The Complete Metals Guide: Find the Perfect Material for Your Laser Cut Metal Project

When choosing a type of metal for your project, there are a lot of things to take into consideration - weight, aesthetic, exposure to the elements, finish, and even playability (if the metal needs to be bent). Whether it be a sign you’re hanging outside, or an art piece you’ll be shaping and hanging on a wall, you’ll need to make an educated choice in the metal your project is cut from.

If you lack a degree in metallurgy, civil engineering, or chemistry, don’t fret. This handy metals guide will give you all the info you need to make a confident decision. And if you’re still unsure, ask the experts at SendCutSend - they’re eager to help.

Here’s a guide to common metals used in laser cutting projects:

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel was created with corrosion resistance in mind. By adding chromium (among a few other metals) manufactures could create a metal that encompasses the best of all worlds. Along with being non-corrodible, it’s also beautiful and durable. Stainless steel is all around you - it’s in your kitchen, in your garage, in your yard and pretty much everywhere you go. It’s versatility and price point make it a go-to material for a wide range of projects.


Benefits of Stainless Steel:

  • It’s great for decorative, durable parts.
  • It’s very strong and heavy.
  • It’s great for outdoor use.
  • It won’t corrode, making it washable and sanitizable.  
  • It looks great raw, brushed or polished.
  • It welds easily.
  • It’s cost effective for making durable parts.

Aluminum

The properties of this remarkable element sound like it’s straight out of a science fiction novel. Even in its pure form, aluminum is very light in weight, yet strong. Like steel, it’s ductile - meaning it can be shaped and formed without losing its strength. Lasty, it’s reactive and forms a natural corrosion resistance when exposed to air.


When producing aluminum for commercial use, it’s mixed with a few other metals. So, many industries, including the aerospace industry, rely heavily on aluminum. In fact, it’s so prevalent in our everyday lives that it’s easy to take for granted.


Benefits of Aluminum:

  • It’s a great material for prototypes.
  • It’s lightweight
  • It won’t corrode.
  • It’s great for outdoor use.
  • It’s easy to file, sand, machine, drill, etc.
  • Looks great raw, brushed or polished.

Copper

Like aluminum, copper is an element that can be mined directly from the earth. It can even be put to use in its pure form. This is why it was the first metal to be smelted and used by early man around 8,000 BC.

Copper also comes with a long list of uses. It’s conductive, which makes it great for pieces like bus bars and other electrical parts. It’s non-corrosive, which makes it great for pipes and plumbing. And lastly,… it’s gorgeous. Copper can be brushed, oiled, or patinated, but its look is stunning when left just how it is.


Benefits of Copper:

  • It’s really pretty.
  • It’s great for outdoor use (it will eventually patina).
  • It’s conductive, making it great for electrical parts.
  • It’s malleable.
  • It’s ready to go as-is, little to no additional processing needed.

Brass

The copper-zinc alloy known as brass has loads of uses apart from making up the loudest section of an orchestra. It’s gold look gives it aesthetic qualities for uses in things like jewelry and wall art. It’s low friction point (i.e. it won’t make sparks) makes it perfect for use in all kinds of functional applications such locks, door fixtures, and ammunition.

Benefits of Brass:

  • It’s really pretty.
  • It’s lightweight.
  • It’s malleable.
  • It’s great for outdoor use (with a protective finish applied).
  • A number of finishes can be applied for different looks (think shiny or antique!)
  • It has a low friction point (it won’t make sparks).
  • It’s ready to go as-is, little to no additional processing needed.

Carbon Steel

Steel is an alloy made of iron and carbon. Its ductile strength makes it a go to when erecting buildings, bridges and machinery. For laser cut metal parts, you have a couple options to choose from - hot rolled (HRPO) or cold rolled steel.


Hot Rolled Pickled and Oiled (HRP&O) Steel

Hot rolled steel is created when the steel is rolled at very high temperatures, which makes the steel easier to form, resulting in a product that’s easy to work with. The finished steel is left with a thin layer of magnetite on it known as “scale.” The scale is reduced with a “pickling and oiling” finish, leaving the surface of this steel nice and smooth.


Benefits of HRP&O Steel:

  • It creates indestructible parts.
  • It’s very heavy.
  • It welds beautifully.
  • It’s easy to thread, machine, drill, etc.
  • It’s great for cutting thick pieces.
  • It can be etched as well as cut.
  • It looks great painted, powder coated, or clear coated.


Cold Rolled (Mild) Steel

The process for making cold rolled steel is a little like making chocolate in that it’s a tempered material. The steel is rolled hot, but then rolled more after it has cooled down to room temperature. This allows for the metal to be shaped into a thinner sheet, and, unlike hot rolled steel, requires no further processing to achieve a smooth, finished surface.  


Benefits of Cold Rolled (Mild) Steel:

  • It’s very strong (especially in 11ga thickness).
  • It welds beautifully.
  • It’s very easy to thread, machine, drill, etc.
  • It can be etched as well as cut.
  • It looks great painted, powder coated, or clear coated.


If you're ready to pull the trigger on your project, upload your design here at SendCutSend.com. If you still have questions, reach out to support@sendcutsend.com - the team is standing by, eager to help.