The entire setup of the laser engraver takes only 10 minutes. Descriptions including illustrations are exemplary. The screws are even packed together according to individual steps, so assembly is no problem at all, even for the absolute layman. We’ve been enthusiastic so far – with this no-hassle build and good written documentation, some 3D printer makers could learn a lot from it.
After construction was completed, we first looked for an open space in the basement. This should provide enough space and have ventilation options. If you have pets or children in your home, you should also ensure that they cannot access the laser while it is running.
The planks below not only protect the floor or table top, but also serve as a positioning aid. Before carving, we draw a perfectly fitting frame around our subject and burn it into the plank. So we can see exactly where we have to place the actual workpiece.
The main software recommended by the manufacturer is LaserGRBL open source software. This worked, but we found it relatively confusing, cumbersome, and less intuitive. As an alternative, we therefore use a software called Lightburn, also named by the manufacturer. The program costs less than 40 euros, but you can try it for free for 30 days. If you choose a laser engraver, you should also plan for this budget. From our perspective, the investment is worth it.
After launching the software and setting up the connected laser once, Lightburn will display the engraver’s workspace. Now import the desired template, pixel or vector graphics and adjust the size and position. Besides JPEG, TIFF or DXF, the software supports many other formats. We now place a frame around the object and adjust the settings for speed and laser power. As a first step, we just issued the frame and burned it into our base to determine the exact location of the engraving. Then we locate the actual workpiece and output the desired pattern in the second step.
The laser now follows the pattern and burns it into the underlying surface. The laser changes speed and power to show shades of gray. The result is aging zones of different widths, which can be more or less easily distinguished depending on the material. Small fonts take just a few minutes to complete, while larger pieces take longer. In Lightburn you can see how long the whole process takes.
The Atomstack A5 is easy to use and suitable for users with 3D printing experience and those with a basic understanding of the technology. At the beginning of the test, we only cared about the reliability of the goggles and goggles. Since our engraver is on the ground, the included privacy screen alone will do the job well. If the laser were on the table, the angle would be different and the privacy screen would be largely useless. But with the glasses on, we felt fine and were able to watch the laser for a few minutes at work without feeling any negative effects. Even if you don’t look directly at the laser, headaches and burning eyes can be signs of damage. You really have to be careful here! Using such a machine is not without risk. You have to decide for yourself whether you want to do this. It’s safest if you just observe the work process with a camera.
Engraved leather or imitation leather also works well. However, the smoke and smell are really unpleasant. You should work with low power here so as not to burn the material. While the attempt with the smartphone case looked fine, the loose leather deformed violently during the engraving process. To get good results, the material must be stretched onto a piece of wood. Headphone cases made of faux leather are much better sculpted. Here, we limit performance to 35%.
If you don’t trust the included glasses, you can also purchase protective glasses for that wavelength separately. In the medium term, we’ll still be tinkering with a box that acts as a privacy screen. This will reduce the risk to pets and family members and allow an efficient extraction device to be installed. Even if the laser only removes a thin layer of the surface, those layers will burn, creating smoke and odors in the process.