First, the main unique feature I see is the built in camera which apparently gives you a preview of cut/engraved finished part on your computer screen with the material as it's positioned inside the machine. This also (apparently, it's not clear), allows you to correct for misaligned material inside the machine. These are nice features, but it's perfectly possible to cut and engrave without them.
One big problem with operating this inside your home is the fumes. Now, they do mention that the base unit needs to be vented to the outside. What this means is that your neighbors (and you, if the wind is right) will have to smell the exhaust from this machine. It's not a nice smell if you're cutting acrylic. Though I personally got used to the scent of vaporized acrylic over time, your neighbors might not be so inclined.
So they also offer a $500 add-on ($1000 regular price) to filter the air so you can exhaust inside. The add on is smaller than the already small laser cutter. This is quite a feat and I would really like to know how they got it to work. You see, the fumes/smoke from a laser cutter can really clog up a particulate filter pretty quickly. Wood produces wood smoke, and acrylic vapor is quite sticky when it settles. So you have to have a powerful pump to draw the fumes through the filter. Then you need a good amount of activated charcoal to get rid of the smelly stuff.
If you look at the professional model air filters, they're $2000+ and you have to buy filters and media regularly.
Laser cutters get messy inside, so if you buy one, be prepared to clean it out regularly to keep the optical and mechanical components clean.
Problems with operation can START A FIRE, so be prepared to watch the machine 100% of the time while it's cutting.
Cleaning stinks, and wrecks alignment - the tube and turning mirrors are completely sealed, including the tube output, so there's just one flat window to wipe clean (and it unscrews for easy replacement). The head has a window and purge air to keep it clean too.
We're mitigating a lot of the risk of fire by avoiding trouble situations in software (e.g. not cutting a piece of material where the dimensions make it an effective wick, detecting obstacles on the bed, accelerators to detect problems quickly) but you're right that you don't want to run it unattended.
The Glowforge does require a cloud connection to operate. We use cloud vs. local a host of reasons including the motion planner, alignment, image recognition, and faster feature development.
But based on the excellent point made here that nobody wants a paperweight if we fall off the globe, we decided to make a change. We're going to do a GPL release of the firmware so people can do whatever they want, including porting offline functionality. You buy it, it's yours, you should get to do what you want with it.
Thanks for the great feedback.
1. When you mention planner, etc, does this imply the cloud service is involved not just in a prep phase, but actively during the control loop while the device is cutting? The latter would be worrisome to me.
2. Will you be able to elaborate at all on the functionality of the firmware (and/or provide protocol documentation for it) prior to ship? I'm not sure how comfortable I am pre-ordering without understanding just how much work there is between the device as delivered and an actual, functional, standalone cutter.
I see on the blog that modifying the firmware invalidates warranty coverage. This seems like another argument for protocol docs and/or ability to usefully have at least one cut path that does not tie you to an online service or nuke your warranty.
1 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9055330
I would also like very much to know the answer to this question.
If you use the filter, there's nothing else hanging off the back of the device except a power cord. (My old laser had a squirrel cage fan, an aquarium pump, and a chiller tethered to it at all times!)
Munching on wood with an Epilog laser will produce copious volumes of smoke, and the air assist and 400CFM blower are not trivial pieces of equipment to embed in a unit to properly quell any fires and actually extract all the air needed.
Dan, I think this is a phenomenal product. I didn't know much about laser cutters and their potential, and you did a great job making this accessible. I wish you luck and hope to see your company grow.
I'm certainly not an expert in many areas (Lasers for one), including many of the areas that these products pop up in, so when something seems too good to be true (or if I happen to have said expertise) the first thing I do is hop over to comments to see what the rest of the community has to say.
I always try to take both links and comments with a grain of salt and a healthy dose of skepticism and try to come to my own conclusions. That's not easy to do if I only get one side of the story and I don't happen to have years of experience in the relevant fields.
A negative comment is one that doesn't contribute anything. A negative generalization about a community that doesn't provide an explanation could be seen as an example of a negative comment.
Also, I don't disagree with your comment, I just hate that the top comment always seems to put a damper on every truly promising launch or product - with Dropbox's launch being a famous example.
As a class of machine, they're just not as easy to use as, say, an inkjet printer. As I said, the camera feature looks nice, and according to danshapiro, they've done a lot to help with the maintenance issues by enclosing the optics.
After watching their video on tested, I think you are spot on with the concerns. It looks like the laser printers does generate some nasty fumes  and there is the section where you actually see the wood catching on fire . Not sure if plastic should have been the choice for the enclosure.
Regardless, cool product but could have been better.
I suppose one way to solve this problem is to make sure that as much of the machine as possible in the cutting area is made of non-flammable material. Even if a fire starts it won't spread. Not possible with this one though, as the housing seems to be made of plastic.
Also, there's a lot of overlap between people who have the extra space/building/shop to properly run equipment like this and people that have spotty rural Internet.
But yeah, if that's true it's a real buzzkill.
I said so in a comment half an hour ago, but it immediately got downvoted to oblivion. Meanwhile the comment seems to slowly recover.
Nowhere on their website they say so. I would be really pissed if I bought a printer for thousands of dollars, unpack it and then realize I cannot use it. Letting it use my internet connection and being dependant on the services of a company to use it would not be an option for me.
Another benefit of metal enclosures is shielding the power supplies of these things. High-voltage laser power supplies are noisy, and when you PWM them, they can cause quite a bit of interference. Metal enclosures at least help to attenuate RF emissions.
The "macro camera" is a clever addition for closed-loop optical control (if it is being used for that). Reminds me of attaching an optical mouse sensor the the lens sled.
2. Make your own Carcassonne tiles! http://dev.tia.io/carcassonne_shading/
I made my own recirculating laser tube cooler using desktop PC water cooling components.
Beyond board games, they're useful for making tools for other projects. Need a drill guide with precise spacing? No problem, cut one out on the laser cutter. Need to prototype a coarse-pitch circuit board but don't want to wait for OSHPark or pay for a quick-turn fab? Ablate black paint off a Cu-clad board and chemical etch. Want to de-cap IC packages? You can, with some care. Interested in prototyping microfluidic structures? Sandwich some cut sheets of double-sided tape between acrylic sheet. Need to make a quick enclosure for a project? Design a box [3,4]. Cut the sides out of acrylic, and bond with dichloromethane (with ventilation!). It's great for making fixture components for things like robotics since you an easily include holes for machine screws.
They're also fun for cutting leather, cloth, etching aluminum laptops, making gifts, etc.
If you don't have access to nice commercial CAD software, DraftSight is a free AutoCAD clone that works fine for 2D drawings. Otherwise, Inkscape works well for 2D, and for 3D, Rhino has an affordable educational license that permits commercial use.
This was helpful because beyond the laser power settings, it took some fiddling to get the right shades of gray for cutting depths that worked with the multilayer plywood I was using (some layers are darker than others; had to make it look good). The files can also of course be colored for printing.
The different regions are segmented by their colors in the original files, which were created via Inkscape with outline vector lines over bitmap fill images. The lines were drawn by hand by my girlfriend and I using Inkscape, based on a purchased copy of Carcassonne we have. The images were made by rendering the outline SVGs to PNGs, filling in regions using GIMP, then reimporting them into Inkscape, and overlaying the vector outlines.
For meeple, she laboriously cut them out by hand from Sculpey clay. A cookie cutter would have been ideal but it took her less time to cut the figures than for me to bend copper flashing into the shape of a person or to devise a way to extrude the figures.
Also, in case that URL goes down, here is a link to the tile generator on GitHub pages:
I would not like the interface to my own printer to be "In the Google cloud". Does that mean when the company goes out of business, the printer is bricked?
And right after, they admit that they plan adding paid services. Oh oh. How will thesed paid services be announced? I can imagine how. Whenever I want to print, this thing will bug me to pay for some fancy addon.
And privacy? Goes right out of the window. Everything I print would go through all kinds of hands. The manufacturer of this printer, Google, my carrier and who knows who.
And what about security? This is probably a full blown computer they want me to give access to my lan and internet connection. Who guarantees it gets security updates?
Time for some reverse engineering if you can only cut via Glowforge's servers...
What? Who is going to pay that bill? For example, Glowforge goes out of business... Google isn't going to continue to host and maintain that software out of the kindness of their hearts.
> but I think the main pro is (like a Tesla) the machine's performance and usability can be improved without you installing any new software.
What does the UI being web-based, and "in the cloud" have to do with it's firmware?
For example, if the UI wasn't hosted on some google server, instead existed within the device accessible via WiFi (like a router) nothing you've said here would be any different... other than the user being able to decide themselves if they _want_ their device updated.
>but I think the main pro is (like a Tesla) the machine's performance and usability can be improved without you installing any new software.
is likely referring to them updating their cloud infrastructure, not the machine. By centralizing the processing and whatever else, they can ignore some local machine updating.
Its not worth the massive drawbacks, but its likely the truth wrapped in that marketing speak.
The trick would be the care and feeding of the software. But as the industry moves to more immutable infrastructure -- especially stuff like AWS lambda and JAWS -- this will become less of an issue.
No it wouldn't. I still don't want to depend on a remote service to use an alliance this expensive. Internet connections can be unreliable.
I've not met a precision cutting or metrology tool where we didn't need to get low-level access to the hardware to get simple things done....
"No, I have a laser!"
(I do wonder what the costs of leather and fake leather are, and what the market for fancy laser-etched wallets is...)
Is making a leather wallet as nearly-impossible as he claims? http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-leather-wallet...
The video feels like infomercial schtick.
If you have been following the whole Makerbot Industries (and then Stratasys) debacle, seeing the name of Jennifer Lawton might give you pause.
I think I'm going to sit this one out.
For those of us who haven't been, can you give a TL;DR version of why this is significant?
For the slightly longer version the class action lawsuit conatins a lot more detail: http://www.adafruit.com/pdfs/makerbot/classaction.pdf
You can also check out Glassdoor reviews: http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Makerbot-Reviews-E480203.ht...
I can confirm that the Makerbot 5gen is a defective product. We have one at the office gathering dust after trying to make it work for a few months. It is beyond hope.
Yikes. Clogged extruders and many software problems:
For instance, when Steam was first released Valve promised that should the authentication servers go down, they would ensure that the games would stay functional without them. This was an important point that contributed to its success.
The expensive paperweight issue still stands.
I wonder how many of the projects shown were created using the "basic" ($2K) version and how many were produced using the pro ($4K) version?
I will say their early bird prices make these compelling for small business/etsy setups. However once they go to full price, I don't know if that will remain as true. It would take a LOT of wallets to break even at a $4K buy-in for the "basic" version.
PS - We live in an exciting world. Between 3D printers and these, you really can do more at home than ever before. And this type of technology is bringing tooling prices down massively even if you have it fabricated.
PPS - Looking at the material costs on their page, and looking at how much these items sell for on etsy right now ($39 inc. free postage), you'd have to sell over one hundred hardback skins for a Macbook Pro just to break even (and that's ignoring many of the hidden costs of running a business, like accountant, licensing, your salary, etc).
As a kid, I had a lot of difficulty trying to ignite paper with lenses under the sun (white notebook paper). I then gave up and used the lenses for cutting instead. So I'm not that surprised.
To this day I wonder what would be the correct set of conditions that would make it easier to combust. I remember trying black paint - that only made the cutting part easier.
That said, it's always a good idea to keep an eye on the machine while it's running.
If you're excited about making a laser work, they're a worthwhile project. If you want to use a laser to make things, you probably want something that is closer to working out of the box. (Speaking as someone who shipped 770 lbs of laser from China, then spent way too long getting it to work... sometimes.)
Which, on one such cutter I used, involved having to pre-process DXF files through Corel Draw (!!) in order to get the cutter software to read them at all. In my case, that meant a workflow of:
pre-process in Illustrator
-- laser kerf allowance
-- layout parts on material
pre-process in Corel Draw
-- load and reexport the DXF, just 'cause
load in cutter software
-- mark up paths for cutter parameters
(speed, power, cut/raster mode)
From there in reasonably recent versions of Illustrator, select your path, then use Object > Path > Offset Path...
In the Offset Path dialog, enter your measured kerf value. E.g. I've been working with a 0.19mm kerf lately, so I would enter half that in the dialog (literally ".19mm/2") and confirm.
A few notes:
* Make sure your path is fully joined (select everything then Object > Path > Join) before using Offset Path. If you zoom in and see your path looks like a series of disjoint rectangles, it wasn't joined; start over.
* IMPORTANT!: Offset Path creates an additional path, instead of modifying the selected one. At this scale, this is impossible to see. You'll need to zoom waaay in to see the pair of paths, ungroup them, then select and delete the inner one. If you don't, you'll end-up double cutting the same path, which can be a good way to make fire. :-/ (Ponoko checks for and will usually flag these kind of errors.)
https://www.noisebridge.net/ hacker space on Mission in SF also had a fairly large 40W cutter... It was not setup for a while - but I think its working now... and you can use that one pretty much free (donate to the space though is a good idea)
~$25 for 8ft ground rod and wire
~ $35 for 24V DC power supply( includes 5 volt supply because I blow out the DC section of the board it come with)
~ $45 Raspberry Pi CNC Board + drivers
~ $35 Raspberry PI
I can scp dxf files to the raspberry then rdp or ssh -X to open bCNC. Open the file and click Run. bCNC just added laser support so the setup is trivial.
I'm not too sure on the cutting power though. I have done paper, leather and cardboard but the 1/8in plywood I have tried is too thick.
I also had to put a 3904 transistor and a resistor in the board to make the laser on signal be sinking.
Also - if you click on Shipping -- it says "free shipping" then it says "$300 shipping"
Which is it?
Come on man, it says right there.
Can you expand on the benefits of the Pro model? The usefulness of the included air filter and pass through slots have been explained on your site, but the laser and cooling upgrade aren't really ever discussed.
5W more power doesn't seem like very much of an upgrade (12.5% more power for 60% more cost). What does the Pro model's upgraded laser and cooling specs mean in terms of "usefulness": cuttable material thickness, cutting times, duty cycle, etc?
Also, what's the expected life span of the charcoal filters, HEPA filters, laser tube, and any other consumables? Are replacements for these available only through Glowforge, or are they industry standard / Over The Counter parts?
My lab uses an industrial laser cutter a lot, and perspex fumes stink. We have a large extraction unit to capture the fumes.
Filters only capture a limited range of compounds too. Important to always check whether the filter can handle the material before cutting.
I've given those maps as gifts, and they're very nice quality. Is there any relationship between your companies? Are they using your laser cutter?
Thank you! I was lucky enough to have an industrial laser in my garage for a few years and was amazed at what it could do, and how miserably hard it was to do it. Hopefully we'll let lots of folks experience the first and none the second.
I'd really like to do stuff that involves stainless. What would be the cheapest option capable of doing some reasonable sheet stainess? My wallet is cringing at the mere concept, but maybe I could talk a local hackerspace into doing it or something.
I've been meaning to build a CNC mini-mill for a while. I think that seems like a more practical option for stuff that doesn't require intricate cuts. And definitely more affordable.
If you want to do something cool and home-made you could probably hook up an electric nibbler to an X-Y stage.
You're looking at a very very large fiber / YAG laser to cut it. A low power YAG laser can engrave steel - commercially these start at about $30k
But it's true that sub-100W CO2 lasers are not even remotely capable of cutting steel.
I do wonder why the pre-order price is SO much cheaper than the actual price. At pre-order it's a still. At regular price it's kinda a bit meh.
Your partner should bring her design to a local workshop to cut, unless she wants to open the local workshop.
Back in Feb in an interview with Shapiro in the NYT it was stated "desktop laser cutter that it plans to sell for around $2,000". No mention of this being a special 50% off price.
And in May this year on geekdad.com, Shapiro "wants the price to be under $2,500".
Now it emerges that this is actually the "50% off" price for 23 days only, and the actual full price will be $4000 for the basic model?
It begs the question: what happened between May and now that the price of the basic unit has doubled? What happened to the planned "$2000 laser printer"???
Or is the "50% off" just a lie to generate more initial sales, and later we'll see "new fantastic discount slashed from $4000 down to an unbelievable $2000"?
I see a lot of this sales tactic in online tech products. Permanent discount prices, there's always a "deal" happening. The RRP is some mythical price that is never actually reached.
Also, the boardgame industry can prototype cards much better with this - printing out Catan-like hex-tiles and the like.
Also UK regulations says I need to be supervised to use a class 4 laser since I can point it to somewhere I shouldn't. I wonder if that's still valid for an enclosed product.
"Never look into the laser with your remaining eye"
Save yourself the wait and spend $395 on eBay to get a much more sturdy version shipped to your door. It's not perfect but at that price, imperfection is forgivable.
At least that's how it's explained more-or-less in one of the videos. Makes sense to ensure that the operator is in front of the machine and has everything properly loaded before firing the laser. Who knows how much of that is really intended as a security process...
This would be a nightmare to make happen, you would need to bribe so many people to get a shipment here that your profit would be unworthy and also make you a criminal or you can run it by the lawn and never get the items or pay 100% taxes over them + their shipping costs making a machine like this cost U$5000,00
There are lots of customs fees involved that are not considered taxes per-se. But let's ignore them and look at taxes:
You get a 60% import tax right off the bat (this applies over the product cost, the aforementioned fees AND shipping). Then, there's ICMS, which varies by state (let's say, 12%). There's also IPI, which is variable according to the product and I'm not sure where a laser cutter would fit in. Also PIS (1.65%), COFINS (7.6%) and IOF since it probably involves currency exchange (0.38%).
Speaking of that... there's the unfavorable exchange rate. Today, the real hit a high of BRL 4.23 for one USD. It was 2.50 something one year ago, and then the economy blew up.
I'm not going to the trouble of trying to calculate the final price, without the importer's markup, but it will be HIGH. Good luck marketing this thing to anything other than medium businesses. And that one year from now. You'll spend like an year incorporating your company and navigating the customs law mess.
There are other options, of course. Manufacturing locally would bypass a lot of taxes (and generate others). But then you could negotiate deals with local authorities in exchange for job creation and some strategic dinners. That sort of stuff. The opportunity cost of doing that is just huge and, by the time you managed all that, you'd be profitable in several other countries already.
Then you'll have to deal with the crappy transportation infrastructure. Forget shipping things by train, you'll have to use trucks. Delivery estimates of 30 business days are not uncommon at all.
My advice? Stay away from Brazil. Even more so this year. There's a reason investors are pulling money out of the country.
Disclaimer: I'm Brazilian.
Fun fact, they mostly aren't anymore. (Go figure. I guess the country is so crazy that nobody knows what to do.) That isn't stopping the Real from falling anyway.
Next, to get the laser to cut properly also takes some tweaking. It's almost impossible to get a repeatable cut, since there are so many different factors that you need to take into play: the location of the item you're cutting on the bed, the temperature of the laser, the thickness and quality of your material, the accuracy of the auto-focus, and the settings themselves. If we look at the location for example, there is a huge difference between the top left corner - where the laser mirror is - and the bottom right corner. On one side your material will catch fire, on the other, it will only cut half way through. The material is also an important factor - if the material is even 0.2mm thicker on the top compared to the bottom (especially true for acrylic), then the laser will go through on one side, and won't go through on the other. For wood, tiny differences in it's quality can have a significant impact on the cut and especially on any engraving you do. With wood and similar, easily smudged materials, you also have this sort of 'caramelisation' after you cut and engrave - the degree of this effect depends on whether you used the right power or not (for which you also have to take into account the location, temperature, material quality,...). If you try to clean it off by hand or with a dry tissue, you will smudge it further and it will be difficult to remove. Instead, you have to painstakingly clean every piece you cut with an alcohol soaked cloth, which will remove most of these smudges - however it won't remove any burn marks. As per the burn marks, you get a lot more of them when you use a honeycomb bed compared to one which has a number of thin pieces of metal that stretch across with a few cm interval. The glowforge laser has this honeycomb bed, so expect your wood, cardboard and paper cutouts to have some of these burn marks if you don't pay very close attention to the power/speed of the cut. With plastic, getting a cleaner cut is a bit easier, but the fumes are horrendous. Also, if you don't cut through the whole thickness of the plastic the first time, and do another pass, the edges which you cut will have these 'micro-cracks' that dont' look very professional. Similarly, if you cut with too much power, your plastic edges will just melt and look quite bad. However, an advantage with plastic cutting is that you can clean it without too much difficulty, if you use sufficient alcohol you can get most burn marks away.
Engraving looks really nice when done with a laser cutting, but it does take some time until you figure out the correct settings for each material. I particularly love engraved plastic and wood, the result (especially from genuine, extruded plexiglass) is beautiful and vey professional. A local public figure has had a picture of him holding a laser-engraved logo that I made him as his profile picture. Personally, I made some laser cut business cards, and they have absolutely blown away a lot of people - one person even told me that he stuck it to his wall for inspiration. I've also worked on laser cut tags/tokens that I give out as a promotional gift to people, and then they can use it as a fidelity card when they order things through my startup. I'm still working on perfecting these tags, but they required a lot of testing (over 30 different attempts just to get the QR code to engrave in a readable way), and I still haven't been able to generate them through software (right now they have to be put into illustrator before exporting them to the laser cutter). Lastly, engraving paper will likely incredibly difficult. On their page they have a sheet of paper that they engraved - I want to know how many attempts it took them before they got it to work - especially since the paper gets very easily caramelised. Maybe they had to use a special coating or used yellow/blue painters tape?
Despite all of this, laser cutters are extremely cool. The one we have cost $4000, and people have done lots of amazing things with it. Nowadays, you can get a 40w laser from ebay or aliexpress for a few hundred dollars, but do expect to spend weeks figuring out how to use it. The Glowforge looks like a pretty cool idea, however I don't know if they'll be able to survive at this price point + with the technology being at the state it is today. Their software (minus the part where it's cloud based), looks really powerful and very useful.
Edit: We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10273316 and marked it off-topic.
It's true that there are other unsubstantive comments in the thread, and many more elsewhere on HN, but we can't reply to them all. Our intention is absolutely not to pick on anyone personally, but to provide signals to the community about the level of discourse we're all going for here.