Common problems/questions

Hello! You’ve been referred to this post because you have a common problem or question. Check out the list below to see what this post can do for you. Just click on a topic that interests you.

1: I'm new to Glowforge and really have no idea where to start

Hey, welcome to the forum!

Glowforge has a getting started page, it’s definitely worth your time:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/sections/11792517736475-Design-and-Print-Tutorials

One portion of those pages covers the basic use of the Glowforge print interface. It’s worth your time to look it over:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/sections/20461980538779-Using-the-Design-Workspace

When you’re ready for even more info, you’ll find everything in here interesting and useful, read through it and everything it links to.

New owner (well, almost) - #11 by evansd2

If you like to learn via video, check out this thread by @polarbrainfreeze, he’s one of the most expert users on the forum:

New Introduction to Laser-Cutting Course on Udemy

And lastly, don’t forget that there are more tutorials in the Tips and Tricks section of the forum. This will get you started:
Community Glowforge Tutorials: Table of Contents

 
1a: What other tools/materials should I buy to go with my Glowforge?

Owning a Glowforge is the beginning, there are many tools and accessories that can be really useful. Here’s a roundup of good threads about this.

What are some things to buy while waiting on your Glowforge? - #26 by evansd2

Glowforge has a good support page about what types of materials you can use with your laser. You can read it here:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/4605593296027-Non-Proofgrade-Materials-FAQ

As for material sources, there are so many to choose from that there’s no single answer for “where can I get materials?” The good news is that there are many threads to choose from, just search for things like “hardwood source” or “material suppliers”, and you’ll find lots of information.

Here are some common searches:

Hardwood:
Search results for 'hardwood source' - Glowforge Owners Forum

Acrylic:
Search results for 'acrylic source' - Glowforge Owners Forum

Plywood:
Search results for 'plywood source' - Glowforge Owners Forum

Leather:
https://community.glowforge.com/search?q=leather%20source

General materials:
https://community.glowforge.com/search?q=material%20source

Occasionally someone does a roundup of a specific material supplier list, so they get an honorable mention here:

Great list of acrylic suppliers:
My Acrylic Palette - Suppliers List

Excellent list of wood suppliers:
Looking for an alternative to the GF wood - #10 by shollg

 
2: I want to find masking/tape to cover my materials

What it is:

On what to look for in masking material and why masking tape is not the same thing as transfer tape:

Masking paper size - #14 by jamesdhatch

Where to get it:

Most brands of paper-backed masking material are very similar, so price is the big difference between sellers – in general, getting the least expensive transfer tape will be just fine. Click through for a recommendation for inexpensive masking material.

Cheapest 12" wide masking tape - #6 by evansd2

How to use it:

Here’s a tip for making your masking stick better to your wood materials:

Masking not adhering to wood well? Try sanding your piece first

Lastly, buyer beware. You can typically buy rolls in 100 yard lengths or 100 foot lengths. In general 100 yard rolls are half the cost per square foot as 100 foot rolls. Don’t be tricked, read carefully!

 
3: I want to design/make a box

There are lots of sites that help you create boxes,here’s a listing.
Is there a free box building website - #3 by evansd2

If you want to make a foldable tabbed box, typically out of heavy paper, check out templatemaker. Lots of discussion here:
https://community.glowforge.com/search?q=Templatemaker

 
4: What materials are dangerous to laser?

The main ways to damage your machine with a material are through fire, melting, or chemical reaction.

Fire:
Layered materials like cardboard and stacked papers can be fire hazards. Some foams are prone to fire. Acrylic is prone to fire. There are good reasons why Glowforge insists that you monitor the machine when it’s cutting, fire is at the top of the list. Search the forum any time you’re trying a new material, chances are someone’s tried it or will have advice.

Melting:
Lots of plastics aren’t great candidates for lasering, they melt rather than cut. HDPE (think milk jugs or soda bottles) is a prime example. It’s possible to laser it, but it’s quite melty and you could end up with a mess.

Chemical:
Cutting PVC–aka vinyl or polyvinyl chloride–forms acids inside your Glowforge and will kill your machine, possibly the very first time you cut it. The bottom line is that you should never use it. There is a lot of discussion on the forum:
https://community.glowforge.com/search?q=PVC%20damage

Some resins can also pose the same chemical risk as PVC. Here’s a great tip:
Stablized wood - #17 by cynd11

Other:
Some (not many) materials reflect laser light, copper is a well known example. Cutting or engraving reflective materials could theoretically cause your laser to bounce back at your Glowforge and damage it. I’ve never seen this actually happen to anyone, but it’s a good idea to just avoid copper altogether. If you’re not sure if a material might reflect CO2 laser light, search the forum and the internet at large.

The main way to damage yourself is via toxicity. Almost everything you laser will produce toxic or harmful fumes, that’s the whole reason for good ventilation and/or filters. There’s an old saying, “the poison is in the dose”, so the entire idea is to get rid of all the smoke or gasses or dust that your laser might kick up and minimize your exposure.

In general when it comes to toxicity and otherwise dangerous byproducts of lasering a specific material, the final word is on a document called a material safety data sheet, commonly referred to as an MSDS. If you want to be completely sure, try to get that document from the manufacturer. In particular look at the “combustion” or “thermal decomposition” sections. MSDSes can be a little tricky to read, but they’re the authoritative source for this info.

A nice roundup of things to look out for:

"Do not laser" list?

And here’s another list of "don’t"s in plain english:

Things NOT TO CUT

And another:

Stuff you shouldn't laser

As with anything, this is a guideline and you should use your judgement on any and all info in this post and anything linked here.

 
4a: What are the basic safety guidelines for using my Glowforge?

Glowforge has published excellent safety guidelines for each model.

Read here about safety and your Aura:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/17195556968603-Safety-Glowforge-Aura

And read here for performance model safety:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/360033633314-Safety-Glowforge-Basic-Plus-Pro

 
5: Why won't my laser cut through my material OR I have another technical issue

Glowforge has a guide about how they troubleshoot, it might help you understand what they’re going to need to know if you need to contact them:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/360034142573-How-We-Troubleshoot

There are many reasons why things may not cut, Glowforge has an excellent guide about how to troubleshoot that kind of issue:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/360033633734-Cut-Didn-t-Go-Through-Material

And another guide specifically for the Aura:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/20960286274715-Unexpected-Print-Results-on-Aura

Plywood is sometimes inconsistent, especially if you buy it from a big box retail store. Here’s a trick that might help you figure out if your plywood has problems.

Trick for inspecting plywood

 
5a: My Aura/Spark is not cutting/engraving my acrylic

The Aura and the Spark have the same type of laser and the same amount of power. So anytime I mention the Aura here, it applies to the Spark as well.

The Aura can only cut/engrave some colors of acrylic. From the Aura product page:

Glowforge Aura uses a blue, 6-watt, solid-state laser, so it is not compatible with glass, clear acrylic, white acrylic, blue acrylic, vinyl, or Draftboard®️ materials.

It’s important to realize that this applies to mirrored acrylics since they are clear acrylic with a mirror backing. The Aura simply can’t cut clear acrylic.

Glowforge Aura – Glowforge Shop

The Aura contains a diode laser, which is unable to cut certain colors. Glowforge guarantees being able to cut Aura-compatible proofgrade materials, so your official color choices are limited.

There are others colors the Aura might cut, and other third-party companies have published guides about which work best. Houston Acrylic is one such company, here is their list:

Diode Laser Tested Materials – Houston Acrylic

And Craft Closet:

Diode Laser — Craft Closet

This is not an official recommendation from Glowforge, so the info on their site may be inaccurate. As with any unknown material, you can expect to do some testing to get it exactly right, and you should use best safety practices when doing so.

If you’re unable to cut Aura-compatible proofgrade acrylic, please refer to the official Aura cut troubleshooting guide here:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/20960286274715-Unexpected-Print-Results-on-Aura

 
6: I don't know what settings to use to cut my material

Working with settings can be a bit confusing. Glowforge has a very good guide for what the settings do:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/360033633574-Working-With-Manual-Mode

Now that you know what it all means, it’s fast and easy to test your material. Here’s my method:

New material cut test method

The community has gathered lists of materials and suggested settings, but keep in mind that these settings are just estimates. Testing is much more accurate in the long run.

Suggested settings for the Basic/Plus/Pro::

All Things Glowforge Spreadsheet 2021 - Google Sheets

Suggested settings for the Aura/Spark :

Spreadsheet for Non-Proofgrade Materials - AURA - #5 by deirdrebeth

There’s also this third party aura settings list:

Recommended Cut Settings - Glowforge Diode Lasers — Craft Closet

These settings are unofficial but may be helpful.

 
7: Are there any tricks to removing masking from lots of parts?

Yes, there are!

How to remove masking from 423 parts at once

 
8: How do I design finger joints?

The easiest way is with a box generator, see above in #3. If you want to do something more custom, read this thread:

Variations of finger joints

And especially this bit about designing your own finger joints:
Variations of finger joints - #48 by evansd2

 
9: My photo engrave isn’t turning out well. How do I prepare a photo for engraving?

There’s no simple one-size-fits-all answer to this, but there are some best practices to follow. There have been several good posts about the subject, collected here:

Photo engrave disaster - #4 by kittski

Another good guide:

How I Prepare Photos for Engraving Using Photoshop

And an official guide from Glowforge:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/360033633534-Prep-a-Photo-Engrave-in-Photoshop

Once your photo is edited properly, there are many settings options to explore. One interesting (though time-consuming) method involves using two passes:

Grandparents Photo on PG Maple Hardwood

As a last resort there are always people on services like Fiverr that can edit photos for a modest price.

 
10: I really like a design I see here, should I ask for the files?

No, you shouldn’t. It’s against forum rules to ask for a design file. For more information:

Egg Cups for Easter - #3 by evansd2

 
11: What can the Glowforge do with metal materials?

First the bad news:
In general no Glowforge model is powerful enough to remove metal material, so using the laser to cut or engrave into the metal really isn’t possible in almost all cases.
There have been some cases where it appears that the Glowforge has actually etched into titanium, but I’ve never seen it duplicated so I can’t confirm it. (If anyone knows of a post that confirms this please let me know.)

Now, the good news:
There are ways to interact with metal. I’ll go through the basic categories.

So, with these techniques you can do a lot of cool projects by very creative people, here are a few:

Resist etching:
https://community.glowforge.com/t/using-spray-paint-as-a-resist-for-etching-metal/44221
https://community.glowforge.com/t/yet-another-metal-engraving/33568
https://community.glowforge.com/t/brass/32741/3
– This one is particularly interesting because it is best done on an Aura.
https://community.glowforge.com/t/aura-only-project-engrave-mask-on-copper/126312

Paint removal:
https://community.glowforge.com/t/custom-altoids-tin/84867
https://community.glowforge.com/t/zippo-lighter-engraving/17782

Dry Moly lube:
https://community.glowforge.com/t/knife-trials/30704/

Cermark:
https://community.glowforge.com/t/another-replica-electrical-antique/87664

Laserbond:
https://community.glowforge.com/t/sterling-silver-and-laserbond/73990

Embossing:
https://community.glowforge.com/t/engraved-paper-and-embossing-metal/72140

 
12: How can I get the most out of this forum? How do I find out more about a topic?

Searching the forum is a powerful tool — but it can be tricky to figure out the correct terms and spelling, leading to frustratingly few results. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of search.

Take a common topic like living hinges… let’s say you want to try making one for yourself and would like a sample file. Doing a plain search for “living hinge” finds a great deal of results, but they’re really broad, including replies, discussions of settings, and finished projects. Clearly, the search worked but it’s not specific enough. What now?

Use the advanced search options to narrow your search

Searching for “living hinge” in the free laser designs section and limiting to the first post yields lots of links:

The current second link in those results is exactly what you’re looking for:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/living-hinge-test-chips/48643

Experimenting with the various settings in the search can be really useful when you have a really specific need.

Try to think of synonyms that might work.

Perfect example of this came up where someone was trying to engrave pottery before firing. The OP was trying to search for variations of “pottery before firing”, but tweaking it to look for “engraving clay” found discussions that matched. Sometimes it’s just that simple, choosing the right word at the right time.

https://community.glowforge.com/t/engraving-handmade-pottery/118392

Use Google to help you with especially tricky searches.

Sometimes you don’t even know the proper names for things. You’re totally out of luck with the forum as it won’t know what you mean. One other trick that can be really useful when searching the forum is leveraging Google’s much more advanced search. Adding “site:community.glowforge.com” to the end of any search can yield really good results. Let’s try “bendy wood file SVG site:community.glowforge.com”, and then check the resulting image results:

https://www.google.com/search?q=bendy+wood+file+SVG+site%3Acommunity.glowforge.com&tbm=isch

Sure enough Google comes through and finds you some results, and most of them mention the term “living hinge”. You’re on your way!

As a last resort, ask away.

Everyone’s time is valuable, so of course it’s best to search first. If you’re really stuck or think what you’re looking for has never come up before, start a new thread in the community support section and people are generally very helpful.

 
13: What are some good forum posts I should see? The greatest hits?

The forum represents years of work from thousands of contributors. It’s easy to get overwhelmed; there’s just so much content. One thing that some of us have been doing for a while is playing the “necro game”[1], where we highlight posts that were really great, but may have gotten lost in the shuffle. You can view the posts that we’ve flagged this way here:

https://community.glowforge.com/search?q=%23necrogame%20order%3Alatest

Want to participate and add some of your own favorites? This was the original post about the idea:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/new-game-lets-necro-some-oldies/61691

 
14: I'm starting a business with my Glowforge. How much should I charge for laser projects?

This is a deep subjective topic, so there’s a lot of different advice about it. There have been detailed discussions about it in the past, your best bet is to take some time to read though several of them. Here are some links:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/pricing-on-making-wholesale-items-business-marketing-tip/11697

https://community.glowforge.com/t/how-to-price-glowforge-projects/18717

https://community.glowforge.com/t/15-tips-on-pricing/39257

https://community.glowforge.com/t/how-do-you-price-your-items/65708

https://community.glowforge.com/t/arcylic-earring-pricing/94051

https://community.glowforge.com/t/pricing-items-and-customer-expectation-vs-reality/40087

There are even more. If you search for “pricing” “how to charge”you can find many of them.

https://community.glowforge.com/search?q=Pricing

https://community.glowforge.com/search?q=charge%20laser

Good luck with your sales!

 
15: What can I do to improve my camera alignment accuracy?

There are three main things you can do.

  1. Try to place your cut/engrave items in the center of the bed. Generally visual alignment is best directly below the lid camera.

  2. Use the “set focus” feature.

  3. Perform a camera calibration.

There’s an official support page that explains all of this in detail, definitely take the time to read through it.

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/360033633714-Alignment

The Aura has a different camera calibration process from the performance models. Here is more information about that:

For Aura we combined the lid camera calibration into the printer head setup.

Setting up your laser head will take about 10 minutes, during which you’ll print a test pattern that the app will use to make sure your laser head is where it needs to be. You’ll need one clean, flat sheet of white US letter or A4 copy paper.

You can follow the link here for that process: https://app.glowforge.com/maintenance/printer-head-setup

There is also an excellent Aura troubleshooting page here:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/20960286274715-Unexpected-Print-Results-on-Aura

 
16: Can I use a custom font on the Glowforge?

The Glowforge premium design interface uses google fonts, and there are over 1500 to choose from. Before you give up you might want to try browsing their fonts on Google’s explorer site:

https://fonts.google.com/

Once you find the one you want, all of these fonts should be available in the Glowforge premium interface, just search for the one you want by name.

If you are not a premium member, you can download any of the Google fonts for free to
Your pc and use them in whatever external editor you like.

If you find that you still need a custom font it can be done. You’ll have to download the font to your computer and then use an external SVG editor. There’s a great thread about how it all works:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/bone-or-skeleton-type-font/126775

Happy typesetting!

 
17: What maintenance or cleaning does my Glowforge require?

Be wary of anyone claiming that you “need” to do a deep cleaning on your Glowforge. Overly-aggressive cleaning can damage the sensitive electronic components of your machine – there have been many cases where someone reports an issue after a “deep cleaning” only to find out that they’ve caused some larger problem.

With that in mind, we should defer to the official support site and documentation. There are excellent guides for cleaning and maintenance available for you. Even if you think you already know all about Glowforge maintenance it’s a good idea to check these pages periodically in case they are updated with new guidance.

Cleaning procedures – here you’ll find the most current documentation about all aspects of cleaning your Performance-Series or Aura Glowforge:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/sections/11792691970075-Cleaning

And lastly, sometimes your belts or other hardware need to be adjusted in your performance series machine or your rails need cleaning in your Aura:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/sections/11794424918427-Belts-Pulleys-Hardware

If you have a filter, and are trying to figure out when you might need to replace the cartridge, it’s a bit of a judgment call. Here’s a guide:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/4638269354395-Glowforge-Performance-Filter-Cartridge-Lifespan

And that’s usually all there is to it. The Glowforge tends to be a fairly low-maintenance tool. Stick to these guidelines and you should get the most out of your machine for a long time to come.

 
18: Can I paint or stain my material before I engrave or cut it?

Yes! This is a very cool way to add color to your projects. You should probably take a look at #4 on this list, it talks about potential hazards for materials, but in general most paints, inks, and stains are laserable and don’t pose any major health risks beyond what you’re already encountering when you laser most materials.

With some practice and creativity, you can do stuff like this:

image
(from here: https://community.glowforge.com/t/the-mandala-ultimatum/56969)

or this:

image
(from here: https://community.glowforge.com/t/playing-with-canvas-again/83065)

Here are a few threads about the topic:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/painting-wood-first/83506

https://community.glowforge.com/t/has-anyone-tried-this-canvas-paint-engraving-technique/118323

https://community.glowforge.com/t/engraving-on-painted-wood/620

It’s even possible to engrave light color on stained woods:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/dark-stained-wood-engravement/77397/5?u=evansd2

Enjoy!

 
19: What do I need to know about the Glowforge Live Chat?

The GF chat system is based on a platform called Discord. There are two ways to use it: in the sidebar of your screen while you are cutting or directly through the Discord website or app.

The chat is convenient, but if you want to take full advantage of it
you should become a Verified Owner and access it directly – you’ll be able to see other channels, send and receive direct messages and replies, and most importantly, post pictures. Pictures are essential in many troubleshooting situations, so it’s a big step up in terms of how useful the chat can be.

Here’s the official page about how to become a Verified Owner. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom and read the section about “Linked Roles”, it’s necessary.

https://glowforge.com/b/community-chat

See you on the chat!

 
20: All about overheating

If your machine is overheating, there could be a few causes.

Your room may just be too warm.

There is a recommended temperature range for your Glowforge, you can find out more about the operating environment limits here:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/360034142333-Operating-Environment

Your airflow may be insufficient.

Your Glowforge requires a lot of air to cool itself down. If your airflow is blocked for any reason, this can lead to overheat errors. There are several ways this could happen.

Your filter cartridge might be clogged.

In you’re using a filter, your filter cartridge may need to be replaced. For more information see this guide. It’s written for the performance filter but the info is also relevant for the personal filter that is sold with the Aura and Spark:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/4638269354395-Glowforge-Performance-Filter-Cartridge-Lifespan

One way to be sure that the filter is not an issue would be to vent directly outside. If it’s at all possible venting outside is preferred — It doesn’t have the cost of the filter cartridges and in general you get better airflow and thus better performance.

Your exhaust fan may need to be cleaned

Debris and residue can accumulate in your exhaust fan which can cause it to be less efficient. It’s recommended that you clean it regularly to prevent this. For more about cleaning the fan:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/sections/11792691970075-Cleaning

Your exhaust hose may be obstructed

In general, there are guidelines about how to set up your exhaust hose for best results. Here’s the official guidance:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/360034142593-Excessive-Smoke-or-Fumes-During-Print

Other issues

If you have an Aura or a Spark there have been some reports of people who have solved overheating issues by cleaning their laser head thoroughly, it appears that residue had covered up the temperature sensor. This has not been officially confirmed by Glowforge, but it’s something that has been mentioned on the forum or Discord. Glowforge’s official documentation on cleaning the Aura head is here:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/21379334083611-Aura-Laser-Head-Connection-Troubleshooting

Your air intake may be blocked/other miscellaneous possible causes. Your Glowforge pulls air in from the room, and you need to be sure that the intake isn’t blocked. You can find out more about that and other possibilities here:

https://support.glowforge.com/hc/en-us/articles/4444763394587-Printer-is-Cooling-Down

Good luck and stay cool!


  1. we “bring old posts back from the dead” ↩︎

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Very helpful!

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That’s lovely - under 6 I’d link the the First Prints on the support page as well.

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Replying in lieu of “liking” twice.

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Yes! Nice one evansd2!

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This topic was automatically closed 32 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

Just a quick signal boost, I added a couple questions to this list recently:

14: I’m starting a business with my Glowforge. How much should I charge for laser projects?

15: What can I do to improve my camera alignment accuracy?

16: Can I use a custom font on the Glowforge?

17: What maintenance or cleaning does my Glowgorge require?

You can see the answers in the original post:

If you read the list and see anything that you think could be clearer or a question that could be helpful to add, please let me know. It’s a living document, and I try to keep it up to date.

13 Likes

A very helpful resource, thank you.

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Thanks for maintaining this!

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Just found out that the getting started link in the very first answer was a dead page. Glowforge apparently restructured the help pages, so I had to find the current URL.

If you find any other dead links please let me know and I’ll edit as necessary.

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Just added #4a, links to the Glowforge safety pages for each model.

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Nice, and I did a quick run through and didn’t find any dead links.

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Thanks, always good to get another pair of eyes on it.

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New question #5a about aura acrylic colors added.

If you have feedback on it please let me know.

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New question #18 added: can I paint my material before I engrave or cut

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