Laser Cutting Aluminum: Definition, Techniques and Benefits

Aluminum is a highly versatile material widely used across many industries due to its durability, weight, and strength. There are different fabrication methods for aluminum, each with its unique mechanism and application. Laser-cutting is one of the most outstanding aluminum cutting processes, known for its versatility, precision, and suitability for cutting intricate designs. In this blog, we will delve into the laser-cutting process for aluminum, its practical applications, and the factors that can affect the process.

Laser Cutting Aluminum: Definition, Techniques and Benefits

What Is Laser Cutting Aluminum?

Laser cutting aluminum is a manufacturing process that employs a high-powered and tightly focused laser beam to cut aluminum sheets or plates into desired shapes specified in CAD. It is a crucial method for metal fabrication and offers significant advantages over traditional cutting techniques. The method is widely used in various industries, including Aircraft and aerospace, electronics, automotive, and marine industries. Laser cutting provides an accurate and efficient way of cutting aluminum with consistency and high quality.

Significance of Using Laser Cutting Technology for Aluminum

Laser-cutting aluminum is a crucial part of manufacturing in various sectors. It offers versatility and cost-effectiveness, as it can be used on flat and formed parts of varying thicknesses and alloys. Laser cutting also generates very little material wastage. Also, with the right equipment and setup, the cut parts require minimal or no post-processing to perform a satisfactory finish, eliminating the need for extra manufacturing phases.

What Is Laser Cutting Aluminum

How Does Laser Cutting Aluminum Work?

To begin with, let’s understand the primary stages of laser cutting aluminum. 

Programming the Machine

 The first step is to program the laser cutting machine with technical software. Specialists set the cutting parameters, such as speed, feed rate, and laser power, according to the material being cut – in this case, aluminum. Different cutting methods can be selected from a menu based on the expected results. This software also allows lining up multiple jobs, improving productivity.

Material Loading

The following stage involves placing the aluminum sheet on the cutting table. Ensuring the aluminum lies flat is critical to avoid possible problems during the cutting procedure. Proper material handling is necessary to align the aluminum sheet on the cutting table. Remember to use the correct grade of aluminum, such as aluminum 6082 and 7075, for different processes.

Calibrating the Laser

 Calibration involves adjusting the laser’s focus point and power density. The focus point is critical when cutting aluminum, a highly reflective material, to avoid any scattering of the laser beam that could potentially harm the machine’s optics. Nitrogen or other gases are often used to improve the cut, especially when dealing with aluminum with different properties.

Cutting Process

 This is where the laser beam interacts with the material. Considering the metal’s thermal conductivity and reflective nature, the laser beam’s speed and power must be carefully managed to ensure a clean cut. The cutting head is precisely aligned to ensure the laser hits the material optimally.


After cutting, the next step is to remove the dross and smooth the edges. This step is often overlooked but crucial for achieving the high-quality, finished product that industries like aerospace or medical devices demand. Removing leftover material, known as dross, ensures the final product meets quality standards. Edge smoothing is also done to remove sharp edges, improving the part’s overall finish and safety. Additional treatments, such as anodizing or powder paint, may sometimes be necessary, depending on the application.

How Does Laser Cutting Aluminum Work

Laser Cutting Techniques for Aluminum

Aluminum parts can be cut using different lasers, including CO2, fiber, and YAG lasers. Each laser type has unique characteristics and can cut components from aluminum alloys.

CO2 Lasers

CO2 lasers utilize carbon dioxide gas to produce a laser beam by stimulating it with an electrical discharge. With a wavelength of approximately 10.6 um, they fall within the absorbable range of aluminum, which enables them to cut aluminum components of various thicknesses.They are commonly used for cutting thicker parts and offer a smooth cutting edge.

Fiber Lasers

Fiber lasers are popularly used due to their compatibility with various materials and high cutting speed. They operate at a wavelength of 1um and use a fiber-optic cable for laser beam delivery. They allow high power density and accurate focusing, making them more efficient and accurate. They are generally used for cutting aluminum with thin to medium thickness, which is cost-effective and fast.

YAG Lasers

YAG lasers use a solid-state crystal doped with neodymium or ytterbium to generate accurate laser beams with a wavelength of around 1.064 um. They are ideal for cutting thin and medium-thickness aluminum components because they generate high laser power.

The Importance of Speed and Power in Laser Cutting Aluminum.

When laser cutting aluminum, speed, and power are vital; cutting speed affects heat input, while laser power affects the cut’s depth and processing speed. However, excessive power can lead to wider kerf width and material splattering. Aluminum is highly reflective, so laser systems need higher energy to initiate melting. 

When laser cutting aluminum, the appropriate cutting speed depends on the thickness of the material, laser power, beam quality, and specifics of the cutting system being used. Generally, thinner sheets (up to 3 mm) require higher cutting speeds (1,000–3,000 mm/min), while medium-thickness materials (3–6 mm) require slower cutting speeds (500–1,500 mm/min). Heavy-gauge aluminum plates (above 6 mm) need even slower cutting speeds (200–800 mm/min) to achieve full penetration unless the available power is more than 10 kW.

The power requirement for cutting aluminum depends on various factors such as cutting speed, material thickness, and cutter specifications. The power range can be from a few hundred watts to several kilowatts. Thin sheets need a laser power of at least 500 W, medium-weight aluminum requires 1–3 kW, and heavy plates demand 3,000–8,000 watts or more. Higher power leads to improved productivity. 

Laser Cutting Techniques for Aluminum

What Are the Benefits of Laser Cutting Aluminum?

Laser-cutting aluminum is a highly popular choice for many applications due to its multiple benefits. Some of these benefits include:

  1. It offers superior accuracy. Laser beams, whether fiber or CO2, can be focused to cut intricate shapes with high accuracy. 
  2. Laser-cutting aluminum is versatile, allowing for the cutting of different thicknesses and types of aluminum alloys through adjustable settings and focus points.
  3. Cut large aluminum sheets and process both flat and formed parts with ease.
  4. Laser cutting is computer-controlled, precise, and consistent. Industries dealing with high-volume production and multiple aluminum pieces can use it to improve production efficiency and increase productivity.
  5. The heating process is highly localized, resulting in a minimized heat-affected zone. It reduces the risk of distortion and avoids degrading the remaining material properties during rapid cooling.
  6. It provides clean and burr-free cuts, so post-processing is unnecessary once the cut is made.
  7. It is highly compatible with automated production lines, increasing productivity and reducing labor costs.
  8. Laser cutting aluminum parts is non-contact, preventing machine damage to the surface. It is important for industries needing intact surfaces, and those avoiding surface finishing costs.

Challenges of Laser Cutting Aluminum

Although laser cutting aluminum has various advantages, it presents a few challenges. Here are some of them:

High Thermal Conductivity 

Aluminum’s excellent heat dissipation can hinder laser cutting. A high-speed laser cutter with a high pulse frequency can help by melting the surface before heat dissipation occurs.

Highly Reflective

Aluminum’s high reflectivity can cause laser beam scattering, affecting cut quality, especially with fiber lasers.

High Cost

Although laser cutting of aluminum has several advantages, it is generally more expensive than other methods, such as water jet cutting or plasma cutting. The cost of a laser cutting machine can be quite high initially.

Secondary Machining is Required

Laser-cutting aluminum results in sharp edges and burrs, making the process inefficient and requiring a secondary machining process for a smooth edge. High-pressure nitrogen gas assists ejects the molten metal, enabling a faster cutting rate and smooth edge without secondary processes.

Material Distortion

Thin and delicate aluminum components can be prone to warping and distortion, which is a common issue.

Surface Oxidation & Discoloration

When exposed to high temperatures, it can result in surface discoloration and oxidation in the affected zone.

Higher Laser Power Levels & Slower Cutting Speeds

Laser cutting can handle various material thicknesses, but heavy-gauge plates may require more laser power and slower cutting speeds due to heat dissipation.

Cost of Laser Cutting Aluminum

Laser cutting aluminum is a cost-effective method with high throughput. However, it carries a high initial investment (CAPEX) burden. To achieve profitability, it is necessary to have enough work. In most applications, the processing cost is lower than the cost of raw materials, often significantly so. The factors that impact the overall cost of production include equipment investment, daily maintenance, power, programming, set-up, and the complexity of parts.

Cost of Laser Cutting Aluminum

Applications of Aluminum Laser Cut Parts

The applications of laser-cut aluminum parts are diverse and include:

Aircraft and Aerospace

The aircraft and aerospace industry relies heavily on aluminum parts because of their lightweight and high-strength properties. Aluminum is used for making various parts, including aircraft structures, interior panels, fuel systems, landing gear, engine components, and other aerospace parts. To ensure accuracy, the industry also leverages the laser cutting process, which is essential for achieving tight tolerances.


The automotive industry utilizes aluminum laser-cut parts for body panels, engine parts, chassis components, etc. Aluminum’s lightweight increases fuel efficiency while supporting intricate designs and precise shapes with high process accuracy.


Aluminum laser-cut parts are commonly used to create electronic enclosures, heat sinks, Printed Circuit boards (PCBs), and other electrical components. The industry places a greater emphasis on the heat-dissipating properties of the material, as well as the high level of precision that the process allows, enabling it to achieve very tight tolerances.


The marine industry has become the foundation of all manufacturing sectors. With the continuous progression of society and technological advancement, aluminum laser-cut parts have become increasingly popular in the marine field.


Is it safe to use laser cutting on aluminum?

Laser cutting is safe if safety measures are followed. Laser radiation can be hazardous to the eyes and skin, so it’s important to use protective eyewear and proper enclosure or guarding of the laser cutting area. Fire prevention training and systems must be in place to prevent sparks and molten metal spray.

Can Plasma Cutters Cut Cut Aluminum?

Plasma cutters can cut aluminum fast and effectively. It uses ionized gas to melt and remove metal for a precise cut. However, compared to laser cutting, it may produce rougher edges and a wider heat-affected zone. Nevertheless, it is a cost-effective solution for some industries.

What is the optimum grade of aluminum for laser cutting?

Aluminum grades like 6061, 5052, 5083, and 7075 are processed by laser cutting due to their excellent machinability and weldability. However, 7075 aluminum needs higher laser power levels and slower cutting speeds due to its high strength and hardness.

What is the maximum size of aluminum that can be cut using a laser?

Aluminum sheet size depends on the machine bed size. Standard sizes are 4’x8′ and 5’x10′. Large industrial machines can handle these sizes, some even larger. For smooth production, machines use sheet rolls. Desktop machines accommodate A4-size sheets.


This blog provides information about laser cutting aluminum and its various applications. If you want to learn more about laser cutting with aluminum, you can contact our sales representatives. Enze offers a wide range of manufacturing capabilities, such as sheet cutting and other value-added services that can meet your prototyping and production needs.