Reviewing the Aufero laser cutter
Ortur recently sent me one of their desktop laser cutter and I've been keen to share my thoughts on their product, the build process and overall experience.
Many generative artists have been thinking of venturing from pen plotters to laser cutters to experiment with a different medium. Could the Aufero be the right tool for that?
The Aufero's pricing starts at $199 at the moment, with an extra 10% off with the discount code GENERATIVEHUT. Let's see how it fares.
The model I'm reviewing is the 4.5-5.5W Short Focus which has the finest definition. Two other configurations are available as well.
Highlights of Aufero Laser Cutter
- Engraving Area: 180mm×180mm
- Pre-assembled package
- Wave Length: 445±5nm
- Control Softwares: LaserGRBL (free), LightBurn (Paid Software)
Ortur offers fast delivery. The parcel got delivered in less than a week (London). The parcel was undamaged and the packing was sturdy.
The Aufero comes preassembled so no need to spend an afternoon assembling a kit or getting confused over setup instructions.
The Aufero runs on a custom motherboard with 32-bit MCU. It can pre-process 32 instructions, clocking at up to 921600 baud rate. The advertised engraving speed can be as high as 5000mm/min. It comes with a 24V/2A power supply (US format). The structure is made of aluminium profiles and acrylic and most parts are either machined or laser cut.
In this first part, I'm reviewing the 4.5-5.5 W Short Focus which has the finest definition spot. The two other configurations are the lower power 1-1.6 W diode which will only be able to do engraving, whereas the two other modules are both 4.5-5.5 W and will enable cutting through some materials such as cardboard, plywood, acrylic and leather.
The 4.5-5.5 W Short Focus has a neat magnetic guard to keep things safe and tidy. Definitely a nice touch for an affordable system. Speaking of safety, you'll find in the box a pair of safety goggle to keep you out of harm of your laser.
I actually use LightBurn so I tested the Aufero using this software.
The setup is relatively straight forward.
1/ Download and install LightBurn by dragging and dropping the file to your Applications folder.
2/ Open up LightBurn. Click on Devices -> Add Manually and follow the wizard to add your Aufero. Choose GRBL, Serial/USB, and on the third page input the dimensions of the engraving area: 180x180mm. Keep front left and Auto Home ticked and you're good to go.
3/ Now you need to attach your laser module, plug the cable and ground it to the pin that is available near the mounting plate. When this is done, you need to prepare the material you want to engrave and ensure the laser is going to be well focused. You'll find in the kit the appropriate spacer that allows you to keep the right height between your laser source and the material. This is very easily done with the quick release bolt that holds the laser module in place.
4/ Load your design. This can be an image in jpg or png format, or a vector file. You can even copy paste your artwork directly from Illustrator.
4/ Edit the speed and intensity of each stroke type to fit your material/how much smoke you you can deal with. For instance for cutting thin paper I'm using 30/80, and for engraving I'm at 60/80. This you will have to adjust yourself with trial and error.
5/ Make sure you're not about to set your house on fire. Check that your substrate is secured in position and that nothing is going to obstruct the path of your laser module. Turn the laser on, plug the usb and put your goggles on. The Aufero should auto home.
6/ You're all set. Hit that Start button.
What I like
I'm quite impressed by how well this laser cutter performs. It works straight out of the box. The build quality is good, the magnetic cover for the module makes it feel far from budget.
The drawings are precise and sharp on lower speed. The modules are easy to set up and the spacer makes it very easy to engrave on any surface regardless of how thick it is.
The fact that it works with LightBurn is nice, as it fits my workflow very well. Paths get optimised automatically which means quicker production time.
The motors run smoothly, and surprisingly the whole system is very quiet.
All in all, this feels like the type of gear that doesn't get in the way of your creativity and let you experiment a lot.
There seems to be some good failsafe features. I once knocked my desk and it paused so that's reassuring that there are a few extra precautions built in.
What I wish
The lines can get some distortion at higher speed which is expected for this kind of structure. It actually goes very fast! There is no extraction so be prepared to aerate your room or you'll smell like campfire for the rest of the day.
Obviously it's both a plus and a minus but coming from an A3 plotter, 180x180mm is quite small.
To sum up this review, the Aufero is definitely a good choice if you're looking to get started with laser cutting. Expect a sturdy machine that works straight out of the box. You'll be able to experiment with all sorts of materials and won't have to spend much time tweaking belt tensioning, loose couplings and the like.
The plug and play experience makes the Aufero a good fit for a wide range of generative artists. If you're looking for a large engraving area this is obviously going to feel limiting but if you want a system that fits on your desk, the form factor is really convincing.
Compared to plotting, there is a little bit more risks involved with laser cutting so make sure to be responsible, but with the goggles and failsafe systems, you've got your bases covered.
Where to buy
You can get the Aufero on auferolaser.net for $180 instead of $249 for the 1-1.6W version and $270 for the 4.5-5.5W version by using the coupon code GENERATIVEHUT.