Software - Recommendations, etc?

I am interested in getting some software to use with my Glowforge. I am not familiar with any of the programs you mentioned that you are using in your shop.

Adobe Illustrator
Fusion 360
123D Make

What I have is Photoshop which, as good as it is, is not very practical for this sort of application is my guess.
My main interest is working with leather. Generally the material is 1/32 to 1/4 inch thick, sometimes a bit more. What I’m looking to do is create a number of templates which would include edge cutting, holes, groves and light markings as a starting point.

  1. Is one of the programs you’ve mentioned a practical starting point for this and if so, which one?

One cut I have trouble with is a V groove that is one half the thickness of the material. Along with this, I’d like to be able to make flat bottomed groves and areas. 2) What would be your program choice for this sort of engraving, same, different?

A question about contour tracking. I’ve seen a picture where you etched an image onto some cloth which is essentially impossible to lay flat, leather rarely lies flat too. 3) This leads me to assume that etching an image onto irregular surfaces at a specified depth is a standard feature, yes?

A feature of leather is that top side is quite smooth while the back is quite rough, this is where I usually use the V grove mentioned above. 4) How does the software deal with rough or textured surfaces? I imagine that it averages out fine textures vs contours. I’m sure a certain amount of personalized calibration will be inevitable.

I’m pretty excited with the possibilities the Glowforge demonstrates, enough so that I’m going to put seven months of earned and pension income into getting one, I can hardly wait. (Don’'t worry, I’ll still make sure I eat properly!) Not really too big of a gamble for a hope and a dream.

One further thing. I’m off the grid so have a limitation on many things like an internet connection and electricity. The batteries I have are very limited although I can get 1000 wats from them for a short time - Glowforge + modem + router + computer, a bit of a stretch. The generator makes 1200 wats at about 70 cents an hour, not bad but it adds up quickly. To put that in perspective, running for 8 hrs a day for a working month equals 20% of my combined incomes.

I’d be interested in any updates you have on power consumption when you get them. Perhaps a “developing spec sheet” page on you site would be nice, as though you need another suggestion of something to do.

I have no illusion that I have signed on here in the development phase with all it’s excitement and potential risk but I’m not sure there are any adventures worth reading about that don’t have significant unknowns and challenges. I’m looking forward to the outcome being more exciting than the ride.

I don’t know the power consumption but the device is wifi if you didn’t know already(apparently does a pretty good job with bad internet connection, can even stop start if loses connection on a big job, small jobs it can store in the cache).

As for the program, from what it sounds that you are planning to work on I would use something like Inkscape(free) or Illustrator (expensive) unless you got it with creative suite when buying photoshop. What you do is work in vectors(lines and shapes) instead of mainly pixel based images like in photoshop(perfectly ok if all you need is engraving a photo into the material). At the basic level you would pick a colour for cutting all the way through the material and other colours for cutting/engraving at shallower depths, gradients and raster(pixel) based imagery can be used to get varying depth/colouring(assuming the material darkens when marked)/marking. I’d start out with inkscape if your mainly working in 2d with Leather, or Illistrator if you own it.

As for the contour and leather specific questions, I know very little about leather work. Will give it a go when I get mine but it is where I am least interested in. I know the GF has variable focussing upto 0.5" that auto focusses as it passes over the material. But obviously if you have a big fold in the material it will not mark/cut as you intend it. I would expect slightly rough/varying sdurfacing not to make a huge difference if you have the material dialed in(there are settings for some materials and you can save your own settings). The one thing you might have to manually inspect/work with is the marks that are left from the burning/smoke. As I say I am not an expert but I would expect the laser cutting process to leave more or less visible charing/smoke damage on the smooth vs. rough sides depending what is face up. But treating or coating the leather before cutting could help with all this.

Really excited to get you one of these, and humbled by the faith you put in us. We’ll work hard to exceed your expectations.

Contour tracking: yes, continuous autofocus makes it possible to track over irregular surface depths.

Textured: it cuts straight down, and the cut has slightly tilted V-shaped sides. It tracks larger feature variation, not microscale.

The Glowforge consumes about 600W when running the laser, but it doesn’t run the laser continuously unless you’re doing a lot of long cuts - engraving is about 50% duty cycle. I would stick with the basic model, since the filter can chug down almost as much power as the laser.

Thanks for that. My apartment precludes the use of external venting, will have to look into another generator that will do the job, just another bullet to bite.

I’ve downloaded Inkscape which is a pretty cool application but I’m finding it a bit too fluid for the mechanical type templates I want to create. Photoshop worked more precisely and I’m not bad at the old fashioned, draw it on paper technique. Will need to find something open source that does the job or it’s getting out the pencil again.

The V grove I need has a 90 degree angle, it’s purpose is to facilitate folding the leather over a corner without bunching up. It’s just a particular engraving style, should be easy enough to create in the end.

@doug, I’m also relatively new to the home manufacturing game, and I might be able to help. I’m in the process of getting a workflow laid out for getting hand sketches into a 3D modelling program, which I can then send to Repetier for use with my 3D printer.

If you have a smartphone (iOS or Android), Adobe just released “Adobe Capture CC.” It can do a lot, but I use it for taking a hand sketch and turning it into a vector graphic. It does a really good job of doing this, and seems to work without owning Illustrator. You do need an Adobe ID, but that doesn’t have an associated cost. This might work really well for you, since it sounds like you’re very comfortable with pen and paper :smile:

I imagine that we would be able to take an exported .svg file from the smartphone app (a vector graphic file) and import it into the Glowforge software? That would save you the step of purchasing Illustrator. However, you can pay to use Illustrator on a monthly basis, and the cost isn’t too astronomical (maybe $20-30 a month?). There’s a free 30 day Illustrator trial if you want to see how it works.

The only other thing I wanted to say is regarding Fusion360 - and that it rocks! It’s the best way I found to get a sketch turned into a 3D model. The best part is that it’s free for hobbyists, students, and small businesses. :smile:

Can’t wait to get ahold of my Glowforge! My 3D printer is lonely, and would like a roommate :smile:

How capable will the glowforge web app its self be? Will you be able to create simple geometry with it?

I have a couple cad programs as well as illustrator, but not everyone does, or know how to use them. And if friends want something simple, I would rather have them create what they need in the glowforge app.

We’re not planning to have “create” functionality in the Glowforge web app, but we’re open to feedback on that.

I think the camera and image recognition should be able to take care of most simple things. Not to be old school, but a ruler, compass and pen can take care of a lot of geometry. Then the camera can pick up your drawings and make it happen.

I also want to try printing out designs and with a little spray adhesive (or tape) see if I can etch through the paper onto whatever object I want. Then they can use any program they are comfortable with, like Paint or Word.

Just an thought though.

@dan it’s not something I was expecting nor need. But I can see this being very useful for beginner users(hand drawn/scanned). Imagine your coaster example video by a group of classroom users. When you scan the drawing you could add a circled(or rectangle to make it a sign or something) without the need for apps or programs. Don’t let it delay you but it could help me getting the GF in font of classrooms that more often!

You can absolutely do this with a hand drawing. The thing we don’t have planned is a “mspaint” type simple drawing tool in our software.

I currently use CoreldrawX6 with my Universal lasers. What file extensions will the GF accept?

Per the FAQ:

Glowforge FAQ

Glowforge is compatible with JPG, PNG, TIF, SVG, AI, DXF, PDF, and many more file formats.

As for direct support, @dan mentions here:

Corel is definitely in the feature hopper. In the mean time, it’s extremely easy to save as SVG, then upload it to Glowforge.

I have asked @dan about CorelDraw support and he said he added direct CorelDraw support into the idea hopper for possible future development. In the meantime, there are several file formats that can work as specified on the FAQ page. I typically use EPS when designing in CorelDraw for my Roland printer/cutter. I don’t have laser experience. What’s your workflow from CorelDraw to your Universal laser?

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The laser is set up as a print driver. I have a “plugin” from ULS that makes it work. Hairline lines for cut default is red. Then raster is greyscale.
Is that what you were asking?

Yes, that’s the kind of information I was looking for. Thanks!

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