Longer RAY5 laser engraver review: Smart-laser with Wi-Fi
Longer is best known for good and affordable 3D printers. The product portfolio includes FDM and resin printers. Recently, Longer has also introduced a CNC laser, the RAY5. With an affordable price of around US$360, the manufacturer remains true to the lower price segment. However, Longer has built in a few special features to the RAY5, which are not found in other engraving machines in this price range. For example, the RAY5 comes with a large touchscreen and a WLAN module for control. Although the diode laser can still be controlled via a USB cable, there is actually no need for a direct connection between the computer and the tool.
|Size||61 × 67 × 20 cm|
|Working Area||40 × 40 cm|
|Power suplie|| 110 V to 240 V AC
12 V 5 A DC
|Laser modul|| FAC Diode Laser
max. 5.5 Watt optical output
fixed Fokus 30 mm
|Spot size at optimal focus||rectangular 0.08 × 0.08 mm|
|Mainboard||LGT RAY V1.2|
|stepper motor driver||A4988 (Pololu compatible)|
|Controls||Touchscreen, Wi-Fi, USB-Connection, microSD|
|Software||LaserGRBL, LightBurn (Gcode)|
|Links|| Longer Homepage
Setup - everything needed is in the box
Assembling the Longer RAY5 should take about half an hour. There is no need to look for tools, as all the necessary screwdrivers are included in the package. We also like the fact that all screws and small parts are sorted into small bags according to construction steps. The printed assembly instructions are a bit small, but there is a PDF on the included SD card for zooming. Due to the good packaging and the clear picture instructions, the assembly does not require any expert knowledge.
The Longer RAY5 does not require limit switches. These are not really necessary because one can guide the laser to the zero point manually.
Although the cable routing does not look perfect, the thick nylon cable in the harness from the X-motor and laser works flawlessly. The cables always remain above the work surface.
The frame of aluminum extrusions is sufficiently stable for a laser engraver. The rubber pads on the feet provide a reasonably secure stand, but the laser engraver can slip, especially during fast movements. A solid wood base with a size of approx. 65 × 65 cm is therefore suitable as a stand for the laser. Fastened with the three enclosed brackets, the CNC laser can be set up securely in this way.
Controls - Wi-Fi makes it simple
A touchscreen and Wi-Fi control are not available in other CNC lasers, although there are some suppliers who have the corresponding accessories in their product range. You usually have to rely on DIY solutions with a SBC such as the Raspberry Pi to achieve similar functionality with a diode laser. The Longer RAY5 has a unique feature here. If the laser is connected to Wi-Fi, GCode files created with LightBurn or LaserGRBL can be transferred easily. The microSD card can be left in the laser engraver and a USB cable is not needed either.
Before starting an engraving process, you have to move the laser head manually to the zero point, the Longer RAY5 does not have an automatic homing. The desired file is selected via Sculpture. The frame function can be used to check in advance whether the object to be processed is in the correct position. The laser then draws a frame in the size of the output with the lowest light intensity. After a tap on Cavre, the engraving starts.
The large touch screen is easy to read, even with the green safety goggles. The pictograms selected are almost self-explanatory. During an engraving process, the speed, and laser power can be adjusted. Especially for the first attempts with a new material, that saves a couple of sessions in the search for the perfect settings.
All features of the laser can also be called up via the Wi-Fi control. If the Longer RAY5 is connected to a wireless network, the IP address is shown on the display. The address can be accessed by all devices in the same network. The laser CNC can be controlled via the web page and loaded with GCode files.
Hardware - One ESP-WROOM-32 controlls the RAY5
A closer inspection of the LGT RAY V1.2 board reveals that the Longer RAY5 is controlled by an EPS32 with two processor cores. Thus, one of the cores can take care of the wireless connection, while the other performs the necessary computational tasks for motion control. During testing, the microcontroller proved to be extraordinarily stable, so that unexpected behavior did not occur even during long tasks. Another positive aspect is that the stepper motor drivers are Pololu compatible. This makes it possible to replace defective drivers or to switch to quieter alternatives. The installed A4988 stepper motor drivers generate control signals that cause relatively noisy reactions in the motors. Similar sounds are known from old floppy disk drives.
Using the free slots for sensors and another stepper motor driver it is possible to extend the functionality of the RAY5. For Example, It is possible to set up limit stop switches and an automatic focusing of the laser.
The 5.5 watt laser module impresses with strong results during the test. A particularly narrow light spot in the focus is probably also responsible for this. Longer specifies a square base area of 0.08 × 0.08 mm here. Because the laser has a fixed focus, the laser head must be adjusted according to the object height. Unfortunately, this cannot be done without tools. For this purpose, the mounting screws on both sides of the laser have to be loosened with one of the included Allen wrenches. An included aluminum cylinder helps to find the right height. Afterwards, the two screws can be tightened again. The process is complicated somewhat by the red light shield.
The fan for cooling the laser is running permanently as long as the RAY5 is switched on. By using a kind of nozzle, a slight air-assist effect is also created via the strong fan. When cutting paper or fabrics, however, one would sometimes wish for a somewhat weaker airflow here, while this appears quite weak when processing wood.There was never any flames occurring during the tests.
A test with 3.5 mm thick plywood produced excellent results for both engraving and cutting. Two passes at 300 mm/min and 100 % light intensity produced the best cut pattern here, with the burn line about 0.4 mm wide. This value is important for precision-fit work when creating boxes or the equivalent projects from plywood or other engineered materials. The kerf can be compensated by many programs to control the laser accordingly.
Engraving with 20 to 100 % black value shows the best effect on plywood at speeds between 2000 and 4500 mm/min with 90 % maximum power and 20 % minimum power. As wood is a natural raw material subjected to strong fluctuations, the values determined may not be transferable to other workpieces. Already at 1000 mm/min the engraving is so deep that the test had to be stopped here and the speeds below that were not executed.
The powerful laser is also able to process many other materials. In addition to wood, the laser can cut fabric, felt, foam rubber, colored acrylic, cardboard and paper. Custom stamps can be created with linoleum or stamp rubber. Engraving also works on materials such as stone, colored anodized aluminum or leather. With a few tweaks, metal and glass can also be processed. Mustard, tempera paints or special color sprays serve here as a medium for transferring the laser's energy, which would otherwise simply be reflected.
Protective measures - a flame sensor provides some peace of mind during work
The Longer RAY5 ships with the usual green laser safety goggles from China. We are unable to determine if these meet any safety standards. Away from that, the laser has an infrared sensor to detect flames and a position sensor to detect if the engraver is stable. Especially when working with flammable materials, the flame sensor is somewhat reassuring after all. Before the material can really catch fire, the laser is switched off to prevent an emergency. The powerful fan should be enough to blow out a fire. A loud alarm sounding at the same time also raises awareness for a possible problem.
Both flames (from a lighter) and a shaking of the RAY5 were detected correctly in the test and the laser turned off. The only drawback is that the laser has to be completely restarted afterwards.
Emissions - loud and smelly
Open Laser engravers like the Longer RAY5 have a common problem. The vapors from the processed material disperse into the entire room. However, since the reflections of the laser light can be as harmful as the beam itself, opening all windows during operation is not an option. After all, deflected beams could harm others. Finding a well-ventilated room that is also as light-proof as possible can be difficult.
In addition, the Longer RAY5 has a rather high noise level during operation. The stepper motors hum in different pitches depending on the speed. The laser's loud fan is also annoying.
The Longer RAY5 provides good results at a fair price. With the possibility to control the CNC laser via Wi-Fi and touchscreen, the device distinguishes itself from the mass of DIY lasers. To achieve good results, you probably have to run a few tests first.
The Longer RAY5 convinces with a well-designed control and a powerful laser. With its upgrade options, the laser engraver offers a lot of potential.
For DIY enthusiasts, the small laser engraver is well suited. However, one should always pay attention to the safety instructions when working with lasers. Longer has cut some corners to achieve the low sales price but the RAY5's entire package is convenient.
Pricing and availability
The Longer RAY5 is a tool with which you can certainly produce numerous beautiful projects. But like any working tool, this laser CNC device has risks that can be avoided with proper handling.
The powerful laser can severely damage eyes and skin, also the reflections of the laser beam are enough to cause enormous damage to the retina. Be sure to always wear laser safety glasses for the appropriate light spectrum of 450 nm with an optical density of 5 (OD5) or higher when the laser is working. Ensure that no unprotected eyes are in the same room as the active laser (also many pets have eyes) and that the laser light does not harm others through windows or doors.
Do not reach into the working area of the laser. Unforeseen movement could cause injury by pinching on components or contact with the laser beam.
Despite Longer's extensive safety measures, there is still a fire hazard when working with the laser engraver, do not allow the laser to operate unattended. Make sure there is good ventilation and do not work on materials that give off harmful or toxic substances when heated or burned. For example, PVC or vinyl can release corrosive hydrogen chloride fumes when processed with lasers.