Glowforge laser cutters are great if you want an easy, accessible machine that offers reasonable power.
But, there are a number of Glowforge alternatives that offer better z-depth, do the same job at a lower cost, can cut deeper than Glowforge’s 0.25” cut depth faster than their middling cut speed, and offer more power than Glowforge’s 45W CO2 laser.
So, we’ve listed our in-depth comparisons of the best alternatives to Glowforge, but if you’re in a rush, here are our top picks:
- Best budget Glowforge alternative: OMTech 40W
- Best offline software alternative: FSL Muse
- Even more power but cheaper: OMTech 55W
- Best lower-power alternative: Flux Beamo
- Best Glowforge alternative for cutting thicker materials: Inventables X-Carve
- Best industrial Glowforge alternative: Thunder Laser Nova 24
- Best all-in-one alternative: Snapmaker 2.0 A350 with 10W cutter
We’ve tested more than half a dozen laser cutters and engravers over the last few years, ranging from lower-cost lasers like the Ortur Laser Master 2 Pro, all the way up to Glowforge-level machines and the Snapmaker 2.0 with 10W laser add-on. Based on our experiments and tests, here are our Glowforge alternatives.
But first, why would you choose not to buy a Glowforge Pro, Basic, or Plus?
What is Glowforge Not Good For?
Glowforge’s Apple-like design, sleek surfaces, and slick marketing campaigns have turned creatives and makers all over the world into Glowforge devotees.
And there’s many reasons why: they’re accessible and intuitive, work well generally, and turn your home or workshop into a one-stop shop for an Etsy store or similar – most people pay their machine cost off within a few months if they’ve got enough creative ideas for their wares.
With lasers becoming affordable enough for most businesses to be able to afford one, these accessible, Plug’n’Play lasers are great. If you’re after a simple laser that’s a joy to use, and you can accept the sacrifice in specs you might gain by switching to an alternative, go for a Glowforge Pro, Plus, or Basic.
However, there are some key reasons why you wouldn’t opt for a Glowforge:
The Glowforge Pro is $5,995, a very large expense — especially if you’re not making $100,000+ per year and have a family to feed, or business expenses to pay. It’s simply too much money for most people to sensibly set aside for a speculative business investment, or for a hobby.
The lowest-cost Glowforge model, the Glowforge Basic, starts at $2,499 but doesn’t offer the same size, infinite length cutting, or power of the Pro. Our Glowforge alternatives offer better power at lower prices, such as the OMTech 40W or 55W.
For engraving and thin cutting, the Glowforge Pro and other models offer fantastic accuracy and repeatability. However, those who want to cut 0.5-inch or thicker plywood and similar materials will be frustrated with the 0.25-inch cutting depth.
We’ve picked Glowforge laser cutter alternatives with deeper cutting power, as well as a CNC router – the Inventables X-Carve – for those eager to cut thicker wood and acrylic, as well as light aluminum.
You may not need so much power
For more casual makers looking to go deeper than tip their toes into laser engraving (for toe-dipping, go for the Ortur LM2 Pro or Atomstack X7 Pro diode lasers), the Glowforge doesn’t make sense.
If you don’t need the 40-45W CO2 laser power Glowforge’s models offer, opt for a lower-power yet still professional-grade laser, like the Flux Beamo, and save yourself a few thousand dollars.
Reliance on cloud-based software and an internet connection
Glowforge Print uses the cloud, so if you don’t have an internet connection that reaches wherever your machine sits, you’re stuffed. You can’t download the app and use it offline, so you’re really a prisoner to your WiFi connection.
What’s more, many Glowforge users complain about the slow server times from sending your job, to the job executing. Understanding users’ frustrations, Glowforge brought out a fix – but it wasn’t the fix the customers wanted.
In fact, their solution was to offer a $50/month Glowforge Premium software, which gave users priority in the cloud queue to submit their projects. While this also comes with a wide commercially-licensed vector graphics library and some other really cool features like font tools, shape and outline tools, and unlimited storage, charging people to gain the same level of productivity you could get from an offline, downloadable software feels steep.
On top of that, there’s the fact that if Glowforge were to go out of business, and the software was to cease being updated, you could in theory be left with a $6,000 useless brick of a machine that can’t be accessed or controlled. While Glowforge appears in healthy straits, many well-to-do companies have suddenly disappeared over the years, and the lack of downloadable, offline support adds risk to your choice.
We picked Glowforge alternatives that use laser software like Lightburn that you can download and run, and that offer lifetime access once you’ve paid your one-off fee.
No rotary module add-on
While not everyone wants to do 4-axis engraving of curved materials, it’s a useful option to have in your laser engraving arsenal.
Unfortunately, none of Glowforge’s three models have rotary axis compatibility, but alternatives to Glowforge lasers we picked, such as Muse, OMTech, and Flux Beamo offer 4-axis engraving.
Short, difficult-to-fit exhaust hose
Many Glowforge owners complain about the short exhaust hose that’s difficult to fit, and can often slip off during a project, which nobody wants to happen when there’s fumes about.
There are solutions, such as this exhaust port extension which can be 3D printed or bought cheaply. However, the ideal Glowforge replacement wouldn’t have this issue to begin with.
This isn’t a huge deal for most, as you need to kind of expect a certain level of noise if you’re planning on lasering materials. Plus, if you’ve ever owned a CNC router, and to a lesser extent, a 3D printer, you’ll know how loud that carving woods in particular on a router can be.
Nevertheless, the Glowforge Pro is noisy. So opt for a quieter Glowforge alternative if you plan to run it near your living space.
The Best Glowforge Alternatives
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OMTech K40 40W – cheapest Glowforge alternative
- Work area: 12″ x 8″
- Price: $549 — Available on Amazon here
The world’s cheapest CO2 laser, the OMTech 40W cuts on costs by being manufactured in China – OMTech being the US-based offshoot from Chinese manufacturer Orion Motor Tech.
It’s so cheap, despite not being a diode laser, and still packs a punch with 40W CO2 power for engraving into coated metals, as well as standard acrylics and other materials.
The main factor you sacrifice is the size of materials you can cut and engrave. With just a 12×8″ working area, you can’t work with large signs, cutting boards, and other wide or tall projects, but you can cut and engrave coasters, fun festival-focused Halloween or Christmas ornaments and decorations, and other fun projects.
There’s no touchscreen, a feature on more premium machines. But, the K40 Whisperer software is adequate, and you can easily important Inkscape-designed SVGs (or from Illustrator or anywhere else) and edit and prepare them for engraving or cutting. \However, K40 Whisperer can’t manage JPG files, so you’ll need to import those into Inkscape first and export them in a compatible format. If you’re a die-hard Lightburn fan then it is possible to upgrade the K40 laser to use this software, but you will need to upgrade the board – which also enables you to remotely adjust laser power and other functions.
Once your files are prepared, the OMTech 40W can raster engrave at 300-400mm/s, whereas Glowforge are rather protective of publicly publishing their models’ speeds, but it’s estimated at under 250mm/s by Glowforge owners.
For such a cheap machine it’s reliable and durable, and if you run into any problems, OMTech offer a 2-year warranty on the machine, and a year on the consumables. At a fraction of the cost of the Glowforge, it’s only marginally less powerful (5W less than the Pro).
There are optional upgrades you can purchase, such as a chiller water reservoir and cooler, an upgradeable air assist, and board (e.g. a laser board by a company like Cohesion3D). OMTech offer a variety of machines with varying power to suit your needs, so if you want to go harder, opt instead for the bigger 50W version – though it’ll set you back upwards of $2,000.
Overall, if you want near-Glowforge-level power, but at 10% of the price, go for the OMTech 40W. But, be aware of the accessibility, productivity, and size sacrifices you make as a result.
FSL Muse 3D
- Price: $3,499 — Available at Matterhackers here
- Working area: 20″ x 12″ / 508 x 305 mm
Full Spectrum Laser’s Muse is a popular Glowforge alternative and a fierce competitor in the laser cutting scene. They both offer 45W power (well, the Muse is 40W by default but you can buy it with a 45W upgrade for $250 extra), but the Muse sells at half the price of the Glowforge Pro.
A main difference between Muse vs Glowforge is their philosophy in software. We prefer Muse’s offline strategy: their RetinaEngrave software can be used offline, making it much more versatile than Glowforge’s solely browser-based software, though it’s also browser-based and works with all major browsers like Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Edge.
It’s not a download though, which adds a small amount of complexity. Instead, your Muse laser runs its own web server which hosts the Retina Engrave software, which you then point your browser to the Muse’s IP address to open RE3 on a LAN connection. For a fuller explanation, check out this forum thread here.
Muse also has an easy-to-use LCD screen (Glowforge doesn’t) for moving between projects, a usable camera akin to Glowforge’s (arguably easier to use, too), and has a rotary attachment option for those looking to engrave rounded or curved materials (Glowforge doesn’t). Like Glowforge the Muse laser cutter is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux users.
A main difference is Muse opts for external water cooling, whereas Glowforge’s cooling is built-in. This makes the Glowforge easier to position and store than the FSL Muse.
So if you’re looking for a laser cutter with similar power to Glowforge (1000dpi, 45W), but has rotary attachment upgradability, is half the price, and intuitive, offline software, the Muse is a great Glowforge alternative.
- Price: $2,499 — Available at Amazon here
- Working area: 600 x 400 mm
OMTech’s low-cost K40 40W laser made our list as the cheapest Glowforge alternative, but for a more like-for-like alternative specs-wise, we have the OMTech 55W.
It doesn’t feature unlimited lengths like the Glowforge Pro, but the 24” x 16” working area is larger than most in its price range, and is more than enough for cutting large signs or topographical maps.
It can also cut deeper, with an estimated 0.63” max cutting thickness according to OMTech, versus Glowforge’s 0.25” maximum cut depth. Beyond actual cut depth, you get far more z-depth with the OMTech 55W, at 10” vs the Glowforge Pro’s 2”.
If you want to rotary engrave, the Glowforge can’t satisfy you, leaving the OMTech the only game in town (though most of our other Glowforge Pro alternatives on this list have these add-ons). The rotary device add-on costs just under $300, and there’s a few other handy add-ons also available like the 5200 water chiller for $500.
OMTech stress both the speed differences between their 55W laser cutter and the 45W Glowforge Pro, and the image resolution differences. For speed, OMTech claim a 600mm/s max engraving speed vs Glowforge’s estimated 200-250mm/s, and a far significant 400mm/s cutting speed. The 2540 dpi image resolution vs around 1000 dpi for the Glowforge is significant, though both are still considered high quality.
FLUX Beamo – great cheap Glowforge alternative
- Price: $2,299 — Available at Matterhackers here
- Work area: 300 x 210 mm
Rocking a 30W CO2 laser as compared with the Glowforge Pro’s 45W, the FLUX Beamo is a bitesize, lite version for makers who want a powerful CO2 laser, but want to pay a lot less and who don’t require 45W of power.
It’s also ideal as a Glowforge alternative for makers without much space in their workshop, in a school, or anywhere else where space is key, encompassing just 615 x 445 x 165 mm – it’s one of the smallest professional-grade lasers out there. This does however limit working area to just 300 x 210 mm.
It’s easy to get started, with the Flux Beamo coming in a single box that’s nearly fully installed. All you need to do is set up the exhaust hose and a few other simple parts. Whereas often to save money you’re forced to accept a more difficult and length assembly process – such as with kit 3D printers vs commercial options – you retain the Flux Beamo’s simple and intuitive assembly at this lower price.
Unlike the Glowforge lasers, the Flux Beamo has a rotary add-on for round objects: tumblers, bottle or other curved materials are no problem. It’s also just generally a breeze to use: the touchscreen simplifies your workflow, it connects seamlessly via WiFi as well as via Ethernet, and Beam Studio is really intuitive to get to grips with.
Beam Studio works with Mac, Windows and Linux, is actively updated and developed, and comes with a range of different material presets to save you any experimentation, as well as tools for creating custom shapes, as well as SVG and other file format importing, and raster engraving options.
Flux’s 4-layer filter, Beam Air, is an optional add-on for a safer and more pleasant workspace with less noise. While it doesn’t come with the Beamo by default, it’s a premium extra with a HEPA filter and three higher-level layers that stack on it. It’s sleekly designed and features an adjustable knob to control air ventilation. However, it doesn’t come cheap, at $699.
Despite the lower power, the Flux Beamo stakes its case as an effective Glowforge alternative, able to cut through 4mm plywood in one single pass, and 8mm if you run two passes.
However, at these larger thicknesses, it will begin to struggle, and may set fire to the wood if you haven’t optimized your settings enough – as some users have reported. Nevertheless, the power is sufficient to engrave contrasting shades into glass, acrylic, and other transparent materials, and it’s built for safety: it doesn’t turn on or start until the transparent lid is sealed, and has a range of other safety features.
Inventables X-Carve 1000mm – best Glowforge alternative for deep cuts, metal, and large projects
- Work area: 29.5″ x 29.5″ x 4.5″
- Price: $2,299 – Available at Matterhackers here
Lasers are great for engraving contrast and for detailed images, and when used for cutting, provided you’ve got your settings right, offer a clean cut without burned edges or rough surface finishes. However, they can’t cut thick materials – for example, the Glowforge Pro only cuts up to 0.25” deep.
If you want to cut through thicker plywood, acrylic, or even soft metals, a CNC router could be a better option instead. For mid-range CNC routers for small businesses, it doesn’t get much better than the X-Carve. It can easily handle 2-inch cuts of woods and acrylic, and works quickly for producing larger numbers of sellable crafts. The X-Carve Pro is even faster, and can cut furniture like chairs in a fraction of the time.
The downside compared with the Glowforge and other high-powered lasers is you lose some accuracy. Cuts are slightly rougher – though still very good – so if you’re fine with engraving and thin cuts, the Glowforge is still the way to go. But, for thicker materials, as well as for CNC milling aluminum, go for the X-Carve.
The X-Carve comes with a 3-year subscription of Easel Pro, Inventables’ easy-to-use, cloud-based CNC software relatively similar to Glowforge’s own software. It’s great for beginners (and they even have an Easel 101 set of courses to learn) but also requires an internet connection.
It also takes a long time to assemble – hours on hours. So, while you can almost plug’n’play with the Glowforge, the X-Carve is more technical and complex to put together. If you opt for the X-Carve bundle, you get the new Makita router, stepper motors, dust collection, and the upgraded z-axis – everything you need for one of the most powerful CNC routers for the money. It’s a powerful machine, and if you’re looking for power over accuracy, consider switching from lasers to CNC.
Thunder Laser Nova 24
- Price: $7,400
- Work area: 600 x 400 mm
For a large, premium option instead of the Glowforge Pro, Thunder Laser manufactures a number of professional laser cutters, ranging from the lowest-cost Nova 24 Lite and Nova 24 machines, up to higher-priced premium industrial lasers.
It’s more expensive than the Glowforge Pro, but if you’re looking for a durable, industrial laser for your business, the Nova 24 is ideal. The 60W power and large 600 x 400 mm working area with infinite length if you keep the pass-through door open mean you’ll be able to cut and engrave almost any material you desire, no matter the size or toughness.
Unlike Glowforge’s online laser software, Thunder Laser machines are compatible with Lightburn, and each machine comes with a license. Using Lightburn ensures you own the IP for any designs you use (a concern with the Glowforge workflow), and you can use it offline.
A major limitation of Glowforge laser cutters is the little z-depth movement, so you can’t engrave tall objects, such as bowls, figurines, pots, and other ornaments or tall furniture. The Nova 24’s tray can be adjusted downwards for these taller parts without issue. It also comes with a CW5200 water cooler, air assist compressor, flexible ducting, and more.
For business use, speed is key – it’s directly related to how much money you can make. The Thunder Laser Nova 24 can work at 1000mm/s, making it an effective business machine. It’s safely enclosed and has a well-designed exhaust tube system to prevent any of the CO2 laser gases from reaching you.
It’s expensive and complex, but if you’re looking to scale up your business, Thunder Laser laser machines are ideal. If you run into any trouble there are a variety of helpful Facebook groups such as this and this group, and Thunder Laser offer 6 different models — the Nova 24 the cheapest — that you can compare and determine which is best for you.
The video below explains one customer’s view on Thunder Laser and how they better match up against Glowforge lasers:
Snapmaker 2.0 A350T with 10W Laser Add-on
- Price: $1,799 (A20T is cheaper) — Available at Snapmaker Store here
- Working area: 320 x 350 x 330 mm
The 10W can cut 8mm wood and acrylic, and we were really impressed when we tested it. We’ve previously tested the Snapmaker 2.0 A350 here, and used the standard 1.6W laser to cut thin woods, but this new laser head builds on that significantly.
It can engrave on anodized aluminum (we engraved a lion head in just a 45-second job run), comfortably cut large acrylic sheets and basswood in minutes, and you can buy the rotary attachment module for engraving rounded surfaces – we had a blast engraving cylinder gift boxes with our logo and other fun designs.
However, you wouldn’t buy the Snapmaker if you’re just looking for a laser. Instead, the Snapmaker 2.0’s selling point is that with just 4 screws you can switch out the laser head for the CNC module or 3D printer extruder, and either carve wood or acrylic designs with the various bits that come with it for the CNC toolhead, or 3D print PLA, ABS and other materials with the 3D printer toolhead.
We 3D printed benchy tests, a big pikachu model, a vase, and more with the extruder toolhead and were impressed with the results.
All these functions in one make the Snapmaker 2.0 the best Glowforge alternative for hobbyists looking to have fun and do everything in one very competent machine. It also saves space, rather than cluttering up your work area with three machines.
However, for small businesses looking to engrave and cut their designs, it won’t be able to match your required speeds and productivity. But as an all-in-one machine for having fun with 3D printing, laser engraving and cutting, and CNC cutting, or even testing out your business in all three of these mediums, it’s ideal. Snapmaker are always releasing more options too, with a dual extruder option also rumored to be coming soon.
Lastly, if you’re worried about reliability, OMTech offer a 2-year warranty on their laser cutting machines, compared with Glowforge’s 1-year warranty. OMTech also boast nationwide customer support, and they’re happy to help if you run into trouble – though Glowforge have their active forum, as well as support also.
Factors To Consider When Buying a Glowforge Alternative
Consider your long-term costs, not just the purchase price
Though the purchase price is the most ominous figure, when choosing either to buy a Glowforge cutter or an alternative option, it’s important to think about the total costs of your investment, and how much money you can make back from it.
If you’re planning on starting a business and you’ve struck gold and released some really in-demand wares on Etsy or your own store, the speed you can make more products can be a bottleneck in how much money you can make. For example, if a slower laser holds you back from making an extra $20,000 across the next 4 years, then investing in a more powerful and expensive laser is the more profitable play.
You also need to consider your ongoing costs such as for materials and replacement parts. While high quality and convenient, Glowforge’s Proofgrade materials are priced as such.
Do you want to do 4-axis rotary engraving?
If you want to engrave curved surfaces, then don’t buy the Glowforge, and consider one of the laser cutters to buy instead of the Glowforge Pro, such as the FSL Muse, OMTech options, Snapmaker 2.0 with the rotary add-on, or the Flux Beamo.
While sleek, relatively powerful, and easy to use if you’re newer to laser cutting and engraving, Glowforge machines aren’t exactly speed demons.
Glowforge don’t reveal the exact speeds each of their machines offer, choosing instead to list the Glowforge Pro’s speed relative to the Glowforge Basic.
However, curious Glowforge users have taken to the forums to experiment and post their results, and generally it’s considered one of the slowest CO2 lasers available. This is in contrast with lasers such as Thunder Laser’s Nova 35, which can run 5x as fast.
Reasons To Buy a Glowforge Laser Cutter
Large cutting area
Glowforge machines, especially the Glowforge Pro with its infinite-length 3D laser printing, offer large working areas on the X and Y axes – despite fitting snugly on most workshop desktops. All you need is a nearby window to vent out of.
This will be more than enough, unless you plan on doing enormous 24” cutting and engraving, in which case you’ll need an industrial laser cutter-sized machine.
High-quality and workflow-optimized Proofgrade materials
While they’re priced to reflect this, Glowforge’s material range offers high-quality acrylics, woods, and more to get started with. They each come with a unique QR code that automatically optimizes your Glowforge for working with the material, and the material sheets are evenly cut for a high-quality job.
Some will argue that this is Glowforge’s attempt to trap you in the 2D printer style of business model of getting you hooked on ink cartridges and trapping you within their ecosystem, but frankly Glowforges themselves aren’t cheap like an inkjet printer loss-leader, and you can use your own third-party or custom-cut materials with your 3D laser printer if you don’t want to use theirs.
However, the materials are often sold out, and businesses looking to maximize profit margins will be better off sourcing cheaper materials elsewhere.
Built-in camera, and thousands of free designs (including major IP)
It’s easy to laser your own custom hand-draw your designs using your Glowforge’s built-in camera. But you can even go one further, with Glowforge Premium’s design library with almost unlimited free designs.
What’s more, Glowforge have teamed up to offer designs such as Star Wars designs within the app, that you can use commercially.
Glowforge’s marketing strategy is definitely the best in the game, and despite the price, thousands of makers all over the world have pulled the trigger on one of their laser machines.
As a result, there are thriving communities on Glowforge’s forums, on YouTube, and various subreddits including Glowforge’s own subreddit with over 7,000 members.
Other articles you may be interested in:
- The best CO2 lasers
- K40 Lasers: A buyer’s guide
- The best laser engravers for metal
- The best acrylic laser cutters and engravers
- Great laser cutting and engraving ideas and projects
- The best laser cutter and engraver software
- Free laser cut files: the best websites to download free SVGs
- Muse vs Glowforge
- Glowforge vs CNC
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