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View Full Version : So, can my C02 lasers cut thru aluminum?



Kev Williams
06-08-2016, 12:15 AM
Well, I know the answer ;)

however, what about THIN aluminum? REALLY thin... like 1.5 microns...

Customer of mine wants to know if I can. I told him it would be kinda like trying to cut thru a Coke can with a flamethrower, but I'd try it...

This stuff is incredibly delicate, not even sure how to set it in the machine to test it. I picked a piece up and he about had a cow- can't pick it up, it tears. And any skin touching it ruins it... sounds like fun!

Anyway, I figure the beam will probably melt it before it'll cut it...

Any guesses on what will happen? :)

Bert Kemp
06-08-2016, 12:22 AM
Boy Kev you sure can find em :D Unless its a ton of $$$$ job I would say go elsewhere . If you can't touch it how R U going to work with it?

Gary Hair
06-08-2016, 1:21 AM
One word - fiber

Dan Hintz
06-08-2016, 7:29 AM
Yes... I did a number of experiments early on with thin metal, and a typical hobby-shop laser will cut it, and much thicker than 1.5 microns. Now, whether or not you can get a nice cut on such a thin piece will be up to you ;)

Keith Outten
06-08-2016, 9:29 AM
I expect that handling the thin metal would be similar to how gold leaf is manipulated. A very wide brush with a static charge is used to pickup and place gold leaf, at least from what I have seen. I don't know if aluminum is a candidate for this technique but it would be worth a try or someone else here might know.
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Kev Williams
06-08-2016, 12:50 PM
My sample piece is just a loose piece. It's like trying to pick up cigarette ashes, it falls apart almost that easily. What I'd be cutting would be in sheet form on a substrate ready to cut. But I dont' know the substrate yet.

Fiber will do it obviously, and will likely be how it gets done in the end. Currently he shears it, but the shear isn't accurate enough and tears it more than not...

I'll be giving it a try in the LS900--- Dan, high or low power?

John Blazy
06-08-2016, 1:36 PM
My laser cuts mirror acrylic and mirror PET all the time, which is essentially aluminum foil sputter coated on like regular mirror - in the micron thickness range you ask. Thats why I have been looking for purple brushed aluminum on acrylic in my other thread. I know they do this. I have a supplier for all sorts of aluminum on PET - called BrushedFilms.

Mayo Pardo
06-08-2016, 6:46 PM
I have handled gold leaf and silver leaf and patent gold (adhered to a rosin paper for easier application) and imitation gold metallic foils which are essentially copper and or aluminum mixes, in sign making applications. I don't know what "thickness" any of these were although they too would tear and fall apart quite easily from the slightest touch, and would get lifted out of the packs from the slightest breeze including exhaling in that general direction.

Focusing will be difficult.

I would be more concerned with the motion of the laser head creating turbulence and lifting the foil. Perhaps if you can go slow enough and if the foil is adhered to rosin paper, it will stay in place.

Not that you asked but, if the end result is to be some kind of decal, I don't think the general public would have the skills to apply them without first ruining them. For a surface application, rather than on the inside of glass, the more common method would be to paint or screen print the design using gold size or varnish and when the proper "tack" is reached, the leaf is laid onto it. Lightly press with cotton, allow a little more dry time then burnish excess off with more cotton.

David Somers
06-08-2016, 8:14 PM
For what it is worth, I have taken faux gold, silver, and copper leaf and also once played with real gold foil, and applied it to veneer. Then cut the veneer in the laser to create a shape (snowflake). Worked fine. Took about 20% more power than cutting the veneer by itself. It cut well though.

Kev Williams
06-10-2016, 10:20 PM
Well---

Yes the laser cut the foil. However, the foil needs to be cut clean and fairly precise... While I was in the fairly precise ballpark, under a loupe the foil looked like it'd been hacked at with a hammer & chisel... ;)

Next up is to wait for the fiber to arrive and have a go!

David Somers
06-11-2016, 2:06 AM
Kev....don't sell loupes with whatever it is you are using the foil for! Problem solved!!!! <grin>