WHAT IS THE CHEAPEST LASER ENGRAVER YOU CAN BUY?
I’m a lover of laser engravers and on a quest to find the very best one. I have some ideas on what would make the best laser engraver. But for the moment I’m on a quest to find the cheapest laser engraver that you can buy. And I want that laser engraver to actually be viable. Did I find it? Let’s find out.
HOW THIS STARTED
I try to read everything I can about laser engravers in the hopes to be some kind of expert. I once stumbled across a video on YouTube entitled ” The Cheapest Laser Engraver on Amazon“. The author had found a laser for $99 and he put it through its paces. Sadly, by the time I saw the video the $99 laser was no longer available. So I set out to find something equally inexpensive and to see if it worked.
The price point for budget lasers now seems to be about $200. I did find a great laser for about $169 and I blogged about that here. It took me a month or two to find anything cheaper than that. Finally, I stumbled across a complete laser that cost cost $122.04 shipped. Typically, to find the really inexpensive stuff you need to search the Chinese website, Aliexpress. And that is just what I did.
THE CHEAPEST LASER I COULD FIND
What I found was this: A USongShine Laser with a 2.5 watt optical output and a 380x380mm working area. The advertised cost was $125.30 with free shipping. I’m of the belief that the Usongshine laser is a Two Trees laser. It doesn’t say that in the ad but the part number contains a TT (25) and the tab on my browser says “Twotrees Laser”.
Whether it is or it isn’t a Twotrees is inconsequential to me. It is a $125 laser and the cheapest I could find. After putting it in the cart it cost $114.32 and after tax was applied the total cost was $122.04. That my friends, is about as cheap as it gets for a laser engraver. This is truly the cheapest laser engraver (for now).
What are the downsides here? First of all in the advertisement it looks, feels, and smells like a 1st generation desktop laser, circa 2019. The motherboard is a GRBL board but the board I got differs from the ad. Finally this version of the laser is a 2.5 watt optical output, which means it is weaker than the weakest machines of this generation You’re not going to be doing much cutting with this (not so) bad boy.
YEAH, BUT WILL IT SHOW UP?
I purchased it on 9 Jan, 2023 and received a shipping notice on 13 Jan. It looks like the cheapest laser engraver is really in the mail. Sure enough it was delivered on the evening of 17 January. 8 days from order to delivery ain’t too shabby!
ASSEMBLY AND TEST
Laser engravers from this generation were way harder to assemble than current laser engravers. I blocked out a couple hours to put this together. This looks similar in design to the old Ortur Laser Master 2 or early DIY laser engravers. I followed this assembly video on YouTube which was pretty good. Total construction time was about 1 hour and 10 minutes with a successful test.
Normally I’d say, “This part of the instructions were awful” and then explain why. I can’t say that here. All hardware was bagged and labelled which really made things simple.
I watched the video, sat out the parts for the indicated sections, watched, and then paused the video. Then I completed that section. The kit was even a bit more assembled than the video indicated. All cables were already attached to the mainboard.
Cable management is kind of a train wreck, but what do you expect for a $120 laser engraver?
The rubber rollers on the extruded aluminum frame are similar to DIY and 1st generation laser design. Hey, but it works fine and they even provide an eccentric nut on the lower roller wheel for adjustment. The builder should take a little time and adjust the Y rollers to the same tension. I just adjusted them and then leaned the frame up until they ran down at the same speed. This adjustment will aid in accuracy, especially repositional accuracy.
The Laser Module
The module is a 2.5 watt, D-B2500F, 12 volt module. 2.5 watts is more aligned with engraving that it is with cutting. Focusing is done manually until you see the laser dot as small and compact as possible.
I found engraving to be pretty adequate and I did some tests where I engraved and had the machine go back to the frame point (no limit switches, remember), and then had it do several independent passes. Repositional accuracy was totally acceptable. Not all lasers can do this accurately. This one did. Not bad for a $120 laser engraver.
The motherboard is actually different than the one depicted in the advertisement. The board designation is MKS LTS V1.1 This board has an ESP32 chip on it and the included manual indicates it has a wifi app that can be downloaded. The inclusion of this exact motherboard is included in the documentation that came with the TT-25 laser. But, I cannot find any information on the internet of a Makerbase MKS LTS V1.1 motherboard.
After some digging I did find that the newer laser, the TTS-25 (or TTS-55) comes with this motherboard. So it seems like my budget laser ships with a new 32 bit motherboard. The TT-25 shipped with an 8 bit motherboard. Winning!
No firmware update seems available yet for it. The installed firmware seems to be version 1.1 dated 2022 09 08
[VER:1.1.2022090801:] [OPT:PHSW] [MSG:Using machine:LKS TS3] [MSG:Mode=AP:SSDI=Laser_49:IP=192.168.4.1:MAC=8C-CE-4E-BC-31-01] ok
It should be noted that no limit switches are on this laser so operation is mostly manual. You can add limit switches easily as the board has connectors for them. Having the power port, and USB port on top is weird but the inclusion of wifi at the $120 price point is a nice surprise.
The wifi broadcasts a hotspot which you connect to on your phone or computer. Then type the following address in your browser, 192. 168.4.1
The password is 12345678
Web control works okay although I didn’t mess with it too much.
Best I can tell……there isn’t any. The manual provides a singular email address. I can’t find a UsongShine website and I sure can’t find downloadable manuals or firmware. I did send an email but it is the beginning of Chinese New Year. Not really expecting to hear anything for a while. That’s okay. Again, this seems like a mash up between the TT-25 and TTS-25 laser from TwoTrees that is rebranded.
Does It Work?
Yep. Works fine. Here’s a video of my first burn.
And here is the first “Fill” test I did of the letter J.
And finally I engraved the United States Navy Emblem. Had to go slow (15mm/sec) and 95% power to get a good clean burn. No air assist was used. I might have been able to back off just a hair. But it turned out nice.
Set it up in Lightburn like this:
- USB Serial
- 380mm x 380mm
- Front Left for Home and Turn off auto-home
I’ll give this a further shakedown later however my salient point stands. This is currently the cheapest laser engraver that I could find, and it functions as it should.
This would be a decent machine for light engraving such as for adding makers marks to CNC projects or as a backup machine just to keep your head above water while your primary machine is down for maintenance.
I had kind of planned on being underwhelmed because I own the latest and greatest desktop diode laser engravers, and yet I am not. In fact, I’m a little bit impressed and happy with the whole experience.
To complete the project I made a spoilboard, added some securing feet, and designed a grid in Lightburn. The grid engraving came out perfect.
If you love laser engravers, this is well worth $120 to play around with.