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


The Glowforge Pro appears to be like a bulky significant-format conventional printer, but alternatively than depositing ink on paper this 25kg (55lbs) product engraves and cuts a wide variety of resources.

Image: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

3D printing, and its industrial counterpart additive producing, is widely covered on ZDNet and in the media frequently. Selling prices variety from a couple hundred dollars to seven-figure sums, with resources which includes numerous types of plastic, resins, metals and even concrete. 

Another type of product, which also spans the variety from hobbyist to industrial apps, is the CNC laser cutter/engraver, which can etch layouts into a wide variety of resources, which includes plastic, leather, wooden, metal and glass, and also lower out styles from some of them, which you can then assemble into 3D objects. That is why Glowforge calls its product a ‘3D laser printer’. 

Launched in 2014, Glowforge elevated a record $27.nine million for a thirty-day crowdfunding campaign in Oct of the subsequent 12 months, and launched its finalised solution range in April 2018. There are three styles, with various combinations of laser power, efficiency and most ‘print’ sizing. Glowforge Standard expenses $two,995, while the Plus product expenses $three,995 and the Pro variation expenses $five,995. The business not too long ago declared the availability of its solution line in the Uk (price ranges are a direct greenback-to-pound translation) — hence the existence of the Pro product on the reviews bench (Alright, my house business office) right here at ZDNet Uk.


  • Easy to established up and use
  • Uncomplicated world wide web-based program
  • Handles a huge variety of resources
  • Active and handy community discussion boards

Will not Like

  • Sound, odour
  • Pro product is high-priced
  • Cannot engrave material more than 5cm (2in.) thick
  • Proofgrade resources are high-priced


The Glowforge Pro comes in a bulky and well-shielded box measuring 116.8cm by seventy one.1cm by 35.5cm (46in. x 28in. x 14in.) and weighing 32kg (70lbs). The product inside is 96.5cm huge by 52.7cm deep by 21cm tall (38in. x twenty.75in. x eight.25in.) and weighs 25kg (55lbs) — a definite two-particular person lift. You will have to have a sturdy desk or table with at the very least two.5cm (1in.) of clearance all-around all sides, and considerably additional to the front and back if you intend to use the Pro’s passthrough slot to accommodate bigger resources. 

All a few styles can choose resources measuring up to twenty.four inches huge by eighteen inches deep by two inches thick, with a most printable place of all-around 11in. by 19.5in. The Pro’s passthrough slot lets for resources measuring twenty inches huge by a quarter of an inch thick, with no restrict on length – you print 10 inches at a time and then slide the material by the slot to process the future part. 

The Glowforge comes with an accent pack that contains the black metal crumb tray, which sits in the bed of the printer to collect any debris, an exhaust hose that clamps more than the outlet on the back of the product, and a starter pack of Proofgrade materials. We experienced a collection of woods and MDF, a few of pieces of acrylic and some leather. Official Proofgrade resources arrive with peel-off protective coating on equally sides and a QR code from which the Glowforge’s constructed-in digicam reads the proper laser options. If you purchase third-bash resources, you are going to have to have to test their CO2 laser compatibility, and confirm the proper options. The Glowforge Community is useful with this concern, among the a lot of other people. 

There are two selections for disposing of the dust and odour that arise from the exhaust hose: you can route the hose to the outside by a window or a window vent, or you can attach it to the optional air filter unit. The latter is hefty equally in conditions of pounds (22kg/48lbs) and price ($995/£901.62), with alternative filter cartridges costing $250 or £187.96. The estimated cartridge lifetime depends on what you print, and for how prolonged. 

The Glowforge Pro appears to be like a huge printer with a white moulded plastic scenario, a glass best and lid (with a digicam on its underside), which opens to reveal the rail-mounted laser tube/arm/printer head system, and the crumb tray on the flooring of the product. You can find a front doorway that pulls down for simple obtain to the insides, with passthrough slots front and back for significant resources (Pro product only). At the back you are going to find the power enter, on/off change and exhaust connection. You can find a significant round button on the best, on the right aspect towards the front, which flashes white to show that the Glowforge is prepared to print, which it does when you push the button. 

Set up & features 

The moment you have unboxed the Glowforge and set the numerous components in spot (printer head, crumb tray, exhaust hose) you 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 position is prepared to hook up to your pc (or mobile phone) to entire the setup. You do this via, signing in making use of the email and password utilized through the purchasing process. The moment the printer head has finished its calibration, you can reconnect to your regular Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi is the only connection approach among your pc and the Glowforge: you can find no cable concerned, and an world-wide-web connection is required for print processing. 

Projects 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, via a Glowforge Premium subscription, to a catalogue of free and paid out-for layouts, and lets you to develop your very own projects from scratch making use of a wide variety of clip-artwork-type graphics, styles and textual content in a variety of fonts. 

Glowforge High quality is, as the name suggests, not low-cost: the complete selling price is $/£50 a month, although it can be at the moment on offer at £349 in the Uk when billed each individual eighteen months (£19.39 a month). If you happen to be a self-confident consumer of vector graphics program like Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator, you may well not have to have Glowforge High quality. But the instruments (especially the automobile-define function), artwork and fonts are handy, and the low cost could possibly well swing the conclusion for some consumers. Other High quality rewards contain processing of print layouts on speedier cloud-based servers, unlimited cloud storage for your layouts and early obtain to experimental functions. 

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You can also develop a print by drawing or crafting on paper, putting it in the bed of the product and obtaining the digicam in the lid convert it into a electronic file, which you can then manipulate in numerous methods in the world wide web app. 

The Glowforge Pro utilizes a CO2 laser tube running at 10,600nm and averaging 45W (the Plus and Standard styles use considerably less potent 40W lasers), with the X/Y axis motors allowing for the laser to engrave with one,000dpi resolution. It can score (drawing a line, at reduced power) and engrave in numerous passes, different the laser power among pixels to attain various stages of darkness. The laser can also lower material up to half an inch (one.2cm) thick, at speeds relying on the material and its thickness.  

You can not lower metal, as this would demand laser power stages further than individuals feasible on a desktop product. Even so, you can lower wooden, cloth, leather, paper, acrylic, mylar, rubber, and additional. All of these resources can also be engraved, along with glass, coated metal, marble, anodised aluminium and titanium. So you can, if you would like, etch your name or a style and design onto your mobile phone, tablet or notebook, among the other points that are not additional than two inches thick. 

Usability & efficiency

I examined the Glowforge Pro by engraving shots and scans onto a wide variety of Proofgrade resources. I also developed a headphone stand in MDF and etched the ZDNet symbol into the back of an iPad.


A scan of a wooden engraving by Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), engraved onto Proofgrade maple plywood, which expenses £20.26 in the Uk for each common-sizing (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet. Print time was all-around 40 minutes.

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


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

Visuals: Charles McLellan / ZDNet


A picture (previously mentioned remaining) engraved on Proofgrade crystal clear acrylic at draft resolution and photographed towards a window pane (previously mentioned right). A common-sizing (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet of Proofgrade crystal clear acrylic expenses £16.96 in the Uk.

Visuals: Charles McLellan / ZDNet  


A symbol etched onto the back of an iPad. I located the proper laser options for this anodised aluminium material on the Glowforge forum. This etching took about 10 minutes.

Visuals: Charles McLellan / ZDNet  

I experienced no key problems with any of these projects. The world wide web app interface is straightforward, with good responses about which phase of the process is underway. Print instances will fluctuate relying on the sizing and detail degree of the content material, regardless of whether it can be staying engraved or lower, and the output resolution: shots can be Draft or High definition graphics can be Draft, SD or High definition, and you can find a 3D Engrave option (for certain resources) that engraves with added depth (you are going to have to have a heightmap graphic file for this). Eradicating the protective layer immediately after printing can be fiddly for complicated engravings, but it can be truly worth the work: eliminating it prior to printing operates the possibility of unsightly burn off marks.

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You can find a good quantity of noise when the Glowforge is running, especially if you use the air filter as there will be two followers whirring away. The quantity of noise and residual odour will rely on the content material staying printed and the material it can be staying printed on. We examined the Glowforge in a house business office in a small terraced house, but its favored habitat is almost certainly a roomy workshop wherever loved ones/neighbour-annoyance will not likely be an concern.


The best-end Glowforge Pro setup we examined, with the air filter unit, is by no means low-cost at $six,990 or £6,897 all explained to ($/£5,995 + $995 or £902). Official Proofgrade resources carry premium price ranges, as well, and certain sorts are at the moment in shorter provide in the Uk. “Due to the fact launching Glowforge in the Uk we have experienced a substantially bigger demand from customers than predicted for Proofgrade resources. We are nonetheless doing our very best to satisfy this demand from customers and to guarantee each individual Uk customer receives their Proofgrade resources,” Glowforge explained to ZDNet.

A lot more reasonably priced third-bash resources are obtainable on-line and in retail outlets, but it can be up to you to decide their laser compatibility and utilize the proper options in the world wide web app. Then you can find the Glowforge High quality membership, if you have to have it, which is at the moment on offer at £19.39 a month.

If you happen to be ready to vent the exhaust out of a window alternatively than use the air filter, drop down to a 40W laser with slower engraving and slicing speeds, and forego increased cooling and the passthrough slot, you can lessen the outlay to $/£3,995 for the Plus product — sizeable personal savings of $two,995 and £2,902 more than the Pro+air filter selling price tag. And if you don’t thoughts even slower engraving speed, and half the guarantee period, $/£2,995 for the Standard product appears to be very desirable. 

Glowforge product




CDRH classification

Class four

Class one

Class one

Laser power





12 months  

12 months  

six months  

Upgraded components (speedier speed)  

of course

of course


Engraving speed  




Cut speed  




Improved cooling  

of course



Passthrough slot

of course







I located the Glowforge Pro a gratifying product to use. It can be straightforward to established up, engraves and cuts a good variety of resources, and use cases are restricted additional by the user’s creative abilities than any deficiencies of the equipment alone.

You will have to have to be conscious of basic safety, especially if experimenting with third-bash resources, and will have to cope with noise and some odour problems when printing – even if you have the exhaust hose adequately established up. You will also have to have loads of area to house this significant product, especially if you intend to use the Pro’s passthrough slot. 

You don’t have to shell out $three-six,000 on a laser cutter/engraver, as (considerably less capable) solutions are obtainable for as very little as $500, or even considerably less. We’re wanting right here at the mid-variety, while previously mentioned Glowforge’s choices are industrial-degree gadgets that price considerably additional.

The Glowforge Pro is an excellent option for well-heeled hobbyists and makers, while the Plus and Standard styles offer additional reasonably priced routes into the environment of laser slicing and engraving. Glowforge is not just for hobbyists, both: a lot of consumers run worthwhile small organizations marketing the projects they develop on these functional machines. 

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