Pre-Release | Progress Report - Month 7

pre-release
testdrive

#1

This is a quick progress report on owning a Glowforge for the last 7 months (or so).

Is it all its cracked up to be?

Yes. For me, its makes rapid prototyping rapid. In the 2D department cutting/engraving something, it is significantly faster than either my 3D printer or the CNCs. For my wife- She is using it. Thou she has full ‘sudo’ access to the other devices. She chooses not to use them. But the Glowforge it’s an alt-tab away. And she uses it regularly (in fact she is using it right now)

Is it ready for primetime?

Hardware wise I was concerned about this for the first 4 months. The unit we had previously had. Um, issues. But it was recalled back to the mothership a couple months back and replaced with its more sophisticated and refined older brother. We’ve had zero hardware issues with this rev. This unit has more power and is significantly more responsive than the previous unit. With that said, the SPU I used had even more power. Speed was hard to gauge as we were using it via a cellular hotspot.

As for the UI- it’s has gone through many, many iterations. And has ping-pong from better to worst. As of I’d say 3.5 weeks ago it seems to have stabled out. I have some issues with it (cosmetic and user experience) and have reported it. Just waiting and hoping those suggestions make it thru the cracks. Otherwise- for what it’s doing. It’s pretty good.

Is there anything you wish it could do?

For what it is and who it’s marketed for. Nope. It’s fine the way it is. But does it have me looking at other lasers? Yes. Mainly for feature sets. (See Epilog Zing 24 Laser /w Rotary Attachment). Thou I hated the ‘3D Printer’ marketing speak that’s used for the Glowforge- But I can respect the ‘Printer’ portion of that title. It is as simple to use as your plain jane HP laser jet style printer.

Proofgrade- What say you?

This I have to laugh about. When I first read about it. I laughed. Thought it was the stupidest, money grab idea I’ve ever heard. But after using it. I am going to have to eat those words. I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again. Fire and forget. Load web page. Upload vector/raster. Pick what you want to do. Cut, Engrave or Score. Load Proofgrade. Click print. Press button. Madness. Absolute madness. This is my wife’s favorite feature. Hands down.

What about the camera?

The alignment since we’ve been owning a PRU it has gone thru phases. From dead nuts to ‘what zip code are we in?’ But currently, it’s filled in into the ‘acceptable’ category. Great for using every sq. mm of a material. Not so great when aligning something freehanded. Jigs are your friend. Knowing this and accepting this helps. I’ve tried all kinds of fancy solutions to pre-line up stuff. But using some kind of disposable material as marker/jig outperforms any elaborate method in squaring up a material.

Would you refer someone at this point in time to get a glowforge knowing what you know and with the experience?

Yes. And here’s is my referral code.

But seriously. It’s simple to use and setup. Everything you need is in one chassis. I was able to get the first cut/engrave out without looking at the manual. My wife hasn’t asked me for help since owning it.

Do you find yourself using your CNCs less after owning a PRU?

Kinda. I look at the Glowforge as a supplement to a CNC vs. an absolute replacement in most cases. But having something that cut and engraves most materials in-house is hella nice. On the other hand using it to add ‘pizazz’ to something that has been milled and powder coated is nice. And acrylic. I love being about to make defusers and light pipes for other projects. So I’d have to say ‘Yes’ technically. But only slightly.

Since owning the PRU was there any software you had to learn?

Illustrator. I went from disliking it to absolutely owning it. I am as proficient with it as I am with Fusion 360 at this point. But Fusion 360 will always be my go to. But as for the graphical stuff? Illustrator all the way.

(I am not saying YOU need to learn it. Just saying that I needed to learn it. I am not a fan of Corel or Inkscape.)


#2

Assuming the reference to SPU is the Glowforge unit you used at Makerfaire?


#3

Yes sorry. Shipping Production Unit.


#4

Thanks for taking the time to write this review. Your approach to using this machine is similar to what I’m imagining for myself so your feedback is valuable for me.

I am still worried about the workflow being so dumbed down that it is annoying to use though. I’m the type that TI calculators and anything Apple are in danger of becoming airborne when I’m forced to use them.


#5

Even with the simple UI, I’ve been still been able to bend it to my will/needs. The nice thing about it is it can still be improved over time.


#6

Watching your projects and the good doctor’s projects are what has been keeping me sold over the months.


#7

Like a Mac (what’s a calculator?) it has advantages and disadvantages and like a Mac allows you to get behind the scenes where it matters. For instance when I need to write a memo (and let me tell you I am the anti-memo/meeting guy) I just want it to work hence Mac. But when I am doing my software development, the mac in no way restricts me (I currently have Eclipse, system debugger, console, 3 terminal windows (orange on black of course - white terminals? I’m scp’ing files right now, an ant build is going on in another terminal), I also have AI open to work on GF stuff, OnShape for CAD, Outlook (we are corporate exchange for the hospital), plus our Trac system for bugs/build management.

So the good news is the GF is totally fire and forget if you want (throw in PG, trace, and let her rip) or can be essentially as manually controlled as you need (sure I have no idea what the PSU current is when engraving, nor actually do I care - that’s a workaround to a poor design that I would ever need to). @dan and team have done a great job of hiding complexity from users to make it approachable while preserving advanced processes for those who want them.


#8

Yeah, I really wasn’t looking to start the war again, Macs just don’t work for me. I got rid of a G4 back in the day even though it had Unix under the hood. Even apologized to the person I gave it to and wished them luck :grinning: I’m happy for all the people that love them and have even recommended them to several people in the past.

My work iPhone and I still haven’t made friends over the last 18 months. It has survived all flight lessons so far though and but it does actually work well as a phone.

We use the tools we like the best and endure the ones that are forced on us.


#9

It would be nice to know the actual power though rather than a percentage (that isn’t a true percentage) with an unknown mapping that varies with cloud updates. If that have been the case from day one there wouldn’t have been all the confusing with settings.

If 20W was enough to cut one day it would always be enough but who knows what percentage that is when 1% is too powerful for a lot of stuff and CO2 lasers only go down to something like 15% before they stop lasing.


#10

I guess, but that’s kind of a workaround. The better fix is to not have the power profiles change without a huge “THIS HAS CHANGED” email. That kind of process needs to be in place once shipping has occurred. You are somewhat basing future corporate behavior based on PRU/Beta behavior. We signed a thing saying “this may blow up, brick, kidnap your dog, cause justin beiber to live in your house, etc” so the fact that they keep changing it is development.

I imagine if they are like any other tech company (@dan correct me here) that they may keep a group of us as testers (folks willing to have JB show up and live in their house on any given day) that are willing to have shifting sands underneath us (like me, I happily volunteer) to always be pushing the envelope, and everyone else those kinds of changes should be epically rare…


#11

The thing that seems to be changing though is the mapping from percentage to power. What my point is is why have a mapping at all? Why not show the actual power the hardware thinks it is applying? It is a lot easier to tweak settings when you know what ratio you have changed the power by. I.e. you might want to go twice as fast at half the power but currently have no idea what “percentage” half power is.

It would also mean settings could be transferred from basic to pro instead of 100% being 40W on the basic and 45W on the pro.


#12

Where this may seem easy to you- That would make no sense to my wife. The point is their motion planner ‘Da Cloud’ knows what unit you have. And it knows what material you have (Proofgrade) if you want to cut, if you have a basic it will instruct it do this if it’s a Pro model then do this. Remember this is marketed as an appliance. Hense the fact that it has one button. No display (i.e. an mA analog gauge like the K40s have.)


#13

I don’t see how it would make it harder for anyone. (Correct me if I am wrong) At the moment you put in Proofgrade and it comes up with the settings. If you inspect the settings you will see power displayed as a percentage. If it was a real percentage that would be fine as I could multiply by 45 but it can’t be a real percentage as it wouldn’t start at 1% if it was, it would start at the minimum stable lasing power.

If it displayed Watts instead of percentage I don’t see how it makes it less usable for anyone as long as it still sets it automatically for Proofgrade. It does however make it possible to reason about the power settings. If one day it does PG birch ply at 50% and the next day it is 60% you know they tweaked the settings up a bit. If a friend with a basic cuts non-PG material X with 30W and you want to have a go with a pro you can calculate the right wattage if you know the pro has optics say 10% more efficient.


#14

What you described is if speed limits signs had throttle postion vs a two digit number that matches your dash.

Complex is not always better.


#15

We don’t know, 1% might mean 1% of available power and not power to the tube. Possibly 1-100 means 15%-100% from the power supply. Works for me.


#16

Nicely done. I agree in all material ways. I would love to be able to use the GF as the “target” machine for the laser classes I teach. It eliminates needing to teach/understand a bunch of tweaky technical stuff that your wife knows isn’t needed to successfully design and deliver cool stuff.

I use the Redsail only for big stuff (it has a 9" height capacity) and rotary operations (or thick pass-thru stuff but I haven’t needed to do any of that in forever).


#17

Or if 30% power is 22.87943W. I rather ‘30%’


#18

Yes that is probably what it means after they roll out the low power settings again but unless they put the mapping the manual it is obfuscating for no user benefit.

No its exactly the opposite. My dash reads MPH not % of the cars max speed. So I can compare it with the speed limit sign without doing any maths.


#19

I don’t see any reason why changing the units means changing the number of decimal places. 23W would be fine.


#20

But your 3D printer indicates temperature not wattage of the hot-end. Because temperature is more useful to almost anyone. Watts are sort of a useful measure, assuming it is linear (I have no idea) and if the signal is PWM’ed you are talking now a complex RMS calculation. And imagine trying to write down what you did as @karaelena points out if it is some tiny microwatt level calculation.

Let’s imagine the GF uses an 8-bit power level (no idea, just making it up) and we have 40W to play with (not sure what the lower number is, but lets say 1W for sanity). 39W/255 = 0.153W per step. OK, so if it’s not linear (no idea) then it gets almost prank-ish to specify what you want. Also I didn’t think the measure was W, but rather W/S/sqArea that is the useful measure since it is watts delivered.