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Atomstack A5 Simplifies Laser Engraving

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A5 pro

The prices of laser cutters and engravers have been dropping, which is why I decided to give it a try. A few days later, I received the Atomstack A5. This is a 20 W laser engraver, not a cutter, although it can cut plywood up to about four or five millimeters. Also, it's not good for engraving metal, as it seems to be able to engrave aluminum too.

The A5 comes as a kit of parts that you must assemble yourself. It's not very difficult and all the tools it needs are included in the kit. These six steps take about 30 minutes total to complete, and you'll end up with a quality, dependable component. All solid aluminum with no plastic parts (except the goggles).

Atomstack A5 PRO 40W  Laser Engraving Machine

Make sure the strap is tightened properly. Not too tight, not too loose, you want a smooth glide. The same goes for the guide wheels in step 5. If it's too tight, you might feel a click when you move the X axis; if it's too loose, things might start to wobble. The laser head also has a guide wheel, which may also need adjustment.

The software that controls the Atomstack A5, LaserGRBL, is free. There's also LightBurn, which isn't free, but has a limited-time fully functional free trial. Once you have mastered your router, you might want to give it a try.

The installation manual included with the kit doesn't explain how to use the engraver, nor does the Atomstack website. By the way, the LaserGRBL tool is an open source tool developed by arkypita, not related to Atomstack, which is helpful in itself, but doesn't provide real guidance either.

After connecting the A5 to my Windows 10 computer, I noticed that it requires a CH340 USB-to-serial converter driver. However, you don't have to search for it online, as it's conveniently included in LaserGRBL's Tools menu.

There is also an option to upload firmware, which is possible because the Atomstack control hardware is actually a custom Arduino running the popular open source g-code interpreter GRBL. That's great news for manufacturers and hackers, because there's nothing proprietary inside the A5.

As a first try, I repeated the plywood cutting benchmark shown in the video on the LaserGRBL website. I load the sample drawing in LaserGRBL and hit the play button. After a few minutes, I cut a circle (along with some plastic sample material) from a small piece of plywood included in the A5 kit.

Engraving an image on a piece of wood is a bit difficult. Sculpting is easy to pick up, but sculpting something correctly takes practice and experimentation. However, after a few bad and burnt sculpts, I managed to get a clean result.

The trick is to consult the materials database built into LaserGRBL. It has a section on Atomstack A5 which recommends setting the laser power to 28% for wood. Using this value with constant power instead of dynamic power produces beautiful results. Also, it is important to focus the laser by moving the head up and down.

I highly recommend doing all of this in a well-ventilated room, or preferably outside (as I did). Laser engraving works by burning the material, thus producing various toxic concentrations of fumes that you don't want to inhale. Also, wear goggles!

The Atomstack A5 laser engraver comes as a complete kit, including tools, green goggles, and even some sample material for practice. Assembling the kit is easy and, when done correctly, results in a solid, sturdy tool with smooth sliding X and Y axes and a stable head.

We also recommend more powerful lasers: atomstack a10 pro , atomstack s10 pro , atomstack s20 pro

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