New SD Graphic settings - accuracy vs lifespan?

Apologies if this has been hashed out before, pointers to relevant threads are welcome.

Is there a tradeoff between using the laser at higher power settings and lifespan?
Or is the lifespan of the tube fairly fixed no matter the power settings?

It seems to me that yes, using it at full power would reduce its service life.
And using it at half power would yield a longer lifespan than running it at full power.

Therefore given the choice between a slower print and a faster, higher power print, if you value lifespan over speed, you’d choose the slower speed.

BUT, that is a guess made by me, someone with zero knowledge of its engineering so I’m asking for an expert explanation.

I’ve wondered about this before, but what prompted me to ask was the new “SD Graphic” setting.

My understanding is that this setting produces a more accurate engrave.
But, I notice that the speed seems to about half of what it was before, which increases the time required to print.
And that made me wonder again, is running the tube at half power, but for %50 longer better, or worse, for the lifespan?
Is a longer print time actually a little harder on the tube?

Or does it not make any difference at all?
Is the laser’s lifespan pretty much fixed given any use pattern?

I ask partly because I’ve tweaked a lot of designs for the SD Graphic old setting, and they depend on the depth and somewhat on the tone of that engrave setting, which was fairly consistent for PG plywood.

After doing a couple of tests the results of the new setting are decently close, but just different enough that I’d want to refactor my designs. And I’ve actually developed tricks to deal with the accuracy of the old fast engrave, so accuracy wasn’t a problem.
Which is to say I’d like to stick with the old settings, but if the full power setting may be shortening the tube’s service life I’d consider adjusting my designs.

1 Like

Per Glowforge, the tube lifespan is not affected by power level.


My understanding is that Glowforge has accounted for the lifespan of the tubes through moderation of the power supply (I think they throttle it back just enough to extend the life significantly), so you can run it at either setting without impacting the tube life.

If you prefer the older settings, just save them as a Custom setting before they are removed and then you can keep using those. :slightly_smiling_face:


The tube has a shelf life even if unused.

Technically it would wear faster when used, but they only have a two year life (officially) so it wouldn’t make much difference.


This isn’t as clear a choice as you might think. Higher speed engraves tend to have lower contrast, so really what needs to be optimized is quality, and that’s subjective.

I think the question has been answered from a tube life perspective, as for me I’ll optimize my settings to get the look I want and not worry about incremental lifespan savings. I’d rather have a shorter-lived system that makes beautiful end results than a longer-lived system that puts out substandard engraves.


Yep, that’s exactly what I did. :slight_smile:
Now I just check the steps in jobs that I load post-change and switch the SD Graphics steps over to OG settings. Only takes a few seconds and it’s back to burning.

I’ve read that the gases within the tube will slowly leak out, whether it’s in use or not.

Then I’ve also read that the active use lifespan (firing, not on standby) is a couple of years.

I’m not sure if one affects the other or not.

I have tracked my burns, not counting sitting on standby, and I’m currently coming up on a couple of hundred hours of active use. So it will take me quite a while to fire the laser for a continuous two years.
But I doubt its service life would really extend that far. I got mine at the tail end of the kickstarter, and I’ve been using it semi-casually for going on three (relatively trouble free) years now, but I’ve been wondering if early owners are into tube-replacement territory yet or not. I certainly hope to get another three years out of it but the laws of physics and engineering may not be on my side there. :smile:

That’s definitely what I noticed, regarding speed vs. contrast. I actually use the lower contrast to effect, part of the reason I wanted to keep using the older settings.

I’m in the same place as you regarding quality vs. lifespan.
It’s an engineering question I’ve always been curious about, but if the effect on lifespan is minimal I’m definitely cranking the “visual results” knob up to the maximum, as that’s the point of owning a glowforge after all. :smile:

That is my understanding, but as it gets hot while emitting, you would think pressure increases and they would leak out more. I’ve never been able to find supporting data, but it makes sense. GF has a custom tube so hopefully that was factored in. Many of us have had our machines for three years now. Mine is very occasional use, but some have been used quite a bit. I’m sure GF has data on this. I’m sure we’ll never see it!

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 32 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.