A week with Glowforge - Quick Thoughts

Many moons ago, I picked up a Makerbot Cupcake 3D printer. That was an educational experience for me, which while being plenty of fun, made me realize that what I was after was a useful tool, and not a hobby project. I have way too many projects already, and that thing required lots and lots of fiddling around.

So when I heard about Glowforge the first time, the one thing about it that caught my attention was that it seemed that it could be a very useful tool that didn’t require fiddling about–something I’d have to do with a cheapie laser cutter, or even a big professional one, which assumes a commercial environment that can provide care and feeding.

From that perspective, at least, I am amazingly happy at what Glowforge has delivered! For the most part, it just f’in works. I’m happy to buy the Proofgrade materials, because for some projects I simply want to build X and I want it now because I have other stuff to do. And it does exactly that.

I was concerned that it’d turn into a vendor lock-in situation, which I fervently hate, but I think they found the right balance. I can use whatever I want in there, and twiddle the settings to suit. And it works great that way, too. Which is good, because I’ll end up using and abusing it in all kinds of strange ways. The cloud-based software was another big concern, but the commitment to opening up the control protocols for open-source developers to work with again strikes a good balance.

So anyhow, my hat off to you, Glowforge creators! This thing is amazing, and, for me, delivered exactly what I had hoped. Granted it’s only been a week, and I’m still digging into everything, but while I’m sure I’ll run into plenty of rough edges, I’m ok with that because of how good the rest has been so far.

I just wanted to say thanks for an excellent machine!


This was my biggest fear too and now I’m thrilled to have PF to play with along with all the other stuff I can shove in my GF :slight_smile: So happy you are loving your new machine!


I’m ashamed about this. If I know something will only use proofgrade i will just do it and be as happy as a lark about it. My other projects sometimes get pushed because of the thought of setting up and breaking down for sanding, or more likely finishing, makes something else I have to do jump the priority list.


The vendor lock in gets you with the cloud software. They have said they will eventually release enough information that somebody could pick things up if they close the doors. We’ll see how that pans out.

On the plus side it seems (to somebody with no real knowledge of their situation) that aren’t going anywhere soon. Unfortunately you never know what may happen down the road. Look at the mess Logitech faced when they decided to shut down the Harmony Link servers. That bricked every existing Link.

As for the Glowforge itself it does pretty much live up to the “it just works” mantra. There are some rough edges but I could see a non-technical user who was never worked with a laser before getting up and running with about the same ease as setting up an inkjet printer.

I wish I had more time to devote to burning things but so far it has done a wonderful job with everything I have thrown at it. It is nice to be able to say “you know, if I made X I could fix Y” and just fire up the laser and make a part or two.

Anyway, enough rambling. :wink:


That was their hope! ha ha

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What Dan actually said was they would release open source firmware when the product launched. That didn’t happen.

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Depends on you definition of launched. In GF parlance I would take that as sometime after all backorders are fulfilled. :thinking:

In any case I’m not worried for the foreseeable future.

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GF really need to get and English dictionary:

Launch - start or set in motion (an activity or enterprise)

True…but they are also still in beta. Some would say they are still pre-launch.

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I was expecting to supplement the Glowforge with the Cricut for thin copper and other things Dlowforge will not do but discovered that Cricut is that vendor lock-in and did not get that for that reason.

There are some issues playing too cute by half with the Proofgrade settings, that you can figure out so it is not THAT Secret but generally worse than no help with what materials they do not sell so without the forum providing many answers it would get extremely annoying, and for many things do not provide that alternative, or even work a deal with someone like Inventables that they are so close with to identify what works and have a sticker setup for those things too.

Doesn’t matter.

The moment they deliver a single product to an end user, the Open Source licenses attached to MOST of their firmware applied. There is NO EXCEPTION.

I’ll make this clear for any of the knee-jerk Glowforge defenders:


It’s a slap in the face to those who made this product possible.

There is simply no ‘glowsplaining’, excuse, redefining terms, or other bending of the English language that can apply here. It is black letter law.

You can’t steal something from someone and claim it is OK because you will make it up to them later. It’s still theft.

I formally requested the source code, in accordance with the license terms, over four months ago. Still haven’t received it.

It’s inexcusable.

With all their talk about the Friendly Neighborhood Lawyers controlling their every move, it amazes me that they are screwing over the Open Source community so openly.

(But, if you even remotely threaten their intellectual property, expect the ban hammer).


My comment was attempting to inject some levity after the umpteenth time the issue of the open source firmware has been brought up.

I don’t appreciate being yelled at.

I know you have examined the software on the Glowforge. You also seem to be knowledgeable about OSS in general. We know it is a Linux-based system.

What I do not know is whether any of the code on that system modifies GPL code.

What we know about their data transfers (due in large part to your and @palmercr’s hard work) is that it is custom and I doubt the needed to modify OSS projects for it.

The presense of custom drivers is not evidence in and of itself as has been proven by NVidia.

Now, for all I know, you may have a list of Glowforge-authored executables in which you have identified evidence of likely GPL’d object code. But I suspect that the “bulk of their firmware” consists of unmodified Linux system and applications and links to unmodified LGPL’d libraries.

To the extent m suppositions are correct, there is no GPL infringement. If you have evidence to the contrary, then you can say so in calm discussion.

As for their promise to release OSS version of their custom code, that is something they are still promising to do. It has been delayed, but my quip upthread still applies to it if it is indeed free of copyleft entanglements.

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Wasn’t directed at you or anyone in particular. My apologies for leaving that impression.

Linux itself is GPL’d. As is BusyBox, which comprises the bulk of the systems utilities that are present (BusyBox also happens to be best known for suing people who included their utilities but did not release the source).

This is actually irrelevant. Whether or not you ‘modified’ the code, you have to provide the source with the binary if it is requested. Unmodified binaries do not release you of your GPL obligations.

While still irrelevant, it is highly improbably that they managed to build their firmware without modifying at least some GPL’d code. For instance, all of the Freescale Yocto BSP packages are GPL’d (and used by Glowforge), and all will need at least some modification to make them work on a custom board.

Per the man himself related to drivers written for Linux:


  • anything that was written with Linux in mind (whether it then also
    works on other operating systems or not) is clearly partially a derived

Nvidia’s claim has always been that their drivers were written for Windows, and ported to work on Linux. Most people find this argument bunk, but nonetheless…

I know Glowforge loves to twist words and basic concepts, but no one is going to believe they wrote the drivers for the device for Windows and then ported them to work on Linux (and the object code clearly shows otherwise, anyway).

My code request specifically covered the drivers, which are of the most interest to the community.


It was my impression that the thing that was said was “If we go away, then we will release the firmware so that you can still use your machine” There are times when I wish I had more control, but my experience with this thing is “It just works” That make me very happy!

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