Introduction: Glowforge Laser Cutter Tips
The Glowforge is a 40-45w Co2 laser engraver. It's also my favourite machine out of my entire collection, so much so I bought a second. See my review of the Glowforge.
Glowforge advertises their laser engraver/cutter as a 3d printer, which has been a cause for amusement for many over the years, but one useful aspect of that description is it informs people that you can create 3d things with your Glowforge. It's not just about engraving photographs onto cutting boards and creating nameplates!
While most of the operation of the Glowforge is familiar to any laser that you might come across, the Glowforge community has some questions and issues that might be peculiar to this machine. As I see/think of new ones, I will come back and update this page.
Which Glowforge to buy
I wrote a full article about which Glowforge to buy but the simple answer is, only the Glowforge Pro - the top model - has the passthrough, but the top model has the top price. I got two Glowforge Basics for less than the price of one pro, and have a "Glowforge basic pass-in pass-through hack" for using larger materials.
The official Glowforge filter is not available yet, but when it arrives it will go under the Glowforge unit. As an interim solution, the company partnered with a manufacturer to release the "Compact Filter" that attaches to the vent hose and sits alongside the Glowforge. I did a full review of the Glowforge Compact Filter and I like it a lot, though it does fill up fast and the replacement filters will retail around $250.
The Glowforge UI is a cloud-based tool for sending the cutting and engraving instructions. Unless you use pre-made designs or the scan feature, you will need an application to create your SVG or PDF designs.
The main tools people use are:
- Adobe Illustrator - $$$
- Inkscape - free
- Fusion 360 - free for education or startups
- Silhouette Studio
- Corel Draw = $$
- Affinity Designer = $$
Whatever software you use, for cuts you will need to create vectors/SVGs. Bitmaps (JPG/PNG) can only be engraved.
Burn marks and residue
Glowforge Proofgrade materials come with protective tape already attached, which is the main way to prevent scorching and residue. So long as the tape is flat with no peeling or bubbles, and you use the Proofgrade settings, you should be good to go.
Unfortunately, only the USA has access to those materials. Here are the other options:
- Buy and add third party tape. Masking or transfer tape (ensure it is laserable) will do the same job.
- Tweak speeds and power to be as fast and low power as you can get away with while still achieving the result you need.
- Wipe any residue or soot with white vinegar or denatured alcohol.