All of them and none of them. Laser software is inherently bad overall and not set up for ease of use, or at least, as easy as it could be with the tools that exist across the different programs.
Some of the software does certain things really good, other things really bad, other things just meh, whatever. The perfect laser software would be a blend of all of the different ones - but that would be perfect just to my way of doing things. Not everyone thinks like me (probably a good thing lol).
That said, Glowforge has really revolutionized the software side of laser processing. Most people complaining about it have never used anything else, so they don’t really have a basis for comparison. While some of the complaints may be valid, as far as doing this or that, they don’t realize that none of the software packages out there do the this or that that they want.
As far as the human factor… I assume you mean that humans are fallible and make mistakes? GF probably leads the pack in that sense with so much automation. No head crashes. No forgetting to set the focal height using a measuring tool or software input. Not forgetting to turn the air assist back on and toasting a lens. Etc.
As for replicating placement, I think it really comes down to how people think. There are definitely different ways to get to the same end point.
Dirty secret: I cut hundreds and hundreds of oversized puzzles (16x20, 18x20” and even bigger) on the Glowforge. I was able to align things accurately enough using just rulers I made for the crumbtrays that I could cut all of those puzzles in two jobs (half and half) and no one ever knew it wasn’t just one large print that had been cut.
That involved putting board in, making a score mark, trimming a print, gluing it up, putting it back in the machine and running the cuts.
Ultimately though, I guess coordinates are just a thing that exists in a 3D plane of space. They aren’t attached to the crumbtray, they aren’t even really attached to the motion system since it uses a camera to define a certain XY based on the logo printed on the head. That said, the camera based system seems to be very repeatable despite the incessant complaining “back in the day” about no limit switches being used.
All in all, I think this is a thoughtful solution as long as you keep in mind that XY isn’t attached to the crumbtray. So making sure that it’s in the same place when you take it in and out, etc. is important for repeatability.
One other mention - I don’t know if the bug was ever fixed because it was relatively minor in the grand scheme of users, but a bug did exist where the alignment would drift over time on systems that were never turned off. Basically, it was sending the head back to home like one step off after every job. Over time, this would lead to “home” drifting, so your margin of error would increase as time went on. I say minor bug because we are only talking like one step at a time and it only impacted people that left their machine on stand by rather than turning it off.
Very possible!! Workflows are so different person to person (like I alluded to above). As Glowforge introduces design tools, I can see how that would make even more sense - although I think it’s more of a hack for not having an alignment tool (which would use the coordinates in functionality, but not having to input them directly).
Everything I do, I set up in Illustrator. It’s just how I’m comfortable. With the GF I didn’t do a ton of location-specific engraving, where it had to be absolutely precisely placed. My camera was always accurate enough that I could do it, just didn’t do it often. On the Trotec, if I’m doing stuff like that, I just use the red beam to mark the center and move the graphic there.
That’s actually one example of how all of these systems (software) are different.
On the Universals, I can click a point on my screen and the head moves - then I can move the object to make sure it’s centered. But I can’t move the head while I’m at the machine.
On the Trotec, I move the head by buttons on the machine but can’t move the head through the software (I can on their new browser based software though).
So ultimately, I’m aligning things the same way but not the same way on those two systems.
The GF obviously uses a camera which is the quickest.
All 3 systems though — if you really want pin point accuracy, you set up jigs. Especially with irregular shaped items.
For example, if I made a bunch of heart shaped slate engravings. On all 3 systems, I would ultimately cut a jig for that. Then I know things are placed right.
How you go about doing things after that depends on the system…
For the Glowforge and Universals, I would have it all set up in the one file. I could do the same on the Trotec but for that, I would probably use what they call markers. So basically, I would set up the jig file one time, and set center markers throughout the file… then I could just import my graphics and snap them to the markers.