I want your input! | Glowforge Highest and Best Use

Glowforge’s Highest and Best Use ($ wise…)

This has been a question in my mind for awhile: What is the highest and best use of the Glowforge from a simple $/hr perspective. I know many people are buying the GF for artistic or creative reasons, but from a purely economic/business point of view, I want to map out the most profitable use of the Glowforge.

To that end, I have created a dead simple Google Sheet that anyone can edit. You can enter the product or service in the A column and the profit for that activity in the B column. I’m trying to isolate the Glowforge’s value, so try to only include the value that the Glowforge is adding for the righthand column. i.e. Don’t include material costs, etc. If you make 100 widgets in an hour, and the Glowforge adds $1.00 of value per unit, put $100/hr.

Enter as many items as you like

Try to be as specific as you can without giving away something you don’t want to - Engraving iPhones vs. Engraving electronics vs. Engraving

Remember, this is just about utilizing a capital asset (read filthy lucre…) so please enter what you realistically expect to charge/make for that use of the Glowforge.


Link: Glowforge Highest and Best Use


I’ve been wondering if there will be a sudden surge of laser-cut Etsy offerings a few months after the Glowforge is in production. If so that might have a negative impact on the $/hr one can expect for such things. That might not be too bad for the hobbyist that is just trying to make a few extra bucks but tougher for full-time laser cutters to make a living. Those with a lot of artistic talent, like that Kickstarter with laser-cut train and other gizmos, will probably have an advantage. Almost anyone can cut out or engrave a simple sign but takes talent to design complicated stuff and those items will bring a premium.

I’ve been mulling this over lately as I have started to make parts for others in my metalworking shop. It gets a little complicated to figure out your actual profit when you start adding in all of the overhead.


Very non specific answer but the highest will be some business to business thing that none of us can anticipate. At least that is my experience.


I have no idea but figure $500 for a 10 hour day would be nice(pipe dream and all). So based on a $50 an hour, $25 for a half hour of work isn’t too bad and considering what prices are for some things? 15 minutes of work could net $30.

I’ll probably dabble in a whole bunch of stuff until I find what really works for me.

I know you’re after simplest profit per hour figures, but I don’t think finding the most profitable will be that straightforward.

You might find something that is quick and easy to make with a high profit margin, so it seems great, only to discover that you spend twice as much time trying to sell and market and dealing with customers and on and on. So that the actual profit per hour isn’t nearly as good as it looks on paper. Versus somethings where you make way less per item, but you don’t have to deal with any of the extra shenanigans. You can end up making much more per hour of work, even though the active use of the glowforge isn’t as profitable.


I think you’d need to target a high spending demographic using a product that gets busted up frequently. I’d say drones but the material of choice is carbon fibre or “processed” plastic.“Steampunked” wooden boxes to hold drones, radios, equipment etc., wouldn’t get broken very often though. Just an idle thought.


There is no higher spending demographic than a business that has to have said part before they can get back to whatever.


Or needs the part to even start the whatever.

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I initially came across the Glowforge looking for a more precise way to locally produce needed items for truck component repair. It’s a sad thing to have a customer’s transmission, radiator, fuel system, differential, wheel end down when you’re waiting for a specific gasket to arrive. In commercial trucking, time equates to a lot of money. We stock a lot of gaskets in our shops, but with 10k+ different stocking numbers for all the different makes and models of components we’re never going to be 100%. We can cut gasket material by hand (rubber, cork, composite fiber) for some non-precision gaskets and low pressure gaskets but it’s time consuming and doesn’t have the edge of professionalism we strive for. Not to mention, a plotter or hand cut gasket actually creates a non-consistently compressed edge that won’t last as long under some usages. Cost to our customers to work on their trucks is ~$2/minute. We could easily spend more than an hour cutting some gaskets and still not have the precision we’d need (I’m thinking 36"+ long radiator tank gaskets with 40+ holes for hardware). The rounded edge in a laser cut kerf is ideal for gaskets and is well accepted in the industy. I’m excited to get my hands on the passthrough of the pro model to test this out. It’ll lower downtime, allow us to decrease money we have tied up into inventory of select stocked gaskets, and provide a little bit of additional pride with “we made that” attitude.

Not only gaskets, but being able to cut certain plastics for some windows and bugshields, cab air filter inserts, shims, stencils for the body shop…

The artistic customized aspect would be a far second to what I feel is the economical drive for me.


That is exactly the type of application that I was hoping to hear about. Thanks for sharing it.

Do you have a catalog of files for the parts you fabricate?

For a short time, workshops teaching people how to make money with laser cutters will be a high-profit use. For some people.

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I don’t. Our primary transmission vendor is not open to share cad drawings of their gaskets (understandably to protect their unpatented IP). One vendor was open to providing us .eps files for hubcap gaskets on a royalty basis, but I have since drawn them up myself in inkscape. I have spoken with some of our aftermarket suppliers for radiators, thinking that they would have files on the different sizes, but all four of them still cut radiator gaskets by hand when they come across a specific need. Currently cutting one specific axle gasket by Cricut Explore (company headquarters isn’t too far from us) plotter: 03-01568 gasket, but our shop isn’t always happy with the edges and it seems we have to replace blades way too often with the gasket material. Using .svg files primarily.

Sorry, probably not the answer you were looking for.

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I feel tempted to create a Udemy course now - “How to laser for fun and profit.” Maybe just some videos to go with Epilog’s book.

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I recently went to the NBM trade show in Indianapolis, IN and the Epilog machines look great. The only issue with them is the price. They start at $8,000 and go up from there.

How was that show? I’m going to the one in Long Beach next month (my first time) and I don’t want the GF for business I just like to create stuff ( and keeep busy). Looking forward to ideas and materials there.

Of that I have no doubt. Businesses tend to use reliable products and in a way that doesn’t damage them. If a business uses a consumable cost control of that consumable is everything and low price, availability and quality, not necessarily in that order, rule the day.

I’m suggesting targeting an area that commits mayhem on a product, not with, and accepts that replacing parts is the norm.

Great idea. Except if they do that as part of normal work then they probably plan for replacement parts. You’re spot on though about finding a company that performs mayhem on their stuff - just one that’s random so they never know which stuff they’ll need to replace. Now just need to find one :smiley:

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The show was a lot of fun. Epilog, Trotec and Universal Laser all had great booths but most of the show was either silk screening or direct to garment printing. At the Epilog booth I told one of the guys that “I had preordered a” and he said “Glowforge? Cool”. He indicated that he has a lot of admiration for both Glowforge and Dan. He went on to say that Dan looks like he has aged thirty years in the past few months. Like you, I am getting the Glowforge for fun/crafty items. If I make money with it great but if not that is fine. To be honest you can lease an Epilog for a couple of hundred bucks a month and have a much faster machine.

IMHO if you need to buy a Glowforge to make money, use it to fund the purchase of an Epilog dual source M2 Fusion machine. We are getting one of those at work to replace our worn out Rofin galvo head YAG laser. We will use it to mark bare metal tooling and cut out plastic parts for simple fixtures. They have metal air cooled laser tubes instead of glass, servos instead of steppers and you can print right out of your design program (Hell you can use Microsoft Word or Power point to design and print with) and auto focus BUT they are VERY expensive.

The Glowforge will be great.
If they can work out the issues and deliver on all of the features that have been promised :innocent:


The difference between theory and practice is that in theory, theory and practice is the same, whereas in practice they are not.
The problem with hobbyists that break things is that they may be willing to wait for parts to save money. A business can almost never do that. The make overnight delivery services rich as well as the local person that can often say " I can make that for you within a couple of hours, but it’s gonna cost you."