When I think of all the desktop laser cutters available, the list is… well, extremely small. Tantamount to none, really. I can’t list any, because there are hardly any available. There are some decent DIY options, some Kickstarter projects that made a go of it and others that simply failed. There are just not a lot of options. However, Glowforge is planning to put an end to that (and destroy the need for any other options) with a desktop laser cutter/engraver sporting a full-size cutting bed, exhaustive material capabilities and software that makes all of it dead simple.
With the number of scrapebookers and hobbists in the world, you would think the desktop laser cutter would pummel the desktop 3D printing industry with a wink and a few foam stickers. After all, how many times do you need to cut a fancy paper design as opposed to 3D print a bikini–Actually, don’t answer that.
Glowforge (not to be confused with the MarkForged 3D Printer) is the most consumer-friendly looking laser cutter we’ve seen to date. There’s as much thought put into the exterior design as the interior machine, and while it houses a full-size 20″ x 21″ cutting bed (20″ x ∞ for the Pro version), the footprint is only 38″ x 20.75″. The weight, at 70lbs, matches the closest comparable option, BUT includes the optional air filter that allows indoor use. Remove that and you bring the weight down to 55 lbs, and the cost down below $2,000.
Glowforge Basic (CDRH Class I)
Cutbed: 20″ x 12″
Laser: Custom CO2 40W laser
Price: $2495 (with filter)/ $1995 (without filter)
Glowforge Pro (CDRH Class IV)
Cutbed: 20″ by ∞
Laser: Custom CO2 45W laser
Price: $3995 (with filter)
Drag-and-drop with live preview
Trace mode engraves over drawings
JPG, PNG, TIF, SVG, AI, DXF, PDF, & more
Plugins available for Adobe Illustrator and Inkscape
Dual cameras — wide angle & macro with optical thickness measurement and continuous realtime autofocus
Case — High modulus injection molded plastic
Linear System — Custom extruded aluminum linear rails with belt driven v-wheel carrier
Motion — Dual hybrid stepper Y axis; single hybrid stepper X axis
Cooling — Closed loop self contained internal cooling.
Air Assist — Internal air assist, no external compressor hookup required
110/220 VAC, 50/60 HZ
Positioning precision to 0.001″ (0.025mm)
Engraving at 1000 DPI with 256 power levels
Cuts & Engraves
wood, fabric, leather, paper, cardboard, plexiglas (acrylic), Delrin (acetal), mylar, rubber, cork, sandpaper, foods
glass, marble, rubber stamps, stone, ceramic tile, anodized aluminum, brass, titanium, corian
The software just sweetens the deal. It’s cross platform for Mac, PC or tablet, and gives you a visual interface to drag and drop you design onto the material. It’s compatible with Photoshop and Illustrator or can match hand-drawn designs, cutting right over the artwork. It works together with the system to allow for cutting through 1/4″ plywood or acrylic from one side and up to 1.5″ on other materials.
The dual cameras factor in the thickness of the material to four one thousandths of an inch. The printer also recognize a variety of specially-coded materials, even an iPhone or laptop, and is compatible with Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android, & Windows or Linux computers with file format support for JPG, PNG, PDF, EPS and others via software like Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Autodesk, or Sketchup.
Dan Shapiro, Founder/CEO, leads a small band of software engineers, electrical engineers and mechanical engineers in development of the product that has racked up over $6 million in 11 days of pre-order availability. They announced a $9 million in Series A funding over the summer from former MakerBot CEOs, Bre Pettis and Jenny Lawton. As the person who founded Sparkbuy price-comparison site and launched photo-sharing service PhotoBucket, Dan is familiar with the ingredients for a successful product. I’m convinced he’s onto something here, that not even the desktop 3D printer manufacturers have picked up on–How to develop and launch a product that is highly attractive to both the consumer and professional market.
The Glowforge laser cutter/engraver may be pre-ordered starting at $1,995 for a basic model, up to $3,995 for the pro version. That’s over 50% off the intended retail price when the Pro version will be priced at $8000, 20 days from now. (Update: Through the month of October, you can get an additional $100 off if you’re a member on Instructables.)
Is the Glowforge the best desktop laser cutter option you’ve seen? Outside some intended for more industrial use, this looks absolutely stellar for use in a design space or makerspace or even, as the video drives home, the kitchen countertop.