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Sep 18, 2012, 12:45 PM
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mgivens's Avatar

laser cut aluminum


I am having trouble finding someone to laser cut 1/16 aluminium plate to my CAD design. I have many control hinges, mounting brackets and other complex little parts that I would rather have cut out of aluminum than ply.

Any suggestions or experiance getting this done would be greatly appreciated!!

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Sep 18, 2012, 12:53 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
I wasn't even sure if aluminium could be cut well with a laser. A quick google on "laser cutting aluminium" turned up a few companies on the first page of results. So they are out there.

But you will likely find that the "usual" sources that cut balsa and plywood can't do it if the laser needs a higher output for metal than for wood. One reference on a You Tube video note attached to the google reply mentioned a 400 watt laser was being used. That's WAY higher than most wood cutting lasers from what I know about it.

Also consider water jet cutting. You might find a local source for that more easily than laser cutting.
Sep 18, 2012, 01:01 PM
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mgivens's Avatar
Thanks Bruce,

I will try the water cutting avenue. It seems most of the google type laser results are for bigger/larger scale projects, without the small scale accuracy i am hoping to get. I was just hoping to find a manzano laser works type operation for aluminum. Maybe it doesnt exsist.

Sep 18, 2012, 01:10 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
Given that it seems to need a MUCH more powerful laser it's quite possible that you're right. After all the shop needs to charge in accordance with their per hour time based on paying back their investment and still turn a profit.
Sep 18, 2012, 02:12 PM
Wait...Say again?

As others have said, much more powerful lasers. I have a small side business making railroad handcar model kits in 1:8 and 1:12 scales (shameless plug: The frames and decking are all laser-cut aluminum. The outfit that cuts them for me? Their smallest laser cutter is 1000w. Yep, 1 kilowatt. (Turns out aluminum is much more difficult to cut with a laser than steel is.)
My vendor does short runs, but as you might guess, short runs aren't cheap. Are you having a few parts made for a project, or are you producing these in quantity for sale?
If you're interested, I can give you my source's info and you can talk to them about a quote.

Sep 18, 2012, 07:50 PM
Scale Builder
I would be looking for somebody with CNC equipment who could mill out the aluminum parts. You might also consider G10 instead of aluminum as it works superbly for hinges, brackets, and whatnot. (G10 can't be cut with your typical laser either by the way.) I think CNC cutting would be far cheaper than with a water jet and probably much easier to find.
Sep 19, 2012, 02:55 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
Depending on how many bits there are for this project it may well be worth considering doing it the old fashioned way. You know, with jigs and regular tooling? Like we used to do back before we had laser, water jet, plasma jet and other CNC options?

Jigs for drilling and shaping control the shape and provide consistency and aid in holding the small parts for consistent shaping.

For 1/16 clean cutting aircraft aluminium a router with a follower ball bearing guide and a shaping jig can make short work of shaping a couple of dozen pieces. Then a second jig that has pilot holes in a steel overlay can serve for drilling any holes.

All in all the whole job of making the jigs could be done in an afternoon and the parts you want done the following afternoon for little to no cost if you have the means to make these jigs and the tools to form the parts.
Sep 22, 2012, 03:21 AM
Registered User
RGose's Avatar
I've been away from manufacturing for a couple of decades, but it seems like your job is perfect for "Wire EDM", which is a CNC process that we used to get similar results to laser cutting, but in metal.

How Wire EDM Works (2 min 26 sec)
Sep 22, 2012, 09:14 PM
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Sep 25, 2012, 08:53 AM
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Hemikiller's Avatar
Don't necessarily need a laser to make aluminum parts, a turret punch can do that as well, as long as you don't have complex curves or odd internal cutouts.

I could quote them out for you, will send you a PM with me email for the files.
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Sep 30, 2012, 05:40 AM
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jjantti's Avatar

laser cutting aluminium

It's not the power it is wavelenght

Cheap and popular CO2 laser has wavelenght of about 10,6um. Aluminium acts as a mirror for this radiation. More than 98% of energy bounces back from the surface. If putting tons of power with CO2 on it you'll might end up braking your laser with this reflected power.

I have cut aluminium with 3,2W tripled YAG laser (0,355um). It worked just fine. Aluminium is not the best material but it works. As previously mentioned G10(epoxy- GF and copper), Al2O3, CF, glass, depron, steel, polycarbonate and such...

Here is article that popped first when googled... (Fig.1 on page 33)

Oct 03, 2012, 10:18 PM
always something to learn...
metalguy's Avatar
Waterjet cutting is really the way to go for this. There will be no heat-affected zone, as in laser cutting, so if you are planning on using heat-treated alloy aluminum, the temper will not be altered at all. The biggest disadvantage of water jet cutting is it can only be 2D work, as you cannot pocket with a water jet. Been doing it since 2003, and full scale aircraft parts are all we do at my work. ----------Metalguy

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