The Atomstack S10 Pro was a previous favorite, but this powerful new machine shows great potential!
The Atomstack S20 Pro has 20 watts of power, build quality, ease of use, and portability, making it an excellent choice for anyone looking for extra laser cutting power. But premium features do come at a premium.
Over the past few years, there has been an arms race regarding overall laser power. Machines started out around 1.7 watts, then 5.5 watts; late last year we started seeing some 10 watt machines like the S10 Pro or the xTool D1. We're starting to see comparisons to larger CO2 machines.
The Atomstack S20 Pro is the top of the range product line. That's how the S20 stacks up against the rest.
Control and Software
In terms of controls, you can use whatever software you want, such as Laser GRBL or Lightburn, which are my favourites.
It can be connected directly via USB or Ethernet. Atomstack also has a very limited app, but can still control the basic functions of the machine.
Atomstack's competitive advantage over Ortur and xTool is the external touchscreen controller. You can move the machine around, monitor it while it's running, and load files from a USB plugged directly into the controller.
I've found this handy in the past when I didn't want to connect my machine to wifi and didn't want to connect to a computer.
The Atomstack S20 Pro also has limit switches on the x and y axes. This allows the machine to find its original position before each engraving/cutting is started. This is useful if you are making repeated cuts with the workpiece centered in the same location. Even if you power off the machine, it can find a predefined position because it can always start from the same starting position.
In addition to increased laser power, another major improvement to the S20 is the addition of a fully integrated air assist system.
Air assist is essential when you get into high power states. It helps reduce charring of materials and is an important safety measure to reduce burning.
The atomstack air assist system consists of two parts: the air compressor and the air nozzles.
The air compressor is a nice design with two compressors inside. The speed is variable so if you have more fragile material you can turn down the airflow so the material is blown away.
Air flows from the compressor to the laser module through a hose attached to the top of the laser module. The air is then funneled internally through the module and exits through nozzles at the bottom.
Other companies already offer add-on kits for their air compressor systems, but Atomstack's is the best and most effective at integrating it directly into the overall design.
Another improvement is the way the laser is focused. The S20 has a focus mount that sits on top of the material. To focus, lower the bottom of the atomstack laser module until it touches the bracket, locking it into place and removing it from the material.
If the protective lens on the bottom of the laser module is removed, the stand can be flipped over to its side and used for focusing.
So let's talk about the headline feature of this machine, the Atomstack 20W laser diode. This is the most powerful laser diode you can buy right now. X-Tool has a 20 watt module that also comes with their D1 Pro, but I haven't had a chance to test it at the time of this review.
A single laser diode doesn't draw more than 6 watts, so how do they get to 20 watts? This is achieved by combining four diodes and focusing them into a single beam. This is similar to a 10 watt module that combines two diodes to achieve its wattage.
It'll really be interesting to see at what point an extra laser diode doesn't make sense. We have four laser diodes now, so the next iteration of this machine could see eight, which brings us to 40 watts. At that wattage, we're getting into the low end of the CO2 laser realm...which is absolutely insane.
But even at 20 watts, I've found that this machine can cut a lot of material. I would recommend mainly using diode lasers for engraving in the past unless you are working with very thin materials. But at 20 watts, you don't need to make multiple cuts to start cutting.