If you don’t have a lot of experience in tech, you might think of 3D printers as expensive and ultimately unnecessary systems.
But the technology has been steadily advancing in recent years. 3D printers are not only far more affordable than they used to be, but they’re also far more user-friendly.
You no longer have to be a tech whizz to get into 3D printing, so if you have decided to give the hobby a go (or if you need to use a 3D printer professionally), Glowforge is one of the best choices on the market.
The following article will break down all you need to know about Glowforge, the 3D laser printer that makes it easy for anyone to craft just about anything at the push of a button.
How Does Glowforge Differ From A Normal 3D Printer?
Glowforge is a little different from a typical 3D printer. It’s technically not even a 3D printer in the literal sense, rather a CNC laser cutter engraver.
The only reason they call it a 3D printer is because the alternative doesn’t have much of a ring to it.
The difference in the Glowforge is that while other 3D printers work via additive manufacturing, Glowforge instead works via subtractive manufacturing.
Essentially, the printer builds up certain materials, such as plastic filament, in layers.
Then, when the user places material like wood, leather, or acrylic in the system, the product will be carved out with lasers. Hence the technical name for the machine; laser cutter engraver.
Hardware And Software Requirements
You can access the Glowforge web interface for free on your PC, Mac, tablet, as well as certain other devices.
The only additional prerequisite is that you have the most recent version of whichever web browser you’re using, be it Safari, Chrome, Edge, or Firefox.
Designing your product can be done via any software that will save PDFs. There are many options available, including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, Autodesk 360, Sketchup, and Inkscape.
Several file formats can be printed using Glowforge, such as PDF, PNG, JPDG, and SVG.
All you need to do to print a file is drag it into the app, at which point you’ll be given the option to adjust the preview until it’s just right.
Glowforge In Action
All you need to do to use Glowforge is create a free account on the web interface, and connect the system to your local network. Once you’re in, you’ll see the preview camera, which will show you the bed of the system.
This is also where you can upload image files (and it’ll need to be a vector file, such as SVG if you’re looking for a cutting).
Scale and align the design to your preference, place the material you’d like to use in the system, and then you can begin the project.
Multiple images can be used for a single design, and it’s all very intuitive. You should have gotten to grips with the machine after a couple of designs.
There is a wide range of different material presets to choose from. The company sells its materials (some samples will be included when you purchase the machine), and these will have QR codes on them.
Simply scan these codes and the system will adjust the laser settings automatically, to account for that exact material.
You also have the option to adjust the laser settings manually, tweaking both the intensity and the speed of the laser, depending on the material you’re using.
But the presets usually work flawlessly, so you may never need to stray from those settings.
Time Required For Burns
The amount of time you’re going to be waiting for a cutting to finish will vary depending on both the size of the burn and the amount of detail required.
If you’re burning a Draft Graphic that measures eight by 12 inches, using a material like acrylic, this might take as little as 90 minutes.
A 3D Photo, though, will take closer to three and a half hours, if not longer. When you’re burning an HD Photo, you might be waiting for as many as six hours before the burn is complete.
Carving a flat piece of material won’t take nearly as long, especially if it’s something like wood or acrylic.
These cuttings can take as little as a couple of minutes, which is very impressive compared to competitor products, which can take as much as a few hours to carve very simple designs.
Is Glowforge Safe?
Glowforge is completely safe if you’re using it correctly.
Depending on the materials you’re burning, there’s going to be at least a small amount of fumes that may be hazardous to humans, so you must be running your exhaust hose outside through a window.
You can also acquire a compact filter from the manufacturer.
If you don’t take proper care when using the Glowforge, your room is going to fill with vaporized plastic, wood, or whichever material you’re using, which would be a huge concern for your health.
Glowforge Models (Basic, Plus, Pro)
The Glowforge comes in three separate models: Basic, Plus, and Pro. Each model is the same size, though (38 inches wide, 20.75 inches deep, and 8.25 inches high)- the only differences are in the speed and intensity of the laser.
One of the reasons the Glowforge Pro earns its name is the advanced cooling feature.
This means that the system cools down at a far faster pace than the other two models, meaning you won’t need to wait very long to start a new project once one is completed.
Another feature exclusive to the Glowforge Pro model is the pro passthrough slot, which allows for far more detailed designs.
While the Pro is certainly the best model of the bunch, the other versions are still remarkable products. If the Pro is within your budget, it’s well worth the extra cost, but the Basic isn’t too far off the mark.
In The Box
When you order a Glowforge 3D printer, you’ll be receiving two boxes. One of these boxes (the huge one) will contain the actual system, while the smaller box will contain all of the parts and the material samples.
If you opted for the filter, that will come in a third box.
Within the bigger box is the machine, as well as the cable and the printer head. In the second box, you’ll have several accessories, including the tray that will catch the stray bits of material while burning is in process.
Also included is the power cord, as well as your material samples, which will each have QR codes on them.
Scan these QR codes and the laser settings will automatically be adjusted to account for that specific material.
It should be noted that the system itself is a hefty piece of tech. You’ll probably need more than one person to get it out of the box and onto a cabinet.
That cabinet (or whatever you’re placing your Glowforge on) will need to be sturdy, too.
If you’re looking for a 3D printer or something that serves the same purpose, the Glowforge is well worth the price.
Even if you’ve already had some experience with 3D printing, you’ll be astounded at how detailed your designs can be.
The Glowforge Pro in particular is capable of huge projects, so is certainly worth the price if it’s within your budget. But even the Basic model is a remarkable piece of tech, both powerful and intuitive.
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