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Two Trees TS2 Review: Large Format, Autofocusing 10W Laser Engraver

May 12, 2023

Well designed and easily built with great features for beginners and pros alike, but the large footprint restricts where you can use it.

The Two Trees TS2 is a fantastic choice for beginners and pros alike, but only if you need a large engraving area. It's well designed, easily built, and pairs well with LightBurn software. It's about as safe as can be, but the sheer size of the machine makes traditional enclosures tricky and really limits where you'll be able to use it.

The Two Trees TS2 is a behemoth of a laser engraver with a total engraving size of up to 450mm squared, and while the 10W laser power is unremarkable, the autofocusing feature is a game-changer for beginners.

So, is this the best hobby engraver yet? Possibly. But at around $700, it's not a budget option—so let's take a closer look and see if it's right for you.

The TS2 arrives in semi-built kit form, with three boxes to unpack. Everything is very well packaged so you should have no shipping problems. The included instructions are fairly clear, and the larger pieces are already made, so it's just a case of slotting everything together and plugging in the wires. It took me an hour or two total.

Due to the size of the machine, the cabling all needs to be routed inside a flexible cable carrier tray. This is a neat feature that I haven't seen on other hobby engravers, but it's not a selling point so much as a necessity for this size of machine. All the wires are helpfully labelled so you should have no trouble figuring out what to do with them.

One small point I was stuck and had to reach out to support for: a random black tube. Turns out it's an air hose. It comes ready-installed into the cable tray, but unless you've also purchased the optional air assist module, it's not needed. Nor is it detailed in the manual anywhere.

You can either remove this, since it's dangles around and it quite unsightly; chop it off; or just leave it there, in case you upgrade at a later point.

I mentioned the enormous 450mm square engraving area, but of course, there are mechanics and structure to add to this, so the overall footprint of the machine is 722mm wide by 733mm deep. It won't fit on most desks, nor would it fit within my workshop shelving. So your first major decision here is whether you want such a large machine, as you'll almost certainly need to get some new shelving or a large work bench.

Since it's an open-framed machine, there's no enclosure to contain fumes and no safe way of venting them. You'll need to consider fume safety when thinking about where to place this. I have this in a well-ventilated garage, but if you need to buy a separate enclosure, that's a large cost for a ready-made one of this size, or you'll need to DIY one. If you'd rather have a completely enclosed engraver, we also reviewed the Two Trees TS3, but that comes with its own quirks.

Featuring a complex lens system and 10W laser power, the TS2 can achieve up to 0.01mm accuracy for super fine details. In addition, it's able to engrave materials like glass, ceramics, aluminum, slate, and stainless steel. You can see some examples that I tried later in the review.

Another neat design feature is the ruler on the front and sides. These are great for quickly measuring a piece of material so you can resize your design appropriately. Unfortunately, the zero point of the axes doesn't correspond to the homing point of the engraver, so they can't be used to position your material at all. The rulers are just a bonus feature, unrelated to the function of the laser engraving.

Finally, the TS2 does also feature Wi-Fi, but my experience with the app in the past has been that it's useless, and the less said about it the better. You'll want to use a USB cable to connect this to a computer to make full use of it.

One of the biggest innovations in the TS2 is the autofocus system, which works similarly to the auto-leveling systems on a 3D printer. Sitting alongside the laser is a simple mechanical probe. Combined with a stepper motor on the z-axis to raise and lower the laser head automatically, this enables it to figure it the correct height for ideal focus on your material.

The process isn't entirely automatic, however. When you setup the machine in Laser GRBL or LightBurn, you'll find some new macro buttons are created. These enable you to set the thickness of the material for cutting, or simply to tell the machine you want to engrave on the surface. Cutting normally requires you to do some quick math to figure out half the thickness of the material, then take that away from the fixed focal length of the lens (usually 50mm). So for instance, the ideal cutting distance for 2mm thick MDF would be 49mm from the surface (thereby focussed in the middle of the material). On other engravers, you need to use a set of measuring discs, which is fiddly, imprecise, and tedious. With the TS2, you just click a button.

Aside from fumes, the 10W laser head is the biggest safety concern, as it can easily damage your eyesight, permanently blind you, or cause serious burns (as well as the obvious fire risk). Included in the package is a generic set of safety goggles, though the laser head itself is also surrounded by a laser-blocking piece of plexiglass that should prevent most accidents when viewing from above. A bigger concern can often be laser light leakage, bouncing off to the side—particularly when you have smaller people that might not be as well versed in laser safety. To that end, the front of the TS2 features another large piece of light-blocking acrylic.

In terms of other safety sensors, the TS2 also features a gyroscope that will terminate the burn if the machine is titled a significant degree—such as being pulled to the floor or lifted up. There's a basic flame sensor too, though you might need to tweak it to prevent false alarms (to the extent that I got frustrated with it and ended up disabling it completely).

Finally, there's a big red emergency stop button (which also works well as a generic power button). It latches off, so just push it down to power everything immediately off. You'll need to twist it to turn the machine back on again, so this can't be done accidentally.

While dangers will always be there with any laser engraver—especially an open frame one—Two Trees have put a lot of thought into making it as safe as functionally possible for this design.

Two Trees claims it can cut up to 8mm plywood in one pass, but my previous experience with 10W lasers has shown this to be impossible, and the TS2 is no different. Balsa wood, maybe, but I don't have any of that to hand. It's also important to note that "plywood" covers a broad range of products, all of which may use a different manufacturing process, layer wood, and glue. So any claims or prescribed settings are not necessarily going to be true for you.

I was able to cleanly cut through 4mm plywood in two passes (using 200mm/min and 100% power). Any slower resulted in charcoal.

The large format of the TS2 opens up a lot of creative projects that weren't possible on other hobby engravers, such as this Catan resource card holder. While some projects can be printed in two or more parts, this couldn't.

This tree of life also came out well, and was the largest thing I made on the TS2.

Engraving performance was also excellent, with some good contrast on this piece of slate (though Pickle Rick wasn't a great image to use, I admit).

To engrave on stainless steel, I had to first spray with black primer. This ensures the laser won't reflect back and burn your eyes out, or start a fire in your roof. The end result has some good definition and contrast, but as you can see, the lack of a camera for positioning meant that getting it centered was extremely difficult. If you need to work with precise positioning on small or precut pieces (as opposed to cutting the item out of a larger piece), you should really budget upwards of $2000 for a machine equipped with a top-down camera. This will show you exactly where the design is going to be engraved.

Finally, Two Trees included some thin sheet aluminum business cards of various colors.

You'll notice a slight skew on one of them; this came from somewhere on the Y-axis catching slightly. Thankfully support was able to diagnose the issue, and it was an easy fix without needing any parts.

(That contains my secret guest Wi-Fi password, so don't actually scan that!)

My results with Plexiglass (acrylic) were less successful. Eventually, I found the right settings to cut through the black sample (again, the recommended settings seemed far too optimistic), but didn't have any luck with opaque pink. Acrylic isn't a material I work with often, so those with more experience there might have more luck.

The 10W laser power is average in terms of cutting performance, but the main selling point of the TS2 is the sheer size of the working area possible. That opens up a lot of creative projects that just aren't possible on smaller hobby engravers. This will be your main deciding factor, and if you don't think you need that size of working area, there's no need to spend this much. You can find other 10W engravers for around $300-400 that should be sufficient for your needs.

Combined with autohoming, the autofocus feature is an incredibly useful innovation that means that once you've placed your material down, you can be hands-off from the engraver and just focus on the software side of things. I hope to see it integrated in more machines moving forward, but alone, doesn't entirely justify the price of the TS2 for your first laser engraver. It does make the choice obvious if you're choosing between a selection of large format engravers that don't have autofocus, though.

The rulers on the side are a great utility feature, but a missed opportunity. It would have been nice if they aligned with axes zero point, to aid with positioning.

Overall, the Two Trees TS2 is a fantastic choice for beginners and pros alike, but only if you need a large engraving area. It's well designed, easily built, and pairs well with LightBurn software. It's about as safe as can be, but the sheer size of the machine makes traditional enclosures tricky and really limits where you'll be able to use it.

James has a BSc in Artificial Intelligence and is CompTIA A+ and Network+ certified. When he's not busy as Hardware Reviews Editor, he enjoys LEGO, VR, and board games. Before joining MakeUseOf, he was a lighting technician, English teacher, and data center engineer.

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