Laser engravers are a hot commodity now that they have become so affordable over the years. This includes models for simple etching jobs all the way to professional-level solutions that can cut through materials so you can create pieces out of wood, plastic, or even metal. We have covered quite a few options but today is a focus on one of the latter that can do many of these tasks for a reasonable cost. It is the new xTool S1 Enclosed Diode Laser Engraver and Cutter.
This machine is available with three different levels of laser power, including 2W, 20W, and 40W (there are also interchangable). Allowing you to slice through up to 18mm worth of wood (40W model). While also giving you the ability to etch and engrave on so many materials. Including woods, plastics, metals (ie, aluminum, stainless steel), stone, and more. It is both powerful and affordable, while also bringing with it a certain user-friendliness we really appreciate to see.
In our case, we got the 20W model (Basic Bundle) which isn’t as strong (can cut certain woods up to 10mm, for example), but is still more than formidable in our experience with it. Especially, since not everyone will need something as powerful as the 40W laser. Which is currently (at the time of posting this) on sale between $1,699 and $2,629, depending on the bundle option you choose. Normally $2,099 to $3,493. Just in time for the coming Black Friday (commercial) holiday.
This engraver has been a pleasure to make use of, from the very moment we popped it out of the box. Everything was held into place by thick velcro straps wrapped around everything. So xTool clearly wanted to make sure this made it to you in one piece.
Everything is heavily padded, and protected against normal delivery bumps and drags with so many layers of foam throughout the entire packaging.
There are so many layers of foam throughout that it must have been quite the puzzle for whomever designed the packaging strategy. Ultimately leaving us with a tower of foam at the end. There are little compartments all throughout giving way to parts and pieces of the unit hidden in various compartments. Taking care that nothing could cause any scratching or scuffing during the delivery process. The box had plenty of foam, and everything else was tucked away inside the machine with even more foam. But enough talk about foam.
The build process was also pleasing in its own way. Mostly because it didn’t take nearly as long as some of these options that don’t come enclosed like this (where you have to build their metal framework out and everything). Instead, most everything comes build for you within the enclosure. You only have to trouble yourself with the obvious steps.
For one, it comes with a nice adjustable exhaust tubing attachment to help redirect smoke away from the machine and into the direction of your choice. In our case, we ran it to a professional filter/fan unit that helps clean all of this so it doesn’t go into the air.
It easily attaches to the back by removing the normal vent/filter from the back and screwing this into its place using the same screws that held in the initial part. It can be stretched and bent into whatever direction you need so it can point out of a window or into a filter like we did (or simply just away from you if you are working in an open atmosphere like outside.
Of course, you don’t have to use the tubing as it does have the original filter/fan that is there. But this is way more efficient when it comes to keep smoke away from the user.
It comes with a small tool kit to help the install process go quickly and also includes common replacement pieces for if the little bits here and there start to experience a little wear over time. It also comes with two USB “keys” which control whether or not it can be used or not. It won’t function without one of these keys plugged into the back, so don’t lose them!
The toolkit cines with a nice re-usable little case and the company even includes a little grease to keep things moving smoothly.
Using the included screw driver, you have to remove two little rubber stopped that prevent the arm from sliding during shipment. There is one on both sides. They come out and you can either dispose of them or hold onto them in the toolbox like we did in case the unit needs to move to a new location one day.
Then you plug in the laser unit by slide a small pneumatic tube and a wire harness into its side. You slide it into place and apply a few screws to make sure it is nice and secure. Then you quickly attach the distance probe to the side which snaps right into place with a few magnets and you are done with the laser.
Now the arm can move manually, the laser is in place, the exhaust tubing is installed. You are technically ready to start using it. All you have to do is plug in one of the USB keys, attach it to a computer via USB, and power it on.
However, we got the basic bundle so it also comes with an Air Assist unit (to help keep smoke away from the laser’s path) and a honeycomb bed. The air assist helps to improve accuracy while the bed helps to reduce damage to the surface underneath, leads to cleaner cuts, and allows a space for smoke and debri to escape as well.
It also comes with magnets that slide into the honeycomb design and help to hold down your material as you are using the machine. Lessoning the chance of it sliding around as it is in operation. The chances are small, but if someone bumps the machine while it is working, this could help protect anything from being lost due to slight movements.
Inserting the honeycomb bed into place is easy as you simply just slide it in toward the back and to the right. All it does is sit there. It comes with and X and Y axis ruling etches into the bottom and left sides to help where needed and, as mentioned, the magnets can slide right into the holes to keep materials in place.
If you happen to get a bundle that doesn’t come with the bed or chose not to get a bundle at all and go pure vanilla with the machine (no added accessories), it does come with “triangular prism” rods that are used to slide underneath your material to help create space between it and the bottom of the machine. That way you still have a way to get air circulation underneath for smoke to help move around within.
As for the Air Assist unit, its installation is also easy. All you have to do is plug its tube between itself and the designated port on the back of the machine (seen in the above image). It also comes with a power cable that runs between the unit and the machine since the laser machine provides the power (no additional plugs to the wall needed).
In fact, the machine offers a number of a power ports for accessories. Including three on the back and one tucked away inside toward the front.
The backside is clean and easy to understand. The instructions also do a great job of walking you through everything. It literally is a book but you’ll be glad it is. As it holds your hand throughout the process of getting setup until you are ready to hook it to your computer. Also, everything is repeated in multiple languages, so “the book” goes really quickly.
There is a power switch, a power connection for the actual plug, a USB-C port that runs to your computer, a USB-A port for one of the security keys, the three power ports for accessories, the pneumatic tubing ports for the air assist unit (which we are using), and the fire safety unit (purchased separately). The latter is something you’d likely be interested in if you work a lot with wood or paper.
Looking back at those power ports, the company has additional accessories like its Automatic Conveyor Feeder that allows you to continue up to 3000mm in length as it automatically slides an item through as it is working. It has really considered everything it can into the development of this machine.
Of course, you can’t really do anything without software. This is the whole point of needing a computer plugged into the back of the machine. Thankfully, xTool has you covered regardless of how much experience you have.
You have the option of using the popular Lightburn software that works with pretty much any laser cutter/engraver out there. This is useful if you work with multiple models and brands. However, it does cost money and will take some time to learn if you haven’t done this before. Not only that, but it only supports the S1 with limitations for now (although they may come with time).
But xTool also has its own software (seen in the image above) that is much easier to work with and learn. On top of it all, it’s free and designed specifically for xTool’s machines. There are some features and profiles that are still needed but nothing that software updates can’t help with. For example, there needs to be more presets for various materials since this machine is capable of working with so many. However, there are plenty already in there to get started with and you can use the wonderful internet to research various setting to test out with other materials not listed.
Using it is as easy as selecting the shape of the surface, finding a defined material preset (hopefully), dropping the material you want to engrave/cut into the machine, clicking on the icon to probe it for distance, clicking on the mark button to mark the top left and bottom right of the material so you can get the working area on the screen, adding text/vector graphics/photos to your project within that selected work area, clicking on framing so it can quickly frame the area of your material is will process based on your project/settings, and then clicking process to send it to the machine. Hit the button on the front to trigger the job and the S1 will start to do its thing.
That is, of course, a summarized version of instructions. There are already instructional videos and tutorials out there to walk you through using the software. The point is that using the software is easy and fun once you have practiced a few rounds. Within no time, you will find yourself looking for things to engrave or cut.
The xTool software is also your source for updating the firmware of the machine. It is also where you can tell it to jump onto your local Wi-Fi network so you can opt to get rid of the USB cable and go wireless.
When it comes to creative processes like 3D printing and laser tools, we tend to look for anything we can to test something out with until we are told enough is enough. Thankfully, xTool did provide some sample materials in the box making it easy for the user to get a feel for how it works with various materials.
This includes glass, metal, stone, wood, ceramic, and pu leather. It is capable of more, but this simply for practice so you can get started. And this seems perfectly reasonable and we loved the stone coaster in the kit.
We started with the coaster since we have experience with these machines and knew exactly what we wanted to engrave onto it based on an image that Elon Musk posted on X (Twitter) for the Starship which just happened to recently launch for the second time.
The result was fantastic with a clean image engraved to the surface of the stone coaster. Resulting in a number of others claiming they wanted one for their desk. So now we may have to get our hands on more stone coasters or similar materials to fulfill this popular demand.
It is also quite fast in its operation. Most of our engravings moved at 200-400+ mm/s, leading to a quick finish for most of the materials we tested it against. You can get speeds of up to 600 mm/s with some materials (ie, paper).
We also found a great job someone else did with wood using the an image of “The Last Supper” that we thought was neat. It was posted within xTool’s community of users/projects so it was easy to run into.
So we used that as our test of the thin 3mm sheet of plywood. It came out great until we realized the sheet was likely more for practicing cutting shapes and stuff out of wood and not taking the entire thing up at once with a single image.
Since we didn’t want to cut into The Last Supper (it just didn’t feel right to do that), we broke out a piece of cardboard and cut some shapes out of that instead. There was a preset for that under “paper” as 3.5mm corrugated paper. We randomly dropped a bunch of stores onto it to see how well it cuts the points of the stars.
We had to drive up the power of the cutter up as the preset didn’t really select anything that worked in the settings, which was odd. But a single adjustment to power and we had a bunch of tiny little cardboard stars that were formed perfectly.
For fun, we did engrave the back of the cardboard piece as well before turning it over and cutting it into a bunch of stars. It also gave us a chance to add a little humor into the mix.
Then we just started throwing in whatever we wanted, engraving on (metal) network switches, lights, or anything else aluminum or similar. Some personal requests were taken into consideration, others simply involved adding some logos to random things in inventory used around the building or on-location during interviews at shows or company campuses.
Not everything aluminum was engravable though. For example, we tried engraving something to the backside of a Logitech iPad keyboard/cover (an older model) that has an aluminum back similar of the iPad. The best we could get was a soft ghost image of what was trying to engrave. I believe that has something to do with the finish somehow. We didn’t want to take the laser beyond reasonable levels to know for sure. Same reason we didn’t try engraving the iPad itself (that and it was someone’s personal iPad/cover).
Also, we didn’t find a setting that achieved any way of softly etching 3D printed items (filament). We tried using various flat printed pieces made from PLA, PLA+, and PETG. Some laser solutions will result in a fun alternatively colored print running across the filament. LaserPecker’s LP3 was a good example of this and it is used all the time for this exact purpose. However, the xTool S1 is a little “too much” for filament, leading to either nothing being etched, a nice engrave (same color as the filament though), the laser simply melting right through the filament. Thankfully, only a very small niche will likely be looking for this ability anyway. For those that are and take working with these laser machines seriously, we’d recommend owning both.
But almost everything we stuck inside of the machine resulted in fantastic engraves or cuts. We were quite impressed with it. It can work with flat or even curved surfaces. It’s probe will detect the distance between the laser and a flat object/material by probing it once. But if you select a curved surface, it will make multiple measurements to determine how the power of the laser should be adjusted. Just like you’d find with a 3D printer that has an auto-leveler (ie, BLTouch) installed
In some final points, we wanted to highlight the fact that there is a strong focus on safety. For example, the lid features the same protective tint/certification that you’d find with proper laser safety glasses. This means you do not need to wear glasses with this machine. We still do due to internal safety policies that can be a little strict here (but for good reasons), but it isn’t technically needed. It is also fire resistant. So if something ignites inside, it likely won’t be the end of the world for the machine (especially, if you are using the optional fire safety kit).
It also has a 5-way (four baffles and a laser module) flame sensor system for flame detection. There is an emergency stop switch on the right side of the unit that you simply have to hit to shut everything down. It will automatically stop if you raise the lid while it is working, as well as tilt/impact sensors.
All of this making for a great solution for everyone, including beginners that like to jump into things without reading all of the safety warnings a product may have (careful, your coffee may be hot…).
All-in-all, this is a fantastic machine with so many capabilities. It is user-friendly using the company’s software and supports the popular Lightburn as well. We spent all of our time with xTool’s own software though since it was just so easy to use and so focused on nothing but this machine. That and because it fully supports the machine vs Lightburn needing some updates to fully take advantage of it (if they come).
It didn’t take long to piece the few required things together, including the added accessories that are part of this bundle (air assist unit and honeycomb bed). Everything comes together nicely and works so well together. So much that I am curious to how well the fire safety kit works. For now, I am simply left with assumption and they all point to a positive expectation.
It doesn’t matter if you are a professional or simply an enthusiast/hobbyist. You will find so much use from this machine, you will likely be beyond satisfied with the purchase. Is it perfect? No. Nothing is. Does it come close? I’d say so. We haven’t run into anything heavy enough to make us feel differently about that. So it comes down to getting as close to perfect as you can for the price and I think xTool is on to something here!
On top of everything, xTool was gifted our Editors’ Choice award for this model due to all of its benefits, friendliness, and overall experience. The vote by our team was unanimous, which is rare.
|Our Rating||Average Price*|
$1,699 to $2,629.99
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
|Spec||xTool S1 20W|
|Product Certification||IEC/EN60825 US: FCC FDA Canada: IC Australia and New Zealand: RCM, SAA United Kingdom: UKCA Japan: Telec, PSE European Union: CE-RED, ROHS, EN60825, CE-MD|
|Spot Size||0.08*0.06 mm|
|Working Speed||600 mm/s|
|Working Area||498*330 mm 19.61*13 inches|
|Working Area with Automatic Conveyor Feeder||470mm*3000 mm (additional transmission rail is required)|
|Output Voltage||24V 8A|
|Support XCS System||Phone: Android & iOS|
Computer: Windows 10 or above & macOS
|Product Size||765*561*183 mm (excluding riser base) 765*561*268 mm (including riser base)|
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.