The Sculpfun S9 has more power than most inexpensive desktop lasers thanks to better focusing. It’s a successful product, though I’m probably looking forward to the next-gen S10.
- 90W Effect Laser Beam Shaping Technology
- Fast Focusing Design
- Solid and Easy-assembly Structure Design
- New Eye Protection Design
- Square Measuring Ruler
- Does not support offline work
- WIFI is not supported
Alongside 3D printers, cutting plotters and CNC routers, laser engraving devices have also arrived in price regions that make them very interesting for private users. The dual-axis lasers burn texts or graphics onto wood, bamboo, cork, leather or even mirrors or tiles at the touch of a button. The power of current models is even sufficient to precisely cut materials such as cardboard or thin wood.
However, lasers are not exactly safe for the eyes, which is why you should always wear protective goggles while working with the device. High-priced models do have a closed housing that protects against the laser light – but you won’t find such a housing in the entry-level class with a large work surface. We have meanwhile built a conversion including webcam and exhaust fan and are very satisfied with it.
After the laser engraving devices Laser Pecker, Twotree Totem S and Atomstack A5 Pro, the Sculpfun S9 now has to show what it can do in practice and whether the extra price compared to the other models is worth it.
The S9 is more expensive than the previous desktop lasers from our tests. Nevertheless, it only works with a comparable 5.5 W laser module. However, the module’s focusing has been changed by the manufacturer, which should result in significantly more power for cutting and engraving – which would justify the price.
As supplied, the machine has a working area of 410*420 mm. With an optionally available extension set, the working area reaches a size of 950*410 mm. This can then be used to engrave entire skateboards or tabletops. By comparison, the Neje KZ manages just 38*38 mm, the Laser Pecker manages 100*100 mm, and with the Totem S up to 300*300 mm is possible.
Our test device is touted as a 90W version – however, this is not the output line of the laser. As we already know, this reaches 5.5 W at a wavelength of 455 nm. Compared to the 1.6 watts of the Laser Pecker, this is at least decent.
The massive metal frame of the S9 is also the y-axis, on which the x-axis moves back and forth. The laser head sits on the x-axis and performs the lateral movements on it. Since this is a fixed-focus laser module, the distance to the workpiece must be adjusted to take advantage of the laser’s full potential. This works by means of two screws on the back of the laser head. Once these are loosened, the laser module is moved up and down along the z-axis. The manufacturer includes a small metal spacer for the perfect distance. Focusing works without tools in the S9. However, the solution is not quite as convenient as the Totem S with only one set screw. Nevertheless, this method is a good compromise between comfort and reliability.
This laser does not have end stops either. It’s a pity, because we had already missed them on the Atomstack A5 and the Totem S. If you regularly produce the same parts, you have to realign the laser and the object every time you use it, or retrofit the limit switches on your own. The S9 receives the data for cutting and engraving from the PC via USB cable. It is not possible to load data via memory card or USB stick.
The S9 kit arrives neatly packaged in the editorial office. Inside are the individual parts of the frame, including screws and tools. The pre-assembled laser head, a USB cable, some sample pieces for engraving and a concise manual are also in the box. The screws are packed in order according to the steps in the instructions. The individual parts are all neatly finished and leave a quality impression.
Assembling the dual-axis desktop laser took us just under 20 minutes in the test. The instructions including the illustrations are not first-class, but they are sufficient to assemble the laser.
After the setup, you first need a suitable place for the laser. In addition to sufficient space, a fireproof base and a power connection, there should also be a possibility for ventilation. If you have pets or children at home, you should also make sure that they do not have access to the laser while it is in operation. As mentioned earlier, the S9 is in a locked box with active ventilation in our home.
A board under the laser not only protects the floor or tabletop, it also serves as a positioning aid. Before engraving, we draw a precise frame around our motif and burn it into the wooden board. This way we can see where exactly we have to place our actual workpiece. Alternatively, we can determine the positioning by having the laser trace a frame around the object.
Instead of using the green and very uncomfortable goggles provided, we resort to our private safety glasses. Although the included green plastic glasses should protect against the laser light, we already found the model to be too small and correspondingly uncomfortable in the Totem S. Since we work with the S9 in a closed box, we no longer need the goggles and instead use a webcam to monitor the work progress. Basically, caution is always advised when working with lasers! Using such a powerful laser is not without risk. You have to decide for yourself whether you want to take this risk.
The S9 is very easy to operate for experienced users from the 3D printing sector and for users with sufficient basic technical understanding. Even the first tests with the Totem S are extremely satisfactory. Engraving wood, leather and a lacquered tile works flawlessly. The depth of the engraving already shows here that the S9 has more power than the desktop lasers tested so far. The 5.5 watt laser does an excellent job when properly focused. Outlines and details are crisp and noticeably burned into the wood.
On the 2 to 3 mm thick craft wood used, contrasts and grayscales are easy to see and distinguish. We test speeds between 800 and 2000 mm/min and 30 to 80 percent power for engraving. While we achieved excellent results with the Totem S for graphics at 1200 mm/min and 60 percent power, 2000 mm/min at 55 percent power is enough for us with the S9. If you’re in a hurry, you can go even faster, but that comes at the expense of quality.
What’s really exciting is how well the S9 cuts. The Totem S had already performed decently here, so our expectations for the more expensive S9 are high. Sculpfun advertises the laser as having a cutting capacity of up to 15 mm for wood and up to 10 mm for black acrylic. This seems very ambitious to us before the tests, after all, other 5.5 W lasers already reach their limit with 3 mm thick plywood.
To say it right away: The laser did not disappoint us.
The S9 cuts 2-mm-thick craft wood at 280 to 300 mm/min and 80 percent power in just a single pass. Very impressive and an extreme time saver over other models. With the Totem S, about three to five passes are necessary here. With the A5, even ten or more passes were needed. The S9 cuts the more demanding 3-mm plywood with identical settings in a total of three passes. The laser does cut through the material in places after the second pass, but not all the way through. You could still experiment with speed and laser power here.
We then also use the enclosed sample wood with a thickness of 10 mm. Here, the S9 needs just five passes with 280 mm/m at 80 percent power! This seems unrealistic to us. This must be due to the sample wood supplied. It is very soft, and the laser has a correspondingly easy time of it. So we get 10 mm thick poplar plywood from the hardware store and start another attempt. And lo and behold, it’s the wood. With five passes, it is not possible to get through the wood from the hardware store. To our astonishment, however, eight to nine passes are enough and the wood is cut cleanly. Unfortunately, we did not have 15 mm wood and black acrylic available. But with a little more power, slower speed and a few more passes, the manufacturer’s specifications seem realistic to us.
Cutting and engraving leather also works great. However, smoke and odor are extremely unpleasant, so we were glad to have active ventilation in the laser box. We only made a few tests with leather scraps, but achieved very decent results overall. However, much less power is needed here than when working with wood or slate.
If you are planning to engrave or cut plastics, it is essential to find out about the material properties beforehand. Many plastics produce pathogenic substances during the laser process, which must not be allowed to enter the lungs under any circumstances.
The software recommended by Sculpfun is also the free program LaserGRBL for the S9. It works, but we find the software neither clear nor intuitive. Therefore, we have been using the Lightburn software, which is also recommended by the manufacturer, as an alternative for some time. The program costs about 50 euros, but can be used free of charge as a test version for 30 days. If you decide to buy a laser engraver, you should additionally plan this budget for software.
After starting the software and configuring the work surface, all that is left to do is to set the starting position of the laser. The first work process can already start. This is followed by the import of the desired template, a pixel or vector graphic, and the adjustment of size and position. Lightburn supports JPEG, TIFF or DXF as well as numerous other formats.
We first position the graphic and chipboard and then adjust the settings for speed and laser power. Now we start the laser, which scans the motif and burns it into the surface. While small lettering is ready after a few minutes, larger graphics can quickly take several hours. How long the entire process takes also depends on your own settings.
Engraving is faster with vector graphics, which the laser simply scans. Pixel graphics (JPEG), on the other hand, are scanned line by line. This takes considerably longer, which is why you should always process fonts or logos in vector format to save time. One software for creating such graphics is Inkscape, which can be used free of charge. It also helps to convert JPEGs into vector graphics.
In order to reduce the load on the laser module and thus achieve the longest possible service life, the laser should operate at the full 100 percent as seldom as possible. We use the laser with a maximum of 80 percent power.
The Sculpfun S9 is a great laser engraver and with amazing cutting performance. If you actually want to cut with a laser, you will get an excellent and reliable tool at a fair price. Due to the new type of focusing, the S9 is clearly superior to other similarly powerful lasers in terms of cutting performance.
When it comes to engraving wood, Atomstack A5 or Twotree’s Totem S can easily keep up, but the S9 is worlds ahead when it comes to cutting at the latest. A cutting performance of over 10 mm is first-class for a diode laser. There are currently only one or two competitor models that promise a similar price-performance ratio. The S9 has convinced in the numerous engraving and cutting tests with great results and great reliability. Even cutting inexpensive plywood from the DIY store with up to 10 mm works surprisingly smoothly.
In practice, the unmarked zero point and the open housing bother us. In addition, the included goggles are a bit too small and therefore uncomfortable.