3D/Greyscale Engraving

Any new news/prints you guys have on the 3D/greyscale printing? If I remember correctly you got your power supply issues sorted out a while back. I would love to see some 3D engraves on acrylic if you guys are capable.

Any chance we could get a short walk through of the greyscale process with a sample of the image used and photo of the final result? Even better a video of it while it’s cutting in 3D would be drool worthy! Maybe for laser Thursday this week?


Yes please! I intend using this a lot, so I’d really love to see it too! @dan


Theoretically, it won’t be that much longer before we are showing each other what can be done!


Variable power is finally working (way behind schedule - that dang power supply), but the software team hasn’t extended it to engravings (so far just variable-power vectors). They’ve been busy on unsexy infrastructure work like deployments, availability, etc.


That tells me @aeva has been under the gun for a while now.
Nothing like a trial by fire in a new job!
We thank you for bleeding on our behalf.
You go Girl!


The power supply was designed by a 3rd party who specializes in high quality high voltage supplies. @aeva gets no blame for their failures and quite a bit of credit for helping them out! Her focus has been on everything else - the mainboard, lighting, headboard, and more. You know, the stuff that’s been working reliably. :slight_smile:


I have a software question. Is there something out there that will take a 3d CAD model and change it to a 2d greyscale? If there is, that would make having complex engraving designs a lot easier.

The image below is kind of what I mean. If you are looking at something in cross-section, it would assign black to anything at 0.25" depth and white on anything on the top surface.

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Sadly this is not a simple task in most 3D apps. I think most people want to do the reverse, and there are lots of tools for that.

It was a long time ago, but I have used this free app to do it http://www.xnormal.net/. It is a bit confusing (as much free software is) but it doe a great job. I think Blender can “bake” a model into a texture map as well, but I am not a Blender expert.

The old skool way was to assign the entire model a procedural texture of a simple grayscale ramp that responded to height. Then do an orthographic (i.e. flat) render of the model from the top.


So what I’m wondering is what were all of the pieces on the glowforge front page and in the demo videos made with? There are definitely 3D cuts on the front page, so were those made on the personal laser cutter you had beforehand? Are we to expect the same or better quality cuts/3D engraves as the ones shown on the home page?

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Aspire by Vectric (http://www.vectric.com) can create 2.5D designs and then has a gray scale export function. I use it to create designs for my Nextwave Automation Shark HD CNC machine and then sometimes export the gray scale to my Carvewright Benchtop CNC. It’s not cheap, but is very capable.

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I use Aspire with my older Shark Pro.

It looks like Rhino 5.0 can go from 3D to greyscale. Here’s a video that shows the process…

The render/conversion part starts at 1:58.

Oh look, at 3:37 he shows how it can go the other direction too. Rhino is so awesome!


Depending on your CAD app,
You can probably do it in the same software you model in. I’m pretty sure inventor and solid edge have at least a normal mapping feature (from which you can make a grayscale or “bump map” in photoshop or something). I know blender, 3ds max, maya, and C4D can do it directly to bump map.

Typical - Windows only!

Hi @Dan,

I am just wondering if there are any updates you can share regarding 3D engraving. I’m really excited about the possibilities using this feature.



I expect it’ll be a while in coming because @rachael is rewriting the entire raster engraving process. What we have now is fine but not fantastic and was built quickly to get something running. Rachael’s code will dramatically increase the flexibility of our engraving system, so you can make better tradeoffs between speed and quality (right now you get neither). That’s also going to be what enables 3D engraving.


Even if it were say multiple passes. Would be awesome. Thanks for update. Thanks for spending Saturday night answering forums. … thank your family as well.


I would but they’re asleep. :wink:


Yay @rachael!
No longer in the shadows, we know who you are - you can run but you can’t hide!

Seriously, we know who to thank for one of the most awesome aspects of this machine. Your efforts are appreciated, and we are glad that you now have the time you need to develop this important feature!
Must have been rough on you to focus as June approached like an oncoming train!
To know who’s task is what in this journey is a remarkable perspective for a customer to enjoy. It gives us a more personal connection.
Breaks the company down by individual focus and makes the team feel more like friends instead of a vendor.

The team is all hands on deck while Dan rides in the crow’s nest with his binoculars, charts and crystal ball.
Moral is high having just weathered a huge storm, and mutiny in the peanut gallery has been quelled.

As has been the case for eight months, we gathered on the shoreline continue to scan the horizon in hopes for any sign of the impending arrival.
Aye - Fair winds and following seas.:sailboat:


I had to write a job position offer for a new director of music for the parish. I read every single job posting on the Glowforge site and then read the bios of all the team. Very inspiring stuff. Individual skills, experience, vision and collaboration. It got me over the hump of trying to figure out if I am ready to start the hire process. I am looking forward to seeing who responds to my posting.

Back to the thread. I am doubly confident we will have super duper awesome software and hardware capabilities in the Glowforge.