If you’re looking for a cutting and engraving machine that makes it easy to make crafts from a variety of materials, the Glowforge and Cricut machines are both popular options.
However, they’re also very different, with the Glowforge being a laser cutter and the Cricut being a vinyl cutter – so which is the best for you?
We’ll take a close look at each important factor and explain which is best for your needs and budget.
VINYL CUTTER PICK
Cricut Maker 3
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At a Glance
There are some pretty big differences between the Glowforge and Cricut machines, which makes it difficult to determine one as entirely better than the other.
Instead, each machine is better suited to different applications and people.
For starters, the Cricut Maker 3 is a vinyl cutter, that makes it best for making home crafts out of vinyl, cardstock, paper, and other soft materials.
The Glowforge machines are also significantly larger and more expensive than their Cricut counterparts.
So, the Cricut Maker 3 is ideal for hobbyists with limited space and budget, while the Glowforge Plus is better suited to those looking to work with stronger materials and who want to start or expand a crafting business.
There are also some similarities between the two machines in that they’re both very easy to set up, safe to use, and come with really intuitive software for importing and operating designs.
Now, let’s take a closer look at how these two machines match up in different areas and the pros and cons of each.
Size & Cutting Area
|Glowforge Plus||Cricut Maker 3|
|Size||38″ x 20.75″ x 8.25”||21.18″ x 6.99″ x 5.93”|
|Max cutting area||20″ x 18″ x 2”||13″ x 141.7”|
The Glowforge is one of the larger hobbyist cutting machines on the market, with all three models (the Basic, Pro, and Plus) measuring 38×20.75×8.25”. However, the actual working area is a fair bit smaller – 20x18x2”.
If you want a larger area, the Glowforge Pro has a passthrough feature which means you can essentially cut materials of unlimited length.
This is great if you run a business and want to mass-produce products in a quick and convenient way.
The Cricut Maker machines are a fair bit smaller, each having dimensions of 21.18×6.99×5.93”.
The maximum working area of the Cricut Maker is 13” wide and up to 12 ft 141.7” long when using the optional hand roller and the brand’s Smart Materials as your workpieces.
This is thanks to the machine’s matless cutting function and is the main upgrade on the original Cricut Maker.
So, while the Glowforge Plus has a wider working area, the Cricut Maker 3 is much more compact, is easier to fit in small home workshops and store away, is more portable, and can be used to cut very long materials.
Winner: Both – depending on your preference for raw size vs compactness.
|Glowforge Plus||Cricut Maker 3|
|Machine type||CO2 laser||Vinyl cutter|
|Compatible materials||Virtually all materials aside from hard materials like ferrous metals||300+ materials (best with paper, vinyl, leather and similar materials)|
|Max cutting thickness||1.2cm||0.24cm|
Both the Glowforge Plus and Cricut Maker 3 machines can cut a wide variety of different materials with high precision.
While many weaker diode laser cutters and engravers will struggle to cut materials such as plywood, this isn’t the case with the Glowforge thanks to its powerful CO2 lasers.
These are a lot stronger than the diode lasers used in many cheaper machines and mean the Glowforge can cut thin plywood faster than some top hobbyist CNC routers – you can read more about this in my Glowforge vs X Carve review.
This means it can cut and engrave soft materials like plastics with ease and up to 1.2cm in thickness.
The Glowforge is also capable of accurately engraving soft, non-ferrous metals like aluminum. However, this machine isn’t built for cutting metals.
Glowforge offers its own range of materials designed for providing optimum performance with its machines.
These are called Proofgrade Materials and include leather, plywood, hardwood, and acrylic, although these can be fairly expensive.
The Cricut Maker 3 can cut a huge range of materials – more than 300 in fact – ranging from paper, vinyl, and fabric to matboard, tooled leather, and even certain types of wood like balsa wood (although the wood must be very thin).
However, it can’t be used for working with soft metals, and for woods it doesn’t offer the same power as the Glowforge.
The max cutting thickness is much lower with the Cricut Maker 3 at just 0.24cm.
Cricut offers its own range of Smart Materials that are compatible with the Cricut Maker and measure up to 12ft long, so these are ideal for achieving really precise cuts without a mat.
You get two blades included with the Cricut Maker 3 – a rotary blade for cutting fabrics and a knife blade for cutting thicker materials. There are a range of other tools you can buy separately for scoring, foiling, debossing, engraving and more, so it’s a very versatile machine.
Winner: Glowforge for thicker materials and soft metals, Cricut for paper and vinyl crafts
Software & Usability
|Glowforge app||Cricut Design Space|
|Supported files||SVG, JPG, PDF, PNG||SVG, JPG, PNG, DXF, GIF,|
|Online or Download||Online||Download|
Both Glowforge and Cricut offer design and control programs that are compatible with their range of machines.
The Glowforge laser software app is internet-based and very user-friendly, although it’s fairly basic in terms of design functions.
There are a range of free designs available in the Glowforge catalog, or you can import files from external software (the app supports SVG, JPG, PDF, and PNG files).
You can also upload hand-drawn designs and photos which the machine will then cut or engrave, which is pretty cool.
If you want to create your own designs using your computer, though, you’ll need to use an external design software like Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Inkscape.
As other users have stated, the simplicity of the Glowforge app greatly reduces the learning curve in comparison to other laser cutters.
Cricut offers Cricut Design Space for its vinyl cutters, which is available as downloadable software on desktop and as an Android and iOS app.
If using a mobile app, you can connect your phone to your Cricut via Bluetooth for easy control, meaning you don’t need an internet connection. This is something that some hobbyists prefer and is missing from the Glowforge.
It’s fairly similar to the Glowforge app in that it’s very intuitive and easy to use, but is more geared towards using pre-made designs rather than creating your own within the app. It does, however, support a wider variety of file types, so it’s more flexible in that regard.
The Cricut vinyl cutter software offers a library with over 1,000 files including images, fonts, and ready-to-print projects. You can get access to even more by subscribing to Cricut Access for $9.99 per month.
Both the Glowforge and Cricut Maker machines are really easy to get set up. Unlike many other CNC machines both of these come virtually fully assembled, meaning you can get going with just a few minor steps.
With the Glowforge, you just need to follow the assembly instructions and you should be up and running in less than an hour.
Bear in mind that due to its size and weight, it’s recommended to have two people lift your Glowforge out of the box and onto your work surface – so call up a friend, colleague or family member for the big delivery day if you live alone.
The Cricut Maker 3 (and its entire range of Maker and Explore machines) is even easier to set up as you don’t need to put any parts together.
All you need to do is plug the machine into your power supply, connect it to your computer, install the software and you’re good to go.
Clean-Up & Safety
One thing that the Cricut Maker 3 and Glowforge Plus have in common are that they’re both very safe and clean machines to use.
Both are very smartly made, self-contained machines designed for optimum safety in home use.
With the Cricut Maker machines you just need to take very basic safety precautions like not putting your hand in the machine while it’s in operation and being careful when changing the blades.
The Glowforge has more factors to take into consideration – it emits harmful fumes if not set up properly. Luckily, and unlike many other laser machines, it comes with a complete clean-up system that consists of a hose and exhaust vent.
So, all you need to do is attach the exhaust to the machine and position the hose outside a window and you can safely use the Glowforge Plus within your home.
The company also offers an air filter which allows you to use the machine safely without even needing a window, although it’s fairly costly at over $1,000.
Price & Value for Money
There’s a big difference between the Glowforge and Cricut when it comes to price. The Glowforge are some of the pricier laser engravers out there, retailing for:
- Basic – $3,995 — Available at Glowforge here
- Plus – $4,995 — Available at Glowforge here / Dynamism here
- Pro – $6,995 — Available at Glowforge here / Dynamism here
In contrast, the Cricut Maker 3 costs just $429 from Amazon, so it’s a fraction of the price of even the cheapest Glowforge model.
Although the Cricut Maker 3 is a lot cheaper than the Glowforge machines, that doesn’t mean the latter represents bad value.
It’s just that they use more expensive and powerful CO2 lasers, which naturally increases the price, and are aimed more at small business owners rather than beginners and casual hobbyists like the Cricut Maker series.
It’s also fantastic to use – think of Glowforge lasers as the Apple of the industry. You pay above-average price, but you get a laser that’s delightfully designed, and a delight to use — and it packs a punch too, being the choice of many small business owners who sell their wares online.
However, there are cheaper alternative lasers with similar specs.
Who is the Glowforge Best for?
While the Glowforge Plus and Cricut have similarities in terms of software, usability, and ease of assembly, there are also some major differences that mean each machine is better suited to different people and applications.
The main difference, of course, is that the Glowforge Plus is a laser cutter and engraver while the Cricut Maker 3 is a vinyl cutter. The Glowforge is also a very powerful laser cutter thanks to the CO2 lasers used.
This makes it much better at cutting thicker materials like leather and woods, and more suitable for engraving in general.
You can also use it to engrave soft metals like aluminum, something you can’t do with a Cricut Maker machine.
However, the Glowforge’s power and precision makes it a pretty expensive machine, and it’s also quite large. So, the Glowforge Plus is best suited to serious hobbyists and small business owners that are looking to take their work to the next level and have the space and budget to do so.
The Glowforge Plus is available to buy through the Glowforge website.
VINYL CUTTER PICK
Cricut Maker 3
Who is the Cricut Best for?
If the Glowforge is better suited to serious crafters looking to make money from their hobby or business, the Cricut Maker 3 is a much more economical option better suited at beginners and home hobbyists.
As a vinyl cutter it’s better suited to working with thinner materials than the Glowforge, but it still offers high quality and accurate cutting.
You can use it for a wide variety of different projects, with over 1,000 free designs on the very intuitive Cricut Design Space software and more than 300 compatible materials.
Perhaps the most notable difference between the two is the price – at just over $400, the Cricut Maker 3 is more than ten times cheaper than the Glowforge Plus and even more so when compared to the Glowforge Pro.
It’s also a much smaller and lighter machine, making it better suited to hobbyists with limited space in their homes.
If you think the Cricut Maker 3 is the right machine for you, you can order yourself one from Amazon today.
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