Awkward Conversation at the Mall with a CNC booth

Walking through the mall the other day, I noticed some laser-cut candle holders at one of the booths set-up in the middle of the hallway. I pulled my wife over to look and pique her interest for what we would eventually be able to do with a Glowforge. They had a cool display including some 3D printed stuff, and a funky 3d Printer right there working away on a cool design.

As one of the guys from the booth walked over and saw our interest, he very kindly and energetically approached us. My son immediately looked up and told him, “My daddy’s getting a laser!” and the man looked at me in eager surprise. He starts to explain that that’s exactly how they put all of their candle holders together (which really had some beautiful geometric patterns), and then asked, “So what kind are you getting?” I told him, “Oh, I bought in to crowdfund the Glowforge.”

His reaction completely caught me off-guard. He paused and eventually came around to telling me about their laser (some sort of rebranded Chinese laser I guess), but it was his initial expression and pause that struck me. I could be wrong—it’s completely possible he had simply never heard of Glowforge I guess, but it honestly seemed like he looked at me in disgust for a moment as if to say, “Oh, you’re one of THOSE people…” What reinforced this feeling was that after he told me about their laser, he gave me another odd look and asked, “So why did you want to get a laser?” as though he thought I had no business using one. I explained that I was a designer and since I knew Illustrator, I knew I’d be able to make some cool stuff with it. He pointed out they did all of their designs in Illustrator too but at that point the conversation was getting awkward and my wife wanted to keep shopping, so we left.

I felt belittled. Like the poor caddy from Greatest Game Ever Played who showed up to talk golf and instead got brushed aside by the stuffy, rich members of the country club. I was genuinely interested in talking with them and learning more about lasers and he seemed genuinely interested to share all about them, right up until he heard the name “Glowforge.” I’ve heard some of you in the forums mention how other laser users seem to react to this product, and I guess this was simply my first experience with that same negative reaction, but I completely don’t understand it.

I’m incredibly excited for the Glowforge, and perfectly comfortable waiting however long I have to for this product because there is simply no other way I would ever be able to get my hands on anything like this (even now, if I hadn’t bought in so early, the price is too high for my family to have justified buying something like it). I want to learn! I want to play, experiment, grow, find solutions, create! And I feel like someone who should’ve been more than happy to help instead blew me off as some sort of outcast.

I’m not even sure why I post this here, except I know you guys would find the story interesting. It’s kind of my personality I guess, but now I’m more ready than ever to use this thing and make stuff 10x’s cooler than their boring (though incredibly awesome looking) candle holders—prove to this stranger (who I will most likely never see again and isn’t even going to remember me anyway) that I have every reason to have a laser in my life.

This is like an adoption and someone just told me I have no business being a parent… @dan, let’s do this—I’m ready to bring Emmett home!


Maybe he is worried you were going to steal his ideas? Or set up in competition to him?


It’s surprising how many haters are out there. I’ve spent any number of hours correcting the misstatements they give on other laser forums about the glowforge, but until the glowforge is out in wide adoption they are still going to talk trash.

It’s generally the users who have a hard time with spelling and grammar that like to say how it’s going to explode in people’s kitchens. Sometimes I can’t even understand the defamation they’re trying to get across.


The barrier is being lowered. It was the same when PCs first entered the market. The Glowforge is moving the laser cutter from the specialist’s field into the consumer market and it’s only natural that the specialists feel threatened.


Maybe he didn’t know what it was and was awkwardly trying to move the conversation along without appearing uninformed?

Or maybe he was being a butt. Lol.

I get the same way as you, competitively speaking. Stranger who does know or care that I exist, how dare you do better than me at that thing you probably don’t remember. I’ll show you (although you probably won’t be looking)!


I’ve gotten a number of different responses from people:

It doesn’t have any exhaust/air assist/cooling.
It’s not a printer.
It won’t be useful for a professional mass producing products.
It’s vaporware/a scam.
People will burn there houses down which will cause more regulations for all lasers.


That is a really good point.

For example… i keep bees, i am also one of the first Backers of the FlowHive system for hives.
When i first saw it i was skeptical but gave it a try as it was not too expensive to make much of a risk.

It worked, it worked so damned well that now i have them in both my hives and have recently helped a few friends set up theirs too.

However, if you read the forum, blog or Facebook posts of people who have NOT used them, or have NOT seen them then you would think they were not only a terrible failure but also destined to wipe out bees if not humanity itself. The level of hyperbole used to describe a system they do not use and in most cases have not even seen is extreme. The excuses used to describe why they are theoretically impossible stretch the imagination.

So @takitus, you might be right. Maybe this guy was a ‘professional’ with a ‘professional laser’ and feared what would happen if an ‘amateur system’ started to fall into the hands of the unwashed masses?


It is a real cold slap when your own excitement and enthusiasm doesn’t find resonance. It is good to have the forum for support though.


Most people I’ve talked to simply have never heard of it. Many people don’t even have an idea what a laser cutter/engraver is.

We did speak to the people that make the pinhole camera kits at Makerfaire and they live and work less than a mile from our house. They had heard of GF but didn’t really express an opinion or give us a look. In fact, they offered that if I had a design I wanted to test out we should call them. Pretty nice couple there.


Maybe they see the writing on the wall. :fearful:


I think people with this attitude enjoy being in what they believe is an elite club - spreading the myth that only with their magic can they conjure up the laser-cut products.

They may have expertise in getting a K40 laser to work correctly, however with simple to use lasers such as the GF, and lower costs, they will be exposed as the real value/power/expertise will lie with designers.


They probably aren’t even aware they had an attitude change.

Here’s the deal though. They probably spend big money for the right to have their kiosk at the mall, they probably bought into a franchise that sold them on the idea of a turnkey business opportunity, the equipment, the designs, etc. Now along comes someone who has basically clearly stated they are not going to be a customer, asking all kinds of questions. This usually wouldn’t be a big deal on its own, any retail business owner knows you’re going to talk to a lot of people that are not up for purchasing but are happy to browse anyway. Except now it comes out this person could be potential competition, the likelihood of that actually happening is rare but some people still get funny about this stuff.

Hey, the industry could democratize lasers to the point they cost $5, we all know the real work of making a business out of it isnt relieved because of the tool. The real work is in the business itself.

If this situation had happened at a Makerfaire, or a Con, or even a craft show, their response would have been completely different simply because of the setting!

The irony is, that guy at the mall with his laser would be completely snubbed by an engraver that does the same kind of work with a paragraver tool. And the paragraver guy would be snubbed by the guy that uses air graver tools. And the air graver guy would be snubbed by the guy that uses hand gravers.

Meanwhile, the true craftsman realizes the value in all the tools and uses each one to suit their best attributes for the project at hand, and is not threatened by a newb because they know how much real work is involved in making a living, and very little of that is actually related to the art design and the actual work itself.


Regardless of the Glowforge the Chinese will continue to produce low cost laser printers. There’s always a market for inexpensive over ease of use. And frankly I don’t see the GF as a replacement for those cheap lasers anyway.


Sadly I got that kind of reaction from a salesperson from one of the big laser companies. I’ll be honest, I was getting cold feet a few months ago and exploring my options and was honest about being a Glowforge customer when I reached out. But when a rep leaves a message asking if you ordered the unicorn or leprechaun model since neither one exists, it’s a huge turn-off. :roll_eyes: Tell me what makes your machine so much better, don’t just belittle your competition.

I never even bothered to call him back–it just seemed so unprofessional. I’d rather wait and see what they’re all so nervous about competing with. :smirk:


There seems to be a lot of this stuff.
I dread seeing the Glowforge mentioned on the laser cutting and engraving facebook group. There is a lot of hate there, not only for the Glowforge but also people who are new to the industry and want to ask a few questions. Its actually turned me off from the group and I only ever browse to look at the cool stuff people have made.


Just stay here with us, it’s much nicer.


Totally agree, I quit it completely. When looking for inspiration I go here or pintrest.


When I approach people to talk lasers, I’ve changed my approach slightly. I used to blurt out, “Oh, I got a Glowforge,” and seen the shocked reaction. Since the first few times, I’ve changed to asking them, “Have you heard about the Glowforge?” in order to gauge their perception.

Of those people, I’ve found that I get

  • an “Oh, isn’t that the crowdfunded laser?” (ie- they’ve heard about it a little)
  • an “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard about it…” followed either an amount of misinformed information (ie- they don’t follow news about it or didn’t really care), or a certain amount of disdain (ie- they don’t follow news about it AND they dismissed it).

Most people that I talked to who ‘hate’ it were 3d/laser fabrication nerds who don’t like the whole cloud-based idea, and tend to be heavy into free/OSS software. The kind who use Linux as a daily driver, and get a virtual rash at having to touch Windows. I gave up on that rabid kind of fandom years ago.


I see the same sort of negative response from a few folks on the CNC-Zone forum, but it’s pretty easy to figure out which responses are basically knee-jerk and which have some experience and thought behind them. The latter folks can be really good sources of info. The knee-jerks can be safely ignored.

I do think it’s wise to expand one’s horizons beyond a company-hosted forum. I understand why non-owners are excluded from posting here and pretty much agree with that reasoning, but it can limit your outlook so far as lasers go. Fortunately we have enough owners of other machines here that provide some decent background on the competition.


You have a great point. I have only posted once in the general big laser Facebook group. I have done a few things in the Glowforge purchasers group, but just sticking around here. I don’t frequent the other forums too much because it is a challenge to wade through everything else and we do a pretty good job of covering all the bases.

Nevertheless, Glowforge users will eventually be active on those forums and it will be an adventure to see how that turns out. As you point out, the serious, thoughtful minded are pretty respectful so there should be some good cross-fertilization.