Air Assist "mod" to our Glowforge

I know the GF already has its little fan to support (a bit) with the fumes… and GF Proofgrade materials are great, being masked.
Nonetheless recently I’ve purchased a (smaller) XTool M1 10W to keep at home (the GF is in the office, 'cos of its dimensions).
Obviously this laser cutter is far less powerful, but with its recent Air Assist “upgrade” (a little air compressor, a tube and a laser head mount to convey the air to the right place, “around” the beam)… wow it makes wonderful cuts with no debris at all, perfectly clean cuts with no tape masking.
This means…
(1) more cheap materials than proof grade-like,
(2) no time lost in masking/unmasking,
(3) cleaner laser head/glass, as fumes cannot enter through the strong air flow.
I love this setup, the air compressor is only 20cm big, and… would love to replicate on the GF: hasn’t anyone studied a similar solution?

Thanks in advance!


Many lasers use this technique, but I can understand why Glowforge chose a fan over a compressor as the laser head was already overly heavy given the many jobs it does that other machines do not do from sensors to focusing mechanism, and using another laser to learn the height. Plus keeping the price/ease of use balance from getting out of hand.

Every brand of machine and the business involved has to make thousands of such decisions and each decision good and bad issues. Glowforges goal was to let artists that were not mechanical and electrical engineers have a laser they could enjoy. And even that has good and bad points like not having a need to get under the hood and make changes means not having the ability to do so even if you are an engineer.


Wishing it were true, as I must clean my air assist fan before completing christmas. :frowning:


I’m right there with you…


A little cap and a thin tube (like the ones above from xTool) are not that heavy… a few grams. The compressor is on the floor, obviously. But the difference in quality, with and without it, is MASSIVE.
The Xtool community is mostly made of creative artists as well, not engineers, and the upgrade worked for anyone. Well worth the price of having to switch on/off the compressor manually (I’ll personally integrate it with home assistant).

As I saw this forum is “unofficial” and for “modders” (beyond the manual), I think this space might be worth for a discussion. Not for anyone, but for he who wanna tinker and perfect his machine.


“Modders” covers a wide range of possibilities from stabilizing the crumb tray, to cutting out the bottom to engrave liquor bottles. As far as your point about a vertical airblast, the idea is good but the execution has a lot of issues that would need to be considered and difficult to carry off. There is a second fan in the back of the head that is more about keeping the smoke away from the lens than moving crud away from the cut, but with enough smoke it starts sucking that smoke in.

For that reason, and more, getting the smoke out of the whole machine might be a more profitable path. This is not so hard to do by adding a 400FPS or better external exhaust fan, and making sure that the air put out buy the carriage fan flows evenly. I have found that even the edge of the material can cause turbulence and be less effective and I often just stick another piece of the same thickness along the top clean out such turbulence. A badly placed head pin can be the same problem.

1 Like

Interesting topic the one to better extract fumes: this is sure important.
But… i think will not allow to obtain results similar to this one with my M1, with a very normal 1.5mm wood, no masking and slow speed (given the “only” 10W)…

A good air assist changes life… Imagine removing one by one hundreds of small tape pieces in such a 20x30cm Milano map… (sure with a proofgrade sheet the result would be better, but… the cost of wood - delivered to Italy - and… of post processing time?)

Ah, about the GF laser head… sure it already has different measuring functionalities for auto-focus. But even the M1 has a focusing feature and adds a blade cutter too, within the same head. For sure, in GF case, we should design a specific custom attachment…


Agreed. The mass of the GF head is so high that I think a tube and cap would be a rounding error. I doubt it would affect motion performance in any measurable way.


Absolutely 100% agree as well. And the gf motors are for sure even better than the ones on the cheaper M1.
The little air cap of the M1 is magnetically attached to a new piece that has been specifically designed.

I frequently remove the tiny bits of tape like that, though hardly one at a time. Even having the clean uncut reverse side of the material and connecting them by dragging across it, any part of a curling that touched the adhesives together would grab on hard. If not all, almost all would come up on the first try, and a few other passes would get everything.

1 Like

I’ve not well understood, sorry: you mean to use the adhesive on the bottom part (uncut in the center) to stich to the superior engraved side and so…. to remove the above tape as attached to the (once) below adhesive? Maybe this could speed up the tape-cleaning process indeed…

But remains the fact that proofgrade materials are as nice as quite expensive (especially if internationally delivered…)

1 Like

No, the point was when using any of the adhesive-covered material and engraving a lot of detail as you see whenever you try to have a length of tape it will stick better to itself than to anything else. Usually, that is a bad thing, however, if you drag the adhesive face across a bunch of little pieces any loose edges will curl and grab hold and not let go. So even in the case of that map, dragging a larger piece of masking across it will grab all the little bits as it goes by. The :proofgrade: masking is grabbier than most so I use the larger areas to grab the smaller ones. The Gorilla Tape will usually even grab the top without bothering to drag, but all are very much faster than one little bit at a time


Thanks for the advice!
Nonetheless… proof grade materials cost a lot, and cost even more if delivered to Italy :frowning:

Therefore… should we find a way to add an air assist option to the Glowforge… I’d be an happy man! :slight_smile:


I’m keep on looking on the web… if anyone has designed and built an “air assist” on steroids… but still haven’t found anything. Unluckily.
Should anyone find a solution, pls share it here :slight_smile:

1 Like

Hi @gianluca!

Thanks a lot for this topic, I’m very interested too!

I’ve had such problems with cutting mirror acrylic, I’ve read all the forum discussions, have looked all over the internet, have asked a fellow GF owner who does cut acrylic without any problem, have tried 1000 different ways,but still… Every single time I cut it, I never know what to expect: sometimes I’m lucky and it turns great, some times there are these “flashback” marks.
I screamed at my screen more than a few times, haha!

Anyway, I read somewhere that the air assist may be what could be lacking for this kind of issue so… Who knows! :slight_smile:

PS: happy to see another GF user in Europe : I’m located in France :wink:


I also engrave maps like this on wood. I mask unfinished wood (withTransferRite Ultra 582U, or TapeManBlue, or Vinyl Ease paper transfer tapes). Removing the masking takes, realistically, around 3 minutes. I do it with black Gorilla Tape. It’s duct tape, but with stronger adhesive than most other duct tape brands.

Here’s a quick timelapse I made a few years ago:

I bought a laser from another company that has a built-in “air assist”, with a compressor pump and tube that runs into the nozzle. It doesn’t work any better than Glowforge’s axial fan. I still have to mask the wood.


In working with non-PG acrylic the masking is different and more difficult as the material looses it “rubbercement” like connection easily and even Gorilla Tape did not work well.


Thanks for the video! I’ll try this out: does it work the same for proofgrade materials?

Nice knowing an EU too, @Banitsa :)))
We should earn a medal, given the duty costs in importing to Europe :face_with_peeking_eye::rofl:


Hahahaha, so true!! :sweat_smile: