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Lately I've had a test report on one or the other laser cutter or laser engraver in the blog from time to time. Today, however, there is a report on a special device: the Atomstack A10 Pro, which the manufacturer sent me for testing. Why is he so special? Because with 10 watts of optical output power, it's pretty much insanely powerful.
I just cut cardboard with the settings that I used to operate the other laser cutters before and suddenly a lot of smoke came out of the cutting area. I thought I'd stop the job, but the smoke grew more and more until I realized that the cardboard had caught fire from the laser.
Making cardboard burn doesn't justify buying a $560 laser cutter, but my next try was a simple dirt road rock that I lasered with a simple circle.
Sparks flew during the laser engraving, which was probably due to the type of mineral. Luckily there was no fire, but an amazingly clean cut in the stone, which I didn't expect. I was thinking that there might be discoloration on the surface that might attack the upper rock, but that the Atomstack laser actually cuts the rock, which is beyond my expectation.
I have to admit that I found it a little difficult to set up, because the instructions are quite extensive and also available in German, but some of the drawings are a bit small and don't really show what to do. Ultimately, this video helped me here, which shows the individual steps for the construction and a small test of the laser:
After a good 30 minutes I had finished the laser and was ready for the first use.
Unfortunately, after starting Lightburn on my Mac, I got stuck a second time, because for the Atomstack A10 Pro you have to install a driver on the Mac, which was not the case with the other laser cutters before. Without a driver, Lightburn cannot find the laser and even after manually attaching the laser device, the message "Disconnected" only appears.
If you are looking for the driver, you will find it here in the downloads under "CH340 Driver (Mac OS)":
After installing the driver, I restarted it to be on the safe side, and then the laser with the name "cu.wchusbserial41410" was listed in Lightburn directly in the selection box next to the "Device button". As soon as you select this device or this port, you also get the feedback “ready” (instead of “disconnected”).
The box for the control is installed on the front of the laser, on which you can also find the emergency stop switch. The control electronics of the laser are housed in this box and obviously they have to be well cooled, because as soon as you switch on the laser, a rather loud fan runs - regardless of whether the laser is cutting or not.
The fan noise is a bit annoying as it actually makes a lot of noise. The reason you hear a fan is a good one though, as it is responsible for the Air Assist feature, which is beneficial for cutting and engraving. Air-Assist is the active air flow that blows the smoke away from the laser beam when lasering. This prevents the laser beam from fanning out through the particles and creating an unclean cutting or engraving image.
And I haven't had Air-Assist in any other laser cutter that I've tested. So I was a bit surprised by the fan noise. Incidentally, I did not manage to deactivate the fan in the laser head with the Air Assist switch. I assume this is hardwired and just runs continuously.
Update 15.09.2022/10/XNUMX: The fan in the laser head is a kind of "cheap air assist". If you are looking for a real air assist for the Atomstack AXNUMX Pro, you will find it here at Amazon and get a discount of 30 euros with the code "30FZBANX".
There is nothing to complain about here, but rather something to praise, because the aluminum elements that make up the laser are all blue anodized and look pretty classy. The rods and connections seem very stable to me and overall the workmanship makes a quite high-quality impression.
The control box on the front is made quite nicely and includes the power switch, the reset button, the SD card compartment, the emergency stop button and the sockets for power supply and USB cable.
On the side you will find a socket that connects the control panel to a touch screen. When not in use, the screen can be magnetically attached to the control box. Thanks to the spiral cable, the whole thing still looks very tidy.
According to Atomstack, laser safety goggles are not absolutely necessary for using the laser, as the laser head is shielded on all sides. It even has a blue panoramic protective glass on one side, through which you can watch the work, but which shields the laser very well, making it safe for the user.
The built-in protective glass in the laser module is a thing that you won't appreciate until you've done a few jobs with the Atomstack A10 Pro. At some point I stopped wearing glasses all the time because I think the glass is quite safe. Other modules also have such glasses, but these are never completely closed, so that a laser beam can still escape from the sides.
Of course, these two points are interesting: How does the laser ultimately perform in practice and what do the results look like when cutting and engraving.
At this point I would like to point out once again: Be careful with combustible materials. The output power of the laser is really high and due to the air supply via Air-Assist, it sets materials on fire faster than you can see. For this reason, I use a lower output power, higher speed and multiple passes with combustible materials so that the laser does not have a long impact on one point.
After the near-fire, I also wanted to create something meaningful and downloaded a fish fossil from the internet, which I adjusted with a little more contrast. The ulterior motive was that I would laser this drawing onto a rock and it might look like a fossil.
The high temperatures generated by the Atomstack A10 Pro at 80% power are sufficient to slightly melt the rock. As a result, the lasered areas have become dark, giving the impression of petrification. I'd say the project was a hit and my kids also said it looked pretty real.
Let's start with the stone. I got a gravel stone from the dirt road and just wanted to use it to test whether the laser can cut stone.
At first it looked as if there was actually a cut in the stone, but this only appeared to be the case because, unlike wood, stone does not evaporate as quickly and therefore does not form a groove. Instead, the material obviously melts but is not eroded. Even after lasering 30 times over the same line, I couldn't show a great cutting success.
Stone can therefore be used for engraving, but cutting should only work if it is a really thin stone slab of maybe one millimeter.
I did a few experiments on how best to cut plywood with the Atomstack A10 Pro. My 3mm sheet of plywood doesn't really pose a problem for the laser, but I like to do a little testing with different speeds and number of passes.
I ended up with 80% laser power, 600 mm/min speed and 3 passes. Then the cut was clean and the motif was no longer attached to any corner. You can see that the laser has a high level of accuracy in the individual passes, since it did not deviate visibly from the first cutting line.
In another test, I didn't do consecutive runs, but started the job with one run and then started the same job three more times to see how the lines differ here.
In this test, there was actually a deviation of approx. 1 mm, with the subsequent runs repeatedly loading precisely on the first cut. I either bumped into the table unintentionally or there was another reason for this discrepancy.
Important: if you just pause the job, nothing will happen in that direction as the laser head will continue exactly where it left off.
It's just to show that maybe you shouldn't expect that - once the laser has returned to the start position after a complete job - you shouldn't expect to engrave or cut 100% exactly congruently when you start again.
In the specifications and elsewhere I read that the laser can cut wood up to 20 mm thick. I tried this and it didn't work. I still allow eight millimeters, which was shown in a YouTube video with an authentic test report, but it can't be more with the included laser.
The reason for this is that the laser beam fans out again very quickly and it is visibly "blurred" after about a centimeter below the surface of the workpiece and thus loses its cutting effect. In my photo you can see a cut through a wooden floorboard, with the "tongue" being offset about 1 cm down. It is clearly visible that the line is sharply delimited at the top, while it is already approx. 1 millimeter wide in the lower left area.
Of course, when the laser's energy spreads out over a larger area, it can no longer cut wood effectively, and it becomes more difficult to do so as the depth of cut increases.
Laser modules are usually offered for cutting materials, which have a beam that remains focused for longer. Modules like this one that comes with the Atomstack A10 Pro are more suited to engraving work.
Of course, engraving motifs is one of the main areas of application for a laser. With a spot size of 0,01 mm (diameter), the Atomstack A10 Pro also reproduces small details very well. Of course, the built-in Air-Assist is worth its weight in gold here, as it protects the laser beam from contamination.
Incidentally, the two engraved photos were both created by me with the artificial intelligence Midjourney. How good the details are can perhaps be seen from the close-ups. Surely there could have been more by playing with the speed and max power a bit more, but I didn't have time to tinker here any further right now.
The Atomstack A10 Pro is not exactly a cheap model and is therefore perhaps more intended for the ambitious beginner. With the built-in Air-Assist you have beautiful engraving results and the laser power of 10 watts cuts excellently through various materials.
What I always miss with the lasers - also here with the Atomstack - is a "laser fire button", as it is called in Lightburn. So a low-intensity laser point that you use to see exactly where you're lasering. If I'm engraving on a small stone, I could tell if I'm working halfway down the middle. But this feature seems to be reserved for the really expensive devices.
The high processing quality, the large work surface, the emergency stop button, the security window and the chic look are plus points for me that speak for the Atomstack.
If you like working with an SD card and less directly with the computer, you will definitely be happy about the operation via the touch display. I hardly used it because I always send jobs directly to the laser with Lightburn on the Mac.
I can only recommend the Atomstack. It is not the cheapest option to start with, but you also get a higher quality and very safe version - unlike many cheap models.
You can find the Atomstack A10 Pro here on amazon (70 EUR discount with code "ZBANX70F"):
Jens has been running the blog since 2012. He appears as Sir Apfelot for his readers and helps them with problems of a technical nature. In his free time he drives electric unicycles, takes photos (preferably with his iPhone, of course), climbs around in the Hessian mountains or hikes with the family. His articles deal with Apple products, news from the world of drones or solutions for current bugs.
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