A5 Laser Engraver In The Test

The software most recommended by the manufacturer is the freeware LaserGRBL. This works, but we find it relatively cluttered, cumbersome, and not very intuitive. As an alternative, we therefore use the software called Lightburn, which is also named by the manufacturer. The program costs just under 40 euros, but can be used as a free trial version for 30 days. Anyone who decides on a laser engraver should also plan for this budget. From our point of view, the investment is worthwhile.

atomstack a5 pro software

After starting the software and setting up the connected laser once, Lightburn shows the engraver’s workspace. Then the desired template, a pixel or vector graphic is imported and the size and position are adjusted. In addition to JPEG, TIFF or DXF, the software also supports numerous other formats. We now put a frame around the object and adjust the speed and laser power settings. In the first step we only expose the frame and burn it into our base to determine the exact position of the engraving. Then we position the actual workpiece and, in the second step, output the desired motif.

The laser now scans the motif and burns it into the surface underneath. The laser changes speed and power to display shades of gray. The result is burned-in areas of different strengths, which can be more or less differentiated depending on the material. While small lettering is finished after a few minutes, larger workpieces take significantly longer. How long the entire process takes can be seen in Lightburn.

The Atomstack A5 Pro is easy to use for users with experience in 3D printing and users with a basic understanding of technology. At the beginning of the test, we only had concerns about the reliability of goggles and face shields. Since our engraver is on the ground, the attached privacy screen alone does a good job. If the laser were on a table, the angle would be different and the privacy screen would be largely useless. With the glasses on, we have a good feeling and were able to watch the laser at work for minutes without feeling any negative effects. Headaches, burning eyes would be indications of possible damage, even if you are not looking directly into the laser. You really have to be careful here! The use of such machines is not without risk. You must decide for yourself whether you want to do this. It would be safest to simply observe the work process with a camera.

Even the first test drives with the A5 put a big smile on our faces. The laser does a really good job. Contours and details are burned sharply and clearly into the wood. Contrasts and shades of gray can be seen very well on the 4 mm craft wood from the hardware store. We work here at a speed of 3000 mm/min and 70 percent output and have been completely satisfied so far. However, the attempt to cut a shape out of the wood (at 1000 mm/min and 100 percent power) fails despite scanning the frame six times. The laser just isn’t strong enough here. However, experiments with the enclosed sample wood (2 mm thick) work with the settings mentioned. For example, the TechStage logo was easily cut out. However, after a total of 6 passes, only between 80 and 90 percent of the wood you made with the same material was cut through. Two repetitions would have been necessary here. With the help of a cutter knife and a little strength, the Star Wars coaster can then be easily broken out. However, the edges are then not perfect. The 5 W output power is simply not enough for cutting wood or even harder material. The situation is different with thin cardboard or felt, but tests are necessary for each material in order to determine good settings. Otherwise the laser is either too weak or the edges will burn. The actual surface also has a major impact on the final quality. On the engraving of a bamboo breakfast board, the fibers are clearly visible, which ultimately affects the sharpness of the motif.

We engrave the mirror tile used in the test from behind and use the wood engraving settings. This also works very well, but it smells like burnt plastic. The A5 not only burns the mirror surface on the back, but also makes the glass milky. The mirror is translucent in the engraved areas and can then be illuminated from behind, for example. If you don’t want that, you can cover the engraved areas on the back with paint or foil and make them opaque again.

Laser Engraver for Glass

Engraving leather or imitation leather also works well. However, smoke and odors are really unpleasant. You should work with little force here so as not to burn the material. While the attempt with a smartphone case still looks okay, the loose piece of leather warped violently during engraving. For a good result, the material would have to be stretched over a piece of wood. It is much better to engrave a leatherette headphone box. Here we had limited the performance to 35 percent.

If you don’t trust the glasses that come with it, you can also buy goggles individually to match the wavelength. In the medium term we would make another box as a privacy screen. This would reduce the risk to pets and family members and would allow for an effective exhaust system to be installed. Even if the laser only removes thin layers of the surface, these will still be burned, producing smoke and odor. When engraving wood, poor ventilation creates a thick blue haze and campfire smell. That may sound quite romantic to some, but the fun stops when it comes to processing plastic or leather. If you don’t want a foggy and smelly cabin, you have to open the window or better yet install an extraction system to avoid screeching fire alarms and health hazards.

The Atomstack A5 surprises with a simple structure and great results. At 410 × 400 mm, the A5 finally offers enough space and also works quickly and comfortably. With the A5, do-it-yourselfers get an unusual, fascinating and at the same time practical tool for the hobby room for just under 220 euros.

All in all, the laser does a pleasantly good job. It is only suitable for cutting to a limited extent, but the device is well equipped for engraving wood, plastic, cardboard, cork, leather or foam rubber. In practice, we are only disturbed by the zero point that is not marked by a limit switch, the too complex adjustment of the Z axis and the open housing.

Laser Engraver for Metal

If you want to work with wood, you should also check out our guide to saws and sanders.

Atomstack M4 Fiber 2-in-1 Laser Marking Machine


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