Confused Newbie - Innaccurate Cuts


I’ve found this forum to be extremely helpful, so thank you to everyone out there clarifying “all the things” to make this magic machine work!

I’m struggling to understand the way around inaccurate cuts. For example, I’ve placed my material in the glowforge, the lens scanned it and prepared it for print. What I see on my computer screen is my cut lines perfectly where I want them on the material. When I push the print button, the laser begins the first portion of the cut waaayyy off of the material and onto the bed. There are no portions of my cut lines hanging off the edges, everything is squared up on the material.

I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong and I’m super bummed. Thank you for any tips you can offer!


  1. Up to 1/4" off or so is normal. Post some pictures showing just how far off it is.

  2. Material thickness is critical. If not using proof grade materials, make sure you enter an accurate material height (keeping in mind that a piece of wood’s dimensions are not actually called out in the name; a 2x4 is not actually 2" x 4").

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Centering the material and the design will get the most accuracy as it’s just below the fish eye lens.
They also recommend making the “Gift of Good Measure” to help gage how far off your alignment is, and if it’s unusually high or not… (though honestly, I’ve not run it myself in the year I’ve had mine :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)

The more you move to the sides or up or down, the more optical distortion there is with the fish eye lens & thus increase in the offset. After getting used to my unit’s offset, I adjust for it when I place the artwork…

Keeping the camera lens cover clean, in addition to all the laser lenses, helps, as well as accuracy of the material thickness for the focal point.

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The software on your Glowforge is responsible for ensuring that the print lands on the material in the same place as the preview. When you’re done with a print, let a new image load. If the print appears on screen far from where it was supposed to go, you may have an alignment problem.

Most alignment problems come from the material being closer or farther from the camera than expected. While the software is still improving, you can take these steps for the most accurate alignment results:

  • Use Proofgrade™ materials.
  • If you don’t use Proofgrade materials, use a precision set of calipers to measure your material, and enter the thickness in the “uncertified materials” dialog.
  • Use material that is not warped or tilted.
  • Place your design near the center of the bed.
  • Clean the area underneath your crumb tray, particularly the four indentations on the floor.
  • Reboot the machine. Alignment can drift over time, particularly if you bump the head of your Glowforge while removing material.

Additionally, we’d like to have you try a few troubleshooting steps for us:

  1. Turn off your Glowforge.
  2. Check for small pieces of debris or dust.
  • Check the lower door to make sure it closes all the way. It may require some force to open, but open it, wipe any dust off the edges, and close it all the way.
  • Remove the tray and clean any dust or debris from the surface underneath. Pay careful attention to remove all debris from the four dimples where the tray rests.
  • Check the lid to make sure it closes all the way. Small particles of material, such as dust or debris, can prevent it from closing completely.
  1. Check the surface your Glowforge is on to make sure it’s flat. Ensure it is not twisted slightly and that there is no debris propping up one side of the machine.
  2. Turn your Glowforge back on.
  3. We included an extra piece of Proofgrade Draftboard with your materials shipment for troubleshooting. Place the Proofgrade Draftboard in the center of the bed and print the Gift of Good Measure using the default settings.
  4. When the print finishes, leave the lid closed and wait until the fans stop and the picture updates. Without moving your artwork or your material, take a screenshot of the Workspace to show us the difference between the artwork placement and the actual print placement. Make sure to include the rulers in your screenshot and show as much of the bed as possible.
  • Mac: Press Shift-Command-4 and click and drag a box around your image. You’ll find the screenshot file saved on your desktop.
  • Windows: Click on the Start Menu and type “snipping tool”. Open the Snipping Tool > New then click and drag a box around your image. Click the Save icon and name and save your file.
  1. Send us the screenshot along with the date and time of the print, and we’ll investigate.

Should you finish all of these steps, and find that you have an alignment error of more than 1/4", please contact us so we can investigate.

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An inexpensive digital caliper is your friend. Entering the correct material height is key. For some reason no one has been able to say, we can’t use the fancy focus laser built into the Glowforge.

I very much doubt using the lid camera for positioning of your cuts is going to get much better than the 1/4 inch mentioned, particularly the further off from center you are.

For precision aim, you will want to create some sort of jig or fixture. If you are fortunate enough to have SnapMarks enabled, it is by far the easiest way to line things up cut after cut. It’s so accurate I can do a double sided circuit board, and the alignment is more accurate than my drill press can take advantage of.

There are tons of tutorials on jigs and fixtures in here, if you post a pic of what you are doing someone has probably already done something similar and figured it out.


It’s been a little while since I’ve seen any replies on this thread so I’m going to close it. If you still need help with this please either start a new thread or email