So you’ve decided you need an entry-level laser. You’re full of creative ideas you’re sure will sell well, and are looking to sell your designs on Etsy or in your personal store. But, which laser best materializes your ideas?
If you are willing to spend between $4000 to $7500, you have several options. Glowforge and Boss’s LS series are both attractive options in this price range.
So, we’ll thoroughly compare Glowforge vs Boss lasers to help you pick the best laser for your specific needs.
At a Glance: Glowforge or Boss Lasers?
Glowforge only produces entry-level lasers. They order parts from around the world and make their lasers in the US.
Boss makes industrial and entry-level lasers. Although they work from the US, the lasers are mostly made in China.
We will focus on their entry-level LS series, which employs US-made lenses. Recently, Boss have upgraded their laser range significantly: they’re now much faster than Glowforge’s lasers.
Boss Laser Pros and Cons
Boss has more powerful lasers (50W to 80W).
Much faster (due to their upgrade to hybrid servo systems).
Boss has a better price-to-value ratio.
Boss offers affordable rotary attachments and other optional accessories.
Excellent phone support.
LightBurn works offline.
Boss lasers are very heavy.
Less user-friendly and beginner-friendly than Glowforge.
Glowforge Pros and Cons
Glowforge is a lightweight machine you can take everywhere.
Tremendously easy to use.
Wide-angle camera for easy setup.
Glowforge has active forums for sharing project ideas as well as troubleshooting.
Glowforge lasers are weaker (40W and 45W), though this is still powerful enough for most sellable projects.
You can’t add a rotary to a Glowforge.
Glowforge has cloud-based software that isn’t available offline.
Overall, you will get more powerful hardware with a Boss laser. Boss lasers are more powerful than Glowforge, faster, larger, and they’re capable of engraving cylindrical objects with a rotary attachment.
However, Glowforge lasers are much lighter machines, they’re more portable (if you have a big car), and they’re some of the most beginner-friendly lasers around, with excellent software and UI, making them ideal for small business hobbyists.
So, by choosing a Boss laser over a Glowforge, you will receive more of your money’s worth. Instead, you can pick Glowforge if you want a lighter machine that is exceptionally easy to use.
We elaborate on these points next.
Glowforge Pro (the best Glowforge) costs $6995. The weakest model, Glowforge Basic, costs $3995, while Glowforge Plus costs $4995.
As a result, we have chosen some Boss lasers that fall within a similar price range. The table below shows our candidate products.
|Brand/Model||Price||Where to Buy|
|Glowforge Basic||$3995||Glowforge here|
|Glowforge Plus||$4995||Glowforge here / Dynamism here|
|Glowforge Pro||$6995||Glowforge here / Dynamism here|
|Boss LS-1416||$4997 to $5299||Boss Laser here|
|Boss LS-1420||$5597 to $5899||Boss Laser here|
|Boss LS-1630 X-Series||$7497||Boss Laser here|
Boss’s X-Series have a 4-way Tru-Pass-Thru, which we will explain later.
$4999 to $7999
Weight: Boss Laser vs Glowforge
Boss lasers are about ten times heavier than any Glowforge laser. You can see the weights of these machines below.
|Brand/Model||Weight (Without Accessories)|
|Glowforge range||55 lbs|
|Boss LS-1416 X-Series||415 lbs|
|Boss LS-1630||630 lbs|
On the one hand, your money buys much more material with a Boss laser. And the heavy material is not junk, Boss lasers have metal sheets around and underneath (for debris), not to mention that they have more features.
On the other hand, you should stick to Glowforge if you want a lightweight machine to carry around with you. Glowforge makes amazingly light lasers.
When you see these machines up close, you’ll immediately notice the plastics in Glowforge, while Boss’s body consists of metal plates.
It is best to invest in some accessories to deal with the Boss laser’s weight. You can order an optional steel stand from Boss, which has wheels for easy mobility.
The Laser Power: Glowforge vs Boss Lasers
Laser power is vital to your machine’s performance. I suggest that the laser power is more important than the cutting area.
Glowforge and our chosen Boss lasers have CO2 lasers with comparable lifespans. But, Boss lasers are much more powerful than Glowforge. The table below compares Boss’s and Glowforge’s laser power.
|Brand/Model||CO2 Laser Power|
|Boss LS-1416 X-Series||70W (also a 50W option)|
|Boss LS-1630||80W (also a 105W option)|
Boss LS-1630 previously started at 70W, but the new models start at 80W power. It costs you a whopping $2697 extra to get the 105W version.
The Boss lasers are mightier at 70% power output than Glowforge at 100%.
Speed: Boss vs Glowforge
If you work your laser regularly, the laser speed becomes essential to you immediately. It won’t be long until you start resenting a slow laser that constantly tests your patience.
The new Boss lasers are up to four times faster than Glowforge.
A laser machine’s speed depends on the maximum axis speed (mm/sec) and the laser’s power.
Older Boss lasers ran their axis at 300mm/sec for engraving. But they have upgraded to hybrid servo systems that can run up to 1300mm/sec.
Glowforge is the only laser that does not use mm/sec. The company has come up with its own scale.
If we convert their scale back to mm/s, Glowforge’s maximum axis speed is about 330 mm/s, while the new Boss lasers can run at 1300 mm/sec.
This is because Glowforge uses stepper motors, while new Boss lasers employ hybrid servo systems.
Also, Boss’s 70W/80W lasers can cut and engrave faster than Glowforge’s 45W laser.
Workspace: Boss vs Glowforge
Having a bulky workspace gives you the ability to print larger materials. Boss lasers provide a much larger workspace than Glowforge.
The room under Boss’s Z-axis is comparable to industrial lasers. We will compare the Z-axis, the cutting area, and the extendibility of Glowforge vs Boss lasers.
Cutting Area and Extendibility
This table shows the cutting area of different Glowforge and Boss machines.
|Brand/Model||Cutting Area||Can Be Extended to||Extendability|
|Glowforge Plus||19” ⨯ 11”||NA||No|
|Glowforge Pro||19” ⨯ 11”||19”⨯ ∞||Pass-Through Slot|
|Boss LS-1416 X-Series||14” ⨯ 16”||14” ⨯ ∞ or ∞ ⨯ 16”||4-Way Tru-Pass-Thru|
|Boss LS-1420 X-Series||14” ⨯ 20”||14” ⨯ ∞ or ∞ ⨯ 20”||4-Way Tru-Pass-Thru|
|Boss LS-1630||16” ⨯ 30”||16” ⨯ ∞ or ∞ ⨯ 30”||4-Way Tru-Pass-Thru|
The cutting area of Boss LS-1416 is similar to Glowforge. But, larger Boss lasers, particularly Boss LS-1630, are much larger than Glowforge Pro.
Glowforge has a pass-through slot on the 11” side. Therefore, if your material’s width fits within 19”, you can print 11” of it at a time to create a long printed material. So you can work on materials that are smaller than 19”⨯∞, 11” at a time.
Boss lasers (X-Series) have similar slots on both sides, so they call it a 4-way Tru-Pass-Through. This feature brings you more flexibility.
If your material’s width fits inside the smaller side, you can use the larger side’s slot to print more length in each setup. This setup decreases the number of times you have to place the material for print.
For example, if your material’s width is 15”, you can use Boss LS-1630’s larger slot to print 30” at a time. But if your material’s width is 20”, you should use the smaller side’s slot to print 16” at a time.
The table below shows how you can use different materials with these machines.
|Brand/Model||Maximum Material Size||Option 1|
Print at a Time
Print at a Time
|Glowforge Pro||19”⨯ ∞||Up to 19”||11”||NA||NA|
|Boss LS-1416 X-Series||16”⨯ ∞||Up to 14”||16”||Up to 16”||14”|
|Boss LS-1420 X-Series||20”⨯ ∞||Up to 14”||20”||Up to 20”||14”|
|Boss LS-1630||30”⨯ ∞||Up to 16”||30”||Up to 30”||16”|
Having a larger Z-axis allows your laser to print on taller materials. If the Z-axis is roomy enough, you can even add a rotary attachment.
Glowforge lasers can’t engrave tall objects. You can only place materials in a Glowforge that stand shorter than 0.5”. However, if you remove its tray, you can engrave materials up to 2” tall.
Boss lasers (including the smaller LS-1416) have a motorized Z-axis that moves the table up and down 7.5”. Plus, it has a button that lowers the platform to accommodate objects as tall as 10”.
Therefore, Boss’s Z-axis is far superior to Glowforge. Boss’s Z-axis is motorized and you can engrave tall objects with a Boss – but not with a Glowforge.
Rotary Attachment: Glowforge vs Boss
With a rotary attachment, you can engrave wine bottles, flasks, pencils, and cups. There is a market for cylindrical engravings these days. Even small businesses order engraved pencils and mugs to reinforce their brand name.
You can’t use any form of rotary with Glowforge, while Boss lasers present rotary attachment options at affordable prices.
Boss LS-1416’s (or LS-1420’s) roller rotary costs $340, while its chuck rotary costs $459. Boss also sells a Roller & Chuck Combo rotary for $799 for increased precision.
You can also order BossMod rotaries for Boss LS-1630. BossMod roller attachments go for $349, while the BossMod chuck base costs $550. Finally, the BossMod Chuck and Base Combo cost $899.
The LCD: Glowforge vs Boss
Glowforge does not have an LCD, whereas Boss lasers have a handy LCD. You can adjust important settings with Boss’s LCD.
You can control the Boss’s power and speed settings, and job settings. Most importantly, you can move the laser head around with Boss’s LCD. We will discuss this next.
Glowforge’s Camera vs Boss’s Homing
You will spend a lot of time setting up the material in your laser. You should also tell the laser where the material lies inside.
Techniques like placing the material in the top corner help eliminate the hassle at this stage. But, that is not always possible since some materials do not fit in the top corner.
My favorite Glowforge feature is its wide-angle camera. Glowforge users will not need to align material with an axis or adjust where the laser will fire.
You can just place your material inside the Glowforge, sit behind your computer, take the material’s picture and place your design on it. In other words, you do the adjustments with the software.
On the other hand, Boss lasers have an Inline Beam Combiner, which is a fancy term for a red dot visible laser that shows where the main laser will fire. The Inline Beam Combiner helps you with the physical positioning of the material.
So, you go to your Boss’s LCD and move the laser head around using the arrow keys until the red dot is where you please.
|Technical Specs||Boss Laser||Glowforge|
|Software:||Lightburn, works offline||Glowforge App, web app only|
|Operating System:||Windows, Linux, Mac OS||Windows, Linux, Mac OS, mobile OS|
|Ease of Use:||User friendly||User friendly + active users community ready to answer questions|
You will spend a lot of time with your laser software, so it’s essential that your software is easy to use. Boss lasers use LightBurn, while Glowforge operates on the Glowforge App.
One of the main differences between the software is that Glowforge App is cloud-based. So, you’ll need an internet connection to work with Glowforge. On the upside, Glowforge can run on any device: Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and tablets.
Alternatively, LightBurn is offered for free with a Boss laser. It works offline and runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS. It is compatible with 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems.
One frequently asked question is whether Glowforge ruins your in-progress project if your WiFi goes down. The answer is no. But, you have to wait until your internet is back on.
Some people do not like cloud-based software for other reasons. For example, they mention that with offline software, you know you own it forever on your computer, while you always rely on someone else’s servers with cloud-based software.
Additionally, when Glowforge updates its software, you have to roll with it, and you may prefer to work with older versions you’ve grown accustomed to. But, this is a matter of opinion, which largely depends on your taste.
Ease of Use
LightBurn is a capable software and easy enough to use. However, the Glowforge App is still easier than LightBurn, it’s very intuitive with a very easy-to-navigate UI.
Plus, for any problems you face using Glowforge, be sure the solution is somewhere on the Glowforge forums. The Glowforge forums have made Glowforge possibly the most beginner-friendly laser machine out there.
Support and Sales
Buying and learning your way around a new laser machine can be stressful, and it’s useful and reassuring to know that help is around if you need it.
In short, Boss’s support is better than Glowforge in technical support and sales, while Glowforge forums are better for increasing your laser knowledge with their larger community.
Glowforge has support through live chat, emails, and contact forms, but you can’t get phone support from Glowforge.
On the other hand, Boss has quick and helpful phone support. I have called them a couple of times and can attest to their serviceable support.
Boss also offers video support and screen sharing through TeamViewer and FaceTime. Lastly, if you are willing to pay over $2000, Boss will send you an expert to install the machine and train you on-site.
However, the downside of any phone support is you have to call during working hours, which can be difficult if you live in a different time zone.
That is where good community support through active forums comes in, and that is exactly where Glowforge shines. Glowforge’s active forums will teach you everything you need, since if you run into trouble, someone else has likely experienced the same problem before you, and the community’s responses may also help you.
|Glowforge Basic||6 months|
|Glowforge Plus||6 months|
|Glowforge Pro||1 year|
|Boss Lasers||2 years, 30-day return pollicy|
Glowforge offers a 6-month warranty for the Basic and Plus models, and a 1-year warranty for the Glowforge Pro.
Boss lasers have 2 years of warranty for all parts except the laser tube and lenses. The laser tube enjoys a 1-year warranty, and the warranty covers the lenses only for a month.
Boss also offers a 30-day return policy. So, you can get a Boss, and make your mind up within 30 days, and if you don’t like it, return it. The return policy also shows they are confident about their product.
One Misunderstanding: Neither Can 3D Print
One Glowforge user opened a thread about Glowforge’s superior ability to do 3D printing. But their conclusions are wrong.
After one guy in his neighborhood did a poor print with a Boss laser, this user contacted Boss’s phone support and asked whether Boss lasers can do 3D printing at all, and they answered no.
But the misunderstanding stems from Glowforge calling its lasers “3D laser printers.” What they actually mean by 3D printing is “variable output printing.”
So, I called Boss’s support and asked whether Boss lasers can do 3D printing. As I expected, the answer was no.
Then I rephrased and asked whether Boss lasers can do “variable output power with numerous levels for grayscale printing.” The answer was yes!
This is an example of how bad terminology results in misunderstandings. So, that thread boils down to one guy down the street who has used bad laser settings.
Neither can do traditional FDM 3D printing, and 3D laser printing does not mean 3D printing. Neither can extrude filament thermoplastics, but they can both print designs using lasers. And they can both do grayscale laser printing.
Glowforge and Boss LS lasers are respectable entry-level lasers. We have shown your options with Glowforge and Boss in the $4000 to $7500 price range.
Generally, Boss lasers are more powerful, faster, have larger workspaces, and can engrave round (cylindrical) objects.
Glowforge has a wide-angle camera, is easy to use, and can be moved around due to its light weight.
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