Sculpfun S9 Laser Engraver Review – Is It Better Than Competitors?
There is a new laser engraver on the block, and it’s called the Sculpfun S9. It has tons of features that make it more efficient than its predecessor – the Sculpfun S6 or its competitor – the Atomstack A5 Pro, as well as some unique features that makes the experience more fun for hobbyists and makers alike. In this review I’ll go over all those features in detail so you can decide whether or not to invest in one for yourself! If you’re considering buying a laser engraver but don’t know where to start, read on!
The Sculpfun S9 Laser Engraver
Contents of This Review
- What is the Sculpfun S9?
- Laser Diode
Our test results:
- Wood engraving
- Anodized Aluminum engraving
- Laser Focus Distance Test
- Acrylic Cutting and Engraving
- Plywood cutting
- Hardwood Cutting
- Engraving Stainless Steel
- Upgrades and Accessories
What is the Sculpfun S9?
The Sculpfun S9 is a higher-end machine, superior to its predecessors Sculpfun S6 and Sculpfun S6 Pro and aslo its competitors like the Atomstack A5 Pro.
Like the Sculpfun S6 Pro, the S9 laser engraver also comes with good assembly instruction manual which Is easy to follow. The mechanical part is almost identical to the S6 range. All the necessary tools are included. Screws and parts come in separate bags, labelled accordingly to the necessary step in the assembly manual. The machine can be assembled in less than 30 minutes.
Here you can see it next to the Sculpfun S6 Pro which we have also tested.
wood, paper, cardboard, plastic, white, PCB board, aluminum oxide, black-painted metal/ceramic
Laser Output Optical Power
Fixed focus laser
LaserGRBL, LightBurn, Benbox, GrblController, LiteFire, Support Windows system, Support OSMAC system. Supported file formats NC, BMP, JPG, PNG, DXF and other image formats.
The Sculpfun S9 laser engraver comes with a laser diode which outputs approximately 5.5W of optical power – just like the S6 Pro. But the laser head itself is much bigger and features some clever optics inside that allow the beam to be focused for longer distance and has a higher light density, allowing you to cut through thicker materials with more effective power. The advertised max cutting depth is 15mm. We are going to test that. The Sculpfun S9 is advertised to be 90W CO2 laser equivalent power. Laser diode is a fixed focus diode which is great.
From now on, you can also purchase an upgrade air assist set/kit with EU and US compatible air pump. More performance tests were made in this article.
Here is comparison between Sculpfun S9 laser head and Sculpfun S6 Pro and S6 30W. The S9 head is much bigger and also appears to have an improved circuit board.
Fixed focus means there are no moving parts in a beam’s way, which means that the focus can be narrower and focusing procedure is much quicker than with the adjustable focus.
The head has a protection shield around it, as an extra layer of protection, but wearing included safety googles is still a MUST. I would also recommend getting more quality protection googles with OD6+ protection. You only have one pair of eyes. Protect them! These lasers work in visible light spectrum and even reflections can be very harmful for your eyes!
The focusing procedure is the same as with the sculpfun S6 Pro and The S6 30W we tested previously. For optimal cutting, the head needs to be 20mm above the engraving surface. This is archieved with a focusing aluminium block. Then the head is focused, the light guard sits around 3mm above the surface. But the good thing is that you can easily remove the light guard if needed. This comes in handy when engraving weird objects like spoons, axes and other unevenly shaped objects. The laser head is tightened by thumb screws which makes the focusing procedure fast and easy.
For cutting thicker materials, it is recommended to remove the acrylic guard and focus the laser head a few milimeters lower than standard. This way, the cutting performance will be much better.
Cutting and Engraving Different Materials
Engrave: wood, leather, cotton (clothing), rubber, paper, fruit, foam, acrylic, black anodized aluminium, blackened metal, stainless steel…
The Sculpfun S9 is a very a capable cutter.
Cut: wood, paper, tape, cloth, acrylic, cardboard, fabric, bamboo, plastic board, KT board…
With the machine you can cut paper, tape and thinner cardboard in one pass and wood in multiple passes. The machine can cut acrylic and wood, especially Poplar plywood which is soft and it is the preferred wood for all laser cutters.
We have tested the machine with engraving and cutting different materials. You will find the results of our tests few chapters lower.
Software and Supported Formats
You can use the Sculpfun S9 laser engraver with free LaserGRBL software which works OK, but it is a little bit clumsy to use. It is great for some tests, but I chose Lightburn instead which is much more capable software, and it is very intuitive to use. It is not free though, but the license costs 60$. But, the software offers 1 month fully functional free trial which will help you decide if it is worth it to you. For me it was definitely worth it because it saves so much time (which is not free).
With LaserGRBL you can import vector files (NC, BMP, JPG, PNG, DXF…) and bitmap image files (bmp, jpg, png and gif),
Lightburn supports more formats: AI, SVG, DXF, PDF, HPGL, PLT, and RD for vector formats and PNG, JPEG, BMP, TIFF, TGA, and GIF for image formats.
Vector format is preferred format for these machines because it contains the paths around the shape edges on which the laser head tracks. Engraving vector files is faster because the laser directly cuts on the path versus scanning like a printer and making dots when engraving bitmap images (photos).
You can get millions of free vector designs on the internet, or you can use free vector drawing programs like Inkscape or QCAD (for more technical drawings)
You can also import tons of vector designs and images from free vector sites or you can buy great laser designs on websites like Etsy. This really expands your capabilities.
Our Test Results
We have performed the more or less standardized test which we perform on all the laser engravers and cutters. This way, it is easy to compare results between machines. Here you have the video showing how the tests were done and below you will find detailed images of the test results together with explanation.
For the results of the Sculpfun S6, check our other post here!
For results of the Atomstack A5 Pro, click here!
And if you want to see some cool projects we made with the S9 machine, check our blog post in the project section of our website.
Our standard engrave pattern is designed to showcase the engraving capabilities at different settings, so you can see the effectiveness of the laser beam.
What is immediately obvious is that the engravings of the Sculpfun S9 are much more defined and have more contrast compared to other machines we have tested previously. Also, there is basically no smoke stains on the surface of the wood. This is very impressive!
Lets see the result in more detail in the below chapters.
If you want to test your own laser, you can get the below test files HERE.
The power scale test pattern shows how the machine engraves with different power levels at different speeds.
Power is varied from 10% to 100% in 10% increments and the speeds are 600, 1200, 1800 and 2400mm/min. We have omitted the slow speed/high power shapes that we did with the Atomstack A5 20W, because the beam burns too much at slow speeds. This leaves a big charred blob that gives no practical information.
On the first sight, the Sculpfun S9 shows significantly more output power than the Sculpfun S6 Pro. We will see if this is true later in the tests.
The interval scale test is here to show if the laser focus spot shape is square or rectangular. The scanning interval is progressively increased from 0.1mm to 0.5mm.
In this test, the Sculpfun S9 show that the shape of the beam is pretty close to rectangular shape as the engravings in vertical and horizontal direction are quite balanced.
We will be able to estimate the exact spot shape later when we test the engraving on anodized aluminium.
Here is a test of engraving a small photo, 20mm in size while changing the maximum laser power.
Photos are quite slow to engrave because the laser head must scan line by line like an inkjet printer. If you want to engrave a very large photo, prepare to wait a couple of hours
As we can see below, the Sculpfun S9 is the best engraver so far for engraving photos. The photos look very crisp and have high detail and contrast.
Vector Image Engraving
Vector images are much faster to engrave as the laser head directly follows the lines. You can not make a grayscale image though.
Our test includes this cute photo of a Tit bird in the top right corner of the test piece. The bird engraving took only a few minutes to engrave. In the software you can set to fill the closed shapes with pattern, on this one, the shape is filled by scanning with 0.1mm step. For big engravings you could increase the step to 1mm or more, to make engraving faster. This way it would make a raster or a grid on the black areas. But more on this at some other time.
Anodized Aluminium Engraving
Next, we have tested the Sculpfun S9 on a scrap piece of black anodized aluminium.
Below is the engraved test pattern which is setup to evaluate the focus dot size in both directions as well to see the effects of speed. Next we will further examine the separate parts of the test pattern.
The most important part is again the interval scale. By scanning vertically and horizontally with different interval steps we can approximate the laser dot size. From the results we can see that the laser dot of the Sculpfun S9 is very close to square shape as the engravings in horizontal and vertical direction look quite balanced.
The text engraving is done at 600 mm/s which is quite fast for such small movements, and therefore some shaking of the laser head is visible in the corners. This can be easily avoided by reducing the acceleration and speed in the settings.
Let’s do some further testing with the digital microscope. Here are the pictures taken with an Andonstar AD407 digital microscope.
First thing that we see is that the Sculpfun S9 has a dot shape, sized approximately 0.1 times 0.2 millimetres.
Next was testing with different text sizes. This machine performed the best so far. It engraved the 1mm tall text PERFECTLY! And we need to take in the effect that the speed is also quite high for this test (600mm/min). With lower speed the accuracy increases significantly.
Below is the engraving of two sets of squares on the right side, one inside the other. The inner square is engraved with 1000mm/min and the inner square is at 100mm/min.
We can see that at higher speed there is more wobbling present (mechanical) but the speed shows to have no effect on brightness of the engraved pattern.
There is also clear effect of slightly rectangular dot shape in the two squares as horizontal lines are thinner than vertical ones.
Laser Focus Distance Test
In this test we will see how the laser dot size increases further down into the material. The further down in the material the dot stays focused, the thicker material you will be able to cut.
We achieve this by progressively lowering the board by 3mm for each square, without refocusing the laser head.
0mm means that the focus is perfectly set (with aluminium block). The 3mm square is engraved by lowering the test piece 3mm lower than the optimal focus. The result shows how big the dot is 3mm down into the material that is being cut. The same principle goes for larger distances.
We can see that Sculpfun S9 performed the best so far. As advertised, it keeps the beam focused through greater distance.
You can also use the beam thickening effect to your advantage in cases when you want to engrave bigger stuff with low detail. You set up the laser in this out of focus position. The beam will be larger and the engraving will be done faster this way as the distance between engraved lines can be bigger.
Acrylic Engraving And Cutting
Did a short test on 3mm black acrylic (plexi glass) at 600mm/min. The engraving and cutting came out great with a clean cut edge. The Sculpfun S9 cut through in 8 passes.
We have also tried to cut 7mm thick black acrylic and it went fine as well.
Plywood Cutting Test
Test was made at three different speeds with 3mm and 6mm thick Poplar plywood being cut.
The test was performed in both scanning directions – horizontal X axis (left-right) and vertical Y axis (back to front) as the cutting performance is different in each direction because the dot is a bit rectangular. Despite this, the Sculpfun S9 shows very balanced cutting performance in both directions.
Here is a comparison table between the Sculpfun S9 and Sculpfun S6 Pro.
We can quickly see that the Sculpfun S9 has a definitive advantage when cutting thicker material.
The Sculpfun S9 is a very capable cutter.
As the machine is advertized to cut very thick materials, We have done some tests on the light Paulownia wood 12mm and 15mm thick. The beam stays very narrow for a great depth! It takes a lot of passes though. An air assist system would give a very big benefit and we will definitely try that in the future.
We also tested the Sculpfun S9 at cutting 10mm poplar plywood. It took 12 passes in vertical and 8 passes in horizontal direction to cut through which is very impressive!
Hardwood Cutting Test
This test shows how well the Sculpfun S9 cuts harder woods at 600mm/min.
First we tried to cut 4mm pine wood which is still quite soft.
The S9 had no problems cutting it in 8 passes.
Then we tried harder and denser 3mm thick Beech wood and the Sculpfun S9 had no problems cutting it and did it in 5 passes.
Here are some images of the test results of all the engraver we have tested so far for easier comparison.
Engraving Stainless Steel
This machine is the first here which is powerful enough to engrave stainless steel! Yes, you heard that right. First, the steel needs to be blackened with a cheap black spray paint. Engrave with slow speed. Then wipe the paint off with the acetone. The engraving is very durable and doesn’t scratch off easily.
Upgrades and Accessories
If you want to engrave cylindrical objects, the Sculpfun Rotary Attachment is a great buy! We have reviewed and tested it HERE.
You can also expand the work surface of this machine with the Sculfpun Expansion kit, which expands the working area more than two times. We have tested the expansion kit HERE.
And if you want to upgrade your existing S9 laser engraver, you can purchase the Sculpfun S10 laser module separately. We have reviewed the Sculpfun S10 laser machine HERE.
And we also highly recommend to use a laser engraver enclosure, to vent the harmful air out through a window. Read more about laser engraver enclosures here!
Very capable cutter. The best we have tested so far!
This article should have helped you to decide if the Sculpfun S9 is the machine for you. It has the best cutting performance so far and its wood engravings appear to be on a next level compared to the rest of the engravers.