If you are trying to buy a laser engraver for the first time, the entry level price can be a bit daunting. Entry level prices can exceed $600 for a “budget” laser. I personally am always on the lookout for bargain basement priced lasers. Today, I think I have found the Mother Of All Deals. Let’s chronicle my never ending search for a cheap laser engraver.
Cheap Laser Engravers
I’ve written on this subject before. Finding a bargain in this hobby is worth writing about. My previous favorite budget machines that I reviewed were the TwoTrees TT-25 and the Ortur Aufero AL2. I found the TwoTrees machine (actually a rebrand) on Aliexpress for about $122. The Ortur Aufero 2 ended up costing around $170. Both of those are bargains although the TwoTrees machine was a 2.5 watt laser. I typically prefer at least 5 watt machines.
Desktop lasers became commercially marketed in around 2019. Unless I miss my guess, Ortur was first to the commercial market with their Laser Master 1 followed up shortly by the Laser Master 2. Laser Engraver Costs were fairly inexpensive at this early juncture and you could go all in for $200 to $300 or so depending on where you ordered it from. That would get you 4.5 – 5.5 watts of output power. In my opinion, these were the golden days of desktop lasers in regards to cost vs. capability.
Sculpfun provided me an S9 laser to review. Shortly before they officially released their 33 watt upgrade kit they also sent me one to review. After installation I noted that when doing small “LINE” engravings that the laser had to slowed down considerably. I ordered and installed the Sculpfun Linear Rail Kit to see if it improved stability.
Boy, did it ever.
The pic pretty well illustrates the issue. Heavy motor on the top pulling one direction, and heavy and large laser module pulling in the other direction.
Again, I need to state that this configuration works……you just have to slow things down a bit.
Sculpfun provided me an S9 laser and then subsequently provided me a Sculpfun S9 to S30, 33 Watt Upgrade Kit. I did a “First Impressions” blog which you can read here. After using it for a couple of weeks I decided to do a deeper dive on upgrade kit.
The S30 Ultra 33 watt module is considerably larger than the original S9, 5.5 watt module and contains a lot of really cool features
Most noticeable is the addition of an all metal air assist. One of my favorite features of the air assist is that it not only is secured in place with an allen screw, it also threads on and contains an O-ring to keep the air contained.
The tube is considerably larger than most competitors air assists which allows for a higher volume of air movement.
Removing the air nozzle allows for access to the lens for cleaning.
Diode laser modules are roughly 5.5 watts and to obtain higher wattages, multiple diodes are combined into one beam. In the case of a 33 watt module that means there are 6 individual blue diode laser modules.
There is one important point that I would like to make before I begin this review. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Inside your brand new Sculpfun S9 is an ESP32, Internet of Things (IoT) chip. Right next to it is a tiny antenna connector. Let’s set up the Sculpfun S9 Bluetooth, shall we?
While I don’t think Sculpfun has enabled WiFi in the firmware, the bluetooth is ready to roll and it isn’t that hard to get working.
You basically just need to remove the cover from the motherboard by removing the 4 screws on the back. Once the mainboard is exposed you just need to hook an antenna to it. Bluetooth is 2.4 GHz so basically any wifi antenna with the proper connector will work. Here is what you need to do:
The Sculpfun S9 is a great laser and is available at a fantastic price point. Any time the price is low on something you can bet a bell or a whistle was left out to keep the final cost down. One way to cut corners on a laser is to offer them without limit switches. Without switches, the laser will not automatically return to the home position (X0, Y0). Positioning is accomplished manually. Fortunately there is a Sculpfun S9 Limit Switch kit available for purchase.
There is nothing wrong with a laser that does not have limit switches. In fact, some people prefer lasers that don’t have limit switches. A lot of the time, I am one of those people.
Equally safe to say that there are a lot of people out there who wouldn’t own a laser that didn’t have limit switches. Anyway, with the S9, at least you have the option.
The cost of the kit is $27.99 and is all inclusive. The kit works for both the S9 and the S10 models. There are differences in the installation procedures but the kit contains all the stuff you need to install on either model. That probably means you’ll have some stuff left over in your kit when you are done with the mod.
Sculpfun gave me a Sculpfun S9 for review and I posted my initial impressions about a week ago. After a week of some testing and more usage I can provide a more authoritative opinion on the laser. In a nutshell I find that the S9 is far above average for the price point that it resides in. In my opinion this would make an excellent entry level laser for someone. Or even better, it would make an excellent back up machine for a home business or side hustle.
I read a lot of laser forums. Everyday I read posts like this. “The laser has broken and I have orders to fulfill”. You’d be able to fulfill them if you owned a backup machine.