Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Adding the X-Tool M1 to my mobile makerspace

As many of you know, my mobile makerspace has been a very big part of the way I live, learn, and teach. It's been 10 years since we gave up our apartment and moved into our 1983 BlueBird Bus.   Although  Covid and loosing both of my parents last year brought about some changes, we continue to have a very mobile lifestyle. This requires constantly thinking about how my mobile makerspace can support  learning through creating and making.   For about a year now I've been keeping an eye on a new maker tool that seemed to have potential in a mobile makerspace by X-Tool.  This week I bit the bullet and ordered the X-Tool M1 - a hybrid laser cutter and blade cutting machine. 

If you're curious about this machine, I invite you to follow my journey as I explore my new maker-tool, share my thoughts and questions, and try out some projects with my new maker tool. 

Let me start with just a few thoughts about why and how I chose to add this maker tool to my mobile makerspace.  

First of all I really like my GlowForge C02 laser which I adopted while traveling through the southwestern deserts in 2018.   It still works for me and it has been moved around (A LOT).  It will continue to be my go-to laser cutter, but I felt like I needed a more mobile fabrication tool for on location use such as teaching a workshop on making where a laser cutter was a small part of many options for learning through creating and making.  I also saw a need for a mobile mobile machine that could add possibilities to a  project based learning experiences in a school.  I could imagine prototyping an idea onsite and getting quick feedback as you test your idea.  And then there's the fact that I continue to move back and forth between different locations and moving my Glowforge with me has been possible, but not always practical.   These thoughts has me keeping an eye on a more mobile solution like the X-Tools. 

But just as I was considering making  the X-Tool purchase, Glowforge came out with a similar machine - The GlowForge Aura - craft laser.   I must admit deciding between the two was not easy.  I joined  a few Facebook groups of users of both the XTool M-1 and the Glowforge Aura and listened to members share their success and challenges. I watched several YouTube videos and online articles that compared them. 

Although both machines could have met my needs, I was swayed to purchase the  X-Tool M-1 for a few different reasons. 

  • I felt like it would give me insight into more than one company and I might be able to share my experience with both these companies to teachers and students who are looking at entry level laser cutter.   
  • I liked that the XTools did not need WIFI to operate the machine.  Getting a laser cutter on a school network is not always easy, especially if you are a guest teacher and not part of the staff.  I've also tried to make projects in locations that don't have wifi access at all.  I liked the idea of learning new software that was not subscription based
  • I liked that the software was free to download and did not require a subscription for features that allowed you to make small changes to a design, especially the ability to combine shapes by subtracting and or merging compound shapes.
  • I liked the fact that I could cut vinyl and potentially show up to a training with one tool (instead of two).  
  • I was also intrigued by some of the accessories such as the rotary cutter or the risers.
Before making my final decision, I watched a great series of video of Monkey Woodworks learning about and documenting his learning about laser cutting using the X-Tool M1.  I loved the integrity and transparency behind this series and would highly recommend them.  The pace was great and the explanations were helpful. 

There were some things I was concerned about such as the speed of the machine, and 10 watt power limitation. or the fact that  cutting clear acrylic or certain colors doesn't work with a diode laser cutter, but I always had my GlowForge C02 laser when I needed more speed, more power, or selected materials.  But I'll be sure to share how I worked through these constraints as I learn more about the XTool M1 - which just arrived today! 

Stay tuned for more learning!