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About two decades ago, there were big, massive, hazardous, and expensive laser cutting and engraving Glowforge machines. Such machines weren’t for common artists, hobbyists, DIY experts, small businesses, and professionals—they were specifically made for industrial use.
After realizing the potential of the laser and considering safety measures, there was a massive breakthrough in the last decade. Many companies started to put their effort into the making of a compact, affordable, and safe laser cutting and engraving machine that can do most of the jobs.
With the introduction of a few laser cutting and engraving machines, there has been a massive demand from customers. The reason behind the demand was the finishing, speed, and accuracy that the laser cutting and engraving machines offer. It was the time when people started preferring lasers.
Glowforge is one company that made laser cutting and engraving machines for common people that almost anyone can use. The company got everyone’s attention after raising about $30 million in crowdfunding. It all started in 2014, and the company introduced some famous and one-of-a-kind products in 2018.
The product range that Glowforge has introduced is innovative, compact, and suitable for small businesses, artists, crafters, and professionals. The products got huge attention after getting into the market. However, there are still some issues and expected improvements, so people are looking for alternatives.
In this article, we will have an in-depth look at the Glowforge products and why people need an alternative. We will also discuss the best Glowforge alternative to help you out in making the right decision.
Glowforge introduced three products, Glowforge Basic, Gowerforge Plus, and Glowforge Pro. These products share many features, but the difference lies in speed, laser tube power, material size capability, and a few features.
Let’s have a look at the common features of Glowforge, and then we will look at the exclusive features of each product.
Common Features and Pros
The features of Glowforge products are outstanding. The innovative features show the effort of the company in bringing the product to the market.
All Glowforge machines work on a CO2 laser, and they are extremely powerful. The optical power ranges from 40-45W, which is more than enough for a wide range of materials. Whether you want to cut or engrave materials, the machine is more than perfect. In addition, the speed of the machines is outstanding, which can complete the job in less time.
Glowforge machines have a built-in high-quality camera that helps you in aligning the design over the object. The live preview of the object under the laser machine can be seen on the software. It gives you a complete idea of the placement and the result. You can use your finger or mouse to place the design wherever required. It eliminates the chances of errors and wrong placement of the design.
The machines are capable of high-resolution engraving. They can support almost all formats, including HD and 3D photos. While engraving 3D photos, the laser intensity is adjusted as required. It gives deeper cuts and burns for a real 3D effect. These can even engrave 1000 DPI resolution of 3D curves. Due to this outstanding feature, the machines are capable of considering the minute details of the image and offer ultimate precision. Also raster and vector engraving.
Glowforge machines are extra precise. The laser module is controlled by optimal-quality stepper motors that are very precise and accurate. They can be controlled with a precision of a thousandth of an inch. With this incredible precision, the engraving is almost exactly the same as the real image with all the minute details.
Therefore, the machines are suitable for artists that give more attention to the fine details in the graphics. In addition, vector graphics can also be made with high accuracy and precision; the repeat position error is minimal and unnoticeable.
There is no need to set the focus of the laser on the material because the machines can do it on their own. There is an autofocus feature that allows the machine to adjust the focus of the laser according to the material.
Setting the focus according to the material is a bit difficult, and beginners usually get confused. But Glowforge has solved this problem. The thickness and type of the material are guessed by reading the QR code on the material, and the focus is adjusted for perfect engraving and cutting.
Unlike other laser engraving and cutting machines, Glowforge machines have cloud-based software. You only need to use an internet browser to use the application. It is much easier for beginners.
There are two versions of the software. One is the Glowforge print, which is free to use. The second one is Glowforge premium which requires a monthly subscription. The premium version has additional features such as creative tools, graphics, designs, and storage for designs. However, the version is optional.
This is an extraordinary feature of Glowforge machines. The user can use a pen to draw anything he likes. The graphics can be created on a piece of paper using a pen and then it is scanned by the camera. You can use the drawing for your projects.
Quality and Finish
The built quality of the Glowforge machines is up to the mark. From the outer appearance to the inner machinery, everything is made from high-quality materials. The sleek and attractive design is awesome. The design is so compact that people might not figure out that it is a laser engraving and cutting machine. It looks like a large version of a desktop printer.
For operating the machine in a closed space, like home, there is a 4-inches hose connected to the machines. You can throw out the air outside your window. If you don’t have a window, there is a Glowforge air filter available. It cleans the air, so you can use the machines wherever you want. The Air Filter unit is sold separately for $1,295.
Range of Materials
Glowforge machines can cut wood, leather, fabric, paper, acrylic, mylar, rubber, foods, Corian, and more. These can engrave all the materials they can cut plus glass, coated metal, marble, titanium, anodized aluminum, etc. Thus, the user has a wide range of material choices for making different products.
1) Glowforge Basic
This is the basic version of Glowforge machines, which is suitable for home use. It contains a 40W laser tube suitable for all materials that a CO2 laser can cut and engrave. The laser is a Class 1 laser like a DVD player.
The machine comes with a comprehensive warranty of 6 months. In addition, the buyer also gets $150 of premium Proofgrade materials.
The material size that the laser machine can work with is 20.4” x 12”, and the maximum height is 2”. The speed of Glowforge Basic is the lowest compared to other versions.
Glowforge Basic cannot work continuously in warm temperatures; it pauses periodically on its own. It is designed for environments up to 75°F (24°C).
The price of Glowforge Basic is $3,995, and it also comes with a $150 premium Proofgrade materials. Why not check out some diode laser engraver and cutter.
2) Glowforge Plus
Glowforge Plus is a bit more advanced version of Glowforge Basic, but both share some common features, pros, and cons. It is suitable for users who want to print frequently.
Firstly, Glowforge Plus has a 40W Class 1 CO2 laser tube, which is also powerful enough. Secondly, it also pauses periodically in warm temperatures, and it is also designed for environments up to 75°F (24°C).
The engraving speed of Glowforge Plus is twice more than Glowforge Basic, but the cutting speed is still the same. It also supports the same materials of 20.4” x 12”. It comes with a 12-months comprehensive warranty.
The price of Glowforge Plus is $4,995.
3) Glowforge Pro
Glowforge Pro is the most advanced version, and it has commendable extra features that you will not find in Glowforge Basic and Glowforge Plus. Firstly, the laser is more powerful; it has a 45W laser tube. It contains a Class 4 laser, which is more powerful and requires safety training.
Glowforge Pro has a Passthrough Slot that can work on 20-inches wide materials, and the length can be infinite. It is capable of multiple prints and long products. Its engraving speed is thrice more than Glowforge Basic, and the cutting speed is 1.2 times the speed of Glowforge Basic and Glowforge Plus.
It can even work continuously in warm temperatures as it is designed for temperatures up to 81°F (27°C). It has a solid-state cooling unit to keep the unit cool all day.
Glowforge Pro is perfect for small businesses and costs about $6,995. It is also covered by a 12-months comprehensive warranty.
Why is Glowforge Not a Good Choice for Beginners?
We have seen the features and pros of Glowforge machines. The machines are undoubtedly outstanding and innovative, but there are some cons and issues. Therefore, these might not be a good choice for you.
Let’s see the issues and cons of Glowforge machines/printers.
Way High Price
The first issue with Glowforge machines is the high price. Undoubtedly, portable CO2 laser machines are expensive, but Glowforge machines are way more expensive than other CO2 laser machines on the market.
The Glowforge price ranges from $3,995 to $6,995; however, you can easily get similar machines for about $3,000-$4,000. Secondly, the Air Filter is also very expensive.
Since it is a CO2 laser, the lifespan is much less than a diode laser machine. So, you also need to keep the maintenance cost in mind, especially if you are a beginner with not much budget.
Web-based Software Requires Stable Internet
You don’t need to download web-based software, but it requires a stable internet connection. Thus, you need to have the internet to use the software. Secondly, you might need to wait to upload the files, and there can be delays and issues on the server.
The only better option is a desktop or mobile application, which is not available at the moment. You might get frustrated after facing issues with the software.
Glowforge machines are capable of cutting a wide range of materials, but they can only cut ¼ inches thick materials, which is about 6.35mm. They cannot work on thicker materials.
However, if you remove the stainless-steel crumb tray, they can work on materials having thicknesses up to 2 inches. But keep in mind that the laser is not capable of cutting thick materials in one pass.
High Cost of Materials
The materials available from Glowforge are quite expensive. It increases the overall cost of the product. Plus, if you are living in a country or state where the shipping cost is high, the materials will be more expensive. Thus, if you are thinking about a small business with Glowforge machines, you must consider the material cost.
Extra Cost on Premium Software
After paying a massive amount, you don’t get full access to the software; you only have the free version. For the premium version, you need to get a monthly subscription that has some additional tools, graphics, and features. At this price tag, the software should be at least free for the users.
Cannot Engrave on Cylindrical Objects
Glowforge machines cannot engrave on cylindrical objects as there are no official rotary attachments. The machines are not capable of working with a rotary add-on, so if you want to engrave tumblers, cups, wine glasses, or any other cylindrical object, these machines are the right option.