CNC & Machining
Here’s All the Specs for Glowforge’s New Desktop Laser Cutter
The Glowforge 3D Laser Printer
The Glowforge 3D Laser Printer

The Glowforge, a “3D Laser Printer,” will become available for pre-orders today at MakerCon, the Maker Movement professional conference in New York City. During the 30 day pre-order campaign, a Glowforge unit will be available for $1,995, which is half off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $3,995.

Glowforge is a well-funded company that hopes to establish the laser cutter as a desktop and workshop companion to the 3D printer.

A video, released before MakerCon, demonstrates the Glowforge proposition to Makers.

Dan Shapiro, the cofounder and CEO of Glowforge, who is speaking in an early afternoon session, is also expected to reveal new Glowforge specs and details to the MakerCon audience, and announce that the first publicly available demonstration models will be available at World Maker Faire New York, which will be held Saturday and Sunday, September 26 and 27, on the grounds of the New York Hall of Science, in Queens, New York City. Visitors will be able to draw on a square of acrylic and the Glowforge will then cut and engrave over their drawings to make a keepsake they can take with them. 

Glowforge has dubbed their creation a “3D laser printer,” but Makers will recognize the underlying technology as a CNC laser: using subtractive technology to cut and engrave dozens of materials. Glowforge, which raised $9 million in financing earlier this year, has clearly produced a laser cutter plus: with a host of updates and enhancements, including cloud-based software and compatibility with tablets.

“We quickly realized that we could use these technologies to make Glowforge as intuitive and delightful to use as our favorite smart devices,” Shapiro said in a press release.

At MakerCon, Shapiro will demonstrate how the Glowforge is hoping to make laser cutting easier and more accessible to Makers.

More automated

Once the creator chooses a project and places a piece of material like paper, wood, or leather inside, the Glowforge automatically produces a 3D scan of the material, adapting the design to the material’s measurements. Then the user can preview and make any adjustments on his or her Mac, PC, or tablet. Glowforge’s dual cameras capture the material and render an accurate preview of the final product. Finally the user pushes Glowforge’s single button and the unit runs automatically, using autofocus to achieve accurate depth and position. Typical prints take between two and twenty minutes.

A video, released before MakerCon, demonstrates the Glowforge proposition to Makers.

Make:’s Dale Dougherty recently interviewed Dan Shapiro about the Glowforge. You can watch a video of their conversation below.

Among the additional specifications Glowforge will release today:

  • The $1,995 unit has 40W laser, and has a maximum material size of 12″×20″. A “pro” model will be available that is 45W, has upgraded optics, and a pass-through that lets users work on material up to 20″ wide, but infinitely long, for $3,995.
  • The standard unit’s laser is Class 1, so it’s safe to use in classrooms and at home without further precaution, but the Pro model is Class IV and requires additional precautions like safety glasses.
  • Both Glowforge models are capable of cutting plywood or acrylic up to 0.25 inches on one side
  • Both can also cut and engrave organic materials like hardwoods, leathers, acrylics, plywoods, fabrics, and
    food
  • Stone, metal, and many consumer electronics can also be engraved.

Shapiro has said that he expects that Glowforges will start shipping at the end of 2015.

18 thoughts on “Here’s All the Specs for Glowforge’s New Desktop Laser Cutter

  1. Exciting. I think the lower barrier to entry compared to 3D printers (or more specifically, the lower barrier of 2D design vs 3D) is behind the relative popularity of the laser cutters in most shared labs I’ve seen.
    Here’s looking forward to the Make: Guide to Desktop Lasers in a couple years.

  2. I absolutely love a lot of what the Glowforge offers.

    Sadly, it relies on constantly-on connections to their corporate servers in order to run. When the connection drops, the laser cutter becomes a brick.

    That means your art or fledgling business is shackled to the company’s server up-time, your wifi router, your local ISP’s connections, intermediate data slow-downs, and the power grid – even if you’re otherwise off-grid. If any link in that chain gets clipped, your business is instantly off-line too.

    The idea of buying a physical tool that relies on somebody else’s server is anathema to maker and business culture alike, and should not be supported.

    1. +1 Can the machine also be used standalone, possibly with reduced capabilities? There are lots of products these days that depend on “cloud” services, but of course we all wonder what’s going to happen to our investment when the company goes out of business or tries to force upgrades to newer hardware or simply decides it want to monetize its online services. I’d love to buy one of these, but $2K is a bit too much to invest in something that feels risky. EVERYONE says “Don’t worry, we’re in this for the long haul!”. That’s nice, but you aren’t Amazon. Give me a backup.

    2. I use Tinkercad. Cloud-based service. Gmail – cloud-based service. While I agree it’s a little strange to have a tool using cloud-based computing, I’m willing to bet on my WiFi, Internet provider, and Glowforge. I don’t live in the countryside, and I’d say my Internet service is 90%+ reliable on any given day. This is not a deal killer for me.

      1. E-mail clearly necessitates an internet connection, but the rest of your point is worth of discussion.

        Clearly GF would not seek to release a product that doesn’t work for _most_ users. I’d like it to make sense for _all_ of us – and I think that’s possible while still having a great product.

        I want it to work for those who don’t have good internet connections, or have data caps, or need to work while off the power grid for various reasons.

        Or for those who don’t want a (sociopathic) 3rd party to have a record of every thing they’ve made, or a picture of every person who’s used the tool they own.

        I don’t think those are unreasonable things.

        1. And chances are that a competitor will offer up something or GF will make a change in this product or their next one. The cloud element doesn’t bother me in the least, and while I understand your concern about 3rd party privacy, there are always ways around that if someone REALLY wants to use the GF. I imagine at some point GF may release an app that allows the product to work remotely without an Internet connection, but your original email seemed to indicate that reliability of Internet connection would be an issue and I was simply replying that today, that is almost a non-issue with most high-speed providers. I hope GF can come up with a similarly priced product in the future that will satisfy your requests.

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  3. Since it will follow inked lines on uneven surfaces, you could bypass the cover interlock and use it to turn your tattoo into something really badass.

  4. My theory about the “cloud software” bit is that they’re trying to forestall cheap Chinese clones–Glowforge can authenticate the machine connecting to their software, so a clone would be crippled. If so, it’s a doomed strategy, because lots of people could stick a cheap camera or two on a sub $1K laser cutter and add some simple software to follow lines. That’s what most people will care about, and they won’t notice subtleties like the fact that the Glowforge has autofocus (unlike most cheap laser cutters) or a nice, sharp TEM00 laser. The only benefit the buyer gets from these software shenanigans is to help keep Glowforge in business for a little longer so their cutter doesn’t get bricked quite so quickly. Glowforge says they’re going to “release the firmware” (presumably, they mean the source code), but only some teeny tiny percentage of the machine’s buyers would be able to make any use of that when the cloud part permanently goes down (which, make no mistake about it, will happen sooner or later). For everyone else, they’ll have an expensive table decoration unless someone starts selling replacement software (probably should have kept that idea to myself…).

    I’ve already been burned a couple of times by buying into hardware that requires remote server (“cloud”) support–never again, except for those cases where it’s obviously necessary, as with cellphones.

    The good thing about Glowforge is that they’ll get everyone thinking about line-tracking laser cutters, so before long there will be a flood of add-ons for existing cutters that will provide this function, even if most of them are crap. For example, the huge tattoo industry could be a major consumer of these things (“Want me to turn your ink tattoo into something really badass? Stick your arm into this box.”).

    I hope Dan Shapiro comes to his senses and finds a fix for this serious flaw in his business model, because he seems like a sincere and intelligent guy and I’d truly like for him to succeed. The world needs a product like this, and if you can believe their marketing it looks like Glowforge has the wherewithal to pull it off. But they aren’t getting a penny of money of mine until I’m convinced that I will truly own the product I’m paying for.

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DC Denison is the co-editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

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