A Case in Defense of the Switchbot, and it's Not What You Might Think

I finally purchased a Switchbot yesterday. In case you’ve never heard of one, they are a wireless device that can be controlled over bluetooth/wifi by you or a digital assistant, and they serve one purpose: to flip a switch or push a button. There has been discussion in past forum threads about using them to start a Glowforge in another room, and that is an understandably divisive topic in regards to safety. This thread post doesn’t seek to condone or condemn either point of view, but to give examples of ways a Switchbot can be used with the GF magic button for reasons other than unattended printing. They are currently on sale for about $16 on Amazon, less than half their usual price. I’ll include details on that at the end of this post. If that’s not okay, I hope a mod lets me know and I’ll delete that part. I’m not associated with the company that makes them; I just like sharing good deals.

But yeah, anyway, I bought a Switchbot…and it has nothing to do with leaving my Glowforge unattended. In fact, it will make some of my operations safer. I hope you’ll indulge me while elaborate probably more than is necessary (it’s a thing I do; I have anxiety about being unclear).

Preface: I have spent my entire life coping with severe ADHD. I am often forgetful, multi-task constantly, and sometimes hyperfixate on Task A so heavily that I forget to stop and do something time-sensitive in concurrent Task B when I’m supposed to. However, In recent years, the increasing affordability and ubiquity of smart technology has completely changed my life. Smart watch reminders have cut my “oh crap” moments and apologies to my family in half, at least. Alexa, smart switches, and Ring have made lights left on all night and unarmed security systems a thing of the past. Smart plugs now turn off my hot glue gun and soldering iron exactly one hour after I turn them on so they don’t sit generating heat and being a fire risk for two straight days (actual thing that happened). My house is a much safer and more energy-efficient place than it ever was before.

Which brings me back to the Glowforge. Sometimes I make things where heat/soot spread must be kept to an absolute minimum. There are currently no viable workarounds for the air assist fan (at least, none that I’m willing to attempt while still under warranty) but, like many of you, I have an external exhaust fan that I control. So, when working on more sensitive projects, I will sometimes turn off my exhaust fan completely, and then run engravings incrementally. Say, engrave for 5 minutes, pause the Glowforge, allow 1 minute cool down, then fan on high for 2 minutes to clear smoke, and then resume engraving for five minutes. Sure, it greatly lengthens project times, but sometimes that’s worth it for flawless results.

Finally, here’s where the Switchbot comes in. To be clear, I never leave my running Glowforge unattended…but in my book, that means not leaving the room, as opposed to standing over it staring the whole time (though I do occasionally become transfixed watching it work and stand there longer than I need to). I am fortunate enough to have my GF running in my garage, as well as a never-ending stream of other projects I can work on in there while it runs. However, as with most things, I can get distracted from something I need to do because I become overly focused on something else. When employing my engrave time/fan time alternating method, this can sometimes mean leaving the GF paused longer than needed or, worse, letting it run without an exhaust fan for long enough to create greater-than-acceptable risk. With the Switchbot, I plan to create routines that handle all these steps for me: Push to start, wait X time, push to pause, wait Y time, turn on fan, wait Z time, turn off fan, loop back to first GF press, repeat until told to stop.

Does this make my method as safe as running the GF the way it was intended? No. But it definitely makes it safer than if I forget to initiate a fan break and it engraves for half an hour without any exhaust. And there are other uses I’m considering which improve safety overall. For example, I can set up the Switchbot in a routine with the multiple security system motion sensors in my garage (gotta protect that GF investment) so that they will pause the GF if they don’t detect movement in the room for, say, 10 minutes. While I would never intentionally leave the running GF unattended, I would not put it past me to actually forget it was running and leave the room…or the house. When my son was a baby, I once got drove halfway to the market before suddenly remembering that I had been home alone with him and he was napping. Thankfully, the market was only 6 blocks away and he was still asleep when I returned. (He’s 12 now, and I still have never told my wife.) I also plan to create a routine where, if one of my smart smoke detectors goes off, the Switchbot automatically pauses the GF. Sure, I could do that with a smart plug…but I don’t want to cut power to the GF just because somebody burned toast in the kitchen and I needed to leave the room to investigate. (Also, as a firefighter, I wouldn’t advise running a device with as much power draw as the GF through most commercial smart plugs.)

These are just a couple of the ways in which a Switchbot will help me operate the GF more safely with my relatively manageable medical condition. Now, imagine if you had epilepsy, severe narcolepsy, or any number of other medical conditions in which you generally live a normal life…except for those random moments when, unannounced, you slip into an unconscious or dissociative state for periods of time. Something like that might prevent you from knowing with certainty that you could operate a Glowforge safely. But what if you could couple it with a routine that requires you to tap a button on a smart watch notification every ten minutes and, if you fail to do so, it pauses the job in progress? I think I’d like that peace of mind if I lived with such a condition.

Anyway, that’s the extent of my meandering thoughts on the matter. I’d love to hear others’ as well.

And, as promised, details on the Amazon sale. Once again, I’m not associated with the company that makes Switchbot or Amazon, just wanting to share a good deal. I will certainly remove the information if it’s not okay.

  1. Visit the page for SwitchBot Smart Switch Button Pusher w/ App or Timer Control
  2. Clip 35% off coupon
  3. Add to your cart and proceed to checkout
  4. Apply promotion code 12GZ1N3F
  5. Your total will be $15.37 with free shipping.

Take care, all. Stay safe and 'forge on.
Oh, and don’t forget to check the batteries in your smoke detectors, and occasionally rotate your powder fire extinguishers so the contents don’t brick up on you. tips adorable yellow helmet


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I honestly haven’t the foggiest what a switchbot is - but as a fellow hyper-focuser your system sounds fabulous!

Now, do I walk away, or throw myself down the rabbit hole of switchbots? I think we both know the answer to that one!

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I just got an Amazon gift card for $20 for donating blood last week. I now know what I am going to use my blood money for! Thanks for the deal.

I don’t know what I will use it for but it seems like something handy to have around.

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Oh, sorry about that! I completely overlooked an explanation of them for those who hadn’t heard. I’ve edited my OP to include that in the first paragraph, and a couple of photos at the end. Thank you!

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TLDR:
He bought a SwitchBot, and it made his life easier.

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I hadn’t known what a Switchbot was either but, as I am also blessed with severe ADHD (combined type), I can think of… ohhhhh so very many uses for this in my life. I had to laugh at your story, only because I’ve done that exact thing with at least one of my children. Happily, with the odds against them, having been raised by me, they’ve survived to adulthood. I tell them now that they’d better call me at least every once in a while or I’ll forget they exist!
Off to buy some Switchbots! Thanks!

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Your post is eminently clear. The world would be a better place if even 10% of communications were as well put.

Bit overly reductive, but yeah. Though my emphasis was on safer, not just easier. Easier you can take or leave. Safer should be sought after.

I gotta ask…was there a purpose to your comment other than being snide?

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Chill. Actually, I was just trying to be funny. Sorry that you took it so seriously.

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Ah, yes, “calm down, it was just a joke.” The slogan of those who are rude to others and aren’t prepared to deal with backlash.

This ain’t middle school. If you’re gonna rag on others’ hard work, own up to your intentions and don’t try to save face by acting like they’re responding inappropriately for calling you out.

tl;dr: if you’re going to be a jerk, at least be honest about it.

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wow. it was a JOKE, man. I am sorry you took it the wrong way. It was not my intention to make you upset. I apologize. I have thought about buying a SwitchBot myself, and actually, it was a nice writeup.

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There are quite a few folks on here who balk at walls of text - it really was meant in humour, and was likely taken as such by most who’ve been here for a while.

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I accept your apology. Now hopefully I can clear the air here a bit.

  1. I totally get that it was a joke. I really do. I also firmly believe that something can be a joke and still be hurtful. The two are not mutually exclusive. However

  2. I wasn’t irked because you made a joke. My post was legit hella long. Total wall of text. I even made a little joke at my own expense in the beginning with “I hope you’ll indulge me while elaborate probably more than is necessary (it’s a thing I do; I have anxiety about being unclear).”
    I can totally appreciate a good TL;DR, even of my own words. What I realize now upset me was that yours misrepresented my words. The whole point of my post was that it didn’t just make my life easier, it made it safer. I think it’s valuable for folks to know that a Switchbot can be used with the Magic Button as a safety shut-off, not just a way to run the GF without supervision. But I should have been clearer about that being what annoyed me, so I apologize.

Now, I hope you’ll take this last part for what it is: not telling you how to talk, but just passing along something I didn’t learn until I was well into my 30’s. I found it really useful when I learned it, so I’m sharing it, just as food for thought…you can take it or leave it; totally your call, but here it is:
Any sentence starting with “I’m sorry you…” is never an apology. It can be sympathy or deflection, but true apologies always start with “I’m sorry I…”, even if the “I” is just implied.

You apologized in the next sentence, so I’m not saying you didn’t, to be clear.

Anyway, that’s all. tl;dr: I got that it was a joke, I was irked, but I should have been clearer on what I found irksome. That was my bad.

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See above. I understood how it was meant, should’ve been clearer why it annoyed me, but we’re hopefully all good.

Just responding to you to point out that how long I’ve been here has no bearing on my ability to comprehend jokes. I’m still fairly new to the Glowforge, but I have plenty of experience with both humor and web forums. More importantly, a person’s newness does not make their opinion less valid. Less informed in some areas, perhaps, but this is not one of those areas.

That may not have been at all what you meant—and there’s no need to explain yourself—I just wanted you to be aware that it is a possible interpretation of what you said, in case you were unaware.

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Thank you. I am sorry and apologize.
My weird sense of humor does sometimes comes across the wrong way, or I use it inappropriately and in the wrong situations.
I assure you that was not my intention.
Johnny

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No sweat. I was having a day yesterday anyhow, but you couldn’t have known that. And I’ve given apologies verbatim to yours more times than I can count. :joy: The weird sense of humor can be a double-edged sword, for sure.

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That’s awesome that you’ve built a solution that works well and improves your life. Thanks for the detailed writeup.

Could you elaborate on this? I think what you’re saying is that for some projects, the movement of the air while engraving causes problems, so you alternate the fan and the laser. I don’t understand how running the fan could negatively impact the laser or engraving. Do you have examples / photos? I’m curious to learn more about when this is a problem.

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Glossy acrylic is the biggest culprit that comes to mind. The movement of air pushing heat and melted plastic particulates towards the front of the machine can create a frosted “shadow” of the engraving in that direction. Masking largely helps this, but can create its own problems with finely-detailed engravings and very thin materials—the former because of the plastic melting fine pieces of mask to the substrate, and the latter because the handy Gorilla Tape removal method can crack the substrate. I’ve found that this method allows me to do very fine, detailed engravings on 0.04" glossy acrylic with minimal “ghosting”, since the heat and smoke are allowed to drift upward rather than being pushed forward.

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That’s interesting. I have never experienced something like that with acrylic at all.

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I work a lot with acrylic and have to use masking when 3D-engraving. The vaporized material “sprays” forward and ruins the finish of un-engraved areas. It’s especially visible on clear but you can see it on solid colors as well. It’s not possible to remove, it melts into and ruins the surface finish on gloss material. It’s not as visible with light engravings or scores but most if what I do is deep because I fill with paint.

I can get away with it if I’m doing inlay because you have to look really closely or I reverse-cut, but even the Big Chicken piece I made for the big dodecahedron we did for GF had problems. I covered them up by coating the whole thing with clear acrylic.

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