10x Things I Learned from my Playdate with @PrintToLaser

Last Wednesday (May 10th 2017) was a glorious day for me. I didn’t receive an email from @Rita, but I did spend the afternoon with someone who did! @PrintToLaser was kind enough to have me over his house for an afternoon of fun with his Glowforge Basic Pre-Release Unit. I am one lucky guy!

We have all seen posts from angry Glowforge customers who went on a tirade about the company and how they haven’t received the machine they pre-paid for. I have been very upset about the delays too although I haven’t posted anything about it. I’ve now seen a Glowforge in person and used it myself. In short, it is awesome and I am quite impressed! Is it perfect? Of course not. However, all of the faults I found in my few hours with the machine are software based. Luckily for all of us, Glowforge software can be updated remotely, even after the machine is delivered. So, I am left with only positive feelings.

A few things about @PrintToLaser before I provide more feedback on what I learned about the Glowforge itself:

  1. I owe @PrintToLaser big time for answering my sketchy email in which I essentially invited myself (a stranger) into his home
  2. @PrintToLaser is very talented in all things made by hand and is on his way to mastering digital tools as well.
  3. @PrintToLaser’s method of storing his Glowforge under his work table on a sliding rack is pure genius! If I didn’t already have a Glowforge table made, I would likely copy @PrintToLaser.

So, here are the 10x thing I learned about the Glowforge (in no particular order) from my time with one:
Note: some of these items were taught to me by @PrintToLaser based on his experience. Other items are things I read between the lines or drew my own conclusions about.

  1. Wait until the print is completely done and the fan powers off before you open the lid. Otherwise, your (@PrintToLaser’s) shop/house will smell like smoke. I’m glad we weren’t lasering leather!

  2. Both the Basic and the Pro have the front door that opens. For the Pro, it is a pass through slot. For the Basic, it is a much easier way to remove the Glowforge’s bed.
    There was once a post about turning a Basic into a Pro by cutting the front and back of the machine. You clearly don’t have to do that to the front. That being said, I do NOT advise cutting out the back of a Basic. Aside from the safety concerns and the fact that the software itself will be different for each model, cutting out the back looks like it would be quite difficult AND there appears to be wires running through that area In short, don’t do it.

  3. The Glowforge’s hardware looks great! They did a great job making the product look premium.
    I happen to be a plastic product design and manufacturing specialist. The injection molded plastic case looks well done overall. They do have some visible sink marks where there must be ribs on the interior of the case. For the next iteration, rib thickness should be 40%-60% of nominal wall thickness to avoid sink marks.

  4. the Glowforge UI is missing some basic functionality that I would have expected.

4a) From what I can tell, you cannot load two different vector files for the same project. You would need to combine both files into one vector file with different layers/colors and then pull it into the GF UI.

4b) When use the trace feature, the selection tool is a rectangle. It is not free form. Thus, you end up grabbing a bunch of unnecessary shapes to raster. In our case, it picked up on the shape of the honeycomb bed. You can’t choose to ignore that area. Instead, you have to convert that area into a cut feature and then delete the cut feature from the feature tree. Sounds like a weird workaround to me. I would prefer the trace feature be a freeform tool.

4c) As far as I can tell, you can’t cut two different materials in same “project”. You need to cut one AND THEN start a new project to cut the other.

  1. Garbage in = garbage out. If you load the Glowforge with a crappy picture to raster engrave, the result will look crappy. Next time I visit @PrintToLaser, I will be bringing better files with me!

  2. There are way more laser settings than I expected. I expected power and speed of course. However, I did not expect “lines per inch” and “focus height”. Looks like I will have to do more research into those settings.

  3. Proofgrade materials rock! I’m glad this is going to be a thing.

  4. @PrintToLaser had a separate piece of Proofgrade wood with the Proofgrade sticker on it.
    He would place the piece next to the actual work piece.
    If you are using a brand new sheet of Proofgrade, the sticker is clearly already there.
    However, if you are cutting a piece of scrap Proofgrade, it is way easier to place the sticker by itself next to the scrap instead of a potentially large and fragile piece of Proofgrade with the sticker still on it.
    Also, you can use this tactic to trick your machine into thinking your Non-Proofgrade walnut is Proofgrade walnut. You can even use this tactic to trick your machine into thinking your Proofgrade walnut is proof grade ash or whatever else you want.

  5. I think that ALL registered Glowforge customers should have full access to the Proofgrade library so you can pre-plan your materials library and how much it will cost

  6. I also think ALL GLowforge customers should have full access to the GF UI so they can get used to the work flow and get projects set up and ready to go. After all, we will likely be spending 95% of our time PLANNING the cutting vs doing the cutting. A 2 month jump start on the UI would help a lot.

Thanks again @PrintToLaser!

  • Jason

Great feedback, thanks for taking the time @Secret_Sauce . Thanks @PrintToLaser for being awesome.


Sounds like a fun trip! Its very awesome that @PrintToLaser was so kind.

Not bad ideas but I don’t have high hopes


There are just so many good points that you made in the post. Thanks for taking the time to write it all out. I’m glad you got to experience first hand the Glowforge. Designing for the Glowforge is not too complicated, but it does require knowledge. It would be great to have a sandbox to bang on for people to test designs.

You don’t happen to have a connection to a certain YouTube channel in Canada where these finer points of injection molding are frequent topics, do you?


I can’t wait for the BOLTR: Glowforge edition.


If I knew that’s all it took, I’d have invited myself right after he got it. :rofl:


Congrats on the visit and thanks for sharing what you learned.

One thing that I think is off, or maybe just unclear, is the following quote:

My understanding of the trace function (which I’m sure is still changing, so I may be going off of outdated info) is that you use the rectangle to tell it the area to focus on and then click around to tell it what to cut or engrave or what have you.

Actually, typing this up and watching the above video may have helped me understand. I suppose I’d just chuck a sheet of white paper behind my artwork to cover up the honeycomb.


Great write-up! Makes me even more excited for my Glowforge. I appreciate you sharing these tips, especially #8 about saving the proofgrade stickers for scraps. Smart thinking! Gonna remember that one.


Thank you for writing this up! I know @Tony and @Rita will appreciate the feedback.


We had a great time. Jason is skilled in his profession, and I learned a lot from him. Jason you are welcome to return at your convenience… as long as there is a ‘Heads Up’ involved. :sunglasses:


… So could you engrave the QR code for walnut into a piece of walnut and just keep that as your walnut “key”?

In hindsight, birch would probably give you better contrast


Just print the QR code on a sheet of paper, cut the code square out, then scotch tape it onto the wood. Or use Avery/Dymo thermal address labels.


Part of the QR code as I recall from prior discussions is a serial/batch number so if things change over time your code might provide the wrong settings.

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Not exactly. Assuming you have room for the materials on the workable bed and have colorized your design so you can segregate the parts you want on each piece of material, you just need to use the manual settings to tell the machine what you want done. It’s true you can’t use two different PG materials and their automatic settings, but you can do two different materials both with manual settings or one with PG automatic settings and one with manual.


I’d use Avery and toss it on a piece of scrap. (Actually, I plan to cut out the label from the first piece of each time of :proofgrade: I use. Draw a box, cut, keep once I’ve gotten a much from the rest of the sheet as I can.) I just think it should be open to modifying to non-:proofgrade: codes. Create a ‘custom’ catalog where a customized code can me linked with a set of settings for owners to share. CLEARLY not :proofgrade: and not for selling their own material. My dream for this is along the lines of, “I engrave a lot of tile. I find these settings [QR Code linked to custom entry] work really well with this tile I buy from Lowes [link to tile].”

As much as we are going to love :proofgrade: to death and keep a stock of it, there isn’t :proofgrade: material for everything. Our makerspace is going to be much improved if we have a way of sharing these settings that is shortcut from Power: ? Speed: ? LPI: ? etc. Additionally, if I have used dozens of materials and settings, it may be as inconvenient to find previous used settings in the list as it is to find it in a notebook of successful settings.

:proofgrade: codes read like: Glowforge:A:KAAAD. @dan has seen me comment on this before, and I know there are some ideas possibly in the hopper. Since everything is pushed through the cloud, and even :proofgrade: codes are designed to be a jumping off point for the expected best settings for those products, it should be possible to integrate custom codes for use to share settings that have worked very well with specific materials. (I also expect that integration of something like this would best be worked out after getting owner units shipped, as I wouldn’t want this function to delay shipping.)

My personal ‘would love to see’ on that is me able to grab a small piece of a certain material, :proofgrade: or not, and have a code label that can load settings that have worked best for me in the past with that material. Yes, I would keep bins of samples with good codes if I could custom code. My ideal would be for those codes to be shareable through the forums, even if you had to share the settings one time here rather than the cloud interface sharing them for us.


Let that load my custom preset for etching dollar store picture frame glass, something we don’t see in :proofgrade:.


If this is all it takes, are there any PRU in the Western Michigan area? (If you have to ask what qualifies, you aren’t there.)

I’d be willing to road trip, even to Eastern Michigan, but I do have my commute limits.

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Until they’re printed on it using UV invisible ink :slightly_smiling_face: I believe the current QR printed sticker is a short term thing they’re doing before moving to the UV ink.


I know both of these would help me a LOT. My visualization skills are next to nonexistent. (Don’t ask me how I do anything artistic. The short answer is a cross between “I don’t and I don’t know”.) To get a grasp for the catalog, and, even more so, to be able to get into the GFUI (even a dumbed down one because it doesn’t have a unit to interact with) would jump me by leaps and bounds in preparing for my unit. While I have all these ideas, I’m not going to be anywhere close to being ready to implement and design them until I can not just draw up the element, but also bring it right into the GFUI for additional work. (That, and a lot of my ideas involve photo elements over vector designs.) It may not make sense, considering the interface and everything, but that is the way my brain works.


Interesting and helpful review. I appreciate the details.

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Enter matching the QR on an avery label or a piece of scrap or something. Of course, then you have to be able to read the code to know what to put there.

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