Make it in cardboard first? Success with cardboard?



I work next to 3 businesses that generate a LOT of cardboard that they either recycle or throw away.
To me, all I see is a mountain of free materials to laser until the cows come home.

We’re all in this trial-and-error phase with the Glowforge so I’m wondering if people have considered doing entire projects out of cardboard first and then go back an do it for real in wood or plastic.
Or would I just be wasting a step?

@davidgal2 mentioned doing something similar in Cardboard Living Hinge but was cautioned by @nick07lee that things may catch on fire.

So is cardboard out of the question? Or should you always have the speed at X or above and set the power to Y% ? Maybe it’s too early but I can just see thousands of people putting cardboard in these things and having issues


Cheap prototyping materials are always in demand. I’m also curious to know what people’s experiences with this are since I’ve amassed a small mountain of cardboard for making stuff


I intend to practice a lot of first draft ideas on cardboard. I have quite a pile stacking up. And some projects are ideal for cardboard as the finished material like the globe in the original Glowforge marketing video.


I saved up a bunch, and haven’t used one piece yet. mainly because my “test” ones involve engraving, though, so not really suitable for cardboard. if I had to make test cuts, then I would maybe use cardboard, though, because real materials like home depot plywood cost money


well my pile of cardboard is quite substantial since I don’t throw away much of the useful kind. I planned to do some tryout in cardboard but am a bit worried about burning down my block of flats. :slight_smile:


I’ve got a pile of boxes too, I just need to cut them up.

The reason they have not been showing up much in my projects is just a display one for Glowforge. They gave me this test machine to play with, I thought they might prefer I show projects that actually look a little nicer than cardboard during the run-up to the magical shipping day for their customers.

(But I actually have a couple of projects for cardboard that I’ll probably pull out sooner or later to show.)


I have to admit I was a bit afraid to work with corrugated cardboard at first because of the flame risk. Then I saw a few of the other PRU folks using it so I tried it. It went great! I tried both cutting and engraving and did not have a problem (that air assist really blows hard). But I wouldn’t think of walking away from the machine while it is working. This is true at any time of course. And I do have a wet rag in hand to slap down on the piece if any flare ups occur that don’t immediately go out. It hasn’t happened yet but it’s always good to be prepared.


I have not used nearly as much paste board as I thought I would but it works fine. Just watch it and avoid points.


The primary problem I have with using cardboard for most of my things, is they either are tab/slot which obviously is highly dependent on it being the specific material for the geometry to work, and/or engraved which doesn’t work with cardboard. I guess for checking order of operations it works well?


I believe on the homepage for the GF they demonstrate building a rather large globe out of cardboard, and list it as a usable material as well.


Personally I’m not artsy so more of the things I plan to do will be mechanical and require alignement. I think I’ll get a little more use out of the cardboard being able to check fits and tolerances and things like that.


That’s my point. I mostly do mechanical stuff (not everything is engraving guac in my day job! :grin:) and the thickness actually matters unless everything is a butt joint, tabs and slots change based on the thickness, so unless your other item is exactly the same thickness it doesn’t work.


I’m with @henryhbk on this. I do use chipboard for complex engraves on my other lasers because I can dial the power way down but not so much with the PRU. With the GF I do most one-offs using Baltic Birch and then after I have it all nice and working I’ll do a finish copy in PG.

I absolutely love PG by the way. It is really nice stuff and eliminates almost all of my post-production finishing steps. Saves a ton of time and even though I’m not an Esty store guy selling this stuff, time is important to me. For anyone selling stuff, that time savings is likely to be way more than the cost differential of PG.


Fair point, I’m thinking it’ll help making sure gear spacing and sizing is correct in my clocks and what not. The thickness is a concern, so I’m hoping for a cheap proofgrade msg or something like that


Actually with gears it would be perfect. That is not a thickness tolerance like a tab/slot computation is. If you want to check teeth meshing it would be a way cheaper way.


Let me try and cut some gears for you in cardboard so you can see what it looks like.


When I get home let me cut these in cardboard (and compare with baltic). these are the Galileo pendulum clock from thingiverse


Excellent I’ll be very interested to see how they turn out. I love Galileo bicycles and clocks and things like that, if those turn out well I think the cardboard would work for prototyping those things since they’re not layer height dependent


Yep! This is exactly my plan as well! I plan on making a lot of cool cardboard stuff before burning my beautiful proofgrade, at least with my personal designs. I’ll probably burn some cool prefab projects on proofgrade when I first get my unit…because, there’s some really cool prefab stuff.


I have a pretty good stock of cardboard, plywood, and MDF. I still plan to do a first run on cardboard until I feel comfortable with my skills on the Glowforge.

I also got my email this afternoon at 1:59. I wish everyone got theirs too and feel kind of guilty, especially with this grin that I can’t seem to shake off my face.