It's August and well we have bypassed what constitutes normal temps around here anymore, but today finally feels like what summer in the PNW should feel like. Temps in the mid 70s are exactly what I need while I work in the shop. With machines that tend to create a lot of heat and no AC in here it can get a bit toasty. So today, I am sipping away on a big glass of iced tea, while I talk about lasers.
We recently purchased a laser cutter for our shop. I know that lots of people will call these laser printers but to me a printer means you are adding something, like ink for instance. A cutter or engraver means you are taking something away. We have been doing a lot more wood type projects and I felt like it would be a fabulous edition. There are so many options and I thought about just biting the bullet and going straight for the commercial machine. The Glowforges are amazing and every crafter that I know that has them, loves them. I just wasn't sure if I could justify the high price tag without knowing whether it would truly be worth the investment. I chose to go with Makeblock's Xtool D1 machine. I feel like I got a pretty decent deal on it and it came with a rotary attachment which I was really excited to try out. Putting it together reminded me of getting furniture from IKEA but it was easier than I thought and once I got it all set up it has been relatively easy to use as well.
The free Laserbox software is actually pretty decent for free software but I did decide to upgrade Lightburn so it would give me more options when cutting and engraving and if I'm being honest it was mostly because my brain does not think in metric and Lightburn gave me the option to turn that into inches instead.
Right out of the box this laser has impressed me. The steel construction seems very sturdy and well made. You can tell that the makers of the Xtool really thought out the design of this laser tool. I love the laser itself and I like that it has this little arm that lowers onto your cutting surface to give you the appropriate height for your laser. Just don't forget to raise it after you tighten the laser down. (Yep, you guessed it, I'm speaking from experience here.)
I started playing with some of the materials that came in the box and was instantly enamored with the quality of the engraving and cutting. Single pass cuts and it was working like a charm. I quickly upgraded to some different types of wood, leather, metal, glass and acrylic and have had some great successes. I have also had a couple of epic failures but that is to be expected with any new tool. There is definitely a bit of a learning curve with both the Laserbox and Lightburn software but there are some fabulous YouTube tutorials for both which I found to be very helpful. (Let me know if you want the links for those.)
The D1 comes in several different strengths starting with a 5 watt, then a 10 watt and 20 watt. We started with the 5 watt and while this is great for a hobbyist it is really not powerful enough if you are planning to use this for more than occasional crafting. The price tag for the 10 watt is still very reasonable and well worth the purchase of the upgrade. If you are planning to use this for business or wanting to really make some high end products I would definitely recommend the 20 watt. Why the 20 watt, you ask. For me it's all about the increased speed and accuracy. As a business owner the faster you can get a project completed the happier your customers are and after all we all want our customers to be happy, right?
Recently Makeblock launched a few additions for the D1. These included an extension kit, an upgraded rotary system and a new Infrared laser. I haven't had a chance to order these yet but have seen the videos and am super excited to try them all out. The new rotary tool looks especially fabulous as it allows you to be able to engrave with ease on cups that are not perfectly cylindrical. Like mugs with a handle for instance. How cool is that? The extension kit upgrades your cutting area by 200% from the original which I believe is 430 x 390mm (again I have no idea what that is in English.) The D1 as you might guess from the name is a diode laser and so the addition of an infrared laser that you can change out as needed is especially cool.
Are there other upgrades I would recommend? Absolutely! I would definitely look into purchasing the air assist. I think it keeps your cuts and engraving looking sharp with minimal overburn. Also, the honeycomb is fantastic and I definitely recommend it. While I think the enclosure has it's place, I'm not sure that is something I would really say is a must have. If you are relatively handy and you really want an enclosure they wouldn't be that hard to build one. Again, there are some great YouTube videos of this. Just keep in mind that this is a laser and lasers mean light and smoke so make sure you are using appropriate protective equipment. While the Xtool's laser has a protective screen around the laser I would still suggest wearing the goggles that come with it while you are operating the machine and make sure the room you are in is properly ventilated.
In short after having this laser for a few months I would definitely buy it again. I think it is the most cost effective option for crafters and business owners and the possibilities are endless. Stay tuned for some new projects that we will be adding to the shop and if you want to see our laser in action check us out on TikTok.
Until Next Time. Happy crafting and go make some magic!