Glowforge Pro review: Laser cutting and engraving for serious hobbyists and makers

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The Glowforge Pro seems like a cumbersome big-format regular printer, but fairly than depositing ink on paper this 25kg (55lbs) device engraves and cuts a assortment of elements.


Image: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

3D printing, and its industrial counterpart additive manufacturing, is widely covered on ZDNet and in the media commonly. Costs array from a number of hundred pounds to seven-figure sums, with elements including many forms of plastic, resins, metals and even concrete. 

Yet another type of device, which also spans the array from hobbyist to industrial apps, is the CNC laser cutter/engraver, which can etch models into a assortment of elements, including plastic, leather, wooden, metallic and glass, and also cut out styles from some of them, which you can then assemble into 3D objects. Which is why Glowforge calls its device a ‘3D laser printer’. 

Started in 2014, Glowforge raised a report $27.nine million for a thirty-day crowdfunding campaign in October of the following yr, and launched its finalised product or service range in April 2018. There are three styles, with distinct combos of laser electric power, functionality and utmost ‘print’ dimension. Glowforge Simple costs $2,995, whilst the Furthermore model costs $3,995 and the Pro edition costs $five,995. The business recently declared the availability of its product or service line in the Uk (charges are a immediate greenback-to-pound translation) — therefore the existence of the Pro model on the evaluations bench (Ok, my property workplace) right here at ZDNet Uk. 

http://www.zdnet.com/

Like

  • Uncomplicated to set up and use
  • Simple website-centered program
  • Handles a huge array of elements
  • Active and helpful neighborhood forums

Don’t Like

  • Noise, odour
  • Pro model is pricey
  • Can’t engrave product above 5cm (2in.) thick
  • Proofgrade elements are pricey

Design 

The Glowforge Pro comes in a cumbersome and perfectly-guarded box measuring 116.8cm by 71.1cm by 35.5cm (46in. x 28in. x 14in.) and weighing 32kg (70lbs). The device inside of is 96.5cm huge by 52.7cm deep by 21cm tall (38in. x twenty.75in. x 8.25in.) and weighs 25kg (55lbs) — a definite two-particular person raise. You will need a durable desk or desk with at minimum 2.5cm (1in.) of clearance close to all sides, and significantly more to the front and back if you intend to use the Pro’s passthrough slot to accommodate bigger elements. 

All a few styles can get elements measuring up to twenty.four inches huge by 18 inches deep by 2 inches thick, with a utmost printable location of close to 11in. by 19.5in. The Pro’s passthrough slot permits for elements measuring twenty inches huge by a quarter of an inch thick, with no restrict on size – you print 10 inches at a time and then slide the product by the slot to procedure the upcoming part. 

The Glowforge will come with an accessory pack that involves the black metallic crumb tray, which sits in the bed of the printer to acquire any particles, an exhaust hose that clamps above the outlet on the back of the device, and a starter pack of Proofgrade materials. We had a range of woods and MDF, a few of pieces of acrylic and some leather. Formal Proofgrade elements arrive with peel-off protective coating on the two sides and a QR code from which the Glowforge’s constructed-in digital camera reads the right laser configurations. If you get 3rd-party elements, you’ll need to check out their CO2 laser compatibility, and verify the right configurations. The Glowforge Community is practical with this problem, among the numerous other folks. 

There are two options for disposing of the dust and odour that emerge from the exhaust hose: you can route the hose to the outside by a window or a window vent, or you can attach it to the optional air filter device. The latter is significant the two in phrases of fat (22kg/48lbs) and expense ($995/£901.62), with replacement filter cartridges costing $250 or £187.96. The estimated cartridge lifetime depends on what you print, and for how prolonged. 

The Glowforge Pro seems like a significant printer with a white moulded plastic case, a glass top rated and lid (with a digital camera on its underside), which opens to reveal the rail-mounted laser tube/arm/printer head system, and the crumb tray on the ground of the device. There is a front door that pulls down for uncomplicated obtain to the insides, with passthrough slots front and back for big elements (Pro model only). At the back you’ll locate the electric power enter, on/off swap and exhaust relationship. There is a big circular button on the top rated, on the right side toward the front, which flashes white to demonstrate that the Glowforge is all set to print, which it does when you push the button. 

Set up & features 

As soon as you’ve got unboxed the Glowforge and place the many aspects in spot (printer head, crumb tray, exhaust hose) you electric power it up and wait around for the button to glow a teal colour, which signifies that the printer’s temporary Wi-Fi obtain stage is all set to join to your personal computer (or telephone) to entire the setup. You do this by using setup.glowforge.com, signing in making use of the email and password used during the buying procedure. As soon as the printer head has completed its calibration, you can reconnect to your usual Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi is the only relationship strategy involving your personal computer and the Glowforge: there’s no cable concerned, and an world-wide-web relationship is expected for print processing. 

Tasks are prepared for printing in the Glowforge website application, https://application.glowforge.com, which can import bitmap (JPG, PNG) and vector data files (SVG, PDF). The application also delivers obtain, by using a Glowforge Premium subscription, to a catalogue of totally free and paid-for models, and permits you to make your personal projects from scratch making use of a assortment of clip-artwork-design graphics, styles and text in a array of fonts. 

Glowforge Premium is, as the name indicates, not cheap: the total value is $/£50 a month, although it’s at the moment on give at £349 in the Uk when billed each 18 months (£19.39 a month). If you might be a assured consumer of vector graphics program like Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator, you may well not need Glowforge Premium. But the instruments (especially the automobile-outline element), artwork and fonts are helpful, and the price cut may perfectly swing the choice for some buyers. Other Premium positive aspects contain processing of print models on more rapidly cloud-centered servers, endless cloud storage for your models and early obtain to experimental features. 

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You can also make a print by drawing or crafting on paper, putting it in the bed of the device and owning the digital camera in the lid switch it into a digital file, which you can then manipulate in many ways in the website application. 

The Glowforge Pro utilizes a CO2 laser tube working at 10,600nm and averaging 45W (the Furthermore and Simple styles use much less effective 40W lasers), with the X/Y axis motors permitting the laser to engrave with one,000dpi resolution. It can score (drawing a line, at reduced electric power) and engrave in various passes, varying the laser electric power involving pixels to achieve distinct levels of darkness. The laser can also cut product up to 50 % an inch (one.2cm) thick, at speeds relying on the product and its thickness.  

You are not able to cut metallic, as this would demand laser electric power levels beyond all those possible on a desktop device. Even so, you can cut wooden, cloth, leather, paper, acrylic, mylar, rubber, and more. All of these elements can also be engraved, together with glass, coated metallic, marble, anodised aluminium and titanium. So you can, if you would like, etch your name or a structure onto your telephone, pill or laptop computer, among the other factors that are not more than two inches thick. 

Usability & functionality

I analyzed the Glowforge Pro by engraving photographs and scans onto a assortment of Proofgrade elements. I also designed a headphone stand in MDF and etched the ZDNet logo into the back of an iPad.

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A scan of a wooden engraving by Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), engraved onto Proofgrade maple plywood, which costs £20.26 in the Uk per normal-dimension (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet. Print time was close to 40 minutes.


Image: Charles McLellan / ZDNet. Primary artwork: Thomas Bewick

glowforge-pro-headphone-stand.jpg

A headphone stand, cut and assembled from Proofgrade draftboard, which costs £8.28 in the Uk per normal-dimension (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet. The structure was downloaded from the Glowforge Catalog, and print time was close to 11 minutes.


Pictures: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

hope-cove-deckchairs-acrylic.jpg

A photo (over remaining) engraved on Proofgrade distinct acrylic at draft resolution and photographed from a window pane (over right). A normal-dimension (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet of Proofgrade distinct acrylic costs £16.96 in the Uk.


Pictures: Charles McLellan / ZDNet  

glowforge-pro-ipad.jpg

A logo etched onto the back of an iPad. I uncovered the right laser configurations for this anodised aluminium product on the Glowforge discussion board. This etching took about 10 minutes.


Pictures: Charles McLellan / ZDNet  

I had no important problems with any of these projects. The website application interface is uncomplicated, with fantastic suggestions about which stage of the procedure is underway. Print occasions will differ relying on the dimension and depth amount of the content material, regardless of whether it’s remaining engraved or cut, and the output resolution: photographs can be Draft or Hd graphics can be Draft, SD or Hd, and there’s a 3D Engrave choice (for sure elements) that engraves with additional depth (you’ll need a heightmap graphic file for this). Eradicating the protective layer following printing can be fiddly for complicated engravings, but it’s truly worth the effort and hard work: eradicating it prior to printing operates the chance of unsightly melt away marks.

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There is a truthful sum of sound when the Glowforge is working, especially if you use the air filter as there will be two followers whirring absent. The sum of sound and residual odour will rely on the content material remaining printed and the product it’s remaining printed on. We analyzed the Glowforge in a property workplace in a small terraced residence, but its most popular habitat is in all probability a spacious workshop the place relatives/neighbour-annoyance will not likely be an problem.

Conclusions 

The top rated-conclude Glowforge Pro setup we analyzed, with the air filter device, is by no means cheap at $6,990 or £6,897 all advised ($/£5,995 + $995 or £902). Formal Proofgrade elements have premium charges, way too, and sure varieties are at the moment in small source in the Uk. “Since launching Glowforge in the Uk we have had a a lot larger demand than expected for Proofgrade elements. We are on the other hand doing our most effective to fulfill this demand and to ensure each Uk customer receives their Proofgrade elements,” Glowforge advised ZDNet.

A lot more very affordable 3rd-party elements are out there on the web and in retail shops, but it’s up to you to decide their laser compatibility and use the right configurations in the website application. Then there’s the Glowforge Premium membership, if you need it, which is at the moment on give at £19.39 a month.

If you might be prepared to vent the exhaust out of a window fairly than use the air filter, fall down to a 40W laser with slower engraving and reducing speeds, and forego enhanced cooling and the passthrough slot, you can reduce the outlay to $/£3,995 for the Furthermore model — significant cost savings of $2,995 and £2,902 above the Pro+air filter value tag. And if you really don’t head even slower engraving velocity, and 50 % the guarantee time period, $/£2,995 for the Simple model seems fairly appealing. 


Glowforge model

Pro

Furthermore

Simple

CDRH classification

Course four

Course one

Course one

Laser electric power

45W

40W

40W

Warranty  

twelve months  

twelve months  

6 months  

Upgraded components (more rapidly velocity)  

of course

of course

no

Engraving velocity  

3x

2x

1x

Minimize velocity  

one.2x

1x

1x

Increased cooling  

of course

no

no

Passthrough slot

of course

no

no

Price

$five,995

$3,995

$2,995


I uncovered the Glowforge Pro a rewarding device to use. It is really uncomplicated to set up, engraves and cuts a fantastic array of elements, and use instances are limited more by the user’s artistic abilities than any deficiencies of the equipment itself.

You will need to be knowledgeable of safety, especially if experimenting with 3rd-party elements, and will have to cope with sound and some odour problems when printing – even if you have the exhaust hose thoroughly set up. You will also need a great deal of room to residence this big device, especially if you intend to use the Pro’s passthrough slot. 

You really don’t have to shell out $3-6,000 on a laser cutter/engraver, as (much less capable) products and solutions are out there for as minimal as $five hundred, or even much less. We’re wanting right here at the mid-array, whilst over Glowforge’s choices are industrial-amount gadgets that cost significantly more.

The Glowforge Pro is an excellent preference for perfectly-heeled hobbyists and makers, whilst the Furthermore and Simple styles give more very affordable routes into the planet of laser reducing and engraving. Glowforge is not just for hobbyists, both: many buyers run financially rewarding small firms selling the projects they make on these functional machines. 

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