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Glowforge Pro (Hardware) Review

Engraving and cutting across a multitude of media, the Glowforge line of printers is a wonder, and the Pro is the top of the heap.

That pro glo

If you’ve seen the commercials on TV or online, you might be wondering what exactly a “Glowforge” is. I know I was, until I had the fortune of meeting some representatives of the company at a trade event, and seeing exactly what one of these bad boys can do.

Simply put, the device is pretty incredible, and just might be the ultimate tool for crafters and those who enjoy a good project. It’s printer at its core, but not like any printer that you’ve likely used, and that includes the ‘3D’ variety. The Glowforge Pro uses a high-powered laser to engrave a massive amount of stuff, and can actually cut though a whole bunch of that “stuff”, creating intricate designs.

Feel like making a keychain? Sure, it can do that. How about a puzzle? Yep. Want to create a Christmas ornament? Uh-huh, you can do that and a ton more things. If you have any inclination to ‘create’, then you just might love what Glowforge serves up.

Setting up (a) shop

Okay, so first things first, this thing is a beast. And yes, I mean that physically, as the Glowforge Pro is a massive piece of hardware. While there are multiple SKU’s in the catalog, the Pro looks to be the biggest of all, at 38″ x 20.75″ (and 8.25″ deep). Glowforge actually advises that buyers have a “landing zone” prepared for it before they crack it out of the (even more massive) box, and that is very good advice.

The sheer size of the Pro plus the internal hardware that makes it go, means that it is not only gigantic, but also surprisingly heavy. Now we’re not talking about hundreds of pounds here, but combined with the footprint, hauling the Pro from room to room isn’t something that you really want to be doing more than once.

Once it’s in place though, it’s quite frankly an incredibly impressive piece of equipment. And while actually getting it there might be a little bit of a challenge, setting it up once it’s in its home isn’t. All you need to do is to plug it in, and then set up an exhaust point. Yes, you need that, as the forge makes a good deal of smoke while in operation. Trust me, you don’t want it in your home/office/workshop.

Really, don’t forget the exhaust

One piece of hose is all the Glowforge Pro needs for venting, so once again we’re not talking about anything too in-depth. You also have a choice in that arena, as Glowforge says you can port it out of a window, use the optional air filter, or seemingly do a combination of both, with the filter running next to a window-vented forge.

Also hefty piece of equipment, said filter functions as you’d assume, accepting the hose from the forge and filtering the air through it. As mentioned above, it is an optional add-on and is priced separately, but after using the Pro for a while, I can’t imagine not having it.

The Glowforge Pro makes a decent amount of both smoke and odor, especially within the chamber, and the filter seems to pull all of it out at a high rate of speed. You may still get a little bit spilling over into the room, but from what I’ve seen that dissipates quickly as well.

Firing up the Forge

While the above is it for the physical chapter of the setup, part two is getting the Glowforge to talk to your 2.4ghz wifi. With no wired hookup to be found, wireless internet connectivity is the only way to allow the forge to communicate with the online creative suite. In theory that should be pretty straightforward, though I had some issues.

I futzed with this step for an entire day, as the printer just would not connect to my network, no matter what I did. I even contacted tech support, which was great and go back to me in no time. But even so, they could not see what was wrong and informed me that it looked good to go.

To make a long story short, I really don’t know what the issue was, and never figured it out. After doing everything from power-cycling my router to changing my password (don’t laugh, I was desperate), I simply plugged the Glowforge back in the following morning and it connected.

*Insert shrugging emoji*

Once that’s done though, you are in business. The online suite is the home of all things creative, and it will get you going with a tutorial to create a free addition to your own catalog of forgeables. There are a few of those complimentary designs by the way, so make sure to check them out, along with the full selection of stuff that you can buy.

In that realm, there are loads of designs for all kinds of things on the site, and they vary greatly. You can find designs for fancy gift tags, decorations, jewelry, toys, and even games all ready for printing. Most of the above will cost you under $5 USD, while there are a few that I saw run up to $14 or so.

All of the more complex designs will need additional work however, which is something to keep in mind. The Forge prints out the parts to stuff like dice-towers and bird feeders, but you have to put those things together, and glue/paint ’em. Remember when I said the Glowforge was great for “crafters”? Well, I meant it, and you can get lost in the cool stuff that’s posted online pretty easily.

Engine of creation

Okay, so all of the above is terrific, but how well does the Glowforge Pro actually perform?

Once I had a design I liked, I confirmed that I wanted the Glowforge Pro to make it. From there, the unit’s twin-camera array checked out the media I had loaded, and quickly told me it wasn’t gonna work. It could somehow tell that the paper I had put in (to create a die-cut gift box) wasn’t a sturdy enough stock, and it warned me that it could catch fire. Remember, the forge uses a laser to cut and engrave, so you want to have a piece of prograde material that will be able to withstand its power.

After a quick swap of paper for leather, and a gift box design for some cable ties, I was ready to go for a first run. I confirmed once again, and after a scan the Pro started calculating. “Pro” tip: calculating the print can take a while. In the case of the ties I was making, it took about an hour.

That’s something that I didn’t know initially, and as such I was sure something had gone wrong. Fortunately I checked the “Community” forums, which is something I recommend by the way, as there seems to be a great group of people involved with Glowforge. From that, I found out pretty quickly that print times can vary. A lot.

You can see one of the two cameras in the center of the opened lid

All of that said though, and once the online software gave me the go-ahead, I just hit the singular button on the Glowforge Pro and it blasted through the design in no time. It was impressive to watch, though I’d also recommend not looking directly at the laser or the LEDs inside the chamber. They’re freaking bright, and are not at all easy on the eyes.

Brightness aside, the system is as accurate as I could have hoped, and I can easily see how building all kinds of things could be ridiculously addictive. I’m actually planning on pumping out a bunch of Christmas ornaments, and I never thought that’d be something I’d say.

Oh, and as long as we’re wrapping up, I’ll also throw in here that Glowforge stocks a bunch of materials in its online shop for solid prices. They have pretty much everything that you’d need for everything that you’d want to make, so if you’re wondering where you’re going to find acrylic (for example), wonder no more.

Overall

The Glowforge Pro is an impressive, highly advanced, and eminently usable piece of equipment. If you’re a hobbyist or someone who might want to make their own gifts, games, toys, or even some household items, I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be an indispensable addition to your workshop.

…just make sure you have the wifi sorted.

A review sample was supplied by Glowforge for this review

Glowforge Pro
Manufacturer:
Glowforge
MSRP: $6995 USD | Air filter priced at an additional $1295 USD

I'll be at the forge

Form factor - 88%
Ease of setup - 85%
Proficiency - 100%

91%

Great

A printer unlike any other, the Glowforge Pro can engrave and cut a wide-variety of media, like wood, leather, and even some foods, with its powerful laser. If you like crafting, the possibilities are almost limitless. And if you don't like crafting... well you just might start to.

User Rating: 4.46 ( 1 votes)

About Jason Micciche

Jason's been knee deep in videogames since he was but a lad. Cutting his teeth on the pixely glory that was the Atari 2600, he's been hack'n'slashing and shoot'em'uping ever since. Mainly an FPS and action guy, Jason enjoys the occasional well crafted title from every genre.

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