Glowforge vs Epilog: Should You Buy Glowforge Pro or Epilog Zing 16?

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Buying a laser cutting machine opens up many possibilities for a shop or a hobbyist. If you are looking for an entry-level professional laser that can quickly cut through wood and acrylic, and can mark metal, you might be considering a Glowforge or Epilog laser.

This article compares Epilog’z Zing 16 against the Glowforge Pro, across power, ease of use, speed, cooling, safety, longevity, and more. Some another articles online mislead by incorrectly describing the cooling system differences between the two machines, so we’ll clear that up, too.

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BUDGET OPTION

Glowforge Pro

Glowforge Pro

Glowforge is less expensive
Unlimited material length
Glowforge works with all devices
Community support

Available at:

PREMIUM PICK

epilog zing 16

Epilog Zing 16

Long laser life
Works offline
Auto pause engraving feature for cooling
Epilog offers a lot of room to grow your business

Available at:

Epilog has been in the laser business since 1988. They are reputable for making high-quality small to large lasers. Their entry-level model is the Epilog Zing (16 and 24), and the Epilog Zing 16 is their smallest size laser cutter.

Glowforge has made three small affordable lasers since 2014: Glowforge Basic, Glowforge Plus, and Glowforge Pro. Due to their small size, they are popular among hobbyists and small shops. Their most powerful and popular product is the Glowforge Pro.

So, we will compare the Glowforge Pro against the smallest Epilog (Zing 16) in our Epilog laser vs Glowforge comparison.

Which is Better, Epilog Laser or Glowforge?

Epilog Zing 16 Pros and Cons

epilog zing 16
Pros

Longer laser life.

More effective cooling system.

Software works offline.

Cons

Higher price.

Limited material lengths, whereas Glowforge has an unlimited pass-through slot.

Epilog works on Windows only.

Glowforge Pro Pros and Cons

Glowforge Pro
Pros

Glowforge is less expensive than Epilog lasers.

It accepts unlimited material length via the passthrough slot.

Glowforge works with all devices, including MacOS and Linux.

Glowforge has excellent community support.

Cons

Shorter laser lifespan (but still lasts for a very long time even if used for 20+ hours per week).

Glowforge software requires an internet connection.

Glowforge does not have an LCD to show laser control settings.

Overall, Epilog has the better hardware, while Glowforge is cheaper and more beginner-friendly. 

Glowforge offers a better value-to-price ratio for hobbyists and small businesses, whereas Epilog has a better value-to-price ratio in the long run for more active laser businesses.

Unfortunately, most comparison articles have some oversights in the hardware comparison since they have mistaken Glowforge’s disadvantages for virtues. For example, they list Glowforge’s closed-loop cooling as a pro – while we consider it a con. We will explain this in more detail later.

Epilog lasers are more durable than Glowforge lasers, have better cooling, are safer than Glowforge, work offline, and offer used machines and buyback programs. 

On the other hand, Glowforge Pro is cheaper than a new Epilog Zing 16 by a considerable margin and has a passthrough slot for very long pieces of material. Also, Glowforge machines are more beginner-friendly and work on all devices (Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS).

Glowforge’s price can tempt buyers to forget the shorter CO2 laser tube’s life and endure a laser tube change every other year. 

epilog zing 16 icon cutouts
Icon cutouts created on the Epilog Zing 16. Credit: QC Makerspace

On the other hand, we will explain why buying an Epilog offers you much more room to grow in the future. But that is only an advantage if you are serious about expanding your laser business. This is because:

  • Epilog has better specs for demanding businesses and growing to bigger projects.
  • Glowforge is easier to use and pays for itself sooner for small businesses and hobbyists. Also, the Glowforge Pro’s build means it can cut or engrave materials of any length. 
  • Epilog lasers have longer lifespans.

So, if you plan to grow your laser business and have a few more dollars to invest, you should choose the Epilog laser.

But if you see yourself spending moderate amounts of time with a laser, Glowforge is the better choice, especially if you do art projects or laser printing on long pieces of material.

Now, we’ll compare Epilog vs Glowforge in detail.

Price

Brand/ModelPricingWhere to Buy
Glowforge Basic$3995Glowforge here
Glowforge Plus$4995Glowforge here
Glowforge Pro$6995Glowforge here
Epilog Zing SeriesAvailable upon request here
Glowforge and Epilog laser prices.

Glowforge Pro costs $6995, with the Basic and Plus models costing $3995 and $4995 respectively.

Epilog does not show a price list. Instead, they ask you to fill out a form submitting your area and business to receive a quote.

Nonetheless, we will also explain how you can buy a used Epilog laser. 

Hardware: Glowforge Pro vs Epilog Zing 16

The Laser Power: Epilog vs Glowforge

Brand/ModelLaser Power (Watts)
Epilog Zing 1630W or 40W
Epilog Zing 2430W to 60W
Glowforge Basic40W
Glowforge Plus40W
Glowforge Pro45W
Epilog and Glowforge laser powers in watts.

Laser power is crucial since it influences laser speed and cutting abilities. A 60W laser cuts the same materials as a 30W laser – but with far fewer passes.

Epilog Zing 16 employs a 30W or 40W laser. (The larger Epilog Zing 24 has options from 30W to 60W.) 

But Glowforge has a 40W laser for Basic and Plus models, and a 45W laser for the Pro model.

It may seem that Glowforge Pro’s 45W laser is better than Epilog Zing 16’s 40W laser, but other factors affect a laser’s effectiveness. We will explain them in this comparison. 

Laser Tube, Life, and Warranty

BrandLaser TubeLaser Tube Lifespan
(30 hrs/wk usage)
Warranty
EpilogMetal or ceramic CO2 laser6 yrs approximate2 years
GlowforgeGlass tube CO22 yrs approximate1 year or 6 months depending on model
Glowforge and Epilog laser tube materials, lifespans, and warranties.

The laser tube lifespan is a noteworthy distinction between the Epilog laser and Glowforge. 

The biggest difference between Epilog laser and Glowforge is their laser type. Glowforge has a glass tube CO2 laser, while Epilog has a metal or ceramic CO2 laser. Epilog’s laser lifespan is around three to five times the lifespan of Glowforge’s.

The lifespan reflects in the warranty too. Epilog has a 2-year warranty, while Glowforge Pro has a 1-year warranty. (Glowforge’s other models have a 6-month warranty.)

If you use your laser 30 hours a week, Glowforge lasers will last about two years, with Epilog about six years.

After this, you’ll have to replace it. So, Glowforge’s shorter life translates to more frequent laser change. 

Still, considering Glowforge’s lower laser price, it may be financially sound to accept this inconvenience. You get your money’s worth sooner this way, especially if you have a small shop.

But, it is best to have an expert change the Glowforge laser. So, you’ll have to factor in the time your Glowforge will be out of action while replacing its laser.

Cooling: Epilog vs Glowforge

BrandCooling System
EpilogAutomatic pause and cooling fans
GlowforgeClosed-loop water cooling
Epilog and Glowforge laser cooling systems compared.

Lasers get very hot when working. If they get too hot, you have to stop the operations. Epilog automatically pauses the process if it gets too hot. So, effective and quick cooling is vital.

Glowforge enjoys a closed-loop internal cooling system, whereas Epilog has fans for air cooling.

Once again, it seems that Glowforge has the better system and many articles call this an advantage for Glowforge. 

But, water cooling is the only option for Glowforge’s laser type to compensate for the glass tube’s poor heat dissipation.

Epilog’s fans are more effective in cooling its metal laser than Glowforge’s water cooling.

So, Glowforge will still overheat more rapidly than Epilog lasers.

Safety: Glowforge vs Epilog laser

Glowforge’s laser uses high voltage DC excitation. If something goes wrong, the water surrounding the laser tube is a dangerous combination with the high voltage.

In contrast, Epilog works the laser differently (RF AC excitation) and uses air cooling. So, Epilog is a little safer overall.

In short, Epilog lasers are generally safer than Glowforge’s.

Downtime: Glowforge vs Epilog

Due to the safety issues I just mentioned, you should not change your Glowforge laser tube unless you are an expert. 

Add this to Glowforge laser’s short lifespan, and Glowforge will have more downtime than Epilog in the long run. 

However, this downtime is negligible for a hobbyist and only significant for a laser shop.

Features: Glowforge or Epilog?

Working Area

Epilog Zing 16 has a working area of 16” ⨯ 12”. (The more expensive Zing 24’s working area is 24”⨯12”.)

Glowforge’s working area is 19.5” ⨯ 11” — but with a theoretically infinite length via the passthrough slot.

The table below shows the working area of Glowforge and Epilog Zing lasers.

Brand/ModelWorking Area
Glowforge Basic19.5” ⨯ 11”
Glowforge Plus19.5” ⨯ 11”
Glowforge Pro19.5” ⨯ ∞ via passthrough slot
Epilog Zing 1616” ⨯ 12”
Epilog Zing 2424” ⨯ 12”
Glowforge working area vs Epilog Zing.

They are similar in size, but Glowforge Pro has a passthrough slot. The slot allows you to insert a long material, print 11” of it, move it, and continue printing.

So, the Glowforge Pro can print on materials that fit within 19.5” ⨯ ∞ – an unlimited material length.

However, you should take extra safety measures when using  Glowforge’s passthrough slot.

To summarize, Glowforge Pro’s working area is larger than Epilog’s due to its passthrough slot.

Ability to Engrave Tall Materials

Epilog has better Z-clearance than Glowforge. With the Glowforge Pro, you can put materials inside that are thinner than 2”, and that’s if you remove the tray. Glowforge can only hold materials with a thickness of less than 0.5” when it has its tray.

glowforge pro map of middle earth
Map of Middle-earth (The Hobbit) engraved using Glowforge Pro. Credit: Kevin Gossett

Meanwhile, Epilog Zing 16 accepts material thickness of up to 4.5” while Epilog Zing 24 accepts heights up to 7.75”.

So, Epilog Zing 16 can engrave taller materials than Glowforge Pro.

Rotary Attachments

The laser market is growing fast. In today’s market, there is a growing demand for engraving flasks, mugs, and tall objects. 

So, adding a rotary attachment opens new doors for your laser projects. But, your rotary add-on needs enough space in the Z-direction for tall materials.

We mentioned that Glowforge Pro can’t engrave tall materials. So, adding a rotary to a Glowforge is a no-go – there’s simply no space to fit a rotary roller or chuck.

Although Epilog Zing 16 has 4.5” of Z-clearance, there are no rotary attachments for Epilog Zing 16 either. 

But if you upgrade to Epilog Zing 24, then Epilog sells a rim-style rotary attachment designed for Zing 24 for $995. This is an example of how you can grow with an Epilog but not with a Glowforge. We’ll discuss this later.

In summary, neither Glowforge nor Epilog Zing 16 allows you to add a rotary attachment. But Epilog gives you the option to upgrade to Zing 24 and add a rotary attachment.

Camera vs Manual Homing

BrandHoming System
EpilogManual home positioning, red dot pointer shows laser position
GlowforgeWide-angle camera

It is good advice to place your material in the laser’s top corner. This placement reduces position calculations and decreases setup time.

But some materials do not fit well in the top corner. Glowforge and Epilog have different solutions for this problem.

Glowforge takes care of this problem with its wide-angle camera. This feature is incredibly convenient.

You can take a picture of your material inside and use the image of the material to place your design on it. Then, Glowforge automatically calculates the position of the print.

On the other hand, Epilog has a Movable Home Position feature. When you activate it, Epilog allows you to move the laser head around with your hand and manually place it anywhere you want.

Plus, Epilog has a Red Dot Pointer that shows where the main laser will fire. When you activate the Movable Home Position feature, Epilog turns off the main (dangerous) laser, but the Red Dot Pointer continues to show the laser position accurately.

So, Glowforge and Epilog take care of the same problem differently. Which one is the better solution? It is a matter of opinion, but I will point out two things:

  • Glowforge’s wide-angle camera is better when working with an odd-shaped material because you need not worry whether the material’s line of symmetry aligns with the laser’s axis.
  • Epilog’s Movable Home Position is generally more accurate, because Glowforge’s camera may undergo alignment problems. While you need to calibrate Glowforge’s camera, Epilog’s Red Dot Pointer maintains incredible precision.

Accuracy: Glowforge Pro vs Epilog Zing

glowforge pro travel chessboard and box
Chess set with box made on Glowforge Pro. Credit: Frank Doepke

Epilog Zing 16 and Glowforge have similar accuracy. 

One way to discover a laser’s precision is to find its dpi. Although accuracy and dpi are not equivalents, generally, the more accurate a laser is, the higher dpi it can print. 

Epilog Zing 16 can print at 1000 dpi, and the Glowforge website says Glowforge Pro can work at “about 1000 dpi.” When I calculate Glowforge’s precision from axis movement, I find the dpi between 850 and 1000. 

So, their precision is comparable. Epilog does have other lasers that can print up to 2400 dpi, though.

Software

Software Technical SpecsEpilogGlowforge
Software:Epilog Job ManagerWeb-based interface only
Operating System:Windows onlyWindows, macOS, Linux, mobile OS
Add-ons:PhotoLaser Plus
File types:JPG, PNG, PDF, SVGJPG, PNG, PDF, SVG
Glowforge laser software vs Epilog options.

A straightforward and user-friendly software is a must for a laser, more so when the user is a beginner.

Epilog uses the Epilog Job Manager software. It works offline on Windows. So, you can’t control the Epilog laser with macOS, Linux, or a tablet. 

Epilog Job Manager is both user-friendly and beginner-friendly. With a few tutorials, you can work with your Epilog laser. You can also buy other add-ons and software like PhotoLaser Plus to engrave images. 

On the other hand, Glowforge App is a web-based interface. So Glowforge requires an internet connection to run. The cloud-based software brings some pros and cons.

Some dislike cloud-based control software since they worry about internet disconnections.

But Glowforge understands these potential issues with internet outages, so it prints with what it has in cache memory and waits until your internet is back on. You can also connect to your mobile hotspot and continue printing if your WiFi goes down.

On the upside, it works on all devices. Any laptop or tablet with a web browser can interact with Glowforge.

Glowforge App is also incredibly easy to use. So, beginners will be comfortable working with either laser. 

In short, Epilog does not need the internet to operate while Glowforge does. Also, Epilog only works on Windows, whereas Glowforge works with all devices. 

Software Compatibility

Glowforge and Epilog are both compatible with vector and raster files, although raster files (JPG and PNG) are for engraving only. You should use a vector file (for example, PDF or SVG) to cut.

So you can create a vector or raster from Inkscape, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, GIMP, Autodesk 360, and more for laser printing with Glowforge or Epilog.

Support

Tarot cutting board made on the Glowforge Pro. Source: Glowforge Community

It is essential to have help when you start working with a new machine. Knowledgebase articles can show you the ins and outs. Likewise, FAQs help you deal with customary issues. 

Knowledgebase articles and FAQs are plentiful on Glowforge’s and Epilog’s websites. These pages help you get past common issues without waiting for answers from support.

But Glowforge has a much more active community. And most of the users were a beginner when they started. It is easier to find beginner questions about Glowforge than about Epilog.

You can learn tips and tricks or receive opinions on your problems from the Glowforge community.

Concerning sales and technical support, Glowforge has support through live chat, email, contact forms, and social media. But Glowforge does not have phone support (although you can leave a message).

epilog zing 16 leather coaster engraving
Leather coasters engraved on the Zing 16. Source: Epilog Laser Sample Club

You can contact Epilog’s support through live chat, email, phone, and screen share. But you may have to wait a while for phone support.

To sum up, Glowforge’s community support is better than Epilog’s.

Epilog’s Pre-owned Machines and Room for Growth

As we mentioned, Epilog Zing lasers have good loongevity. In addition, Epilog have a buyback program, which we’ll explain here.

Epilog only buy a used machine if it’s in great condition. If you are hunting for a used but healthy Zing 16, the safest bet is to buy it from Epilog because their experts have checked the machine thoroughly beforehand. 

Also, if you buy a new Epilog Zing 16, you have the option to trade it back for a larger and better laser in the future. 

You don’t get these advantages with Glowforge. They don’t have a buyback program, and Glowforge Pro is already their best and largest product.

So you will have much more room to grow your laser business with Epilog. But this expansion possibility only benefits you if you are serious about a laser business. 

It may be unwise for artists, hobbyists, and small shops to invest long-term in something they may never use.

Summary

Glowforge Pro and Epilog Zing 16 are excellent options for starting on the laser path with a small laser. They have comparably small working areas.

Epilog has a longer life, better cooling, higher safety, and offers room to grow to larger models with rotary attachments.

Glowforge Pro costs less even with several laser replacements. It can print on infinitely long materials, has great community support, and works on all devices.

Epilog is better if you plan to invest more in a laser career, while Glowforge is more convenient for hobby and entry-level use.

BUDGET OPTION

Glowforge Pro

Glowforge Pro

Glowforge is less expensive
Unlimited material length
Glowforge works with all devices
Community support

Available at:

PREMIUM PICK

epilog zing 16

Epilog Zing 16

Long laser life
Works offline
Auto pause engraving feature for cooling
Epilog offers a lot of room to grow your business

Available at:

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