Glowforge Metalworking Capabilities

There has been much talk of this in other topics however I’m not finding a CLEAR answer and I think that is because there are so many different types of metals and hardnesses. I would love to see a definitive list of metals a Glowforge 40W can etch, cut or engrave and whether Cermark can be successfully used to do so if it’s not possible to engrave on the bare metal. Also what depths or thickness will be…

Some of these like copper are kind of a no-brainier. Here’s my list. Feel free to add to it.

Mild steel
Forged steel
Chromed steel
Chrome Vanadium
Stainless Steel
Polished Steel
Anodized aluminum


Here’s a list of metals this laser can cut:


Don’t see the list there

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Sorry, that was me being a dick. This will not cut metal. At all. Bar none. You might make marks on some of them, but no cutting.


Right. Thanks. The thing is I made that list and was hoping for someone from the Glowforge team to give the backers a definitive answer on etching and cutting.

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Metals are metals. And a 45W laser will do nothing to any of them. You might be able to cut through some real cheap aluminum foil (Nevermind, looked around a bit to see if anyone had tried, and aluminum is precisely the worst to try for since high thermal conductivity and reflection coefficient).

Cermark is Cermark. Here is a nice breakdown of how to use it and what it works on:

I believe that the pdf covers all of the metals you linked. May have missed a few in skimming the lists.


Good info there @jacobturner. Thank you.


@steve I’m with you. I’d like an official stance from @dan or someone else with Glowforge stating specifically what this machine will be able to do to various common metals. Everyone in the community seems to be saying the same thing, but frankly I’d rather hear it from the horse’s mouth.

I’m not expecting to be able to cut anything, but I would love to know if we can even expect to be able to make a mark on a given metal without the use of Thermark. Sounds like using Thermark basically means we’ll be able to mark on pretty much any metal, so that information is kind of moot. Unless I’m wrong and there are types of metal we can’t even mark with Thermark, in which case that would also be good to know.


The video showing the MacBook etching definitely DOES NOT show Cermark being used! This is the most misleading part of this whole metal discussion.


My big problem is everyone answers this question in multiple threads with a simple link to elsewhere on or worst and most common case with a link to an unrelated site. I feel like it’s time for some of this knowledge to be moved local to these forums.

and now to do that which I accuse all others of.

and then to summarize locally.

Basically the Mac book marking is using a property of anodized(I think it’s a color/texturing process) aluminum to remove coloring from the anodized layer and turn it white. By comparison I think you could use Cermark/Thermark to make black marks instead of white.

Anodized Aluminum(
to quote:
Aluminium alloys are anodized to increase corrosion resistance and to allow dyeing (coloring), improved lubrication, or improved adhesion. However, anodizing does not increase the strength of the aluminium object. The anodic layer is non-conductive.[3]

So there I’ve done it all wrong. linked external sites and added more speculation where I think most people want a stamp of authenticity from Glowforge/Dan.


:wink: @ihermit2. That is the point of this thread. To answer definitively the Glowforge’s capabilities to cut/engrave/etch the metals I listed above. If anyone wants to add a metal I missed, just post it below and I’ll add it to the list at the top.


@steve, Anyone with a consumer grade laser (which the Glowforge is part of that market segment) can answer this… Metals are a special beast, there are coatings that allow metals to be marked (Cermark, anodizing, perhaps with some experimentation even patinas and some types oxidization). Marking metal at all (be it engraving or just marking) without a coating of some kind requires very special high power lasers (look up fiber lasers if you want to see what $25,000 to $50,000 can buy you) cutting metal is a wholly other beast as the power requirements are truly industrial, often times plasma cutting and water-jet technologies are so much better at those jobs so lasers aren’t even considered…

However, there is an official list of materials that the Glowforge supports and you can find it in the tech spec section of the website…

Generally speaking keep it thin, keep its atomization point in the hundreds of degrees, make sure it is a poor heat conductor, and that when burned it doesn’t off gas truly evil stuff and you will be good… But metals you are talking trying to get a single point up to astronomical temperatures without the surrounding material taking that heat away and/or the energy being scattered by reflection.


Owner of a 40 watt CO2 Laser


There has been a specific stance on this. I agree the macbook “engraving” is misleading. As has been said on some similar topics the most misleading part is in some of the official info including techspecs where it says engraving. The Glowforge(and all over non super powered lasers) can not engrave(even though it says it can), etch nor cut metals, what the GF team mean is the GF can Mark metal materials with Cermark or similar.

Marking is depositing dark residue, compared to engraving where you are removing material(and maybe leaving some residue in the process), so the finished piece will be completely 2d with do depth.

The GF can also remove coating from metal meterial, so if you have anodized metals you can remove the microns of coloured material to reveal the silver shimmer or you can remove paint etc. from a treated piece of metal to do much the same.(no noticeable depth will be removed, but you will have the contrast of colour)


Honestly this discussion board is the first time I’ve heard anyone object to describing the process of using a CO2 laser to change the appearance of a surface of metal as “engraving”. But you’re right that “marking” is a more accurate term.

If your Glowforge isn’t going to do what you expected of it, of course, say the word and we’ll issue a full refund. Otherwise, apologies for any miscommunication!


@dan Thanks for taking the time to comment and for the generous refund policy. I think you’re missing the point though. We are asking for you or another team member to comment -directly- on the Glowforge’s engraving/etching/marking capabilities with metals listed above.

Now by apologizing for a miscommunication you are implying that the Glowforge’s marketing copy was wrong and that it cannot engrave/mark/etch (I’m getting sick of writing all three) on metal. To be honest, I don’t want to ask for a refund, I want a Glowforge but I want to know what exactly I am going to be able to do with a rather expensive piece of equipment. I don’t think that is asking too much. If you haven’t done enough testing on various materials to know what the laser’s capabilities are then say so. If you know the capabilities then say so.

Lastly I and everyone else here deserves to hear this from someone we are handing $2,500 to. Not @jhandel or @ihermit2 as knowledgeable as they may be.

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Steve, this isn’t a discussion and he did comment on it, in a way. The Glowforge CANNOT cut metal. At all. Of any type or thickness.

It can mark some metals with the addition of an additive, and some consumer products (like the Mac Book) have metal that’s already been treated with a coating the laser can remove to produce a visible mark without adding anything yourself.

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We’ve tested on anodized aluminum with great results. We’ve engraved a bunch of random metals (and ceramic, and a rock from the back of the building) successfully with Cermark, enough to believe Cermark’s own marketing materials about what it works with. I don’t have a list of which metals we’ve tested in-house. The physics here are pretty straightforward, though - if it works with Cermark and a typical 40w CO2 laser, it will work great on your Glowforge.

I should note the rock from behind the building also looked amazing engraved (marked, etched, inscribed upon with beams of light) without Cermark. : )


That’s great! Thank you for letting us know. All I needed to know was what colors to dream in until I get that baby in my hot little hands.


The Glowforge has the same etching limits as any other CO2 laser, its pretty easy to google if something can be cut or etched with a CO2 laser. And from my understanding, CO2 lasers can only mark(engrave?) metals which have been coated such as anodizing or Cermark coating.

Dan, will you be selling Cermark once your store for materials is open? Since it does not seem to be a easy product to find, I would rather buy it from glowforge and support you guys.


Do you have any pictures of the photonically imprinted (engraved) rock?