xTool S1 laser cutter review

By Ben Everard. Posted

Laser cutters are great tools for makers. They let you cut shapes out of – or engrave images into – sheet material quickly and accurately. By piecing together different shapes, you can build up 3D objects much faster than you can with a 3D printer.

If you’re after a laser cutter, there are a few things to consider. Let’s take a look at some of the key things you have to think about, and take a look at how the xTool S1 (£1799) stacks up.

The first big decision to make is safety. Many budget machines aimed at makers are unenclosed. That means there is nothing to stop the laser beam from being reflected back towards the operator. Exposed lasers are dangerous. Very dangerous. A beam powerful enough to cut wood is easily powerful enough to blind you instantly. Yes, you can wear laser goggles, but this isn’t a good solution, and when your sight (and the sight of anyone else who might happen to open a door) is at stake, then we want the best possible protection.

No tool is perfectly safe, but the xTool S1 comes packed with a lot of safety features. It’s fully enclosed, so it should be impossible for any lasers to leak out. If you open the door while it’s in use, it’ll automatically stop.

Flame off Another significant safety risk when using a laser cutter is fire. The S1 has a flame detector which will stop it if what you’re cutting catches fire. You can also plumb in a fire extinguishing system, but we didn’t have a suitable system to test this with. Finally, you need to consider the fumes given off by the material as it burns or vaporises away. Being fully enclosed, the S1 catches the fumes but it will need to vent them. There’s a hose that you can poke out of a window or plumb into an extraction system. If this isn’t possible, an air filter is available separately.

The enclosure keeps fumes and laser beams contained

Once you’ve looked at safety, you might want to consider power. Laser power isn’t completely comparable between different systems: a diode laser will cut materials differently to a CO2 laser of the same wattage; different wavelengths of light are absorbed by materials differently; and a laser cutter that requires mirrors will lose some power as the light is reflected.

The xTool S1 has a choice of three different power options: 2 W infrared laser, and 20 W and 40 W blue laser modules are available. We tested the 20 W version and found that it worked well with wood (both MDF and construction plywood) up to about 10 mm thick, and worked excellently with laser ply. This cutting power is comparable with CO2 lasers that we’ve used. For wood and plastics, the S1 should serve hobbyists well.

This pin is used to autofocus the laser

Perhaps the biggest selling point of the S1 is its ease of use, and on this, it really is excellent. There’s autofocusing (with adjustable depth offset for cutting through thick materials) and a system for locating your objects on the print bed. Both of these work in slightly unusual ways. The autofocusing works with a rod attached to the side of the laser. This then probes the surface. Once it’s probed, the print head whizzes off to the side to push it up and out of the way so it doesn’t interfere with any of the engraving. Should the probe hit something, it’s magnetically attached, so it can pop off without damage.

Laser locator The system for locating your items uses a visible laser that’s in the same place as the laser cutter. You physically place the laser head in one point, then press the button to mark the point, then move it to another point, press the button, and so on until you’ve marked out the necessary points. The software then converts these points to a rectangle, circle, polygon, or other shape that lets you place your work in the correct position relative to this shape.

All of this needs software to support it, and in the case of the S1, that’s xTool Creative Space.

Our only gripe with the software is that it needs an internet connection to work. This is the case even when connected to the laser cutter over USB (you can connect over Wi-Fi). We can’t see why this is the case, and it does make us concerned about what would happen if xTool went out of business, or shut down this particular service.

xTool Creative Space has a few features, both useful and odd. It can automatically generate QR codes for you. It also has an AI system for generating artwork that we’re still getting our heads around. On this, you have to pay for each set of generated images using credits. You get a set of credits when you create your account, but after that, you have to generate more by sharing projects on the xTool website.

The S1 is also compatible with LightBurn, but not all of the features are available in this software.

Overall, we’ve been really impressed with the xTool S1. However, there are two areas that are potential pitfalls. The first is size. It can only cut 498 × 319 mm. You can fit material up to 600 × 400 mm, which might be useful if you don’t have a good saw for cutting up sheet material, but you won’t be able to cut against the edge of the sheet which, depending on what you’re cutting, might mean material waste. The other thing we can’t ignore is the price. The setup we tested cost £1799. You can get laser cutters cheaper than this, and you can get bigger, more powerful laser cutters for around the same price. However, given the full range of what’s on offer with this machine – the safety features, ease of use, and the power – we think it represents excellent value.



An easy-to-use, fully enclosed laser cutter at a reasonable price


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