Laser engravers are cool. They’re designed to allow you to decorate, emboss, and even cut multiple materials including wood, metal, and glass and they sound like really angry 3D printers that shoot of a stream of fire. That’s why I was excited to try out the TwoTrees TTS-20, a 20W laser engraver aimed at the DIY market that is large enough to do some very interesting things.
The device, which costs $480, consists of a large frame and a powerful diode laser. The unit I tested also came with a smoke pump to draw exhaust away from the laser and a honeycomb work surface to keep objects stead. The laser blasts out a bright blue light onto a work surface of about 16 by 16 inches. It has 0.1mm accuracy, which means you can get some fairly nice cuts out of this thing.
Before we get into this thing, let’s talk about what a laser engraver does and who needs one.
What is a laser engraver?
Laser engravers use high-powered lasers to etch, mark, or cut a wide range of materials, including wood, metal, glass, plastic, and leather.
The precision and accuracy offered by laser engravers are unmatched. Traditional mechanical engraving methods can’t compete with the fine detail and clean lines that a laser can achieve. This precision is crucial in industries like electronics, where a fraction of a millimeter can make a significant difference. It allows for the creation of intricate designs and fine text, which are essential for branding, personalization, and artistic applications. You can, for example, use this to burn images into wood or metal and even emboss leather and wood to make fun coasters.
Another major advantage is the versatility and adaptability of laser engravers. With the ability to work on a broad spectrum of materials and surfaces, these machines are incredibly useful across various sectors. From creating bespoke jewelry pieces to mass-producing industrial parts, laser engravers cater to a wide range of needs. Additionally, they can be easily reprogrammed for different tasks, making them ideal for both one-off projects and repetitive production runs.
Efficiency and speed are also key benefits. Laser engravers can complete tasks much faster than traditional methods, significantly reducing production times. This efficiency is a major asset for businesses looking to scale up their operations or meet tight deadlines. Moreover, the non-contact nature of laser engraving means there is minimal wear and tear on tools, reducing maintenance costs and downtime.
Safety and environmental considerations further highlight the value of laser engravers. Since the process is contactless, there is a reduced risk of accidents compared to manual engraving methods. Additionally, laser engraving produces less waste and can be more environmentally friendly, especially when compared to processes that involve chemicals or significant material removal.
The average DIYer probably won’t need a laser engraver until, well, they decide it’s time to get one. Laser engravers and cutters let you build DIY Raspberry Pi enclosures, cut puzzles, and even etch channels into surfaces for wiring and lights. While it’s not immediately apparent why you’d buy one, if you’re one of those folks who does a lot of electronics, crafts, or DIY home projects, a laser engraver might be a great choice. Now, on to how this particular model performs.
Is the TwoTrees’s Laser Engraver TTS-20 Pro a good product?
Once you get past the design of his large, light engraver, you can start to see the ingenious engineering that went into the TTS-20. Basically, this is a square of metal that supports a quickly-moving laser head. A pair of servo motors control the position of the head on the cutting surface and you simply send GCode – code designed for cutters and automatic lathes – to the system to begin zapping your favorite objects.
Setup is quite simple if you don’t mind a few screws. The frame goes together quickly and then all you have to do is add the control unit on one side of the device. You then connect the motors and the laser and lay it down on a flat surface. It took about 30 minutes to assemble and the instructions were readable and complete.
The software, which is actually a product called LightBurn, is straightforward but not very well documented from TwoTree’s side. To position a print exactly right requires quite a bit of eyeballing because you can’t really set a “home” position on the engraver’s printing platform. I definitely tried to position the laser properly but in the end I was reduced to running a test on some scrap wood and then positioning the item I wanted to engrave over the test.
Unfortunately, TwoTrees doesn’t offer much help when it comes to setting up the engraver with LightBurn. This is fairly typical for this kind of DIY product, however, because it assumes some level of GCode or similar knowledge. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of trial and error to get an engraving right which could be frustrating to beginning users.
That said, a laser engraver of this size and speed for $480 is definitely an interesting prospect. This is a niche product for a DIY and crafts fan who might want to make cool stuff for sale on Etsy or at craft fairs. It works well, is very speedy, and barring some frustrations with the software, is well worth the price.