Diode laser machines are not often taken seriously when it comes to laser cutting. But after testing the latest 40W diode laser module (for xTool D1 Pro) from xTool, I think that's about to change.
In this article, I'll review the 40W diode laser from xTool in detail through different tests and will also compare it to a 40W CO2 laser.
|Can cut through thick workpieces||Costly|
|Comes with a new frame and controller||Heavy and bulky|
|Faster job completion|
|Color engraving on stainless metal|
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Tests Using 40W Laser Module for Xtool D1 Pro
In this series of tests I evaluated the capabilities of the xTool 40W laser module by pushing its limits with different materials.
Maximum Cut Depth on Pine using The xTool 40W Diode Laser
Cutting wood was the first test I ran with the xTool 40W laser module.
I ran multiple cuts on a 4" x 4" pine wood using 100% power at 300 mm/min speed with an air assist of 30 psi. The maximum cut depth I got was 60 mm, but I couldn't get it repeatedly.
Based on all the cuts I ran on pine wood. The maximum repeatable cut thickness possible using the xTool 40W laser module is 40 mm (1.5").
This is almost double the value (20mm) recommended by xTool.
Variations in cut depth on the same wood using the same settings are likely due to the varying grain pattern and associated density at different wood parts.
One issue I noticed is that when using air assist, the lens sometimes gets clouded with moisture or oily particles, affecting the laser's focus and reducing the depth of the cut.
To compensate for this, I had to increase the number of passes. The other way around this issue is to clean the lens between the job.
Unfortunately, these roadblocks can increase the work cycle.
I also ran a cut depth test on a 2.5" thick pine wood at 300 mm/min speed using 100% power, and 30 psi air assist.
The numbers marked from 1 - 20 are for the number of passes carried out for each cut.
Till 11 passes, there were observable differences in the depth of cut, but from 12 to 20, there is not much difference.
Cutting a Test Pattern on Pine
Next, I took a 10 mm (0.40") thick piece of pine wood and ran a test pattern cut.
I got good cut results at around the speed of 700 mm/min in 4 passes. I ran the test at 100% power with 30 psi air assist.
Then I ran a test at multiple speeds on a 2.75" thick pine wood at a single pass utilizing 100% power of the 40W laser module.
I got the best cut (with minimal char development) at 50 mm/min speed.
Dovetail Joinery using xTool 40W Module
I tried making a dovetail joinery to test out how the 40W diode laser performs at intricate puzzle-like cuts.
The result turned out to be quite good, and it had a tight fit. The color difference between the wood is because I stained one piece to showcase the joinery.
Engraving Wood with xTool 40W Diode Laser
I engraved on a piece of plywood with 20% power and got good results at a speed of 13,800 mm/min.
I used Jarvis mode for this test, with constant power mode and over-scanning turned off.
Then to test the effect of laser spot size on engraving quality, I tried engraving lines on a similar plywood slightly inclined and perpendicular to the laser beam.
I got dark and even engraving on the test, keeping the workpiece perpendicular to the laser beam. So it's clear that a variation in laser spot size can make a noticeable difference.
This especially can influence the maximum depth at which you can cut.
Engraving Glass with xTool 40W Diode Laser
For engraving glass, I ran the machine at 75% power at a 15000 mm/min speed. Here I kept the constant power mode turned on and over-scanning off.
Cutting Aluminum (Failed) on xTool 40W Laser Module
I tried cutting a 0.2mm thick aluminum sheet using the xTool 40W laser module, but the beam didn't pass through.
The laser beam reflected from the aluminum surface and melted the protective acrylic shied used around the nozzle.
So I won't recommend you use it for cutting metals, but you can use it for metal engraving jobs.
Though you may be able to use the 40W module for cutting much thinner metal sheets, especially steel sheets.
xTool D1 Pro 40W Laser Module Review
|Parameter||xTool 40W Module|
|Laser spot size||0.1 x 0.15 mm|
|Heat Dissipation||Two fans|
|Inside the box||Laser module, adapter, tools, limit pieces, X-axis gantry, etc.|
|Color options||Metal gray and golden red|
xTool offers the 40W laser module as an upgrade to their xTool D1 Pro laser machine, and it comes with a dedicated gantry, power adapter, control board, and other small components.
The xTool 40W laser module is beefier than its predecessor (20W). It weighs around 1.96 lbs, an increase of about 0.33 lbs over the 20W module.
Its large size is due to the addition of four more laser diodes and a cooling fan.
The module has internally eight 5.5W laser diodes. The beams from these diodes are combined using a series of lenses to provide a 40W output power.
Other major changes in the laser module are the air assist and positioning crosshair.
xTool Pro 40W has an integrated air assist. You can connect the air tube to the back of the module, and the air will be routed to the nozzle.
Also, xTool moved the optical crosshair on the laser module to the back of the nozzle. This allows for better positioning accuracy.
In previous models, the crosshair was on the side of the nozzle.
The light shield used on the laser module now uses a magnetic locking system which is easy to work with than the old tight locks.
Instead of just having a fan on the back side of the laser module (as in the 20W module), the xTool 40W module has fans on both sides, allowing for better heat dissipation.
In terms of laser focussing mechanism, not much has changed. xTool 40W uses the same fixed-focus dropdown bar with a depth adjustment feature similar to the 20W module.
One thing to note is because of the high power concentration on the 40W module, its laser spot has increased to 0.1 x 0.15 mm. On the 20W module, it was 0.08 x 0.1 mm.
So if your jobs are primarily engraving-based, a 5W, 10W, or 20W module from xTool will be a better option as they can make high-resolution engravings because of the small spot size.
New Controller, Limit Switch, and Power Adapter
With the 40W laser upgrade kit for xTool D1 Pro, you'll also get an upgraded controller, power adapter, and limit switches.
The new controller looks similar to the old one, with the addition of an extra connector to meet the increased power demands.
The new power adapter provided with the 40W module has a different amperage and watt rating than the old one.
With the kit, you will also get four new limit switchers. Two come installed on the new X-axis gantry, and you have to attach the other two to the Y-axis frame.
They work the same way as the old ones. The only difference is in size. This is to give space for the 40W laser module, which is a little bulkier than other modules.
All these new components are backward compatible. Once you upgrade to this module, you can use all the modules that came before it: the 5W, 10W, 20W, and infrared.
With the xTool 40W laser upgrade kit, you'll get a new X-axis aluminum gantry. It's thicker than the default gantry you get with xTool D1 Pro.
Even after upgrading the xTool D1 Pro laser with a new X-axis gantry, you can use other Pro series laser modules from xTool.
You can also use the 40W module on xTool D1 machines, but the new gantry won't support the laser modules from the xTool D1 series.
In that case, you can't use the old laser module anymore. So it's best not to use the 40W upgrade on the D1 laser machines.
But if the existing laser module on your D1 laser is reaching the end of its lifetime and you're considering buying a new module, then the 40W module can be a worthy upgrade.
Another reason not to upgrade xTool D1 with the 40W module is that the xTool D1 Pro only has a maximum speed of 10,000 mm/min.
So you can't use the full potential (high output power) of the 40W module to engrave faster.
On xTool D1 Pro, you can engrave at a maximum speed of 24,000 mm/min.
Remember, though the machine can run at these speeds, most laser software has a speed cap that can limit you from using the machine's full potential.
Also note that even if you upgrade the machine with a 40W module, you still have to use the same driving system used for the older module.
Because of the module's weight, it can be challenging for the machine to switch directions as it can cause jitter, so it's better not to run it at high speeds.
You will get two replacement laser lenses on the kit, which can be used on the laser module when one gets clouded with fumes or dust.
The retaining clip helps lock and hold the wire connected to the laser module, preventing it from disconnecting as it has to move around during the operation.
With more diodes and cooling on the laser module, xTool 40W requires more electricity to run. The new control board fulfills this demand by including an additional connector.
Assembling xTool 40W Laser Module
You'll get the 40W laser module, X-axis gantry, controller, limit switches, assembly tools, screws, lenses, a retaining clip, and a power adapter with the kit.
To upgrade xTool D1 Pro with these upgrades, you'll have to remove and replace the old X-axis gantry with the new one.
The process is straightforward, and assembly instructions are provided in the manual that comes with the kit.
Is buying the 40W Diode Laser better than purchasing a 40W CO2 laser?
Diode and CO2 laser machines produce laser beams of varying wavelengths. This influences their material processing capabilities.
In addition, a CO2 laser beam generates more sintering temperatures than a similarly powered diode laser. This allows CO2 machines to process the materials faster.
CO2 laser beams can also interact with transparent materials like acrylic, allowing you to cut them effectively. Such jobs can't be done using a diode laser like the xTool 40W.
Compared to the 40W diode module, the CO2 laser head is relatively light and can move much faster as it only has a reflecting mirror and lens that directs the laser beam.
Also, on CO2 lasers, the cooling system and laser source are isolated from the moving laser head, allowing it to move without much resistance.
But unfortunately, CO2 laser source has a shorter lifetime than diode lasers. This means you'll have to replace them often, which increases the frequency of recurring costs.
Interestingly you can get a 40W replacement tube for CO2 lasers much cheaper than the xTool 40W laser module.
Ultimately, it all depends on the type of projects you work on.
The xTool 40W laser upgrade is an excellent option for making the D1 Pro machine more versatile.
Frequently Asked Questions
What will a 40W laser machine cut?
A 40W laser machine is powerful enough to cut through soft materials like wood, leather, foam, acrylic, etc. The type of laser you use will significantly influence the materials you can cut. For example, you can cut glass with a 40W CO2 laser, but a diode or fiber laser of similar power can't do the same job.
Is xTool better than Glowforge?
The better option among xTool and Glowforge will depend on the features you are looking for in the machine and the budget range. Machines under xTool are primarily diode laser machines, while Glowforge only has CO2 machines. If you need an affordable machine with rotary capabilities, then xTool is the best option. But if you need material flexibility, faster processing, camera tracking, etc. Glowforge might be the best option. Unfortunately, Glowforge can't work with rotary modules.
How long does a diode laser last?
A typical diode laser used on laser engraving machines lasts for about 10,000 hours. This varies for different manufacturers, and for a proper reading, read the product manual or contact the manufacturer.
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