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About two decades ago, there were big, massive, hazardous, and expensive laser cutting and engraving machines. Such machines weren’t for common artists, hobbyists, DIY experts, small businesses, and professionals—they were specifically made for industrial use.
After realizing the potential of the laser and considering safety measures, there was a massive breakthrough in the last decade. Many companies started to put their effort into the making of a compact, affordable, and safe laser cutting and engraving machine that can do most of the jobs.
With the introduction of a few laser cutting and engraving machines, there has been massive demand from customers. The reason behind the demand was the finishing, speed, and accuracy that the laser cutting and engraving machines offer. It was the time when people started preferring lasers.
Glowforge is one of the companies that took the initiative to make laser cutting and engraving machines for common people that almost anyone can use. The company got everyone’s attention after raising about $30 million in crowdfunding. It all started in 2014, and the company introduced some famous and one-of-a-kind products in 2018.
The product range that Glowforge has introduced is innovative, compact, and suitable for small businesses, artists, crafters, and professionals. The products got huge attention after getting into the market. However, there are still some issues and expected improvements, so people are looking for alternatives.
In this article, we will have an in-depth look at the Glowforge products and why people need an alternative. We will also discuss the best Glowforge alternative to help you out in making the right decision.
Glowforge introduced three products, Glowforge Basic, Gowerforge Plus, and Glowforge Pro. These products share many features, but the difference lies in the speed, laser tube power, material size capability, and a few features.
Let’s have a look at the common features of Glowforge, and then we will look at the exclusive features of each product.
The features of Glowforge products are outstanding. The innovative features show the effort of the company in bringing the product to the market.
All Glowforge machines work on a CO2 laser, and they are extremely powerful. The optical power ranges from 40-45W, which is more than enough for a wide range of materials. Whether you want to cut or engrave materials, the machine is more than perfect. In addition, the speed of the machines is outstanding, which can complete the job in less time.
Glowforge machines have a built-in high-quality camera that helps you in aligning the design over the object. The live preview of the object under the laser machine can be seen on the software. It gives you a complete idea of the placement and the result. You can use your finger or mouse to place the design wherever required. It eliminates the chances of errors and wrong placement of the design.
The machines are capable of high-resolution engraving. They can support almost all formats, including HD and 3D photos. While engraving 3D photos, the laser intensity is adjusted as required. It gives deeper cuts and burns for a real 3D effect. These can even engrave 1000 DPI resolution of 3D curves. Due to this outstanding feature, the machines are capable of considering the minute details of the image and offer ultimate precision.
Glowforge machines are extra precise. The laser module is controlled by optimal quality stepper motors that are very precise and accurate. They can be controlled with a precision of a thousandth of an inch. With this incredible precision, the engraving is almost exactly the same as the real image with all the minute details.
Therefore, the machines are suitable for artists that give more attention to the fine details in the graphics. In addition, vector graphics can also be made with high accuracy and precision; the repeat position error is minimal and unnoticeable.
There is no need to set the focus of the laser on the material because the machines can do it on their own. There is an autofocus feature that allows the machine to adjust the focus of the laser according to the material.
Setting the focus according to the material is a bit difficult, and beginners usually get confused. But Glowforge has solved this problem. The thickness and type of the material are guessed by reading the QR code on the material, and the focus is adjusted for perfect engraving and cutting.
Unlike other laser engraving and cutting machines, Glowforge machines have cloud-based software. You only need to use an internet browser to use the application. It is much easier for beginners.
There are two versions of the software. One is the Glowforge print, which is free to use. The second one is Glowforge premium which requires a monthly subscription. The premium version has additional features such as creative tools, graphics, designs, and storage for designs. However, the version is optional.
This is an extraordinary feature of Glowforge machines. The user can use a pen to draw anything he likes. The graphics can be created on a piece of paper using a pen and then it is scanned by the camera. You can use the drawing for your projects.
Quality and Finish
The built quality of the Glowforge machines is up to the mark. From the outer appearance to inner machinery, everything is made from high-quality materials. The sleek and attractive design is awesome. The design is so compact that people might not figure out that it is a laser engraving and cutting machine. It looks like a large version of a desktop printer.
For operating the machine in a closed space, like home, there is a 4-inches hose connected to the machines. You can throw out the air outside your window. If you don’t have a window, there is a Glowforge air filter available. It cleans the air, so you can use the machines wherever you want. The Air Filter unit is sold separately for $1,295.
Range of Materials
Glowforge machines can cut wood, leather, fabric, paper, acrylic, mylar, rubber, foods, Corian, and more. These can engrave all the materials they can cut plus glass, coated metal, marble, titanium, anodized aluminum, etc. Thus, the user has a wide range of material choices for making different products.
This is the basic version of Glowforge machines, which is suitable for home use. It contains a 40W laser tube suitable for all materials that a CO2 laser can cut and engrave. The laser is a Class 1 laser like a DVD player.
The machine comes with a comprehensive warranty of 6 months. In addition, the buyer also gets $150 of premium Proofgrade materials.
The material size that the laser machine can work with is 20.4” x 12”, and the maximum height is 2”. The speed of Glowforge Basic is the lowest compared to other versions.
Glowforge Basic cannot work continuously in warm temperatures; it pauses periodically on its own. It is designed for environments up to 75°F (24°C).
The price of Glowforge Basic is $3,995, and it also comes with a $150 of premium Proofgrade materials.
Glowforge Plus is a bit more advanced version of Glowforge Basic, but both share some common features, pros, and cons. It is suitable for users who want to print frequently.
Firstly, Glowforge Plus has a 40W Class 1 CO2 laser tube, which is also powerful enough. Secondly, it also pauses periodically in warm temperatures, and it is also designed for environments up to 75°F (24°C).
The engraving speed of Glowforge Plus is twice more than Glowforge Basic, but the cutting speed is still the same. It also supports the same materials of 20.4” x 12”. It comes with a 12-months comprehensive warranty.
The price of Glowforge Plus is $4,995.
Glowforge Pro is the most advanced version, and it has commendable extra features that you will not find in Glowforge Basic and Glowforge Plus. Firstly, the laser is more powerful; it has a 45W laser tube. It contains a Class 4 laser, which is more powerful and requires safety training.
Glowforge Pro has a Passthrough Slot that can work on 20-inches wide materials, and the length can be infinite. It is capable of multiple prints and long products. Its engraving speed is thrice more than Glowforge Basic, and cutting speed is 1.2 times the speed of Glowforge Basic and Glowforge Plus.
It can even work continuously in warm temperatures as it is designed for temperatures up to 81°F (27°C). It has a solid-state cooling unit to keep the unit cool all day.
Glowforge Pro is perfect for small businesses and costs about $6,995. It is also covered by a 12-months comprehensive warranty.
We have seen the features and pros of Glowforge machines. The machines are undoubtedly outstanding and innovative, but there are some cons and issues. Therefore, these might not be a good choice for you.
Let’s see the issues and cons of Glowforge machines/printers.
The first issue with Glowforge machines is the high price. Undoubtedly, portable CO2 laser machines are expensive, but Glowforge machines are way more expensive than other CO2 laser machines on the market.
The Glowforge price ranges from $3,995 to $6,995; however, you can easily get similar machines for about $3,000-$4,000. Secondly, the Air Filter is also very expensive.
Since it is a CO2 laser, the lifespan is much less than a diode laser machine. So, you also need to keep the maintenance cost in mind, especially if you are a beginner with not much budget.
You don’t need to download a web-based software, but it requires a stable internet connection. Thus, you need to have the internet to use the software. Secondly, you might need to wait to upload the files, and there can be delays and issues on the server.
The only better option is a desktop or mobile application, which is not available at the moment. You might get frustrated after facing issues with the software.
Glowforge machines are capable of cutting a wide range of materials, but they can only cut ¼ inches thick materials, which is about 6.35mm. They cannot work on thicker materials.
However, if you remove the stainless-steel crumb tray, they can work on materials having thicknesses up to 2 inches. But keep in mind that the laser is not capable of cutting thick materials in one pass.
The materials available from Glowforge are quite expensive. It increases the overall cost of the product. Plus, if you are living in a country or state where the shipping cost is high, the materials will be more expensive. Thus, if you are thinking about a small business with Glowforge machines, you must consider the material cost.
Glowforge machines are a bit noisier than other laser cutting and engraving machines. In addition, if you are using the air filter, the noise will be more. Your neighbors and family members might get angry.
After paying a massive amount, you don’t get full access to the software; you only have the free version. For the premium version, you need to get a monthly subscription that has some additional tools, graphics, and features. At this price tag, the software should be at least free for the users.
Glowforge machines cannot engrave on cylindrical objects as there are no official rotary attachments. The machines are not capable of working with a rotary add-on, so if you want to engrave tumblers, cups, wine glasses, or any other cylindrical object, these machines are the right option.
Due to the issues and cons of Glowforge products, users look for an alternative that can provide the best cutting and engraving results.
xTool D1 is also a compact and innovative laser engraving and cutting machine that is meant for DIY enthusiasts, small businesses, crafters, artists, hobbyists, and professionals.
We have selected xTool D1 as the best Glowforge alternative because it has overcome the issues found in the Glowforge Machines. Moreover, it offers excellent performance and has commendable features.
xTool D1 is a diode laser engraving and cutting machine. The diode laser modules are available in 5W, 10W, and 20W, and the users can select a suitable module for their needs. The laser is quite powerful because it uses multiple laser sources and combines the beams at a tiny spot.
The 20W module is the world’s most powerful diode laser that can engrave and cut objects easily at a very fast speed. It is powerful enough to cut 8-10mm wood in only one pass.
The laser is ultra-fine because of the convex lens that converges the beams at a tiny spot measuring 0.08 x 0.08mm. It ensures high accuracy and ultimate precision and gives importance to the minute details of the graphics. Moreover, the steel wheels and shaft offer high precision of 0.01 mm and increase the life of the laser machines three times.
The sturdy construction, optimal quality motor, and synchronous belt ensure repeat position accuracy up to 0.02 mm. Therefore, the machine can work on vector graphics as well. It is compatible with almost all graphics formats and supports raster and vector engraving.
There is free specialized software, Laserbox Basic, that can work on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. You can use the software without the need for an internet connection. The best part is that the machine can also work offline with the help of a TF card. The data transfer can be done using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a USB cable, or a TF card. In addition, users can also use LightBurn to make their projects using D1.
xTool D1 can also engrave on regular as well as irregular cylindrical objects with the help of a rotary attachment. The rotary attachment RA2 Pro is the world’s first 4-in-1 rotary attachment that can work in 90% of the cylindrical engraving scenarios. It can engrave objects of infinite lengths. Plus, the engraving area is 17 x 16 inches, which is larger than Glowforge machines.
After all its outstanding features, xTool D1 is available at a very reasonable cost. The price of the 10W machines is only $649, and the machine is also available in installments with the help of affirm. Moreover, users can easily find compatible materials they like and save money. The machine is backed by a one-year warranty from the company.
Glowforge engraving and cutting machines are excellent and innovative. We have analyzed the features, pros, cons, and everything about the machines in detail. They have got some outstanding features.
However, due to some issues, many users look for a better alternative. We have shared xTool D1, which is a commendable diode laser engraving and cutting tool. First of all, it is affordable, and secondly, it offers outstanding performance. It is the best Glowforge alternative on the market that does the job with perfection and has no major issues.
The features of xTool D1 make it a lot better than Glowforge machines. It is up to the mark in every situation and does the job with perfection.
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