Economics of your Glowforge

Has anyone done a cost/hour analysis of operating the Glowforge in terms of figuring out a business model? I figure the factors include the following:

  • Straight labor for setup and takedown

  • Electricity (Is this negligible? No idea what total power draw is on the GF, 50 watt laser tube + other stuff. Maybe 100-150W? 200? Lets say 200, that’s 1 kWh per 5 hours of lasing. Feels pretty insignificant, even if my guess on power draw is way low. Are there specs released on this? Has anyone used a Kill-a-watt to see what it’s really pulling?)

  • Maintenance costs (mostly measured in labor and time, see below)

  • Laser lifespan (wear and tear)

  • Risk [Tricky to quantify here, but every job could lead to a fire or other catastrophe. Should that be considered?]

This doesn’t take into account the extraneous things like materials, labor for sales, and fufillment – but that’s by design. I am trying to limit my understanding to the costs of actually running a job.

This is also a fairly subjective thing based on what you think your labor is worth. Personally, I’m really expensive, but ymmv. :slight_smile:

Is there an industry standard for these costs?


Heh, I’ve been having similar thoughts, and sorting it roughly into hard and soft costs in my mind.

Hard costs:

  • machine purchase price and shipping (the easy obvious bit)
  • per-hour operating power cost (someone better equipped than me could meter this pretty easily to get both idle and full-power laser wattage)
  • replacement cost against part lifetimes (the store/GF team list this already)

Hard cost unknowns:

  • actual hourly lifetime of various parts

Soft costs:

  • labor if you’re doing it yourself
  • risk against the hard cost estimates being wrong

For my personal situation the labor cost is a subsidiary concern because I have a solid, stable job that affords me the free time to do a significant amount of gf work if that’s where I want to put my leisure energy; I think it’s foolish to start a business-as-primary-income thing up that depends economically on you not paying yourself a living wage, but if it’s a side hustle it’s more doable to not stress that part too much. GF monitoring can also be parallelized with other workshop stuff, so while it’s important to be around while its cutting that doesn’t need to be dedicated time and if you’re cutting in volume your job setup/cleanup intervals may be 30-90 minutes apart. Still good to factor in some cost there, though, when thinking about pricing etc.

The lifetime on parts is my biggest question and probably also the hardest to answer with new hardware like this, which makes it for me a riskier venture than it’d have otherwise been. There’s “we expect the laser to last this many hours of cutting”, which is what I’d want but I don’t know if that’s been documented; I feel like I read “2-3 years of typical use”, but unless typical use comes with an hours-per-day operation estimate that’s no use especially since a business cutting in any regular volume almost certainly exceeds that rate of usage. So I’d be curious if there is more thorough/detailed documentation or estimation about part lifetimes to work with, and would really want to be able to incorporate those numbers into my business plan.


The biggest costs are machine amortization and labor. (And maybe imputed rent for the space.) If you figure (and I’m just throwing these numbers out for a very rough approximation) the canonical 2000 hours for the tube and $1K in total costs to replace it, that’s 50 cents an hour. If the machine itself has a 4000-hour life (2 tubes) that’s about a buck an hour. Let’s call the electricity 2 kw at 25 cent a kw/h, so that would be 50 cents an hour. So all those things are down in the noise compared to what you might be paying yourself to run it.

Oh, and also materials costs. Which depend on what you’re doing, anywhere from a buck or two to near-infinity an hour…

Oh, and also financing costs…


While it doesn’t answer your question exactly, this thread touches on this idea plus a few tertiary considerations for factoring laser cost/pricing for business:


We can all use a spreadsheet and our numbers all tend to be within a few feet of each others so just a couple of thoughts

Always take the total and multiply by four to give the retail price.

Now that is what always gets me. Once I’ve added these up and adjusted for profit, I often see that there is no way people will pay that for that.

Smallish semi-custom things seem to work well. Full custom, too much time involved in design. Not custom, “I can get that at such and such for a quarter of the price”.


Peak power consumption of the Glowforge is around 800W, 600W for the filter. But the amount of time you are at peak power is minimal.

@karaelena did some measurements on his pre-release power consumption almost a year ago now (man, time flies). I’m not sure if that is still accurate with the full power mode now enabled.

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