I need a viable alternative CNC / Laser / Engraver, whatever

We’re keeping our money invested in the Glowforge, however we need something that can do the following in the meantime, please provide me with your suggestions. We can spend up to $4,000 if we need to.

  • cut 1/2" wood
  • engrave said wood
  • engrave metal (or we can use cermark)
  • cut acrylic
  • 3D carvings would be awesome but not necessary
  • engrave on a curved edge (think of a wood ring 3" in diameter that is 1/2" thick)

Let me know what you have and what you have experience with so we can get something to work with immediately. This wait is killing our business.


OK thats a tall order you can cut 1/2 wood on a 40 watt laser but not in a single pass.
Metal you will have to use cermark with any power laser that is Co2. fiber lasers will mark metal but not much else.and if its anodized or powder coated you dont need cermark. im not sure who has one at that price. if the machine can cut grayscale then you have 3d carving ability. curved edge is possible maybe as long as it isnt a distance of more than 1/8 inch as thats about the focus of most lenses. unless you have a rotary attachment.

Maybe spectrum but ive not heard anything positive about their support

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I’d be willing to do two separate machines, one for metal engraving and/or cutting and one for wood cutting and one for wood engraving if that helps.

I’d start looking at Voccell - they’re shipping, but it’s a bit slow (they have a kickstarter but it’s to get their production line up instead of building by hand).


Although I do not have personal experience with them, it sounds to me like you want a CNC like a Shapeoko, X-Carve, Carvey, etc. Maybe a Shaper?
Which one you want will depend on the size of projects you need it to handle, which company you like better, what reviewers say, etc. I think there are people in this forum who use just about every brand of CNC Router there is.

Then, when the GF ships, you have two complementary tools, not two redundant ones.

(edit: I found out about the glowforge while researching cnc routers. I decided that I did not want to be learning two new tools at once, and went for the GF cause it was way cooler. I still want a CNC as well, and this delay may just be the push I needed to get one.)


I’ve been casually looking too, and it seems like CO2 cutters from established quality companies like Epilog or ULS start at $8k or more. It’s hard to say since few of them actually publish list prices. That’s usually a bad sign so far as bargain pricing goes.

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It’s quite a bit more than $4k but the Tormach 440 can cut and engrave most metals at speeds about the same as I’ve seen in the recent Glowforge videos.

Perhaps leasing a Trotec or higher end laser would be a viable option for the meantime?

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I have a carvewright… can do everything you mentioned except cut and engrave metal.

They say 12 week lead time, so shipping in Feb if you order now. Same deal for the Kickstarter.

I’m thinking about it, but wondering about all the external stuff (water pump/chiller, air compressor, etc.) No listed electrical requirements either.

I just had a thought Epilog leases their lasers you could lease one till the Glow forge comes in their low end lasers start a $7,000

The x-carve or the carvey could probably do a lot of what you want, including some light metal work. Depends on exactly what you want to do. But those at least are shipping…

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I agree with the other posters, you should research CNC machines. Add Stepcraft to the list of candidates. It should be able to cut aluminum, but I don’t know if anything that costs <=$4k can cut harder metals.

Sounds like you want an inexpensive laser cutter with a rotary attachment. They’re all over eBay and Amazon and AliExpress and elsewhere I’m sure. Try here: www.google.com

A CNC router can do a lot of those things, but they’re an entirely different kind of machine (noisy, dusty, more complicated to program (but with the benefit of more options), not as convenient (you need to affix the material to the machine in some way, and this requires planning), and a variety of other things.


The new X-carve is 6 weeks out for shipping at the moment. I should have ordered one a month ago.

I didn’t know they offered leases. I’ll look into that. They do have really nice high quality lasers.

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I agree, that’s more inline with what I’m looking for. My husband is an experienced wood worker and has experience with high end CNCs but we don’t have the space for a full size one. He’d like to do more of the metal and some wood engraving, 3D reliefs, etc. I’m more into cutting the wood into shapes for baby and child products, some wood engraving / burning, and some metal work that can involve cermark vs engraving though engraving would be awesome.

While waiting for the Glowforge, I purchased a Carvey. Somewhat the same concept as the Glowforge, but for CNC. I purchased it because I wanted something simple to USE. I wasn’t interested in fooling around with tweaking the hardware. The Carvey met most of my expectations. I have not really wrung it out yet, but it works, the software is simple (but capable of importing from more capable programs) and one very big factor, it is QUIET! Mine is in the living room. Looks like a piece of modern art and don’t even have to turn the volume up on the TV. Not to mention the fact that there is no dust flying around the room. I can see however that the size capability is going to be somewhat of a limiting factor. At ~8"x11", as soon as I received it I started thinking of new projects that were too large for the Carvey bed. But, I still like the quiet, enclosed form factor, and would buy it again over an open frame model. I think it is good now and will be a great complement to the Glowforge.


Voccell Manual is available as a pdf on their sight.