Laser Marking Aluminum: Pros, Cons, and Key Considerations

Large-scale manufacturing and packaging operations have been laser marking aluminum for decades. 

Since the early 1990s, high-volume canning facilities and manufacturing companies have used laser marking machines to code their aluminum materials. Laser’s impressive marking speed, precise accuracy, and excellent code quality make laser marking systems particularly well-suited for demanding applications. 

In recent years, laser marking systems have become increasingly affordable, making them an accessible option for many mid-sized companies in addition to large-scale operations. 

Today, laser marking systems are popularly used by:

If you are considering whether laser is right for your needs, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this blog, we review the pros/cons of laser marking aluminum vs. other methods and review laser’s key functions. By the end, you should have a better understanding of whether laser is ideal for your operation.

Is Laser Marking Right for You? Comparing Laser to Other Aluminum Coding Solutions

Laser is one of the fastest and most effective aluminum marking technologies on the market today. For decades, high-volume manufacturing and packaging operations have relied on laser marking systems to mark their goods with traceable codes, important product information, images, and other required markings. 

Along with laser marking systems, inkjet printers are the top choice for aluminum marking applications. Both continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers and thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers are compatible with aluminum materials, offer easy production line integration, and can mark flat and curved surfaces. 

Although CIJ and TIJ printers are both viable aluminum marking solutions, they are quite different.

CIJ printers are large production line printing machines that excel at high-speed coding. They are designed to code substrates moving at speeds above 300 m/min and can operate for up to 24 hours a day. CIJ cartridges generally contain 750-950ml of ink/make-up, reducing cartridge replacement frequency. CIJ models like InkJet, Inc’s DuraCode Touchscreen are built with resilient, IP55 outer structures to ensure extended uptime.

TIJ printers are much smaller and more affordable than CIJ printers. Most TIJ printers weigh around 5-10 pounds, while most CIJ printers weigh about 100 pounds when filled with ink. TIJ printers generally create higher-quality codes than CIJ printers but at slower speeds. For example, the Anser U2 Pro-S prints codes up to 400 x 600 DPI resolution and maxes out at 60.96 m/min. 

Higher-end TIJ models like the Anser X1 come closer to CIJ speed. The Anser X1 maxes out at 300 m/min but can also create high-contrast codes at 600 x 600 DPI with a max height of 1” (2” with stitched printheads). 


So, how do you choose between laser marking and inkjet printing? For aluminum marking applications, it comes down to cost factors and code requirements.

Laser Marking Aluminum vs. Inkjet Printing

TIJ printers are the most affordable option amongst laser, TIJ, and CIJ technologies. Although TIJ printers often lack the power required for high-volume marking, their high-contrast codes, lightweight properties, and handheld varieties make them an excellent choice for low-speed marking and specialized applications—including stationary object marking. 

TIJ users can mark stationary objects by moving a handheld printer across the substrate. Laser systems can also mark stationary objects but with greater speed, accuracy, and code quality. Moreover, laser systems can create three kinds of markings in both stationary and production line setups, helping users better meet coding requirements. 

Laser Coloration: Coloration is the lightest form of laser coding. The idea behind coloration is to use the laser beam to change or break down surface molecules to induce a change of color.

The beam is produced at a relatively low power level to create a marking while maintaining a smooth surface.


Laser Ablation: Ablation entails removing a small portion of the substrate surface via vaporization or melting. Laser ablation beams are more powerful than coloration beams to enable material removable.

Ablation markings are known for their high contrast, distinct texture, and wear resistance.


Laser Engraving: Engraving creates permanent markings by removing a significant amount of surface material. Users can select the ideal marking depth by adjusting system parameters

TIJ technology is great for low-speed aluminum coding, handheld applications, and high-contrast coding tasks. However, a high-volume line will need a laser system or CIJ printer to meet output requirements.

Laser systems and continuous inkjet printers share a host of similarities. They can both:

  • Mark thousands of products a day on high-speed production lines
  • Operate uninterrupted for 24 hours a day
  • Effectively code flat and curved surfaces

Although they can complete many of the same tasks, laser and CIJ units have different cost factors, maintenance needs, and safety accommodations. Here’s what you need to know:

Laser Marking Vs. Continuous Inkjet Printing

Cost Factors: Laser systems cost significantly more upfront than CIJ printers. However, they do not require ink or makeup to create markings. In fact, aside from periodic filter replacements, they have little-to-no consumable costs.

Continuous inkjet printers require periodic fluid refills, which increases the overall cost of ownership. If you have high-volume coding needs, a laser system will likely be a more cost-effective solution for you due to the lower consumable costs.

Maintenance Needs: Once laser systems are installed, they have very basic upkeep needs. Users must periodically clean the system, wipe the lenses and mirrors, and check for proper ventilation and beam alignment. If the system continues to operate well, professional maintenance isn’t necessary. 

CIJ printers require a greater degree of care. Users need to regularly clean their printhead, check and replace consumables, maintain the ink system, and follow similar best practices. They must also schedule professional maintenance once a year.

Safety Accommodations: Unprotected laser systems can negatively affect worker health via noxious fumes and beam exposure. To keep workers healthy, laser operators need to outfit their lines with study brackets, beam shields, and fume extractors. 

CIJ printers do not require special safety accommodations. However, if you need the speed, accuracy, and versatility of a laser marking system, the safety accommodations are well worth the investment. 

See the comparison chart below for a better understanding of the pros and cons of laser marking aluminum. If you would like to discuss your system options with an expert, contact InkJet, Inc. today.

Aluminum Marking Technology Comparison Chart


Laser Marking

Continuous Inkjet

Thermal Inkjet

Operating Principle

Creates markings with a highly concentrated light beam

Uses pressurizing pumps and vibrations to create distinct ink droplets and propel them toward the substrate

Uses heat to pressurize ink and propel distinct droplets toward the substrate

Marking Speed

2,000 characters per second

~320 m/min.

90 to 300 m/min. (model dependent)

Marking Precision

Exceptionally high



General Print Height

~100 mm x 100 mm to 300 x 300 mm

~1.2 to15 mm

~12.7mm to 25.4mm

Code Durability

Exceptionally high



Code Appearance

Exceptionally high



Curved Surface Compatibility

Excellent compatibility

Excellent compatibility

Fair compatibility



Periodic ink and makeup replacements

Frequent ink replacements

Maintenance Requirements

Minimal maintenance required

Periodic adjustments and annual professional maintenance

Minimal maintenance required