Here’s What Convinced Me to Order a $2000 Glowforge Laser Cutter

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Glowforge 3D Laser Printer Now Available For Pre-Order.

Glowforge has flipped the switch to on for pre-orders of its 3D laser printer. I haven’t told my daughters yet that we’re getting this new tool that has captured my imagination and will soon help them make their own toys—and who knows what else.Laser cutters are machines that cut and engrave flat material – such as plywood, acrylic, chocolate, leather, cardboard, seashells, glass, even sheets of dried seaweed.

The young Seattle startup today opened up pre-orders for its innovative printer at a limited time price of $1,995 each — it normally will retail for $3,995 — with an expected ship date at the end of 2015.We’re not quite at the stage of a 3D printer on every desk just yet, but a new product with a different technical approach is aiming to capture the imagination of small startups and creators. There is the material used to print which is equivalent to the ink in regular printers, and from there based on your design, it will then release that material and layer it until it becomes the thing you wanted to print. The Glowforge desktop laser creates beautiful and useful products, from leather wallets to hardwood jewelry boxes, with one press of its single button. The device, also called the Glowforge, lets people use raw materials like leather, paper, plastic, fabric, or cardboard and make products with a push of a button.

Designs come from software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, the Glowforge premium online catalog, or even an intricate pen drawing, making it suitable for uses ranging from children’s art projects to professional production. The truth is, Dan Shapiro, Glowforge’s co-founder and CEO, sold this thing to me over the course of several interviews and e-mail exchanges during the last year as he revealed his company and raised $9 million from venture investors.

It can cut wood, acrylic, cardboard, leather and various other materials, and engrave glass and metal (it’s even capable of etching a custom design on the back of your MacBook Pro). Glowforge raised a solid $9 million Series A from Foundry Group, True Ventures and others earlier this year to build a cheaper and smaller laser cutter that could maintain the same quality as higher end cutters found in professional shops and maker spaces. Instead of layering, the method we mentioned earlier, Glowforge’s printer will use lasers and basically cut out designs based on whatever you have input into the software. Dan Shapiro, the founder of Glowforge (he’s the creator of the Robot Turtles game), gave me a Skype video demo of the machine in action earlier this week.

Unlike traditional 3D printers, Glowforge uses subtractive technology that cuts and engraves dozens of materials, instead of additive technology that builds up plastic. But I’ll try to explain what convinced me to fork over $1,995 (half off the suggested retail price) plus $99 shipping for a consumer-grade laser cutter, which I’ve managed to survive without until now.

This both reduces hardware costs for Glowforge and also automatically takes care of any layout or alignment problems that typically arise with current options, Shapiro said. Using subtractive technology and autofocus to achieve depth and precision, Glowforge creates a number of objects – from lamp shades to drone frames – in a matter of minutes. The printer itself looks a bit like a large scanner, and it works in a similar fashion: Put a piece of material inside the printer bed, let it scan what type of material it is, and then choose what you want to print. According to the company, they are boasting that its laser cutting technology is more precise than other similar machines out there, and best of all it is affordable. I wrote about and subsequently bought a couple of copies of Robot Turtles, his board game for teaching kids how to think like computer programmers, which broke Kickstarter records for its category. (It was Shapiro’s experience cutting out the pieces for Robot Turtles that got him engaged in the world of laser cutters.) My 3-year-old and I play together, and it’s fun.

The examples on the Glowforge website give some idea of what the machine can do: There’s a plywood iPhone stand, a papercut wedding invitation, a customized leather satchel, a recycled cardboard lamp, a miniature wooden model of a building, and much more besides. “Glowforge is most useful for practical projects—so think of things that you can buy in a store, but customized to your needs and liking,” a Glowforge representative told us via email. “We’ve seen inventors and other creatives make remarkable things with Glowforge: products like elaborate lamps, office furniture, art installations and much more.” The use of smartphone components and cloud-based software have helped to bring the costs of the device down, the company says. This neat software solution for aligning material was developed by Dean Putney, who was a contractor for many years at Boing Boing, and now works for Dan in Seattle.

If you’d like to see it in action, check it out in the video above and if you like what you see, head on over to Glowforge’s website for the details. The software innovations in the Glowforge not only allows the company sell the machine at a lower cost than other laser cutters, is also enables the Glowforge to do things that other laser printers can’t: • It automatically profiles a material by looking at an invisible bar code on the protective paper that covers the material.

That said, there’s something deeply appealing to me about the combination of technologies packed into the Glowforge, and the way cloud-based software does so much of the heavy lifting. Some projects come out ready to use, while others, like the candle holder Shapiro made, snap together with tabs and slots — this is possible to do without adhesive thanks to the printer’s precision cutting technology. You can also use your own materials, and once you figure out the best settings, you can save them in a drop-down menu. • It has an autofocus system inside the cutting head, which measures the height of the material, so the head will move up and down as it traverses over bent or curved material. • Typical laser cutters have a red dot that shows you where it is going to cut. I wanted one for my own home, and there were no affordable choices on the market.” Shapiro, who formerly worked at Google, says he spoke to many individuals in the maker community to gauge the level of interest in 3D printers and laser cutters—and people were much more enthusiastic about the latter. They all seemed like stylish projects one might find on a successful Etsy page, and the Glowforge would undoubtedly be a useful tool for cutting down the time it takes woodworkers and other crafters to make their tchotchkes.

Also, the Glowforge’s 40-watt CO2 laser can only cut through material up to a quarter-inch thick in a single pass, but by flipping the material over and making a second pass, you can double that—and the computer vision technology baked in handles the alignment to make this easy, Shapiro says. Some of the work done by hardware components in existing laser cutters has been offloaded to the cloud, reducing the size and cost of the Glowforge (though you’re still going to need a fairly large desk to hold it). A “Pro” model, which costs $3,995 during the early-bird promotion and has an MSRP of $8,000, sports a more powerful 45-watt laser—it’s in the FDA’s laser hazard class IV, whereas the base model is hazard class I—and has the capability to continuously feed in material, meaning you can cut or engrave something 20 inches wide and essentially unlimited in length, with software and internal cameras once again handling the alignment. Glowforge did away with all that and just put a camera in the lid (which also takes a picture of you when you lift the lid to remove your creation from the cutting bed). He’d done the same with a wallet that fit just the cards he carried, and even a leather bag that had a pocket exactly the right shape for his iPad Air.

And unlike a conventional 3D printer, users aren’t limited to the often uninspiring plastic shapes created through additive techniques in your designs. The Glowforge can engrave “glass, marble, rubber stamps, stone, ceramic, tile and coated metals such as anodized aluminum, stainless steel, brass, titanium, and more.” The demo video shows people custom-engraving their MacBooks, among many other things. The first Glowforge is available to preorder starting Thursday for a period of 30 days, and the company has plans for additional models further down the line. Users will also be able to search through a catalog of premium designs uploaded by people from the Glowforge community who are able to make money when someone uses their creation. “We know we will have amazing designers in the community,” Shapiro said. “Every time someone has their hands on this technology, they cook up something different we don’t even imagine.

Shapiro was inspired to start Glowforge after his last project, the hit kids board game Robot Turtles, which became one of Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns ever and is now on sale at stores like Target. Both the walnut and the acrylic were in the cutter at the same time and were cut during the same sub-15 minute run, with the laser adjusting its power as it moved from one material to the other.

Backers of Glowforge include Brad Feld’s Foundry Group and True Ventures, which led the $9 million round in May, along with people like MakerBot co-founder Bre Pettis, former MakerBot CEO Jenny Lawton, Wetpaint founder Ben Elowitz, KISSmetrics founder Hiten Shah, director of open source at Google Chris DiBona, and former Swype CEO Mike McSherry. It could be the printer that finally brings 3D printing into the average consumer’s home, though for now, Shapiro said Glowforge’s most likely customers will be arts-and-crafts types, and those who sell their products on sites like Etsy. “We’re reinventing what it means to be homemade,” Shapiro added.

Unlike 3D printers that build objects out of plastic, Glowforge uses lasers to print products out of durable and beautiful materials like wood, leather, acrylic, paper and fabric. LAST CHANCE TO REGISTER: Don’t miss the GeekWire Summit on Oct. 1 and 2 in Seattle, featuring key execs from companies including Nike, Zillow, Concur, Xbox, Redfin, Uber and more.

During the demonstration, a considerable amount of smoke and even some small flames came up from the walnut inside the machine as the laser did its work. As for the exhaust, there’s two solutions: Place the unit by a window or buy an integrated air filter for an additional $500 (at the early-bird price), which would allow the machine to run in an office or home without external ventilation.

As the leading OEM supplier of laser deflection and positioning systems, SCANLAB AG is presenting a new high-end scan system at the Laser World of Photonics 2015 tradeshow in Munich, Germany. excelliSCAN utilizes servo innovations to deliver significant productivity gains in numerous industrial applications – e.g. micro-processing. The pro model is $4,000 and has faster and better optics, a HEPA air filter so you don’t have to vent the smoke outside, and includes a drawer that opens to allow you to feed longer pieces of material through it, so you can make furniture.

For the electronics industry, increased throughput is a vital contributor to economic success as well as the flexibility and quality of processing methods. That’s part of why the company is marketing these as 3D printers, even though they are technically laser cutters, and their process is subtractive rather than additive. Of ever-increasing importance, modern laser processing is particularly well-suited to fulfilling that industry’s requirements – and those of other sectors, too.

The Glowforge makes building things in three dimensions—a four-foot tall doll house, for example—relatively easy because it cuts so precisely, even if the material is non-uniform. Specific examples of scanner-based processing methods include full-surface processing, and cutting of contours or openings in hardened glass in the manufacturing of smart devices.

Specially developed to meet rigorous demands for dynamics, precision and long-term stability in 24/7 operation, SCANLAB’s excelliSCAN scan system newly defines the core elements of scan technology. excelliSCAN utilizes galvo scanners with ultra-precise digital angle sensors and a completely new SCANahead servo control: this control solution enables highly dynamic laser processing unencumbered by the existing limitations of conventional servos with tracking error. The new servo design achieves a previously unattainable union of very high speed with very high dynamic performance, thus delivering clear productivity gains to users. Limor told us about the giant pick-and-place and stencil printers she uses at […] Audrey writes, “The Recompiler is a new feminist hacker magazine dedicated to learning about technology in a fun and inclusive way. Moreover, high-speed contour marking accuracy (e.g. starting off from sharp corners and curves) is significantly improved. excelliSCAN’s new mechanical design provides enhanced stability, more compactness and optimal heat removal under dynamic load.

The first issue of the magazine is now online, with articles about glitchy art, 80s tech, SSL bugs, and the flaws in DNS.” Say goodbye to your annoying, bulky key ring—KeySmart organizes your keys in one convenient, compact, and lightweight place. The software accounts for imperfections in the material relative to the plan and adapts the plan and the cuts it makes accordingly, in real time, Shapiro says. “We can dedicate a supercomputer to making your dollhouse for a fraction of a second, instead of having a desktop or an embedded computer cranking away forever trying to figure it out,” Shapiro says.

This is particularly welcome for machine designs that don’t allow water as a coolant. excelliSCAN will initially be available with a 14-mm aperture; a 10-mm version is in preparation. The award-winning KeySmart is meticulously designed to allow for quick and easy key access, and will rid your […] Connect through a VPN tunnel of your choice and forget about hackers, digital eavesdroppers, and government spies.

The idea was to use commodity smartphone components instead of robotics equipment and cloud computing power instead of local computing resources wherever possible. Building 3D objects from the two-dimensional panels produced in a laser cutter obviously requires detailed plans to get all the tabs and notches to line up. (Designs can be made using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, AutoCAD, and Inkscape.) Glowforge recognizes this might be a barrier to many users, particularly when they’re just starting out. High-level encryption ensures you’ll put an end to incessant digital advertising, while IP cloaking […] More and more companies look to Amazon Web Services for their cloud-computing needs, and the CDA exam is a surefire way to impress potential employers with your knowledge. AWS developers specialize in building and maintaining apps created specifically for the Amazon platform, and this course will dive into the concepts required to both be successful in the […] In addition to premium designs, Glowforge will sell material specially coated with an ultraviolet barcode that the cutter can read and identify easily, automatically adjusting the power of the laser for the given job.

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