What is the Full Spectrum Muse 3D desktop laser? We get into this desktop laser cutter and engraver and compare it to my cheaper 50W Chinese import laser. This is the 45W version that can easily cut wood, acrylic, leather, and paper plus engrave on glass and stone. The killer feature is the 3D camera, allowing it to autofocus to your material during the cut/engrave!
The Muse 3D was provided for review by Full Spectrum Laser. They did not compensate me or provide any direction, I wanted to give you my full and honest opinion.
Let's get into the features of the Muse 3D Laser.
Right off the bat, you have a 20x12in (508x305mm) work area. I've found that for most projects this is more than big enough to cover anything I need to do. This is especially if you are cutting and engraving on things like cutting boards and smaller.
If you do need to engrave on something larger then the entire floor of the unit can be removed. This allows you to place the laser directly on top of what you want to engrave. I've seen people use this to engrave a large table or even tiles that have been installed on a floor.
The stock unit comes with a 40W CO2 laser with the ability to upgrade to a 45W tube ($250). The stock focus lens is 2in, with options for 1.5, 2.5 and 5in ($150 each). I haven't found a time that I needed a focal distance other than the provided 2in. I imagine if you are getting into rotary engraving with large curved surfaces having the ability to use a longer focal length would come in handy.
All Muse systems come with a 4x6in touch screen. This gives you access to job controls, focusing, system preferences and past projects. I did find that it was hard to find the area where the touch would activate. Specifically, on the jog areas, I kept hitting them in the wrong place and nothing would happen. But I was able to figure it pretty quickly.
There are three additional things that you will need with all lasers: compressed air, water cooling, and an exhaust system. Different companies handle this is different ways. With my cheaper laser, the water cooling system is a bucket of water with an aquarium pump inside. The Muse integrates this all into the Cool-Box. Not only is everything integrated into one unit but it connects directly to the controller giving the software the ability to turn the compressor and water on and off as needed.
You can also purchase an additional exhaust fan that increases the ability of the unit to exhaust the fumes. My unit included this but I found I didn't need to do it since the internal fans on the laser worked great for my needs. I do work in a very ventilated environment (garage with the door open). If I was cutting more toxic materials in an enclosed environment that fan would come in very handy.
The Muse 3D is made out of metal with a glass lid. It comes in at 54 lbs making it not the easiest to move around the shop. I've got my unit on a workstation with wheels which makes it more mobile. If I was going to use the removable base then it would need at least two people to help me maneuver it around without throwing anything out of alignment or breaking the glass top.
The X-Axis in on a liner rail with both the X and Y-Axis controlled with stepper motors. There are limit switches to keep the laser head assembly from running into the walls (which is something I've done a ton on smaller units).
In terms of noise the actual laser, if fairly quiet, you can hear a high pitched whine when it is cutting, especially at certain frequencies. The noisiest parts are the built-in fan on the laser and the compressor and water pump in the Cool Box. I had everything on and running at the beginning of the video review, but you can still comfortably talk to people.
All Full Spectrum Muse lasers include a 1-year standard warranty. I've found that their support has been great with any issues I've run across during my testing.
This is a chart provided by Full Spectrum. In my own tests, I cut and engraved wood, acrylic, fabric, paper, and rubber. I also engraved directly on stone.
The performance was on par with my higher-powered laser with an increase in line definition and quality. I mostly attribute this to the autofocusing lens. Not only was every cut perfectly in focus, but the ability for it to do LIVE autofocus helped to keep the cuts and engraves in focus despite some warped and curved wood.
In all of my laser reviews, the #1 question I get is, "Can this cut and engrave metal?"
The short answer is no. To do anything with metal you will need to use a fiber laser. Full Spectrum actually offers one in the Muse line, which is the only desktop fiber laser that I know of. It's also very pricey (10K). While you can't cut metal with a CO2 laser you can "engrave". In reality, you engrave a coating that is applied to the surface of the metal. This could be anodized or powder-coated aluminum. There are also spray solutions like CerMark that will give you an engraved metal effect.
Full Spectrum provides its own software called Retina Engrave 3.0 with each machine. A huge benefit is the ability to run without an internet connection. This is opposed to Glowforge where everything is web-based. The Muse does allow you to connect wirelessly or through an ethernet port. Retina is web-based and works with PC, Mac, and Linux.
Retina Engrave has full vector editing abilities. Meaning that you don't need another application like Adobe Illustrator in order to create artwork. It also contains an image processing system that turns a none vector image (like a .jpg or .png) into a greyscaled version for engraving. Engraving is supported at 250, 500 and 1000 dots per inch (DPI).
I found that the 1000 dpi settings could give really nice results, you'll just need to play around with the adjustment settings in the software as well as the feed and power settings for the laser to get it dialed in.
I also really liked the ability to store multiple projects within the workspace. If you are working on several things at once you don't have to reload the images and update all the settings. This was especially useful when cutting and engraving the Settlers of Catan game board.
In addition to the standard vector and engraving settings, Retina Engrave also utilizes the cameras in the 2D and 3D Muse units in some pretty unique ways. First, the Muse will take a series of 9 pictures and stitch them together to give you a view inside of your machine. This can be used to place objects in relation to the cutting materials inside of the machine. I found this really useful when engraving the Mandalorian logo into a rock from my backyard.
The camera system provides a live view while cutting and engraving. This is displayed on the touch screen on the machine as well as a drop-down inside of Retina Engrave. I used this to monitor the laser from a computer that wasn't within eyesight. Although you should also remain close whenever actually firing the laser.
The camera system can also function as a traditional scanner. I drew a design on a piece of wood and the laser "scanned it" to create a digital version in software. I could then engrave/cut that design out or transfer it around the workspace.
There were a few times where the software would get a little buggy and restart. Since the job settings aren't "dumb" and all run through software you aren't able to control the machine until everything is fully booted up. Those issues were pretty few and far between. Full Spectrum does seem to be on a fairly quick update cycle with new features being added.
The Full Spectrum Muse is an entire line of lasers that include: the Muse Core, Muse 2D, Muse 3D, and Muse Fiber.
Now let's get into some projects I ran the machine through.
The most common material I use in my laser projects is 3mm plywood. I find this is a good balance between material strength and ease of cutting.
With spring around the corner, we are working on planting our garden. I created a few plans that were all vector cut. These were cut at 40% speed and 60% power with one pass.
The edges were nice and crisp and the finished result was the same if not better than what I would get with my 50W laser.
Laser engraved pictures are a little bit like magic for me. I love that I can get the files ready completely in Retina Engrave instead of having to convert to grayscale and adjust levels inside of a photo editing program like Photoshop.
While we've been stuck at home we've been watching a ton of movies with our daughter. Her favorite is Toy Story.
I did another test at a higher power/slower speed with a graphic from the movie Onward. This specifically you can really see the 3D effect a laser can add when engraving.
Building off of the kid's movie theme I laser cut and engraved Mikcey Mouse into a piece of acrylic. The honeycomb bed comes in handy since the melting plastic and fumes don't pool up beneath the piece. This happens in other units that don't include a honeycomb bed.
To test engraving a harder material I pulled a rock from our backyard. The 3D autofocusing head really came through with this since the rock was not flat. The engraves do run a slower speed to give the software enough time to process the changes needed in the Z-Axis.
The ability for the laser head to autofocus DURING an engrave is something I haven't seen on another desktop-style laser unit, and really added to the overall quality you could get from an engraving.
In this case, the rock was not only curved but also pretty rough so I didn't get the smoothest of engraves but it still created a pretty neat effect.
I've been wanting to create a custom Settlers of Catan board for a while. The base tiles unites were constructed out of 3mm plywood.
I then laser engraved and cut the tile designs from different types of wooden veneers. This allowed me to have different species of wood for different types of resources within the game.
The border and smaller pieces were engraved and cut from the same 3mm plywood.
The only issue I ran into was the kerf for the actual laser. I could correct this with how I created the design, but the gaps didn't cause a huge issue once the entire board was assembled.
Anytime someone asks if they should get a certain laser my answer is always the same…it depends. The Full Spectrum Muse 3D is no different.
It is on the higher end, especially if you opt for the camera abilities of the 2D and 3D units. I would recommend the Muse Core to anyone who wanted to use a machine in a more professional setting, like creating small scale products or in a maker space because of its ease of use. Especially if you don't have much experience with lasers in the past.
There are much cheaper options to get into the world of lasers, like the popular K40 CO2 imports from China or my larger 50W version. But these will require lots of upgrades and tinkering. You won't be able to start cutting and engraving right out of the box like with the Muse.
What about the Glowforge? The best comparison between the two lines of lasers would be the Muse 2D ($4,999) and the Glowforge Pro ($3,995). While I haven't personally used any Glowforge system the biggest drawback seems to be the inability to use it without the internet. I really like that Retina Engrave 3.0 lives on the system and the Muse has a slightly larger cutting area.
Plus it's pretty hard to beat a machine that is all black...