Instructables

How do I etch aluminum?

I've been searching and reading on how to etch aluminum.  I've tried the photo paper toner transfer numerous times, but the toner does not stick to my aluminum plate.  I've gone over with my iron so many times while putting extreme amounts of pressure on it, but no matter what I cannot get the toner to stay on my aluminum plate.  Can someone please help me, or let me know a better way of doing this!! Thank you!

Just use some nailpolish or a sharpie (permanent marker)...the acid will etch the metal but not the nailpolish...I heard about using Staedtler overhead projecter pens (specifically a red one) which will produce good results. Hope this helps. I plan on cutting a stencil and using nailpolish for my etch...I'll post pics soon
did it work? im going to try a stencil tomorrow :D
It worked but I left it in the acid too long and it ate the plate. I should have either left it in a diluted solution or taken it out sooner. what was left was very brittle but only where the nail polish had been applied was there anything left.
In addition to the suggestions you've already gotten, you might look into using asphaltum as a mask instead of the toner. You'd have to paint or stencil it onto the aluminum, but I guarantee it'll stick. It's a better mask than toner, too.
The best method is probably by spraying with UV senstive PCB coating, exposing to UV through your artwork and then etching.

Failing that.
Degrease your panel very thoroughly - a good household surface cleaner is fantastic for that.

Mask off your surface with masking tape, cut your design through, peel away the areas you DON'T want to etch and then spray with a couple of coats of polyurethane varnish. 

Peel off the rest

Etch.

Steve
rickharris4 years ago
I see from the side panel that at least one person uses acid to etch Aluminium. In actual fact Caustic soda will vigorously attack aluminium to the point of eating it away of your not watchful. Even washing soda will attack the surface . this may be more available than acids.

I agree about getting the print hot enough with the aluminium acting as a heat sink.

frollard4 years ago
The toner won't stick to plain smooth aluminum -- try roughing up the surface with steel wool for a brushed effect -- it should stick to that. the link is from related -- this guy made it work. My guess is you're not getting it hot enough, as the aluminum acts as a huge heat sink and stops the toner from ever getting warm enough to bond. http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-etch-aluminum-panel-labelsdesigns-with-a-r/