Other reliable units

Have been a glowforge owner for a little over a year. My first one worked great up until right before the warranty period. It was replaced with a refurbished unit and that worked great for about a month, until now i’m met with the orange button of failure and of course now i’m out of my warranty period.

Anyways, I love the glowforge when it works, the ease of use & cloud. I have a small business and whenever this stuff happens it really puts me in a tough spot. I did consider two glowforges… and that’s still a possibility…but just wondering if any one else has experience with other laser machines that have better build quality and reliability.(no more than 10G)


As a fellow small business owner, I hope that you look into a backup plan. You bought a hobby level machine for a business. Without a backup plan, you are going to be in tough spots eventually. The reason that the business-class units are much more expensive is that they are built to a higher performance and reliability level and have service to match. The Glowforge is really only set up for people who are going to use it for hobbies or casual use. Businesses who rely on this machine will be best served to have some type of backup plan in place.

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When I added laser engraving to the business, I was not in a situation to have two nor was the demand there for justify it. Things have changed. I do notice that they changed the wording on the products. At the time when I bought the ‘plus’ it said upgraded components and enhanced cooling. Seems they moved the vast majority of that wording to the pro. Is the pro much different than the plus it terms of build quality?

I agree, as I said before, I definitely need a back up plan. I just didn’t expect it to be so early in the glowforges life.

The build quality is the same for all units. The Pro just has different capabilities.

I have had my machine for over a year and a half and haven’t had any trouble. I had my first unit for almost a year. It was one of the first run and had to be replaced due a a laser alignment issue, but other than that, it worked perfectly.

I have no reliability complaints with the Glowforge.

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I think 10K will be tough, but you may be able to find a used epilog at that price?

What is wrong with your glowforge? I would think the most affordable option (which will be under 10K) would be repairing it and buying a second glowforge. As mentioned, it really is a good quality hobby level machine, but having 2 will both increase your volume and give you the redundancy of a second machine when one goes down due to extended commercial use, error, etc.

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Is it really accurate to refer to the Glowforge Plus or Pro as ‘hobby level’? I mean, Glowforge itself even has advertisements directed at small businesses. Hell, I think this was the first thing I saw before I got interested in researching a glowforge. ’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6xncDOYow8

Anyways, Jalt, I think you’re right. Two might be the best option(Pro this time). Like I said I’m in no way bashing Glowforge. I love everything else about mine. I’ll look into epilog and see if it’s worth the price, although, skeptical of buying any laser used.

I get it, the marketing shows it for creating a small business, it costs several thousand dollars, etc. when I say hobby level I don’t mean it’s a toy or not a good machine (I love mine and I use it for hobby and periodic business use). I just mean that this is a technology that was developed in more industrial applications and the ‘production level’ machines are made to be running jobs 8+ hours a day 5 or more days a week. These machines of course cost more money.

Fyi, I think epilog may actually be below 10K for some models new, I was going off memory. But, def look into what is causing your orange light-could very well be fixed!

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There are other machines you can look at, but I don’t feel like this is really the right place to ask (or to answer). GF is good about it, but this is their forum. There are other places where laser users congregate where you’ll get lots of advice.

I am 100% confident you can find other lasers in your price range if you browse around, though.

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Not sure why this wouldn’t be the right forum? I’m looking for mainly other Glowforge owners opinions that have experienced other machines for their advice of whether the Glowforge is the best option for my situation(To get two glowforges) or if there’s other more reliable ones within the budget i mentioned. Sorry if I came across as anything other than that…


There is at least one member who has mentioned having another brand, but that’s not much of a sample size.

Not sure if “Everything Else” is the right place for this, or maybe “Beyond the Manual.” Be warned that the advice I am about to give is about machines that may lack the safety features, warranty coverage, and support that you get from Glowforge. That said…

There are other “hobby grade” machines available for less money, with some tradeoffs, mainly complexity of setup, missing safety features, and zero technical support.

Search ebay for “K40” and you can find any number of suppliers for this inexpensive generic 40W CO2 laser design. The tradeoffs are that you will have to invest time in setting up software to control them, and you may even want to upgrade the control electronics. These machines generally have a knob for controlling the laser power, although these can be converted to use a PWM circuit for software control. You also need to provide clean, distilled water for the cooling pump, which uses an external reservoir, and you need to make sure the water stays cool. These machines may lack other safety features, like door interlock switches, but these can be added with minimal effort. I own two K40s.

The less expensive models have a smaller working area than the Glowforge, which could be a dealbreaker. But you can get one for less than $400, so you can easily afford several backup machines for the cost of a GF Basic. If you spend a bit more, there is a common 60 Watt variant with a larger cutting area.

You would have more of a time investment in setting these up (at least for the first one) but once you get the process worked out, you have similar capability and no dependence on a working internet/wifi connection.

The other option for some kinds of work is to look at solid state lasers. In recent years, the power output from these tiny laser modules has increased dramatically. You can get a basic kit with a 20 Watt UV laser for around $200, although these are open frame systems that require much more care to operate safely. UV lasers can cut some woods, but have more trouble with glue so are not as good with plywood or MDF. For engraving, they work very well. I have several of these machines, with power anywhere from 1/2 Watt up to 20 Watts, and cutting areas up to about 36 inches square.

Solid state lasers are very small, and can be cooled with a simple fan - no liquids are used anywhere. Search for “BX20” on ebay for a small desktop model. These machines come with a simple USB control board and can run open source GRBL firmware. I have built enclosures for mine to avoid problems with the beam reflecting or scattering into the room. The open frame puts these into a different class of device, and you should check your local bylaws and wear eye protection at all times.

With the hobby grade machines, you will need to buy control software. I use Lightburn, which is a very reasonably-priced package that has similar capabilities to the Glowforge user interface, but runs locally on your computer.

These hobby machines generally do not have lid cameras for aligning your work, although Lightburn allows you to add a webcam. You also do not get the “magic” of Proofgrade material barcoding, but for a business you would probably be bulk sourcing non-PG materials anyway.

There are definitely tradeoffs to using these low-end hobby machines, mainly in terms of missing safety features and increased software configuration time. But once you have gone through that process once, setting up additional machines is straightforward.

The main benefits of Glowforge is that you have a simple out-of-box experience and you can get technical support from a real company. The hobby grade stuff is much cheaper, but you have to invest more time in setup and configuration. Depending on your technical ability and willingness to do more initial setup, this could be a viable backup plan.


@drvegetable that is a fantastic write-up, and makes me interested in looking into solid state lasers. Thank you for sharing your hard won knowledge!

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I have been researching a second machine, as well. Even though I love my GF and wouldn’t trade it for anything, I like the idea of having a backup machine with somewhat different capabilities. Like @drvegetable, I really like the idea of the K40 type machines. The thought of having to do the laser mirror alignments is a little daunting, but there are tons of videos out there that walk you through it. You can get them with similar size work areas, and even add rotary devices for doing cylindrical objects. The cost for a 40 watt machine isn’t trivial, but not as much as the GF. It is not internet dependent and you can do your own repairs or upgrades.
It’s food for thought


This is a forum paid for and run by GF to support their machines. They do not typically censor us, but I also don’t feel right pushing other machines in this space. Maybe it’s just me.

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Personally I’d stay away from the K40s. I was leaning heavily in that direction before I got my glowforge but research into reliability and how many mods are needed to get them to a good point kinda shied me away. That said there are a few good chinese lasers out there. Mostly you need to keep an eye on the control board. There is a good control board… and there is junk control board. And I honestly don’t remember which is which, but I think this one was ok.


I have made a point to highlight the pros/cons of Glowforge. I believe the company and the community benefit from a healthy, honest discussion about ways to supplement their products to support a viable laser business. This isn’t really any different than the numerous discussions about where to get non-PG materials.

Maybe Glowforge will even incorporate some of this into their own product development.

But certainly, if the company wishes to close/delete this thread, it is their playground.

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My reply wasn’t directed at you. [The OP asked me specific questions, which I answered.]

I suggested that the OP reach out in other communities with this question, in part because I think they’ll get better answers. But I chose to not suggest alternatives, even though I have some I’d be happy with, because I don’t feel right doing that here. You are free to do whatever you’d like. :slight_smile:

[FWIW, I think it’s radically different than where to get non-PG materials because 1) GF doesn’t supply a wide mix of materials to begin with, 2) GF staff themselves use non-PG materials, 3) PG materials are not always available.]

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Regarding discussion of other lasers, during the long wait for the glowforge hardware design to mature, there were multiple discussions about alternatives.

I remember the mention by a member of a particular manufacturer that Dan added if he were really interested in buying one, he named the company who actually builds those machines for the company the individual was looking at. Dan was really trying to give the individual help in their search.

He never had any disparaging remarks about any competitor, even though FSL was doing their best to undermine glowforge sales by offering a discount if the customer would cancel their glowforge order and purchase from them.

I understand, and agree about how that feels, but in this instance and a few others Dan stressed that his motivation was only to help an individual make the best choice for themselves.
That display of character bolstered my faith, and desire to do business with this company.

Glowforge has innovated a great product, as evidenced by others emulating their design model. Glowforge has a strong position, and I don’t think Dan is at all concerned about us discussing his competition. That’s just my perception.


Glowforge also isn’t a do-everything tool, and the GF itself is not available when the wifi/internet connection is offline or the machine is out for service. Both types of discussions potentially undercut the company’s sales, but they also both provide ways for customers to work around the inconveniences of supply or service disruptions.

I understand (and to a certain extent, share) your discomfort with pushing alternatives to their products here. Again, my comments are meant in the spirit of how to augment the Glowforge to support a business, and I believe that was the spirit of the OP’s question as well.


These are very good points. I have not had reliability problems with either of my K40s, but I don’t run them heavily. I also took a long time to figure out how to get my first one to do anything useful. There is an Inkscape plugin for generating G-Code that I found to be very clunky.

Also, the last time I checked, Lightburn didn’t support the “stock” K40 controller, but for the other reasons stated above (primarily PWM control of laser power) I replaced the control electronics in mine with an Arduino+RAMPS setup running GRBL. This was not for the faint-of-heart, but didn’t take long once I found the right tutorials. I have built a bunch of 3D printers based on Arduino+RAMPS, so this was not entirely foreign to me going in.