xTool F1 Slide Extension
Recently, the laser company xTool began shipping their F1 machine. I was fortunate enough to receive one from them and did an initial impressions review here. They are now providing a great accessory, the xTool F1 Slide Extension ($199) and it is available now for purchase.
The F1 is a galvo laser, which is fast, but galvo lasers generally have a very small working area. Because galvo lasers have a mirror system which directs the laser beam and the lens is fixed focal length, the further the beam gets from the lens, the more out of focus it becomes. So that keeps the working area fairly small.
The Engineers at xTool have designed a BRILLIANT method of expanding the engraving length along the X axis (right to left) by UP TO 4X’s.
This creates ample room to engrave longer items, make signage, and to create templates to engrave more than one item at a time.
I’ve said this before, but xTool is the most innovative laser manufacturer out there. They are providing engineering solutions to overcome machine limitations in ways that I have not seen before.
After looking at photos of this Slide Extension and then seeing the delivered box on my porch I went to pick it up and was shocked to find that it was way heavier than I expected. Lifting it out of the box I realized this is no cheaply made gadget. This thing has some heft to it. Installation is super easy and you will need their XCS software to calibrate the slide extension. I found an excellent installation video featuring my favorite xTool presenter, Twiggy. Her product knowledge and enthusiasm is a gigantic plus!
Follow that unboxing, installation, and calibration video and you’ll be all set. They even provide an example run of business cards and show you how to use the guide markings for spacing.
Just as the F1 laser is intuitive, so is the Slide Extension. I took one look at this thing, scratched my head, and realized it would be a breeze to make a business card template. I managed to fit 6 cards into the working area. XCS software and their Grid Array tool made it super simple.
One thing I want to note is that your template perimeter needs to start at X0, Y0. Then when you go to actually engrave the item make sure that the upper left hand corner of your template is set to X0, Y0 on the actual bed of the machine.
Note that my template perimeter is aligned to the upper left hand corner of the grid.
Because this was thicker material (I didn’t have any thin stock around) I actually cut this on my xTool D1 Pro 20 watt. Anyway, be sure to design in XCS and then cut in XCS. My cutouts are 54 x86mm with 6 rows and 10mm spacing. Someone on the xTool F1 forum mentioned I should have put some finger notches in them. They are right. But we’re at the prototype, proof of concept stage right now. Spit and polish to follow.
My cards fit snugly into the template and I declare it a success. That is some 5mm wood and I’d have preferred making it out of 3mm or even thinner.
While I have 6 slots it might have been better to just make 5 and to also make the height of the template a little smaller. My board is JUST big enough that clamping was a challenge. Anyway, it works. It’s good, maybe great, but not perfect.
Subsequently, my greater point here is that making a template is EASY. Just design it to align at X0, Y0 coordinates and when you fill in the middle with your text or photos, it will engrave right where you told it to.
Go Speed Racer, Go
When I put my template on the forum among the first comments were “Is this faster than just making one a time?”. Apparently, some think that the slide extension may slow things down at bit. And they may be right. Let’s see.
I made 12 business cards for myself.
- 6 made on template on the Slide Extension
- 6 processed one at a time
- Both were identical using IR @ 90% power and 154 mm/sec
- The bottom line had 3 passes
Okay, you can say this isn’t an optimum business card designed for efficiency and mass production but the test parameters had to be identical, and hey, that was the card I designed.
The six made using the slide extension took 18 minutes 38 seconds.
The six made individually took 13 minutes and 28 seconds.
It’s pretty clear that making them 1 at a time is WAY faster.
Now maybe this is 60 year old, retired me talking but it was also pretty tedious making them one at a time.
I couldn’t accomplish much between cards and it felt kind of like working on an assembly line.
My conclusion is that if “time is money” then by golly feed them one at a time. However, setting up 6 at a time and getting almost 19 minutes to take photos, or write blogs, of surf the web was preferable to me personally. But there can be NO DOUBT that single feed wins the speed contest.
The xTool Slide Extension is COOL! Adding 4X’s the X axis travel really pushes the boundaries of a galvo laser with a previously much smaller work area. Yep, it might be a little slower but it adds some enhanced capabilities to your arsenal.
I like it. I love it. I want some more of it. ~Tim McGraw (and The LaserOG)