Backup laser?

I had a mini panic attack last week after cutting 30 bamboo boards, because I got the air assist error right after that project (luckily, it didn’t stop on my paid work for the bamboo boards). It ended up being an easy fix, and I was back up and running after cleaning the fan.

However, it got me thinking about getting a backup laser, just in case something happens with the :glowforge: and I still need to fulfill a project for a customer. I’m already on my second unit, because the first one was defective on arrival. The current unit seems to be working great (knock on wood) and I’ve been running it since October. As a plus, I believe it only had a 6 month warranty on it. I don’t quite have the steady revenue yet to purchase an additional unit, but I plan on going with the full “pro” for my next purchase, but at my current pace that probably won’t be until next year.

So thinking about a backup… I am pretty handy and have built a few 3d printers. Having been at MRRF last week, I ran into some people that create software to make the cheapo Chinese lasers work better (a company called “Lightburn”). I was thinking about getting one of these to learn on and have as a backup, though I don’t know if it would be worth it. Curious if any others have experience with this and could chime in. Or, if maybe there are any other suggestions or what you are doing for a backup.

If this is mission critical to your business, I would say a second glowforge is the way to go.

No machine out there is going to be a direct replacement; you might be able to get your designs to work in another rig, but if you are on a deadline and need a backup for you business, then you should probably have a backup glowforge to work with.

Too rich for your blood? Well, then you can do what others have done, and ask around to see if anyone here (or on FB if you dare) is local, and see if you can borrow a cup of laser while your machine is on the fritz.

The big mistake I think people make in that regard is asking when they need it. It’s hard to work out how to help each other when you’re on a deadline, if it were me, i would want to vet the person asking, etc, be sure I know them before I invite them to my laser lair. I would suggest reaching out now, before you need it, and finding other locals to make a coalition of forgers who can call on each other when there’s an issue. The strength of the wolf is the pack, after all.

Of course, a second machine has other benefits if this is indeed a business and you have some scale, you can increase your output, etc. YMMV.


The big mistake I think people make in that regard is asking when they need it. It’s hard to work out how to help each other when you’re on a deadline, if t were me, i would wnat to vet the person asking, etc, be sure I know them before I invite them to my laser lair.

Yeah, definitely, and I don’t want to make that same mistake. I have seen a lot of people in the forums here in a pinch as well as Facebook. I want to be prepared in case something does go wrong, and I imagine it’s just a matter of time before it does. I don’t think I would be comfortable trying to borrow a laser, especially with all the potential coordination involved, but it’s not a bad idea to look into that for sure. This is also just a part-time thing for me, and I have a day job, so going through that kind of coordination effort might not be feasible.

It would be nice if there was some kind of express repair option for replacement that you could pay to expedite things. When I had my first issue, it was good month before I got my machine back. I could probably find an alternative in a few weeks time if I really had to. A second non-GF laser might not be ideal for many reasons (workflow, different quality, etc.), but it may be worth exploring and diversifying my tools a bit so my eggs aren’t all in one basket.

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I didn’t mean it literally…

More like “hey Techyg, you mind running a job for me in the next 48 hours? Looks like about a 45 minute cutting job in PG maple ply. (SVG attached) We can meet up anywhere you like, I’ll buy you a drink or sandwich, you just say when/where”.


I didn’t mean it literally…

Hah, lol, good point. I know there is a pretty big name guy here that has a glowforge laser in my neck of the woods, but I don’t know if I could even get a hold of him if I wanted to :slight_smile: But maybe it would make sense to troll the facebook group and see if anyone else is located in this area. Thanks for the idea.

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There’s that map post somewhere but most people didn’t really put much info in it.

Hmm my searching muscles are tired… ugh ok fine let’s see.



As a UK part timer I would be very happy to allow someone to borrow my machine for cutting. Be happy to set a partner with someone else to do the same as well - or even a circle.

Bear in mind:

  1. You will probably need to get material to your backup
  2. They will need time to cut
  3. You will need to get materials back - unless your backup can drop-ship for you. (I probably could)
  4. You should agree on a recompense for doing any work

Agree on a pack of materials to have on had at all times for the emergencies. “Everyone in the circle will keep 2 sheets of maple ply, 2 walnut ply, and 2 draftboard ready for use by the other members of the circle. Any materials used will be replaced with materials (not payment) at the time of exchange.”

This way the person doing the favor is not on the hook for running out to replenish the pact materials, the person who asked for the favor should do that.


Wow there are some great ideas here @sqw and @evansd2 !! I think I’d be willing to do something like that. It would be like a Glowforge owners support group. Setting expectations up front make it much easier to sign up for. Maybe there could even be some kind of leader board or web site that helps connect people, like with the map idea.

I’m imagining something like this… "

  1. Oh crap, I need something done, and my GF is broke.
  2. Let me check the map and see who is available to help me. I can sort by “nearest to me” but I could also pick someone further out.
  3. People in the system could show if they are available or not. I could then reach out to them and see who might be able to help me.
  4. Maybe another option is a “help needed” and describe my issue, materials required, how much I’m willing to pay. I could also easily transfer my SVG that I need cut.

Hmm… not really sure if this is something people would go for, but I think it could be helpful! With the map data already out there, throwing together a front end web site (or even a google form) may not be too difficult.


Also, one other thing. I started doing some research on “cheap chinese lasers” and it looks like a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down. I am fine with that rabbit hole for 3d printing, but I know where it leads (you spend more time tuning your printer). I don’t think it would be worth dealing with the headaches of upgrades, customizing, etc. I would rather focus on creativity and designing things, and I can do that pretty well with the Glowforge. I like the idea of working with a support group, and eventually getting another machine once my business grows enough to justify. Thanks to all who chimed in so far on this thread.


I just counseled my buddy on this topic. He was considering putting a 7.5w diode laser on his shapeoko, an upgrade kit that costs 700$. I told him to save money and buy a glowforge, for a ton of reasons. GF just is so far ahead on the usability front… I told him “this is why you bought a jet bandsaw”. He understands the value of a high quality tool.


While I believe you are tech savvy, you have a GF and you are now ‘spoilt’ in regards to laser cutters. :wink: Even a cheap ebay laser with lightburn, is going to cost you twice as much as you pay for the machine, just in upgrades, pretty much immediately, in order for it to be a fully capable production unit (about $1100 is what most have into one from what I’ve read over the years). Yes, that will still be cheaper than a Basic, and hella cheaper than a Pro. But that’s $1,100 (and a crapton of time) you’ll be sorry you spent. IMO. (And it likely won’t hold any significant resale value.)


Yup, I think I have already talked myself out of it. :slight_smile: The $1100 comes at a high cost of time, tuning, etc. I would rather spend the time doing value add work and hope the revenue catches up sooner rather than later, so I can afford an additional unit.

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