Hobbyist-grade laser cutters can be a little restrictive as to the types and thicknesses of materials that they can cut. We’re usually talking about CO2 and diode-based machines here, and if you want to cut non-plastic sheets, you’re usually going to be looking towards natural materials such as leather, fabrics, and thin wood.
But what about metals? It’s a common beginner’s question, often asked with a resigned look, that they already know the answer is going to be a hard “no. ” However, YouTuber [Chad] decided to respond to some comments about the possibility of cutting metal sheets using a high-power diode laser, with a simple experiment to actually determine what the limits actually are.
Using an XTool D1 Pro 20W as a testbed, [Chad] tried a variety of materials including mild steel, stainless, aluminium, and brass sheets at a variety of thicknesses. Steel shim sheets in thicknesses from one to eight-thousandths of an inch appeared to be perfectly cuttable, with an appropriate air assist and speed settings, with thicker sheets needing a good few passes. You can definitely see the effect of excess heat in the workpiece, resulting in some discoloration and noticeable warping, but those issues can be mitigated. Copper and aluminium weren’t touched by the beam at all, likely due to the extra reflectivity, but we do have to wonder if appropriate surface treatments could improve matters.
Obviously, we’ve seen that diode lasers can have an impact on metals, simply smearing a little mustard on the workpiece seems to make marking a snap. Whilst we’re on the subject of diode lasers, you can get a lot of mileage from just strapping such a laser module onto a desktop CNC.