How to make things with a Glowforge laser cutter

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So, the glowforge looks amazing and I may have to buy one (if I ever have scratch again), but… Can we stop calling it a printer?

Printing is additive. This cuts, and is subtractive. And frankly I think the glowforge would be more useful than most 3d printers. Can we nip this one in the bud?


To be fair, the title of the post does call it a laser cutter.

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It certainly does, but the first sentence doesn’t. And it is a fuckin’ cool enough device to not have to ride the printer hype cycle.

Ars technica visited their hq and has a great writeup. Made me want one even more.

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Now, I like The Cloud as much as the next guy, but I’m unclear on what it gets me in this case.

One uploads an Illustrator file to Google where presumably the file is read and instructions for the cutter are generated which are then downloaded back to my computer and Glowforge. The example in the demo was a pretty small file, but still most of the delay between the upload and and completed download had to have been network latency. Why do I need to have all that Google horsepower to generate the cutting instructions?

While very cool, this seems like a tool that will only work if I have a internet connection when i want to use it. Also this super tool turns into a boat anchor the moment that Glowforge’s ‘free forever’ pledge becomes inconvenient.

I really want a laser cutter, but not one with such a fragile point of failure.

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Spend a few years dealing with your common laser cutter and the features of this particular one will…glow. Laser cutter control and software all the worst pieces of shit I’ve seen in 20+ years working in software. They are so horrid I want to erupt bile right now. My hackerspace has an 80 watt laser cutter able to take whole sheets of plywood that regularly makes me want to go to China and find the designers to burn their houses down!

I expect everyone buying a glowforge has wifi at home or in their shop. I certainly do.

I’ve used Epilog Helix cutters at TechShop, and the software’s not so bad IMHO. It installs as a Windows print driver, so you can design your cut-paths in any program that will draw vectors, like Illustrator or CorelDraw, and then hit “Print” (sorry, @japhroaig!) to send it to the cutter. I’ll admit the print dialog is one of those Windows-style abominations with too many text fields, but for simple jobs you can ignore most of them. As a piece of software it sucks, but it’s not bad enough to detract from the fun of cuttin’ through stuff with lasers like Dr. Goldfinger.

I do tend to agree with @Hank though that having a “cloud”-based dependency built into the Glowforge is a bummer. Not only is it limiting to what we can print, and a potential device-killer if Glowforge goes under, it’s also an obvious choke-point where they can introduce extra monetization whenever they please — “oh, you want to run more than five jobs a day? That’ll be an extra $5 per job.”

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Epilogs cost about 5x or more of what Chinese laser cutters get so very few people have them…


[quote]A big fear people may have, is what happens if they can’t connect to your Glowforge servers, or if the Glowforge service goes away? What happens if you guys aren’t around in five years?

This is something that came up on the first day, loud and clear. We sat down and thought about this. On the one hand, we don’t want to split up our development resources to make local clients and standalone server packages. On the other hand, if you bought it, you own it, and you should be able to do whatever you want with it. And if we disappear there should be some fallback plan. So what we decided to do is
open-source, basically publish one version of the firmware under the open source license so people can go mess around with it. If we disappear, they can go modify that and flash it back. Now, the unfortunate thing about that is we have to void the warranty if you do that, because we destroy Glowforges here at an amazing rate when we’re tweaking firmware parameters. It’s really easy to damage your Glowforge
if you’re playing around with firmware, but it’s not designed as a primary use case, but as a backup. And there are some good solid jumping off points to make it a good standalone G-code driven laser if that’s
what people need to do.

So that won’t include any of the cloud software, just the firmware to make it compatible with G-code. Is that open source firmware you’ll be updating over time?

We haven’t decided yet. We’ll publish a reference version because the firmware on there honestly doesn’t even understand G-code. It’s very low level. It’s not something where you flip a switch in and it’ll work offline. But we want to make sure people can get access to configure the Wi-Fi on board and other parameters. It’ll be a framework to get started. We actually do the motion plan in the cloud, so what comes down isn’t even G-code.[/quote]

So, worst case, you put community firmware on it and move on.

Well, I’ve lost that war :D. Now I guess it is time to ‘print’ some Nori with fail whales (actually that’s a good idea…)

For the record, I don’t run Windows and don’t pay for Coreldraw or Adobe Illustrator, so proprietary Windows solutions are useless to me. I’m on OS X or Linux machines.

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“This video contains content from BoingBoingTV. It is not available in your country.”

I’m in Ohio.

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