Everything You Need To Know About Glowforge
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Investing in a high-quality laser cutter for your small business or home projects can be expensive, but with the right designs and products you can earn back your investment in no time.
If you are going to spend a lot of money to further your career or take your hobby to the next level, you need to be sure of what you are buying, right?
Thankfully, we are here to give you all the information you need to make the right decision. This article will let you know all about every Glowforge laser cutter, their capabilities, software, and more.
What is a Glowforge 3D Laser Printer?
The first thing you need to know about the Glowforge laser printer is that it is not really a printer. It is, in fact, a state-of-the-art laser cutter.
Glowforge markets these machines as “3D laser printers”, which confuses some into thinking they’re 3D printers. They’re not 3D printers however (though technically all laser cutters and 3D printers are CNC machines anyway), and Glowforge probably calls it this because of how good these lasers are at engraving printer-like images on wood and other materials.
The focused beam it uses to cut and engrave is just the width of human hair. This allows it to produce staggeringly precise cuts and designs. The powerful laser is able to cut thicker materials up to a quarter of an inch thick in one pass.
Glowforge owners can cut out designs for creating and selling clothes, accessories, and much more. The precise and accurate laser can also engrave on a range of other materials, from cutting wood and acrylic, to engraving metals like anodized aluminum and stainless steel jewelry.
If you want to start a craft business that offers personalization, these are the machines for you.
There are three Glowforge models available, these include:
- Glowforge Basic
- Glowforge Plus
- Glowforge Pro
The different models offer different speeds and capabilities. In the case of the Glowforge Pro, there is also a pass-through slot that removes engraving length restrictions. This is ideal for enormous oversized projects, and making large signs that wouldn’t fit in the standard working area.
The Glowforge Basic model is perfect for hobbyists. The Glowforge Plus model is ideal for those with startup businesses that don’t need a high-end model – as it’s up to 2X as fast as the Basic model for churning out profitable designs faster.
Finally, the Glowforge Pro is perfect for professionals that need improved cooling capabilities and the pass-through slot. It also has a more powerful 45W laser (the others have 40W) and is up to 3X the speed of the Basic.
Glowforge are the easiest to use lasers for home business owners looking to create cool projects and sell them on Etsy or other stores and make money.
The warranty lengths of the Plus and Pro models are 12 months, compared with the 6 months offered with the Basic model. The cost also differs significantly between the lower-priced Basic model and the premium Glowforge Pro.
Does the Glowforge Come With Any Accessories?
Your Glowforge will come with everything you need to get started, including:
- Jet-Black Ferrous Steel Crumb Tray
- Exhaust Hose
- Power Cord
- Two Ring Clamps
- Magnetic Lens Replacement Tool
- Pro Shields (This is only available with the Pro model)
You will also receive a Proofgrade materials starter pack. This contains products worth up to $150 that you can start using straight away. Materials in the pack may include:
Glowforge heavily encourage you to use their Proofgrade materials for your projects. There are some advantages, such as your laser automatically adjusting to the perfect settings or laser engraving and cutting, but Glowforge products are more expensive than if you sourced them elsewhere.
Another factor is that while you have a warranty on your Glowforge, if you damage or break it while laser cutting any third-party material, your warranty is voided and they will not fix it for you.
You’re fine to use third-party materials – this in itself won’t void the warranty. But if you encounter issues as a result, then your warranty is voided.
Do Glowforge lasers come with a rotary?
No. Glowforge lasers do not have enough height to support a rotary attachment or the rounded materials you’d engrave. As a result, you cannot use any Glowforge lasers with a rotary.
If you want to engrave circular or rounded objects, I recommend you read my guide to the best laser and rotary combos, or my research on the best laser engravers for tumblers, mugs, beakers and yeti cups.
What Materials Can A Glowforge Cut?
Using high-quality materials in a Glowforge will help you produce quality products. You should also ensure that the materials you want to use are safe.
With the use of a Glowforge, here are some materials you can cut and engrave:
- EVA Foam Sheets
Glowforge also sources, tests, prepares and encodes a selection of its own Proofgrade material. This allows users to easily cut and engrave on high-quality materials.
They use a range of materials that include full-grain leather and heirloom-grade hardwood. These premium materials help you achieve clear and precise cuts.
Some materials can’t be cut by any Glowforge lasers, but can be engraved with unique patterns to sell. These are great for businesses and are best-sellers.
Materials that can only be engraved include:
- Ceramic Tile
- Rubber Stamps
- Anodized Aluminum
Consumer electronics can also be safely engraved, though you should always check with the manufacturer. Glowforge has preset settings for a range of products including tablets, phones, and laptops.
What Materials Should Never Be Cut?
More important than knowing what you can use in a Glowforge is knowing what you can’t. This is because the materials you use a Glowforge to cut or engrave could be dangerous or damage the machine if they are unsuitable.
Some materials may emit hazardous gas and fumes, so always avoid using the following:
- Coated Carbon Fiber
- Milk Bottle Plastic
- Polystyrene Foam
- Polypropylene Foam
Can You Engrave Food With a Glowforge?
Yes, you can. One of the most fun things you can do with a Glowforge is to work with food. It can be great for parties and family gatherings.
Laser engraving food allows the user to create intricate, pre-planned patterns. Laser engraving is FDA approved and is completely safe, as no harmful toxins or chemicals are added.
Flat fruit and veg are best to work with. Edible gift tags for cakes and engraving messages on chocolate is also popular.
The food should be cleaned prior to engraving and should not have excess water on it. Always ensure the Glowforge is free from debris as well.
Glowforge Air Ventilation
All lasers require adequate ventilation for safety reasons. Potentially hazardous fumes need to be removed from your working area safely. All Glowforge machines are provided with 4-inch (10 cm) ventilation hoses. This allows them to be safely used near windows.
Good ventilation also helps to cool the machine’s internal components. This is an essential part of your Glowforge maintenance and can affect the lifespan of the machine.
Alternatively, the Glowforge Air Filter is available for greater flexibility. Their air filter means the Glowforge machine can be used anywhere, with the filter cleaning the air for you. It is quite a pricey addition, though, costing $1,295.
There are alternative ways to ventilate your work area without investing in the Glowforge Air Filter. These include:
- Exhaust Fans: Inline fans can be a great way to remove fumes. However, it involves cutting a hole in the back of the Glowforge to fit it, and this could invalidate the product warranty. Exploring other options for newer machines could be worthwhile.
- External Ventilators: External ventilators act as fume extractors to remove hazardous fumes. The dirty air is passed through filters to remove the dangerous debris before releasing clean air back into the room.
- Dryer Vents: Dryer vents can be attached to the exhaust port directly. They aren’t as common an option and can be challenging to source.
It is important that the instructions for setting up both the Glowforge and ventilation system are followed carefully.
The fumes created will depend on the material used, with some creating more than others. You may be able to smell an odor during the printing process.
If smoke or strong-smelling fumes start to escape from the machine you should stop it immediately. You must then conduct a safety check of the machine and exhaust system.
Carbon monoxide detectors can be installed in the room where the machine is being used to ensure the safety of the Glowforge owner.
Which Software Does Glowforge Use?
To ensure you are able to input the perfect settings for your design, Glowforge is compatible with a range of popular software options. These include:
Glowforge Print App
The Glowforge Print App is available as both a free and premium version. The free version of the app allows users to use and save existing SVG or PDF files on it. There are also limited design capabilities, such as text or shapes.
The Glowforge Premium App is available for $50 per month and gives users access to an extensive graphics library. You can choose from millions of images, with full commercial licenses – so you can sell anything you design and make.
As well as an extensive collection of vector images, users can also use more than 900 fonts.
Premium app users can easily outline their existing designs with the click of a button, making it easy to move ahead with important projects.
The premium app also offers unlimited storage, regardless of the file format. Premium users earn free, exclusive designs every month. They also get early access to the latest updates and features.
Magic Canvas is another incredible feature that uses state-of-the-art technology. Simply enter the details of your idea into the system, and Glowforge uses AI to generate the image. This allows everyone with a great idea the chance to start creating, even if they don’t have an artistic background.
Both the free and premium Glowforge print apps are designed to make it easy for creators to start working. You can take advantage of the trace feature to upload hand-drawn or written designs. This is great for creating a personal touch in an automated world.
You can also send photos directly from your smartphone to your printer. This quick and convenient service is another great benefit for creative individuals that want to make the most of their work.
The app is compatible with all platforms, including:
You can also drag projects that you have created over from Inkscape, Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop. In fact, if the software you usually use to design your work uses PDFs, you can move it to the app.
However, it is browser-based, so you MUST have WiFi connection in your workshop or you won’t be able to send any projects to the cloud to start laser cutting. Most software other lasers use don’t work this way, which is arguably more versatile.
If you don’t have WiFi in your workshop, you’re best getting a laser that works offline with software like LightBurn.
Design Software for Laser Projects
Inkscape is a free app that allows users to design and export SVG vector files. These files can then be moved over to the Glowforge app to start your printing.
It is designed for MacOS, Windows, and Linux and has downloadable options for PC and Mac that offers a range of benefits.
There is a great selection of flexible working tools to ensure designers have the flexibility to create the designs they want.
The broad compatibility of file formats makes it a convenient tool to use, and it is fast to use, even on older devices.
Inkscape is easy to setup up thanks to the helpful guide. It also features a great set of templates to help you get started.
Considering this option is free, it is a great option for designers and offers a lot of flexibility.
Node editing and object creation are great for personalizing your experience.
Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop
Adobe is a global company known for its creative apps and services. Adobe Illustrator allows designers to create scalable vector graphics, while Adobe Photoshop is better for image editing.
Because of this. Adobe Illustrator is better suited for creating designs for Glowforge, while Photoshop is useful for engraving images with Glowforge.
Photoshop is more commonly used for editing images, but it can still be a useful tool to use if you already have it and are skilled. Adobe Photoshop costs $20.99 per month, or you can save by paying the annual fee of $239.88.
Adobe Illustrator has a monthly cost of $20.99. However, the free 7-day trial is a great way to explore its capabilities and see if it suits your needs.
Illustrator offers PC or Mac downloads and supports SVG file exports. This is despite it having its own vector file format.
It is widely regarded as one of the best graphic design software options on the market and is the ideal tool for vector editing.
Recent updates have improved its 3D capabilities and makes it easier to rotate and alter light sources.
Cloud sharing makes it easy to save and access projects, and the pattern repeat feature makes it easy to reproduce images.
Silhouette Studio – Business Edition
Silhouette Studio is the perfect option for people without a background in Illustrator or Photoshop. This is because it is significantly easier to get to grips with than these more robust alternatives.
You will have to invest in the Business Edition of Silhouette Studio for a one-time fee of $99.99 if you want to use it with Glowforge laser cutters. Only the Business Edition allows users to export PDF or SVG files.
The software was originally designed for silhouette paper and vinyl cutting machines. However, its ability to create PNG images as well as SVG, JPG and PDF files makes it ideal for use with Glowforge machines.
Silhouette Studio is compatible with PC or Mac operating systems and has more than 60 design tools to take advantage of.
You will also be able to work with imported CDR, Ai, and EPS files. While the rulers and crosshairs make design easy.
Glowforge has a range of high-quality laser cutters to suit your needs. This is great for people that want to start crafting for fun or plan to take their creative business to the next level.
A Glowforge basic model is also a great machine for people that plan to use it for recreational use. If you plan on engraving materials quickly and want to start making money with Glowforge from your designs, the Plus and Pro models are perfect.
You will be provided with Proofgrade materials to get started on Glowforge projects. These can include wood, leather, acrylic, and other materials.
Glowforge’s Proofgrade materials are designed and programmed into the system to ensure the best results. The finely focused laser follows specific specifications that are input into the machine. This guarantees accurate and safe cuts.
These machines are great for those that want to start a small business or explore new crafting opportunities. You will be able to cut and engrave a variety of materials including leather, glass, and food.
Though, Glowforge lasers aren’t for everyone and some will ask, is it worth buying a Glowforge laser cutter? They’re quite expensive for the power they offer (45W for $6,995 is more than some competitors), and the main issue is that they cannot be used with a rotary attachment to engrave beakers, yeti cups or tumblers. So, while they’re ideal for beginners, they lack in some other areas. If you’re interested in assessing other options, I recommend you read my article on the top Glowforge alternatives.