Glowforge Pro review: Laser cutting and engraving for serious hobbyists and makers


The Glowforge Professional seems like a cumbersome big-format common printer, but fairly than depositing ink on paper this 25kg (55lbs) gadget engraves and cuts a wide variety of materials.

Picture: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

3D printing, and its industrial counterpart additive production, is widely covered on ZDNet and in the media typically. Costs array from a few hundred bucks to 7-figure sums, with materials which includes numerous varieties of plastic, resins, metals and even concrete. 

A further sort of gadget, which also spans the array from hobbyist to industrial purposes, is the CNC laser cutter/engraver, which can etch designs into a wide variety of materials, which includes plastic, leather-based, wooden, metallic and glass, and also reduce out shapes from some of them, which you can then assemble into 3D objects. That is why Glowforge calls its gadget a ‘3D laser printer’. 

Founded in 2014, Glowforge lifted a history $27.9 million for a thirty-day crowdfunding campaign in October of the following 12 months, and launched its finalised product range in April 2018. There are three models, with distinct combos of laser electrical power, general performance and optimum ‘print’ sizing. Glowforge Fundamental prices $2,995, although the Plus product prices $three,995 and the Professional edition prices $five,995. The organization not long ago declared the availability of its product line in the United kingdom (price ranges are a immediate dollar-to-pound translation) — therefore the existence of the Professional product on the assessments bench (Ok, my residence workplace) below at ZDNet United kingdom.


  • Simple to established up and use
  • Uncomplicated world wide web-based mostly software package
  • Handles a huge array of materials
  • Lively and useful local community boards

Really don’t Like

  • Sound, odour
  • Professional product is highly-priced
  • Are unable to engrave product around 5cm (2in.) thick
  • Proofgrade materials are highly-priced


The Glowforge Professional comes in a cumbersome and well-shielded box measuring 116.8cm by 71.1cm by 35.5cm (46in. x 28in. x 14in.) and weighing 32kg (70lbs). The gadget within is 96.5cm huge by 52.7cm deep by 21cm tall (38in. x 20.75in. x 8.25in.) and weighs 25kg (55lbs) — a definite two-individual elevate. You are going to need a strong desk or desk with at minimum 2.5cm (1in.) of clearance all-around all sides, and noticeably more to the front and back if you intend to use the Pro’s passthrough slot to accommodate bigger materials. 

All 3 models can acquire materials measuring up to 20.four inches huge by 18 inches deep by 2 inches thick, with a optimum printable location of all-around 11in. by 19.5in. The Pro’s passthrough slot makes it possible for for materials measuring 20 inches huge by a quarter of an inch thick, with no restrict on duration – you print 10 inches at a time and then slide the product by means of the slot to approach the up coming area. 

The Glowforge comes with an accent pack that features the black metallic crumb tray, which sits in the mattress of the printer to gather any particles, an exhaust hose that clamps around the outlet on the back of the gadget, and a starter pack of Proofgrade materials. We experienced a selection of woods and MDF, a couple of items of acrylic and some leather-based. Official Proofgrade materials come with peel-off protective coating on equally sides and a QR code from which the Glowforge’s constructed-in digicam reads the proper laser settings. If you purchase 3rd-social gathering materials, you will need to look at their CO2 laser compatibility, and verify the proper settings. The Glowforge Community is practical with this difficulty, amongst a lot of other people. 

There are two possibilities for disposing of the dust and odour that arise from the exhaust hose: you can route the hose to the outside the house by means of a window or a window vent, or you can attach it to the optional air filter device. The latter is hefty equally in conditions of excess weight (22kg/48lbs) and expense ($995/£901.sixty two), with substitution filter cartridges costing $250 or £187.96. The estimated cartridge lifetime depends on what you print, and for how extensive. 

The Glowforge Professional seems like a big printer with a white moulded plastic scenario, a glass top rated and lid (with a digicam on its underside), which opens to expose the rail-mounted laser tube/arm/printer head system, and the crumb tray on the flooring of the gadget. There is certainly a front door that pulls down for straightforward obtain to the insides, with passthrough slots front and back for big materials (Professional product only). At the back you will obtain the electrical power input, on/off change and exhaust link. There is certainly a big round button on the top rated, on the correct aspect in direction of the front, which flashes white to display that the Glowforge is completely ready to print, which it does when you press the button. 

Setup & features 

At the time you’ve unboxed the Glowforge and set the numerous factors in location (printer head, crumb tray, exhaust hose) you electrical power it up and wait around for the button to glow a teal colour, which signifies that the printer’s short-term Wi-Fi obtain point is completely ready to connect to your laptop (or phone) to full the setup. You do this by way of, signing in working with the e mail and password utilised through the ordering approach. At the time the printer head has completed its calibration, you can reconnect to your standard Wi-Fi community. Wi-Fi is the only link method concerning your laptop and the Glowforge: you will find no cable involved, and an web link is demanded for print processing. 

Assignments are ready for printing in the Glowforge world wide web app,, which can import bitmap (JPG, PNG) and vector data files (SVG, PDF). The app also delivers obtain, by way of a Glowforge Premium subscription, to a catalogue of free and paid out-for designs, and makes it possible for you to produce your personal initiatives from scratch working with a wide variety of clip-art-design and style graphics, shapes and textual content in a array of fonts. 

Glowforge Premium is, as the name suggests, not affordable: the total cost is $/£50 a month, whilst it is really at this time on present at £349 in the United kingdom when billed each 18 months (£19.39 a month). If you are a self-confident user of vector graphics software package like Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator, you may not need Glowforge Premium. But the equipment (especially the car-define function), artwork and fonts are useful, and the price reduction might well swing the conclusion for some users. Other Premium gains involve processing of print designs on quicker cloud-based mostly servers, unlimited cloud storage for your designs and early obtain to experimental options. 

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You can also produce a print by drawing or creating on paper, positioning it in the mattress of the gadget and possessing the digicam in the lid convert it into a digital file, which you can then manipulate in numerous approaches in the world wide web app. 

The Glowforge Professional takes advantage of a CO2 laser tube running at 10,600nm and averaging 45W (the Plus and Fundamental models use significantly less powerful 40W lasers), with the X/Y axis motors permitting the laser to engrave with one,000dpi resolution. It can rating (drawing a line, at minimal electrical power) and engrave in various passes, different the laser electrical power concerning pixels to realize distinct degrees of darkness. The laser can also reduce product up to half an inch (one.2cm) thick, at speeds relying on the product and its thickness.  

You cannot reduce metallic, as this would call for laser electrical power degrees past those people possible on a desktop gadget. Having said that, you can reduce wooden, fabric, leather-based, paper, acrylic, mylar, rubber, and more. All of these materials can also be engraved, together with glass, coated metallic, marble, anodised aluminium and titanium. So you can, if you want, etch your name or a design on to your phone, pill or laptop, amongst other things that are not more than two inches thick. 

Usability & general performance

I analyzed the Glowforge Professional by engraving pics and scans on to a wide variety of Proofgrade materials. I also made a headphone stand in MDF and etched the ZDNet emblem into the back of an iPad.


A scan of a wooden engraving by Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), engraved on to Proofgrade maple plywood, which prices £20.26 in the United kingdom for each conventional-sizing (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet. Print time was all-around forty minutes.

Picture: Charles McLellan / ZDNet. Initial artwork: Thomas Bewick


A headphone stand, reduce and assembled from Proofgrade draftboard, which prices £8.28 in the United kingdom for each conventional-sizing (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet. The design was downloaded from the Glowforge Catalog, and print time was all-around 11 minutes.

Photographs: Charles McLellan / ZDNet


A image (earlier mentioned still left) engraved on Proofgrade very clear acrylic at draft resolution and photographed towards a window pane (earlier mentioned correct). A conventional-sizing (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet of Proofgrade very clear acrylic prices £16.96 in the United kingdom.

Photographs: Charles McLellan / ZDNet  


A emblem etched on to the back of an iPad. I observed the proper laser settings for this anodised aluminium product on the Glowforge discussion board. This etching took about 10 minutes.

Photographs: Charles McLellan / ZDNet  

I experienced no key problems with any of these initiatives. The world wide web app interface is clear-cut, with superior feedback about which stage of the approach is underway. Print moments will vary relying on the sizing and depth amount of the written content, no matter whether it is really becoming engraved or reduce, and the output resolution: pics can be Draft or Hd graphics can be Draft, SD or Hd, and you will find a 3D Engrave option (for selected materials) that engraves with added depth (you will need a heightmap impression file for this). Getting rid of the protective layer just after printing can be fiddly for intricate engravings, but it is really really worth the hard work: removing it prior to printing operates the risk of ugly melt away marks.

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There is certainly a fair volume of noise when the Glowforge is running, especially if you use the air filter as there will be two lovers whirring away. The volume of noise and residual odour will count on the written content becoming printed and the product it is really becoming printed on. We analyzed the Glowforge in a residence workplace in a modest terraced residence, but its favored habitat is likely a roomy workshop exactly where relatives/neighbour-annoyance won’t be an difficulty.


The top rated-conclude Glowforge Professional setup we analyzed, with the air filter device, is by no usually means affordable at $six,990 or £6,897 all explained to ($/£5,995 + $995 or £902). Official Proofgrade materials carry premium price ranges, too, and selected styles are at this time in brief provide in the United kingdom. “Considering that launching Glowforge in the United kingdom we have experienced a a lot higher demand from customers than expected for Proofgrade materials. We are however undertaking our best to satisfy this demand from customers and to make certain each United kingdom buyer gets their Proofgrade materials,” Glowforge explained to ZDNet.

Extra economical 3rd-social gathering materials are accessible on line and in retail shops, but it is really up to you to decide their laser compatibility and use the proper settings in the world wide web app. Then you will find the Glowforge Premium subscription, if you need it, which is at this time on present at £19.39 a month.

If you are ready to vent the exhaust out of a window fairly than use the air filter, fall down to a 40W laser with slower engraving and slicing speeds, and forego enhanced cooling and the passthrough slot, you can cut down the outlay to $/£3,995 for the Plus product — considerable personal savings of $2,995 and £2,902 around the Professional+air filter cost tag. And if you you should not brain even slower engraving pace, and half the warranty period, $/£2,995 for the Fundamental product seems rather beautiful. 

Glowforge product




CDRH classification

Class four

Class one

Class one

Laser electrical power





twelve months  

twelve months  

six months  

Upgraded components (quicker pace)  




Engraving pace  




Reduce pace  




Improved cooling  




Passthrough slot








I observed the Glowforge Professional a worthwhile gadget to use. It is really clear-cut to established up, engraves and cuts a superior array of materials, and use conditions are constrained more by the user’s artistic capabilities than any deficiencies of the device by itself.

You are going to need to be knowledgeable of safety, especially if experimenting with 3rd-social gathering materials, and will have to cope with noise and some odour problems when printing – even if you have the exhaust hose appropriately established up. You are going to also need a lot of room to residence this big gadget, especially if you intend to use the Pro’s passthrough slot. 

You you should not have to invest $three-six,000 on a laser cutter/engraver, as (significantly less able) solutions are accessible for as very little as $500, or even significantly less. We’re on the lookout below at the mid-array, although earlier mentioned Glowforge’s choices are industrial-amount gadgets that charge noticeably more.

The Glowforge Professional is an excellent selection for well-heeled hobbyists and makers, although the Plus and Fundamental models present more economical routes into the environment of laser slicing and engraving. Glowforge is not just for hobbyists, either: lots of users run financially rewarding modest companies providing the initiatives they produce on these adaptable devices. 

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