REVIEW – I have reviewed a couple of laser engraver machines for The Gadgeteer, and when the Wainlux K8 came up for review, I was very intrigued by not only its styling, but its unique feature set. Wainlux has several machines in their lineup that are on par with larger, more “traditional” laser etching machines. What sets the K8 apart from the rest are its safety features. I want to see how it stacks up to the other laser machines I’ve used.
What is it?
The Wainlux K8 Mini Laser Engraving Machine is a new hobby-level laser machine from Wainlux, a 10-year-old manufacturer of laser engravers. The K8 is their latest device that is unique in that it is completely self-contained with several safety features. It is ideal for the hobbyist with little ventilation, the elderly, or young users.
- 5w laser module (Winlux offers a 2.5W and a 10W also)
- Engraving area: 5.1in x 5.1in (130mm x 130mm)
- Class 1 laser
- Engraving speed: 15,000 mm/min
- One pass cut depth: 5-7mm pine wood or 3-5mm plywood
- Power supply: 12v DC/4A
- Laser wavelength: 455nm
- Laser accuracy: 0.1mm
- Connection: USB-C, WiFi, Mac & Windows compatibility
- Software: Lightburn, CutlabX
- Operating systems supported: MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android
- Image formats: JPEG, BMP, PNG, SVG, GIF, DXF, PLT, HPGL
- Materials that can be cut: wood, plastic, leather, cloth, cardboard
- Materials that can be etched only: stone, ceramics, stainless steel, coated metals, and other non-transparent materials
- Machine dimensions:10.7in x 10.7in x 11.5in (272mm x 272mm x 294mm)
What’s in the box
- Wainlux K8 Laser Engraver
- Power supply
- L-shaped locator
- USB-C cable
- Small paint brush
- TF memory card and USB-A card adapter
- Dry erase marker
- Instruction manual
Very generous sample packet of materials which included: Wood, kraft paper, PVC, Leather, 2 metal dog tags, sticker material, Aluminum business cards, cardboard
The sample unit that Wainlux sent to be reviewed also included the optional Air Purifier.
Design and features
Installation and setup
Setting up the Wainlux K8 was extremely simple. After removing the unit from the box, all I had to do was remove the contents packed inside the machine, connect it to my computer using the included USB-C cable, and power it up.
After I installed CutlabX, which is the recommended software from Wainlux, I was ready to rock. I use a Mac mini as my computer for all my laser engraving machines, and I found the CutlabX to be lacking in power and features, compared to Lightburn, which I am much more familiar with. CutlabX did work for most of the tests I wanted to perform, however, it did crash quite a few times. I think the Mac version is new and needs to be debugged and refined a little longer.
Wainlux did provide, on the TF card, the settings file to successfully connect the K8 to Lightburn, which I much preferred and am more familiar.
Design and features
The Wainlux K8 is somewhat unique in its design in that it is a very compact and fully-enclosed laser engraver, yet at a very affordable price. Other fully-enclosed laser machines cost thousands of dollars. With the K8’s price point and paired with the Air Purifier, you can be assured of working on projects inside your house without the smoke and smell that comes with laser engravers.
The K8 has a very small working surface. 5.1in x 5.1in (130mm x 130mm). This did take some getting used to. I’ve reviewed a couple of much larger, open-frame laser engravers. The K8 is definitely for the home hobbyist and school environments.
The K8 has manual focusing of the laser to the material via a drop-down focusing arm attached to the laser head. This, along with a large wheel that raises and lowers the work surface puts the material at the perfect height to focus the laser for great engraving and cutting.
The K8 comes with a small L-shaped positioning tool that fits well with the slots and holes on the work surface. This allowed me to position materials in the exact same place for engraving multiple of the same piece. I was able to engrave several dog tag necklaces for attendees at a work conference. This was very handy and sped up the engraving of these pieces.
The K8 handled engraving and cutting of various materials as any laser would be expected to tackle. The 15,000 mm/min maximum speed was exceptional for such a small and inexpensive machine. The unit I was sent to review has a 5W laser module. This low-power laser did struggle a bit to cut through some pieces of wood I ran through it. I had to run cuts at slower speeds, and multiple passes to complete some projects that required cutting. So, a higher-powered model would be desirable if you want to get projects completed faster.
The K8 does not come with air assist as many open-frame laser engravers use. The air assist can be helpful with reducing charring on the underside of wood that is being cut by the laser. The airflow in the cabinet seems to keep the charring to a minimum, especially if the wood was raised off the surface of the work tray to allow airflow while the laser is cutting.
The K8 comes equipped with an overhead camera inside the unit that gives you a birds-eye view of the work surface so you can position designs on the material very easily and quickly. Note: The camera feature only works with the CutlabX software at the moment.
In engraving several small pieces, you can just place as many as will fit on the work surface, and in the software, snap a picture of the work surface. Then place the artwork on the pieces using the picture as a guide. Hit start, and the laser will engrave on the pieces where they lay. Although the camera’s resolution is lower than I would like, you can see what you need to see, and get the job done.
As you can see, the camera was very helpful in positioning the artwork right where it needed to go, and the results were very impressive. Of the five dog tags I engraved, only one had a slightly different result than what was expected. Dog tag #2 was slightly askew from the placement of the artwork in CutlabX. I think this is due to the camera calibration being slightly off.
A feature of CutlabX is the calibration of the camera inside the K8. The process of calibration was very tedious and slow. The settings I ended up with were not ideal, and the images the camera produced were skewed slightly from left to right. I think this contributed to the artwork placement being slightly off in the five dog tags I engraved. All-in-all, the camera feature is really useful. I plan on using it for most projects I run in CutlabX.
One of the biggest features of the K8 is it was designed with safety in mind, first and foremost. As the K8 is a fully-enclosed machine, there are two doors, front and rear that keep your hands and eyes safe from the laser beam. The unit will only operate with the doors closed. If you open a door in the middle of an engraving or cutting, the laser head will stop immediately, and the laser beam will turn off. There is really no way to hurt yourself with the K8’s laser.
I have been burned by a laser on an open-frame machine I own. I stupidly tried to hold down a piece that was in the middle of being engraved and the laser head moved and burned a line right across my finger. That is not something that can happen with the K8.
The doors also have orange-tinted, laser-light filtering glass windows, so you can watch the laser do its thing without having to worry about damaging your eyes. When using an open-frame laser, you should use safety glasses to filter the laser light. Not with the K8. This is very nice, as I often forget to put on the safety glasses with my other laser machines. After prolonged exposure to unfiltered laser light, you start to see spots.
Wainlux offers an Air Purifier as an accessory to the K8. The purpose of the Air Purifier is to allow the K8 to be used inside your home or maybe in a school or office environment. It pulls the smokey, smelly air from the K8, runs it through a series of filters, and exhausts clean air into the room. It does its job extremely well.
The Air Purifier comes with a fan unit, a large internal filter, a sturdy flexible hose, a power supply, and instructions.
The Air Purifier connects to an exhaust port on the side of the K8 with a very well-made, expandable hose. The hose connects to both units with locking tabs. This provides a good seal to keep in the smoke and odors from using the laser engraver.
The Air Purifier has three speeds for the fan, Slow, Medium, and Fast. The higher speeds are quite a bit nosier than the slow speed. While I was cutting paper, or engraving cardboard, I ran the Air Purifier on the slower speeds, and while cutting wood, the faster speed was required as that was producing quite a bit of smoke that needed to be extracted.
I can say that while I was using the K8 with the Air Purifier connected, I did not smell anything from engraving or cutting wood inside the K8. I really liked the Air Purifier, and it makes the K8 a great tool for inside the home.
After using the K8 for a few weeks, this is what the filter looked like. The front of the Air Purifier has a meter that shows the “dirtiness” of the filter and I assume the filter is supposed to be replaced when this meter gets to the end. At the current time, I did not find any replacement filters or prices on the Wainlux website.
The Air Purifier is very stylish like the K8. They complement each other and are very pleasing to the eye.
What I like
- Very compact and easily fits on any table or workbench
- Surprisingly fast for such an affordable machine
- Air Purifier is a much needed accessory
- Works very well with Lightburn
- The camera feature is handy and accurate
What I’d change
- CutlabX software needs some work (at least on the Mac)
- Camera calibration was difficult
- Camera resolution should be better
The Wainlux K8 Mini Laser Engraving Machine is a great entry-level laser engraver. Very useful for small projects for the home hobbyist. With its stylish, fully enclosed design, and coupled with the Air Purifier and the excellent safety features, it is ideal for a school environment. Although the CutlabX software needs some debugging on the Mac, it is a capable, free software package that gets you up and running quickly.