Adaptable manufacturing has long seen the adoption of laser engraving as a mode of mass-producing various products. From SMEs to bigger corporations, individuals have incorporated laser engraving techniques to create everything from customized stuff to advertising material or brands.
Digitization has led to social media becoming a leading platform where personalized products are a rage. To cater to customer demands, manufacturers are constantly looking for materials that are less fussy with lasers and provide crip colors. In this respect, anodized aluminum has seen widespread popularity due to its ability to create high-contrast brilliant designs and undeniable durability.
Along with all these qualities, anodized aluminum is a highly cost-effective material generating great ROI for the manufacturer and giving a reasonably priced product to consumers. In further depth, anodized aluminum blanks are opted for as a great canvas to create logos, parts of medical equipment, promotional items, and customized products easily.
For further insight into how anodized aluminum blanks are ideal laser engraving material, we have created a comprehensive article about its benefits in the field and various strategies to engrave it properly. Let’s get right into it!
Plain aluminum that goes under an electrochemical process to transform its topmost layer into a corrosion-resistant oxide layer is known as anodized aluminum.
Now if we look into how aluminum is anodized, a multistep process is performed. Firstly aluminum is cleaned and etched in an acid solution to get its surface clear of any contamination. Next, it is immersed in an electrolyte bath. This contains sulfuric acid and oxalic acid, from where an electric current is passed.
The aluminum becomes anode and the electrolyte bath works as a cathode here. The oxidation layer comes from the aluminum itself. It is usually because of the electric current passed that its surfaces oxidize. This thickness can be controlled with voltage and other factors.
Boiling water or chemical solution is applied to seal the open pores of the oxidized surface. Moreover, dyes or pigments can be applied in these areas which are absorbed in the oxidized layer for a different hue creation.
Now let’s look at some of the features that anodized aluminum has which we will look at in detail below.
Against rust and corrosion, anodized aluminum provides optimum resistance. Environmental factors like moisture, chemicals, etc can be evaded to affect the top layer of the material through this process. This also improves the material’s longevity.
Integration of pigments and dyes during the anodizing process is easily retained by anodized aluminum. No fading or discoloration occurs once after the dye is done. Due to being absorbed in the oxidized layer the colors are long-lasting and provide vibrant hues.
Another property anodized aluminum shows is high electrical insulation. To make electronics or other electronic components, this comes in handy as it resists the flow of electric current.
From low to moderate heat, this aluminum shows high heat resistance. It also depends on the type of anodizing and the degree of the process done on the material.
Now let’s dive into the fact of how anodized aluminum is an excellent material to carve with a laser engraver. For crisp, permanent results, anodized aluminum offers the best results to make a diverse range of materials with a laser engraver. Here are a few areas where this aluminum type is beneficial in this matter.
Different environmental elements fade the engraving done through traditional engraving methods. However, engraving on anodized aluminum ensures that the top layer is removed, etching the area permanently. As anodized aluminum is resistant to corrosion, the product can stand the test of time. The message or image engraved can stay precise and crisp even after years of this process.
Unlike other materials, anodized aluminum provides high-contrast images when it comes to laser engraving. The focused laser beam removes the top anodized layer from selective areas. This gives way to the plain aluminum underneath the surface. It offers a contrasting visual to the top dyed or dark oxidized layer.
It makes the engraved rea look lighter than the rest. In this way, a permanent image or text is created which is vibrant. High-quality logos and texts can be created in this way by using ComMarker’s B4 fiber laser engraver on anodized aluminum blanks. It is generally used in the POD industry to create tags and promotional products for brands.
You can pre-dye the anodized aluminum in the desired colors. You can choose different colored aluminum blanks such as black, gold, red, blue, and green. This gives more options to create colorful designs. You can engrave through the laser which can look lighter as compared to the colorful background. The design can show the color of aluminum. This makes an eye-catching combination.
No heavy metals or toxic byproducts are created when anodizing aluminum or even when you laser engrave this aluminum. This material is recyclable which can later be used to make other products and provides a sustainable option.
Selecting the right anodized aluminum blank for your project can be challenging as it can be influenced by a few factors which are elaborated on below.
- Think about the item’s function and how often it will be handled. Is it going to be exposed to the weather? choose a blank that is both long-lasting and resistant to the elements.
- Consider the material’s size and form next. To save time and effort, measure twice before cutting. Find out exactly what you need in terms of size and shape. Forms such as rounds, squares, rectangles, or even irregular are possible. Any form you can think of is possible with anodized metal.
- Examine the design’s complexity now. Think about whether the engraving will be plain and unadorned or elaborate and complex. This includes the thickness and surface quality of the blank.
- You should also consider the different kinds of alloys used. In this matter alloy 6061 is a popular choice as it offers strength and design flexibility. The type 5052 is used for bending and shaping different materials.
- Next, consider the material’s hardness and how much it resists deformation. Weight matters too in this regard, thicker blanks offer more sturdiness while thinner ones can bend and be shaped easily. It also adds to the overall weight of the finished product.
There are also a few techniques that help users understand how they can carefully select aluminum blank without looking into features.
- The tempers of the anodized metal determine how hard it will be. Type H is durable and used for key chains and doorplates. On the other hand, there is another type called O, which is Annealed, which is soft and easier to work on. For jewelry and decoration pieces, this type is used effectively.
- Consider getting a piece of blank aluminum material with a smooth surface finish that has no scratches on top. This might hinder the laser engraving function if there are any imperfections on the top layer.
- Consider the laser machine’s working area before choosing the aluminum blank. ComMarker B4 fiber laser engraver has a wide working area of 110mm/110mm giving enough space to engrave a wide range of anodized aluminum blanks in detail.
After all this, it’s important to understand which strategies best help engrave on anodized aluminum and we have discussed them here.
First, wipe down the anodized aluminum with a lint-free cloth to get precise results in one go. After that, you can mask the area using heat-resistant tape to keep the area from getting engraved which isn’t required.
Then start the laser machine with a low laser power and then adjust according to the depth required. For bold designs increase the speed of the machine, for lighter designs slow speed can do the job. Also, adjust the laser frequency according to the speed which determines how consistent the design is.
For simple lines and simpler designs, users can utilize Adobe or similar software such as LightBurn software to create basic shapes and texts on anodized aluminum blanks. This software converts simple text input into vector format for best results.
Another technique widely used is for creating high-quality graphics or logos on aluminum. It is usually employed to create more detailed and realistic designs and bigger projects. By adjusting the speed and dpi factor of the laser machine you can create shading on the desired areas.
Masking different areas of an engraved design brings out the visual appeal of the whole design. This technique is used frequently to create depth and highlight specific areas within the whole design.
Although this process is highly beneficial, there are a few implications when laser engraving anodized aluminum and we want to elaborate here.
- Excessive heat generation during the engraving process can warp the metal. To eradicate this reduce power and increase the speed of the laser machine. This reduces the overall amount of heat buildup that may have caused the material to overheat in a specific area.
- There can be inconsistencies in the anodized aluminum surface which can cause variations in the design. To cover this you can adjust the laser head according to the material and use different laser power for different areas.
- Sometimes the design can come out blurred which can be due to incorrect laser machine settings on aluminum. Identify the correct distance of the material from the laser head and rearrange the settings for better results.
There are many potential benefits of laser engraving anodized aluminum and here are some unique ideas for your convenience.
- One may personalize necklaces, bracelets, and rings with elaborate designs, words, or even pictures. Flowing script initials may be laser-engraved into a gold anodized blank.
- The backplate of a personalized watch might be an engraved monogram or even a logo.
- A contemporary and long-lasting touch may be achieved by having inspiring quotations, house numbers, or doorplates laser-engraved into anodized metal.
- Personalized phone covers with elaborate patterns, initials, or even QR codes to provide a personal touch is also a unique approach.
- Custom baggage tags with your name, desired location, or even inspirational travel phrases can be made using this technique.
Aluminum is seen as a metal that is the most adaptable and highly consistent when engraved with a high-beam laser to create personalized and industrial goods. Bulk production or individualized creation of products is achieved these days on high-quality anodized aluminum blanks which are equipped with numerous properties including being heat and weather-resistant. With proper software, settings, and engraving techniques, you can create attractive designs and simple texts on this aluminum as per your preference. We hope this article contains all the information required to laser engrave anodized aluminum blanks easily.