What is Snapmark?
Snapmark is a new, experimental feature. Unlike everything else we’ve released, this was not a part of our core feature set - it’s wasn’t part of our original software commitment to deliver to you. For that reason, we haven’t yet decided how it will be released after the beta period is over. It might be a part of the Pro package only, it might be a premium paid software offering, or it might be something else entirely. In fact, we haven’t even decided if we’ll keep it as a feature when beta testing is done - we’re doing this beta release so we can learn more. The beta release will also help us perfect our Pro Passthrough software for Glowforge Pro customers.
First, some disclaimers:
- As an experimental feature, it will only be supported in this forum thread. Our customer success team won’t be able to answer questions about it.
- We will only turn on Snapmark software for some customers while we’re testing it.
- We know that Snapmark is a complex, advanced feature; if it’s too confusing or hard to use, we’ll remove it or change it before releasing it.
- We would love your feedback - how it works, is it useful, is it confusing, is it fun? Just leave your comments right here.
Now with that out of the way… I think it’s amazing. It’s a way to do “mini mass production”, customizing dozens of items at once, over and over again. It lets you do multimedia work, combining traditional inkjet or photo prints with laser cutting. With a little effort, it lets you use the Pro Passthrough even better than before. It’s the result of tremendous work by our engineering team over the period of years on many different subsystems. It gives alignment accuracy down to less than a millimeter. It’s pretty magical.
How Snapmark works
Snapmark software precisely aligns two different prints using Snapmark markers (technically called “fiducials”). Imagine you’re engraving hundreds of pencils with people’s names. Previously, you had to manually drag each design to align with each object, or affix a jig to the bed.
With Snapmark, you can print a template to hold your pencils that has a Snapmark in each corner. Then, you can put your pencils in the jig on the Glowforge bed, and automatically “snap” your design to the right location. Each pencil will be engraved precisely - accurate to within a millimeter.
You can use Snapmark in other ways too. You can snap a cutfile to an inkjet printout to create amazing papercraft designs. You can even use Snapmarks to align Pro Passthrough prints more easily
Who tests Snapmark?
Short answer: we’ll roll it out gradually. Some customers may not get it for a long time based on technical considerations, and we may cancel it before everyone gets to try it.
Long answer: Each Glowforge goes through a rigorous calibration process at the factory, where we take measurements of each major sensor system. To enable Snapmark on a machine, we process the calibration data through new server software so the Snapmark measurements can be made precisely.
This process takes a long time, and some units take much longer than others. The calibration software is still being developed, and some units have noisy calibration data that won’t process without further work. Testing Snapmark will speed development of Pro Passthrough and other forthcoming vision features by providing real-world calibration data.
We’ll roll Snapmark out to the easiest devices (Basic, Plus, or Pro) first. If all goes well, we’ll add progressively harder ones over time. The full process may take weeks or months to fully deploy (we’re still learning)! We may also decide to change plans and modify or remove the feature before we roll it out, so not everyone may have a chance to test the feature.
If Snapmark had been rolled out to your machine, you’ll see this button on your toolbar:
If you see it, come back to this post, which will be updated with instructions on how to use it.
Finally, we’ve had this available to a small number of customers for a while to help us shake out the biggest bugs before we announced it more widely… some of their creations follow.
Finally: when the rollout starts (likely next week), we’ll update this post with instructions and a tutorial.
This is a new experiment for us, so thank you for your patience as we figure out how to make it work best for all of you.
Update 9/14/18: Snapmark Tutorial
We’ve posted a tutorial to get you started using Snapmark here. It starts you off with a how-to on customizing a batch of pencils! (To be easily shared among your friends.)