Meet the Glowforge 3D Laser Printer

Four months ago, we visited the offices of Glowforge, a company developing a new kind of 3D laser printer. The Glowforge simplifies laser cutting by moving software to the cloud and making use of smartphone sensors. That both lowers the price and allows for incredible user features that makes the Glowforge extremely easy to use. As Glowforge readies to launch, we check in to check out the final product!

Shot and edited by Joey Fameli

Comments (136)

136 thoughts on “Meet the Glowforge 3D Laser Printer

  1. Tested has made me want a 3D printer for a long time, but I can only come up with a few use cases for one. Watching this video and I can immediately see lots of projects I’d love to create. In this case the $2K is a barrier to entry, but a much smaller one that for a 3D printer.

  2. I’ve thought about getting a 3D printer before but I’ve never wanted something you’ve tested like I want to buy one of these!

  3. Why are you letting this company get away with calling this a “3D Laser Printer”? It’s neither 3D nor a printer.

    I understand being excited about a laser cutter with some good features, but when did you stop getting critical about products?

    MEDIOCRE!

  4. I think calling it a 3D laser printer is ridiculous. I am very pro- this thing, but it’s bugged me since the beginning. Having said that, I know why they’re doing it; most people if you tell them about a laser cutter, won’t realize how much easier it makes constructing 3D objects. So I’m willing to let them get away with calling it whatever, as long as it actually works.

    I ended up buying one anyway, so if you want $100 off the asking price, use my link! 😀

    http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=6PNQ7

  5. 5 years ago i build my own 3D printer, and since some time i wanted to build a laser cutter. the only problem with this is that i don’t have 2.000$ to spend. and don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely worth that price and even a lot more if it does everything that is promised. I will probably end up building a 200$ laser engraver since that is what i can spend, and i hope they bring there software out for other people to use. as this is where all this magic is happening, it would not be that hard to add a camera to a laser cutter.

  6. Really cool design at a good price! They’ve done some cool things with the cameras – always wanted to add a camera system to my CNC router but never got around to it…

    The thing that bugs me though is the cloud software – my basement workshop has no internet connection, and in principle I strongly dislike the idea to drop 2k on a piece of hardware that will be entirely useless if the company goes bust, or decides to change their business model. If it had a “stand-alone” software I’d be interested, but cloud is a no-no. I see that cloud is great for the company to keep control, but there is really no benefit to the customer here.

  7. Schill I agree about the cloud processing. In my business (film visual effects) we have *very* tight controls over where our data goes and who can access it. The spate of cloud processing applications is definitely a no-go for us. It’s not likely we would use this product (as extremely cool as it is) in our business but I can imagine there is someone like us, with very tight information security, who would use such a thing except for the cloud processing.

  8. This looks really awesome, but its really clear that no marketing expertise was consulted about the name, it is confusing as fuck and is bound to create a lot of customer confusion and be a barrier to sales.

  9. Love the interface. The visual guide/relation to the material and the vector in amazing. This is crucial when trying to line up cut features to natural variations of the material. Cutting around a knot in wood or a scar in leather is a perfect example. And this seems to make the process much simpler.

    As for the 3D Laser Printer. I think that name applies if you start thinking of raster engraving a photo on a curved surface. The fact that it apparently can continuously adjust the focus on a curved surface is amazing. That to me in the most amazing part of this. Your no longer limited to perfectly flat materials. Being able to cut/raster with the topography of the material could be a game changer.

    On the fence about the 40W limit, though. But that is one way to keep the price down.

    And like other have said. Id love the option to have a desktop version of the software. Or maybe an option to use a more traditional control software incase the service goes down for some reason.

  10. just wondering if you’ve been able to see how many people have used your referral link. I know I used it to make my purchase and that they seem to allow up to 10 referral uses.

  11.   I think the 3D in the name is because it can engrave on 3D surfaces (he mentioned doing a MacBook with the tapered edges) unlike many laser printers that can only work on a 2D plane.

  12. Great product! I can’t wait to work with one.

    BTW, is it any coincidence that the CEO Dan Shapiro sounds EXACTLY like Ari Shapiro from NPR?

  13. just wondering if you’ve been able to see how many people have used your referral link. I know I used it to make my purchase and that they seem to allow up to 10 referral uses.

    Naw, unfortunately it still says zero. Thanks, though, I appreciate it! Ordering it to Canada cost me $600 in shipping fees!!

    I was just wondering if you could work the machine without the internet with a stand alone desktop app?

    I don’t think so, at least at launch. He mentions being able to flash the firmware, so I suspect that may / will change down the road, especially because I know some people who are holding off to buy one of these explicitly because of that restriction.

    I think the 3D in the name is because it can engrave on 3D surfaces (he mentioned doing a MacBook with the tapered edges) unlike many laser printers that can only work on a 2D plane.

    That’s a fair point!

    Great product! I can’t wait to work with one.

    BTW, is it any coincidence that the CEO Dan Shapiro sounds EXACTLY like Ari Shapiro from NPR?

    They’re brothers.

  14. They’re brothers.

    That’s awesome. I had a feeling that was the case… very distinct voices. God bless Fargo, ND for giving us these two talented brothers!

  15. Adjusting the focus is indeed a very cool feature, I’d love to get my hands on one of these to play around before deciding to take the plunge. Maybe safer to wait for the next iteration 🙂

  16. Have access to both I use the laser cutter more than the 3D printer. A good one is well worth the cost more than a 3D printer.

    The smart features on this thing are awesome, it’ll save so much in lost materials. However like the others here having the software “online only” and also having the data travel through several third party services is a let-down. I hope this changes in the future.

  17. This is really neat tech but the whole thing seems pretty unfriendly to makers. And if Glowforge runs out of funds you have a $2000 paperweight?

  18. This seems like a cool product!

    Industrial laser cutters have really bad UI (my Mom operates the 90W 28000€ laser at her company) and they sure could use some improvements. The laser cutter that my mother works with is registered to the PC as a printer and the different line colors determine the properties of the cut (power, speed, etc.), so if you want to adapt your cut pattern you have to edit a vector drawing. She also has a lot of problems with registration because they print the motives for snow globes, glue them onto acrylic and then the laser needs to cut them out precisely and without a border. The glueing process always distorts the pictures just a little bit, so there is always the need to fiddle with the registration.

    Nice video, keep up the good work!

  19. I would really like one too but since I am located in Europe it is just out of the money; adding shipment and 20% taxes hurts the price point badly

    also needing to pay 1.000 USD for shipment is just plain nuts.

  20. I can’t explain how excited I am after watching this video!

    I’m pretty sure you guys are responsible for funding this project in about 4 hours on day one >_<

    On the topic of standalone operation, I have to think it could be possible down the road if something happens to Glowforge, but as they are about 1000% funded at this point, I can’t see them running out of financing anytime soon. Also, they seem to be put together with much more polish than your average kickstarter.

    If the referral codes are running dry: http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=oyxCOb

    Thanks for sharing this Tested!

  21. The issue raised earlier by Felix Schill and berjb about the fact that your designs go to GlowForge’s cloud is a very important one — Bill, Norm, one of you needs to follow up with GlowForge on a few very important questions…

    1) Is any kind of encryption used in sending the information about what someone is making through the internet to and from their cloud?

    2) Are they going to keep copies of the information about what someone is making? If so, is it some kind of convenience to a customer to allow later reproducing of more of something, or is it to allow GlowForge (or someone else) to claim ownership in what someone makes?

    3) Or are they going to deem everything that is routed through their cloud to now be public domain and make it available on some website as part of a collection of designs and/or use images of what someone has made to demonstrate what their product can do?

    In short, if you’re someone who wants and/or needs to control who has access to images or other information about something being made, can you actually use this “3D laser printer” or is it necessary to shy away from it, because everything you do with it is going to end up in someone else’s hands?

  22. Loved your Video but i must agree with the comments below concerning the Name….Anyways, since i saw the Lasersaur a couple of months ago i wanted to build a lasercutter myself (since i don’t have the money for a “real” laser as a student) but after seeing this one….well i got weak ;-)….so like a couple of the other commenters i’d like to give you the option to get 100 $ off of the initial price by using this link (and helping me reducing my costs a little bit ;-)):

    http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=sPIzU7

    Realy looking forword to a in depth testing video of the laser on here, i love your videos and keep up the good work 🙂

  23. What a scam. They’ll take you $2000 (or $4000 for the gooood one!), close shop next year, buy lamborginis and laugh at your stupid asses who have a useless hunk of junk and six dozen votive candle holders that nobody wants

  24. This will be my most expensive tool by a long shot, but I just can’t resist. I’ve always thought a laser cutter/engraver would be awesome, but the hurdles to learn it and buy it seemed really high. This one makes it look easy.

    I thought about getting an actual 3d printer for a while, but it seems like a difficult tech to use, and the output is too limited to justify the cost. This thing seems much more versatile and I can’t wait to use it. After I get done convincing my wife to let me keep it.

    Here’s your link for $100 off, share the love when you get yours.

    http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=uFHTkO

  25. This thing *sounds* awesome, but there’s no way I’m paying $2000 for anything without seeing some actual reviews first. And with the msrp doubling at launch, that just sucks.

  26. Very temping, so there is a note about the firmware being released so I assume someone will make a hack for it to use locally. I too fear about the Makerbot/Thingiverse you use it and now they can claim it (not that I would really be using it to make money) This would round out my ShapeOko 3 and my Printrbot army….

  27. they should really take the “printer” out of the name especially coupled with “3D” because “3D printer” means something entirely different than what this does as dose the term “laser printer” (a la Canon or Brother). Instead call it a 3D Laser Cutter or 3D Laser Engraver since those are actually more accurate to what they do.

    The cloud thing bothers me as well. If i had to pay a few hundred more to get onboard software that just had an opt-in update from the stuff they’ll integrate into the cloud service i’d gladly pay for that. It’s not that i can’t get internet in my shop it’s that i’ll probably end up doing it over wifi and wifi, at least for me, has a tenancy of going down at the worst time.

  28. I agree. At first I thought it was for a laser sintering printer,. but from the picture I thought it was a colour printer of some sort. Then another comment on a different post said glowfrog laser cutter and I went to this and watched it in awe.

    Been wanting a laser cutter for a while now. But shipping and customs is going to add more than a third to the price,. But my brother and I are thinking of putting some money together and order one,. We have 28 days to decide I guess 🙂

  29. well wont customs to the same to other laser cutter options like full spectrum or epilog? Cause if so this is still a deal.

  30. Yeah but those were so out of my price range allready, so the decision wasn’t hard to let it go. this one is close, now we have to figure out if we can afford one. This is a good deal 🙂

  31. At first i have to say that calling it a 3D Laser, like some other commets already stated is a bit misguiding.Ever since i saw the “Lasersaur” a couple of months ago i wanted to build my own Lasercutter (since as a student i can’t afford a proffesional, commercial one) but seeing this….well….i got weak today ;-)….I’m realy looking forward for this thing and would like to add my link to the ones of the other comments:

    http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=sPIzU7

    So if you would like to get your laser 100$ cheaper and help me to get as well 100 $ off of the price tag i would realy appreciate it if you could preorder your Glowforge via my link ;-). Looking forwar seeing a more in depth test of this here on tested and keep up the good work!!

    Best whishes from Germany!

  32. For me it was this or the full spectrum laser the 500 dollar air filter and the camera system sold me on this one. Also the fact that they have it tooled up pretty much out of the box to engrave on all things apple means I can make my money back pretty quickly.

    As for the name, I think it’s a marketing gimmick to help people find them. Say your looking for a 3d printer and google it you might come to find this. Also the fact that they are making 3d relief engraving I think the name is ok.

    I can’t wait to see the mods that come out for this, if they really release the firmware. And the only real question is will it take the thingiverse/youmagine construct (most everything free) or the Circuit onstruct (buy models for everything)? If they go the free way and sell project files cheaply (think iTunes) folk like me will be more inclined to just pay the couple of bucks for a hassle free file rather than fussing with stuff in various different programs.

  33. How long is the pre-order period? I need to try and get some finances planned out in order to pre-order? Do I have another month?

  34. I was just wondering if you could work the machine without the internet with a stand alone desktop app?

    I think there are probably cheaper and potentially better alternatives for what you’re looking for, google may be of assistance there.

    I also agree that 3D Laser Printer is totally wrong (specially with Focus range : 0.5″ (13mm) ). Laser cutting/etching machine is more like it…

    Seems to be useful in some scenarios but I wonder about the precision of what you can do on a tablet (fat fingers me…). Cloud service is interesting, but then againnnnnn….. using your desktop and doing it locally is mprobably my way to do things, since I don’t need all my stuff on the cloud. And for that, I probably don’t need this, and can get a cheaper laser cutting maching on the market.

    Now, making intuitive software for cutting stuff on a desktop, locally, there’s an interesting project. Maybe it even already exists. (sorry, not enough experience with laser cutting to answer that).

  35. As with all things cloud I feel ownership of content is an issue. Who owns the design? Is the price of convenience worth giving your ideas away for free.
    .

  36. Everyone who will start complaining in a year or two about having to pay for cloud access or even more likely end up with a non functioning laser cutter has only themselves to blame.

    Nobody should ever buy a piece of equipment with dependencies that are not under your control. This should not be supported at all and nobody should buy it with this cloud dependency. If nobody did, how long you think it will take before a ‘cloudless’ system would be available. I think within a week!

    The product is great and also in the right price range. The nonsense about leaving out expensive computing power is the biggest BS ever. computing power is super cheap and most people already have lots of computing power available. A PC, Mac, Linux, smartphone. All of them have enough processing power.

    The real reason, and understandable, is to prevent cheap chinese copies. As if they are not going to appear soon. Ideas are stolen all the time, just make your product better and cost effective and you don’t have to worry about chinese junk.

    There are lots of solutions for copy protecting software. You can even match the software with the hardware with encryption. I think the designers are more comfortable with hardware then with software and went with the easy to implement choice.

    I could really use a device like this. And would buy it in an instant. But alas it needs the ‘cloud’.

    I think GlowForce made a terrible business choice. They will end up with many years of ongoing costs because cloud computing is expensive. And if there are no monthly subscriptions it will die within a year. Pushing the cost of computing to the customer is much cheaper in the long run (longer than a year) especially because lots of people already have it available.

  37. An amazingly clever product. Unfortunately, the specs of the cutter itself are not exactely mindblowing, but autofocus and the camera system definitely are. This will reduce setup time and cost immensely. The price point of the pre-sale is pretty much at the tipping point where you have to think trice, if the proclaimed craftsmanship and quality are worth it compared to much cheaper and more powerful chinese machines. Thought trice, decided to go for the pro version as long as value for money is still reasonable but then meh…$1000 shipping to Europe 🙁 For this money I could fly over and pick up the machine myself. For $3500 I can ship a 20 foot container around the world. So definitely not what people are expecting to pay for shipping (not even talking about VAT and customs).

  38. , used your link. Can’t wait for it to arrive so I can start cutting everything in sight with a frickin’ laser beam.

    Been researching this market for a while but could never justify the cost of the mid-range printers. The Glowforge solves some of the basic registration and image processing issues. Wish they would have been a little bit more forthcoming on the shipping costs, $100 to US and $300 to Canada.

    Basically, here’s a code for Free Shipping in the US, or $100 off all other destinations. http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=7QDgAJ

  39. It will be interesting to see how much intelligence is actually built into the firmware on the machine itself. As Dan Shapiro points out, they built the electronics hardware as cheap as possible. I would not be surprised to only find a slow microprocessor actually built into the device, handling the cameras, maybe hosting the webinterface and following g-code streamed from the cloud. There is probably not much magic happening there. The proclaimed exit with the opensource firmware will then be to find a comunity who builds a solution which is capable of making use of the positioning camera and send the right g-code to make use of the cutter at all (material tracking, line tracking and automatic material detection not included).

  40. I am still on the fence on whether to get one or not. The 6 month warranty for the standard model seems a little low, given how much you are spending.

    The custom CO2 tube seems like a double edge sword, on the one hand it might mean improvements in efficiency over system that use an off the shelf tube, but it will be near impossible source elsewhere. I wonder how long their CO2 laser tube will last with light vs heavy use and how much replacements will cost.

    Overall though it seems to be a well packaged, consumer friendly system, with a definite shot of being a laser cutter for the masses.

  41. I’ve laid out for one of these, but I must be a nut as the shipping to the UK is nearly a 1000 of your dollars! Don’t judge me, just join in the madness and save me and you a hundred bucks……

    http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=s3d0ws

    Can’t wait to get my hands on it. My dreams for making with this thing are bursting inside my head.

  42. I used the most recent referral link from the comments here. Here is my link for $100 off your purchase at glowforge http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=Cy0eMt

    I got really excited for this, saw the price of shipping to Europe ($954!!), and the fact that I have to get a transformer to get it to work on 230v but eventually I caved. I got the pro model. I asked glowforge if designs are protected through the cloud and they are. They will not end up in their library without consent. With them releasing the firmware they give us a signal that they are listening to the community. I hope there is a genius programmer out there that can make that code into a workable desktop version of the software.

  43. So I ordered one too!!!! Can’t wait to get it. Would much appreciate it if someone would use my link to save $100. When you use the link, you’ll get the confirmation that you saved $100 after you purchase it— it will be in the email that they send you. Have fun with your new printer!!!http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=m0t5Bx

  44. Excellent. Thank you. I definitely see that we both got credit.

    What is really cool is seeing how much over their goal they are now. I wonder how much of an impact Tested has had on that.

    Any way to find out from the company

  45. I realize there are a ton floating around, so if you don’t use mine, definitely use someone else’s, because it does work. I got $100 off using a referral, so if you have not used one yet, it would be greatly appreciated if you use the following link to get a $100 discount.

    http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=Zqqlig

    Happy forging!

  46. I love this project. I read an article on medium.com about why it’s so wildly popular, and it made so much sense why I bought one. I’ve been more and more creative over the few years, and this will be a great addition to my vinyl cutter. If you’re interested, and only if you really, really want one, I’ve got this link that will get you $100 off of your order. Not much with a $2000 order, but every little bit helps! http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=imWbtf

  47. I just ordered one using a referral link here. Thanks! Sure would appreciate a pass it forward.

    http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=tDkA3A

    I watched all the videos and read everything I could find. I already own laser engraver but it’s old and I need an upgrade. Cost me $10K used! This unit will certainly be an upgrade. Aligning parts in jigs was half the battle for me and proper focus was another pain. The camera alignment is just an amazing improvement…. a MUST have option. I was actually talking to a company in China about ordering a new one but even the small ones are still huge. This is somewhat portable, especially compared to the beast I have now with external compressors and ventilation fans (plural). I tried to fund a portable laser from Redant last year but they did not reach funding. I was hoping they would try again but they stopped updates or responding to emails. This unit is actually less money and the features put it over the top. I have to be honest however… The only thing I didn’t like about this video was the claim that using the cloud allowed them to shrink the size of the unit. I’ve worked on 3 lasers and replaced the controller board in one. The laser doesn’t do any processing so to speak. The software on your PC does that work. The laser itself just needs a little memory to store the command list. There is another reason for them to use cloud based software. Not sure what that is but it’s not to save space in the unit. Think about your smart phone and how much space that takes up. Regardless, that didn’t stop me from ordering. Just the idea of a community, easily obtainable designs and the built in cameras for registration makes this unit worth double every penny.

  48. I am curious what everyone who has purchased payed for shipping? I want to buy one but don’t like that they wont tell you what shipping costs are beforehand. The shipping cost may end up determining if I can afford the pro version or not.

    Thanks! And I will be sure to use the most recently posted referral link when I do purchase to share the love!

  49. I went for it! Shipping to the middle east is around $1100 but most other machines I have been looking at are at least 500 to ship and cost a few thousand dollars more!

    I used the last link posted at my time of purchase anyone still waiting to buy please share the love with me too! 🙂

    http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=BQxnEU

    P.S. For anyone else asking about shipping, you can see cost by putting in your country of destination before entering a credit card.

  50. I just bought a glowforge basic unit using a referral link here in the comment sections it would really help me if you could also use mine to buy yours plus you would also have 100 dollars deducted from your purchase http://glowforge.com/?kid=gEdDfM Im from the Philippines so a nice deduction would help me in the shipping cost. Thank you!

  51. thanks for the referral link, I just pre-ordered the basic model and saved both of us $100
    If anyone wants to help me out and save $100, here is my link:
    http://glowforge.com/referred/?kid=isF2wT
    I went back and forth, via email with GF, and was left with a tough decision between the pro-model and basic. The passthrough is what really attracts me to the pro, because I do a bit of leather and wood work, that I could use the passthrough before. Has anyone else been struggling with this?
    Here is a brief summary of what I gathered through emails:
    What is the difference between the basic and pro-model…what do the better components actually mean?
    Our Pro model is designed for frequent, shared use, like a makerspace or small business. It comes with upgraded optics, tube, and cooling, which allows for faster cuts and engraves. We don’t have final numbers yet (we’re still tuning the motors and testing the custom tubes) but our best estimate is that the Pro will wind up about 20% faster than the Basic. The passthrough lets you use long materials – 20″ wide by as long as you want. You cut or engrave the first 10″, then slide the material through, then repeat. The Pro package also includes an Air Filter, which is available for the Basic model as a separate upgrade.
    Note however that while the Basic model is a Class I laser (no precautions required), the passthrough slot makes the Pro model a Class IV laser, which does require additional precautions like glasses and warning signs.
    If you pre-order the basic, can you upgrade prior to receiving the unit, and what does pricing look like?
    We don’t have any plans for an upgrade kit after purchase, but you can upgrade any time before your Glowforge ships– and you keep your place in line based on when you first pledged. You just need to go back to Glowforge.com and click “Log In” on the main navigation. Then, follow the instructions to create a password, log in, and you’ll have an “Upgrade” page that includes the option to upgrade your Glowforge from Basic to Pro, add an Air Filter, etc..
    We also talked about it as an application with screen printing for photo positives. They noted that the precision was such that they were using the laser to cut “realistic” stencils out of butcher paper and wax paper, and getting sharp results akin to screen printing. Interesting I thought.
    Kyle

  52. Guys, I really like your comments, they are not better than the article, but still. Let’s take a look together at printers who have experience in this matter. Please write to me because I want to talk with you. I have a 3 d printer, I need a man who knows how to https://www.ggoffice.com/ Managed Print Services

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