The lasers can be used to burn text or graphics into various materials such as wood, bamboo, cork, leather or even mirrors. The power of the simple devices is sufficient to precisely cut some materials such as cardboard or foam rubber.
However, the lasers are not exactly harmless to the eyes, which is why you should always wear safety glasses when using them. Expensive models also have a closed installation space that protects against the laser light - but you will look in vain for such a housing in the entry-level class with a large work surface. After all, the A5 comes with a device that filters the light and thus minimizes the risk.
Priced at $200-$1200, the Atomstack A5 Pro is a mid-range home device. Compared to the cheapest $100 models, the work surface is significantly larger. The machine allows engravings with a maximum size of 410 × 400 mm.
According to the manufacturer, our test device has a 20 watt laser. However, the statement is misleading. The output power of the laser, which is only 4.5 to 5 watts at a wavelength of 455 nm, is decisive for the performance of the laser.
How the A5 works is quickly explained. The frame of the device is also the Y-axis, on which the X-axis moves back and forth. The laser head is attached to the X-axis and carries out the lateral movements on it. Since it is a fixed focus laser, the distance to the workpiece must be adjusted. To do this, we loosen two screws on the laser mount and can now move it a few centimeters up and down. For the ideal distance to the surface, Atomstack has included a Plexiglas plate as a spacer. If it still fits exactly between the laser and the workpiece, we fix the holder and we can get started. Even if the focusing is uncomplicated - a Z-axis that can be moved with just one screw would have been much more convenient. Even nicer would be a motorized Z-axis with a distance sensor that automatically adjusts the distance.
The A5 does not have automatic end stops. That's a shame, because there are slight problems with the positioning of the print head at the beginning, since it cannot automatically determine its starting point. When switched on, the laser module should always be in the front left corner, as the machine defines these coordinates as the zero point. If this is not the case, the zero point must be redefined in the software, otherwise there is a risk that the laser head will accidentally hit the frame. This is cumbersome and can even be dangerous under certain circumstances. We would have liked a more practical solution here.
The A5 arrives appropriately packaged. Inside are the individual parts of the frame including screws and tools, the pre-assembled laser head, a USB cable, some engraving samples and the instructions. The individual parts are all cleanly processed. Screws, holes and tools make a valuable impression.
The entire assembly of the laser engraver takes only 10 minutes. The instructions including the illustrations are exemplary. The screws are even packed together after individual steps, so that the assembly is completely problem-free even for absolute laypeople. So far we are enthusiastic - with this unproblematic structure and the good written documentation, some 3D printer manufacturers could still learn a lot.
After construction, we first look for a vacancy in the basement. This should offer enough space and have a ventilation option. In addition, if you have pets or children at home, you should ensure that they do not have access to the laser during operation.
A wooden board underneath not only protects the floor or the tabletop, but also serves as a positioning aid. Before engraving, we draw a custom-fit frame around our motif and burn it into the wooden panel. So we can see where exactly we have to place our actual workpiece.