Desktop CNC machines have paved the way to fabricating wooden objects from 3D models directly in people’s homes. And while you can carve a whole load of beautiful objects in one, there are projects where a laser cutter will probably be a better fit for the job. Enter Glowforge.
A desktop laser cutter, it lets you bring the laser-based fabrication process directly into your home, similar to the way desktop 3D printers have enabled additive manufacturing inside garages and workshops. Similar to 3D printing, the device takes a 3D CAD model and proceeds to apply it to the object inside the build area, so there’s not a lot of new things you need to learn if you already work with CAD software.
The current Glowforge prototype measures 20 x 30 x 8 inches, so it takes quite a large amount of tabletop space, compared to desktop-sized 3D printers and CNC mills. It can be used to cut and engrave a variety of objects, including wood, acrylic, leather, fabrics, paper, linoleum, and some types of plastics, provided they’re no more than a quarter of an inch thick. You can also use metal and glass inside the build area, although they’re strictly for engraving (no cutting). There are no display and controls directly on the device, with operation done via an accompanying app.
While the quarter-inch maximum thickness puts a limit on the kind of fabrication the machine can accomplish, it’s still quite an exciting development, considering how much more sophisticated the 3D printing space has gotten in just a few years. A couple more years and we could be building full-on flat-packed furniture using laser cutters at home.
Slated for release in December, the Glowforge is expected to retail for under $2,500.