This weekend, Mike and I will be talking about my recent adventures in laser cutting on our GetConnected Radio show so I thought I’d capture some thoughts about it in case any listeners wanted to know more.
Recently, I had an opportunity to purchase a laser cutter thanks to a sweet local deal on Craigslist on a new, unopened unit. I’ve wanted one for well over a decade and specifically the Glowforge since I first heard of them in 2016 when they started with a crowdfunding campaign. I later saw them in person at CES in 2016 and got to see why it was a compelling option for a laser cutter for hobbyists. A few friends also have them and confirmed that they are a solid choice.
For me, the main reason for wanting a laser cutter (or 3D laser printer as Glowforge refers to it as) is the ability to cut and engrave a wide range of materials easily. Primarily I’m interested in cutting wood, acrylic, cardboard and even leather. You can etch tons of material including some metals (but the laser isn’t powerful enough to cut metal). The Glowforge makes doing this quite easy with a web based interface (which even works on an iPad), material presets and even a webcam inside the machine to help lay out your designs on the materials you want to use.
I’ve used a number of larger, more expensive laser cutters and they are great but really are more industrial machines than something you’d find in an average garage. They also cost significantly more with prices usually starting around $7,000 and goes way up depending on the size of the cutting area and other factors like cooling. The Glowforge starts at $2995 Usd for the Basic (which is the model I have). They also offer the Plus ($3,995) and the Pro ($5,995) models which have stronger lasers, can cut/engrave faster and have other features like a passthrough door to allow larger materials to be used.
Many people create and sell crafted items using a laser cutter. You can find tons on Etsy and many of these folks have a decent side business making customized products for all occasions. It’s much faster to cut wood or acrylic than it is to 3D print similar custom items (minutes versus hours/days with a 3D printer).
It’s still very early days for me with this machine but I’ve already sourced a number of local places to get the raw materials to cut/engrave and started a few small projects you can see below including the sample project for a mini-ruler and even a custom case for the Korg NTS-1 DIY synth from my Holiday Gift Guide last year.
I also engraved our GetConnected logo for use with a LED base that turned out great:
If you’re interested purchasing your own Glowforge, take advantage of my referral code and you can save up to $500 off (depending on the model) you buy.