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We’ve spoken a fair bit about 3D printing here, and all pilots know just how much it goes hand in hand with the FPV hobby, but what if you want to take DIY to the next level?
As more and more pilots discover the possibilities offered by fixed wing FPV platforms, there has been an increase in people wanting to design and build their own, or to recreate scale aircraft and add FPV equipment. However, for most hobbyists, moulding their own foam is out of the question, and building a full-size CNC hot wire cutter is equally as unlikely.
So, some are taking a look to the past and rediscovering how cheap and versatile a material good, old balsa wood can be, and are turning to laser technology to turn their creations into reality.
Laser cutting machines were, like 3D printers, until recently considered to be the reserve of professional machine shops, but now they are more accessible and affordable than ever and a prime example of this is the new M1 series machine from Chinese brand, xTool.
xTool M1 Laser Cutting Machine: Compact Size and Versatility for Hobbyists
Looking more like a desktop paper printer, the xTool M1 – available in 5 and 10 watt varieties – fits neatly on any work surface and, with its custom software, is capable of producing complex shapes out of balsa, ply, or even XPS (Depron) foam sheets. It also has another trick up its sleeve though. Want custom decals for your goggles or your new airframe? Don’t rush out and buy a Cricut or order online, because the M1 also doubles as a blade cutter for vinyl, paper, and more.
In the box you get all the accessories you need – particularly if you opt for the “deluxe” package which includes a raft of materials and a handy rotary attachment which is perfect for engraving your pilot tag onto coffee cups…
The only other accessory strongly recommended is the Smoke Purifier. Basically, this is a standalone extractor fan that sucks the fumes created by the laser cutting process out of the machine and through a filter. If you can vent your machine directly out a window or wall vent then you won’t need this, but it’s a nice option to have.
It is worth remembering that laser cutters can, like all machinery, be dangerous if not used correctly, and a fire can quickly start if things aren’t kept clean and well maintained. Also, despite the addition of the Smoke Purifier, there was still a slight smell of burning wood from the machine due to the nature of how the lid’s seal worked, but it’s far from overwhelming.
xTool M1 Price and Availability
Coming in at £1,209 for the M1-10w Deluxe (plus £563 for the Smoke Purifier) this is far from a cheap option, but for the dedicated maker, or someone who wants to start a side hustle while also having fun growing their FPV hobby, it could be a perfect investment.
With the sheer number of possibilities in our hobby for 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC milling, and other maker technology, we will be covering this space a lot more on Drone Sumo over the coming months, so if you’re interested in this be sure to follow us on socials!