of the aluminum part. CO₂ lasers are considered the best for thicker parts, while fiber lasers excel with less thick parts. In scenarios where thickness is not a decisive factor, fiber laser cutting machines are preferred, as they absorb the machine’s wavelength more rapidly.

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