October 2017 Update


It’s October!

A few months ago, in June, we updated our production schedule for everyone. We’re coming up on a big deadline - our schedule since June has been to get orders placed by 10/26/15 to you by the end of this month.

For two long years, we’ve been waiting together. We know we let you down with schedule delays. The product wasn’t wonderful yet, and so we spent tens of millions of dollars more on research, development, and production to make it wonderful for you before we started shipping. On top of that, we spent millions more adding a huge list of benefits like free materials, extra warranty, free designs, and other value by way of apologies for our tardiness.

The days of waiting for production are over - we’re shipping. The key question now is when each Glowforge shipment goes out, and the answer for that is going to vary, person by person. All things being equal, we ship based on order date. As of this writing, we’ve initiated shipment for everyone in the US who ordered their Pro unit before Day 4 of the 30-day campaign (9/27/15) or a Basic before Day 11 of the 30-day campaign (10/4/15). We haven’t initiated international or Air Filter shipments yet.

Our factory in Milpitas, California is setting production records and many of you will get your Glowforge as planned in our June schedule. Unfortunately, not everyone will.

We’re working this week to revisit the schedule for all products and all orders - domestic, international, Pro, Basic, and Air Filter and forecast them as accurately as possible. Next week, we’ll send an updated schedule via email to each customer who has yet to receive their Glowforge. That schedule will take into account the following changes that we’ve learned since the last update:

  • Our factory has been building mostly Basic units. They are now shifting production to be more Pro than Basic.
  • Air filter development has been delayed, and will not complete shipping in December. Our production schedule is that air filter units will start the shipping process in January.
  • International certifications are still in process. Also, we will be slow to ramp international shipments to understand how our packaging holds up to air travel.

The email update you receive next week will tell you our best estimate for the date your Glowforge Basic, Pro, and/or Air Filter will begin the shipping process.

We were torn about whether to hold off on this update for another week until we had that detail ready for you - but decided we’d rather let you know now. I apologize for making you wait another week for the email with more details.

Speaking of details, we get a lot of questions about what the team is up to. It’s been a busy month for us…

The Latest at the Factory

The Glowforge production line is located at Flex International - just a 30 minute drive, 2 hour flight, and 25 minute Lyft ride from our Seattle office. Throw in a few hours for TSA and parking if fortune doesn’t smile. But part of the reason we chose to assemble your Glowforge in the USA is that it makes it easy for us to get experts to the factory floor in hours, not days, if it will help get you a better product sooner. In fact, our office has been increasingly empty as more of our team spends critical hours on the factory floor, living in hotels and eating El Torito on Wednesdays (a tradition I did not start but reluctantly partake of) to make sure your Glowforge gets to you as soon as possible.

Up to September, we’ve been perfecting the build process to make it as consistent and repeatable as possible, so every unit passes our final quality tests. The build instructions for a single Glowforge unit run more than 350 pages - operators on the factory floor meticulously follow each step to put more than 500 subcomponents in their proper place. Each and every problem we find in the field is traced back to the source - sometimes forensically, sometimes using software to search images taken along the assembly line to isolate and identify the source of the issue. Getting a repeatable process with a steady parts supply created the foundation that has let us and Flex ramp production volumes.

But the factory isn’t just about assembly. One of the secrets to how we get such precision and performance from your Glowforge happens right on the factory floor. Each Glowforge unit is tested extensively - not just to find problems, but to measure exactly how it works. We profile the cameras, the sensors, the motors, the laser tube, the cooling system, and more. We store huge amounts of data about your particular machine. That lets us perfect its performance with every print - ensuring, for example, that your Proofgrade material always prints the same way, every time.

We also store piles of extra data for future improvements - for example, we profile your camera and key markers around your machine with an accuracy of a few thousandths of an inch. The software doesn’t use those profiles yet, but we’re developing software for improved camera accuracy that will. When it’s ready, it will roll out with new machines off the assembly line - but then we’ll wave a magic wand and start applying it retroactively to all the machines in the field, reprocessing their current photos and original calibration images to bring them to exactly the same precision as new units.

All that testing and profiling takes time, and every hour we spend profiling one Glowforge unit is an hour we can’t spend building another. So while the software team has been working steadily on the factory software over the previous year, we decided that it was time to take it to the next level. In September, we shipped the entire software team - more than 20 people - to the factory floor, our “Going to Gemba Week”. (If you’re curious why it’s called Gemba, this wikipedia article will give you a good sense). Our team watched every step of the process, looking at how software could help - and help speed things up.

Since then, we’ve shaved first minutes, then hours off of the time it takes to assemble and ship a Glowforge unit. As we do, we’re able to bring more operators to the line, and accelerate our factory output and our shipments to you.

Not everything has been running smoothly, though. We had a packaging shortage when a delivery was delayed; every empty spot in the factory was covered with finished production units, ready to ship but unboxed, until a massive shipment of precision-made foam arrived. In another case, we found a quality problem that affected 40% of the units we built and only showed up at the final test station, meaning almost half of our units required significant rework until we could find the source - and that source turned out to be a bad batch of thousands of parts, which took us even longer to replace.

It’s been incredible to see the progress and speed at the factory. We just wish we’d been able to get to this level of production sooner, so everyone would have their Glowforge delivery already.

Glowforge at Maker Faire New York & Seattle

Most companies send a few diehard marketing reps to tradeshows with simple instructions: sell, sell, sell. As I bet you gathered, we’re a little different.

We’re basically at Maker Faire for one reason: to meet customers like you and let them play with a Glowforge printer. We have a standing tradition that our booth is staffed by new employees - and since our booth features four Glowforge machines running nonstop with a 1-2 hour line waiting to use them, it takes a lot of people to run it! Fortunately we’ve been growing fast, and many hands make for light work. More than a dozen new employees helping attendees kept the line wait time down to 60-90 minutes for a chance to print, half of what it was last year!

Glowforge booth

You can check out Maker Faire stories from @nancielaing
(Thanks to Glowforge for the NY Maker Faire Grant!) and @henryhbk (Day 1 report MFNY). And don’t miss the gorgeous leather goodies that @emilycarolinemiller1 shared at her booth right here, or the sneak peeks of @DarthChesnick preparing for his geometric art exhibit.

For even more photos from the weekend, we recommend Maker Faire NYC 2017 - Image Gallery from @karaelena, MF NY Live! from @jamesdhatch, and My Maker Faire NY Visit from @Tom_A

Glowforge Grant Program Extended

One of the coolest things about Maker Faire was that we got to see our customers showing their own work in booths. We created a special grant program to help support Glowforge customers attend Maker Faire where we help reimburse them for their costs of attending and supply free materials. It was a tremendous hit. In fact, @henryhbk won three Editors’ Choice awards for his work on his Glowforge, helping make heart surgery safer for children!


So many of you told us you wanted to participate, that we decided to extend the grant program.

The new Glowforge grant program helps you show your machine at any large public gathering - a cosplay convention, maker faire, or conference of any sort. We can even help you with a loaner machine if yours hasn’t arrived yet! Just fill out the form if you would like to apply.

You’ve waited a really long time

I know it’s been a long, long wait. For some of you it’s over. For others, it’s not, and for that I am so very sorry. Next week we’ll get you an update so you know when you’ll have it. In the meantime - is your Glowforge worth waiting for? I asked Bailey to pull a few of her favorite forum postings that tell the story:

And of course, you can see the raw and unfiltered results of life with Glowforge at https://community.glowforge.com/c/glowforge-project-examples.

What’s next

To some of you, I’m so glad you have your Glowforge. To others, I’m so sorry to leave you waiting. Should you decide that you need to cancel, just let us know and we’ll process it right away.

If you haven’t received your Glowforge shipping email yet, you’ll hear from us next week with a shipping update that is specific to your order. In the meantime, join us in the October update discussion right here. I’ll be happy to answer questions as much as I can - although I’ll have to defer schedule questions to our email next week.