Laser engraving is one of the best ways to add a personal touch to your projects. From logos on business cards to initials on cutting boards, you'll always find new uses for lasers.
From my testing, I've found that if you want to do some serious laser cutting, a diode laser isn't a great solution. However, if you want to do laser engraving, this is a great option. Specifically, I do a lot of laser engraving on hardwood, plywood, cardboard, kraft paper, and even stone.
Acrylic is also supported, just make sure you work in a well ventilated area as the fumes are horrible. Never laser engrave or cut PVC that emits hydrogen chloride gas.
Now for the fun stuff. Here are some tests I did with this unit. First, the fun pig butcher design on the cutting board. You can easily engrave names, initials or even entire recipes on the surface.
Cardboard projects are always fun to put together. You can get dark engravings, and the uniform surface is a great material for laser engraving.
The next one is the largest raster engraving I've ever done on plywood. Lightburn uses dithering to simulate grayscale effects. Dither with small dots to simulate shades of gray. The entire sculpting process for this 10x10 portrait took less than four hours.
Having a laser is one thing. Sending the design to the laser is another story. This usage is very difficult, but Atomstack has several great solutions for you.
Laser GRBL is software provided by Atomstack. This is an open source project with a lot of online support from a great developer community.
Lightburn is software that many people use on their machines. Lightburn offers a full 30-day trial, then a G-Code license for just $40. It works on Mac and PC.
The Atomstack Laser Master Engraver enlarges the entire working area to 410 x 400 mm. This is one of the largest work areas on a budget machine of this type. The increased work area compared to the first version is a huge upgrade.
The engraving machine is constructed with extruded aluminum rails and hardened plastic brackets. While this won't win any power contests, you don't need a powerful engraver. Unlike CNC, which applies constant pressure to the frame as it engraves the wood, the only pressure on the laser is the actual movement of the gantry.
I found that even when I ran it at a top speed of 3000mm/min (1.9 in/sec) it held up fine and still produced very detailed engravings. Movement comes from stepper motors and timing belts.
A nice addition is a synchronized y-axis. A metal rod runs the length of the x-axis and keeps the opposite ends of the engraver aligned. I've found that some engravers get misaligned at high speeds. The rod locks everything in space.
If you've run out of gift ideas for your loved one, how about a laser engraver? Compared to the lasers below for etching, this ATOMSTACK A5 has an eye-safe solution. It has a solid steel construction which makes it more precise during the engraving process. According to the manufacturer, it will be done in 10-20 minutes, depending on how accurately you understand the instructions.
The Atomstack A5 is equipped with a 20W laser head that allows you to engrave wood; bamboo, cardboard, plastic, leather, printed circuits, aluminum oxide items, painted metal. The printer can also be used to cut thick paper, cardboard, non-woven, balsa, acrylic, thin plastics. It features a large working surface area (measuring 410 x 400 mm) for handling the most demanding processes, and is laser engraved with an accuracy of approximately 0.01 mm.
The Atomstack A5 tool can record without refocusing, and works with many engraving software programs, such as LaserGRBL, LightBurn, and for PCs running XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10. It also works on MAC systems, and the supported engraving styles are NC, BMP, JPB, PNG, and DXF.