The Safety Thread

I’m quite active on another laser engraver forum over the past few years, and they’ve been, lets just say “less than enthusiastic” about Glowforge. Their key criticism has been the perceived safety of the Glowforge, based on media, the FAQ entry referencing the DVD player laser class (really should expand on that entry guys), and video interviews with @dan . It’s obvious to the more level-headed that this is marketing, not product documentation, and exactly the same as other manufacturers promotional efforts. Any company would be remiss to not include strict and careful safety guidelines, detailed instructions, and copious warnings about their product once it’s shipped, and I’ve no doubt Glowforge will do the same.

That said, A glowforge can still burn your house down. It’s not too soon to start talking about safety. So here we go! Feel free to add on, I’m doing a general fast pass to start the conversation. I’ve no doubt I’ll miss something.

Laser Safety Guidelines V.01

  1. NEVER leave your laser operating unattended. (Google “laser engraver fire” to view the results of a fire, and read about how fast they can destroy your machine) While operating your Glowforge keep an eye on the burn area for flare-ups and fires, excessive smoke, and oddly colored flames (which indicate potentially dangerous fumes). If you see continuous flames stop your work immediately and put them out. Slow speed, high power work, and work with flammable materials (wood, acrylic, paper, etc.) is more likely to cause a fire, so be extra diligent.

  2. ALWAYS have a CO2 fire extinguisher and water sprayer in easy reach. A water spray bottle is great to douse small flare up fires, and a CO2 extinguisher will be essential in a worst case scenario while also giving you the best chance for salvaging your laser and avoiding a huge clean-up.

  3. ALWAYS know your materials BEFORE lasering. Certain materials (PVC for example) release toxic fumes when burned that can be harmful to yourself and your laser. If there’s any doubt that a material is safe, contact it’s manufacturer, google it, use burn tests to test it, and if you can’t find or figure it out, DON’T LASER IT.

  4. ALWAYS supervise children and new users. Noobs make more mistakes than experienced users. Train new users in good habits while working around your laser.

  5. NEVER operate your laser with the lid open or the passthrough slots open without eye protection. You will go blind.

  6. ALWAYS clean and maintain your laser. Clean your bed, rails, and inspect your lenses before and after each session. Residue can build up on lenses, flammable bits of material can become lodged in the honeycomb and catch fire unexpectedly, and general detritus can build up inside your laser that can degrade performance, harm components, and generally ruin your laser and your day.

That’s my off-my-head quick list. Please add on!


Good tips, thanks. I ordered the glasses already and have the extinguisher in the workshop.

Can you expand on the last point. Does one clean the optics with a lens cleaning cloth, compressed air, etc? My only laser experience is a giant industrial steel cutting laser, which had a very, very different method of cleaning off its optics since they got steel splattered (in truth we replaced).

I can’t comment on the specifics of cleaning the Glowforge because I don’t have one yet! Consider #6 a general guideline. I’m assuming Glowforge’s documentation will have specific guidelines for cleaning and maintaining their machine. Cut bits floating around in the honeycomb tray is a common issue on all lasers, and considering the limited depth of the GF cutting table I’d expect it will be a little more important for GF than a laser with a 4 inch deep honeycomb. Optics are finicky, often coated with specific protectants, and if not used appropriately (with corrosive materials for example) and properly maintained (with the correct cleaning materials, etc.) can dramatically affect the quality of your cutting and engraving.

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I’m curious if and air supply option will be coming down the pipe. The constant 30psi to blow out flames seems like a necessity.

Are you talking about air assist? That’s a feature on both basic & pro models! :smiley:


I believe that the Glowforge light path is in a sealed unit, so there will be no need to clean the optics.

That could potentially ease cleaning, but the light has to come out somewhere, and that somewhere will get dirty.


I’m shopping for a CO2 fire extinguisher. They are quite expensive compared to the foam ones. Does anyone have a lead on a CO2 extinguisher for under $100?


I’ve found I’ve gotten better prices on them from local fire and safety supply shops than online. That said, in terms of protecting your investment and all the stuff around it, the price is ultimately irrelevant. Better to spend and not need it than need it and not have it.

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I would love suggestions for safety equipment ( glasses, etc) and links and procedure tips from those who have used Class 4 lasers. Also, are Class 4 lasers restricted for residential use?

I’m thinking that the GF Pro is equivalent to a Class 1 laser when the pass-through doors are closed (albeit still a Class 4). Would be nice if these doors had a key lock so that they could only be opened when authorized.

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Maybe a fire blanket in easy reach is an option (besides the CO2 extinguisher and water sprayer)


The laser has to be manufactured to all sorts of guidelines but not aware of any U.S. regulations for personal use. Might be unusual fire regulations in your jurisdiction or potentially insurance exemptions. Obviously common sense, laser glasses and fire extinguishers are wise. As far as workplace regulations, OSHA used to have some but for the general workplace those are no longer in force. Govt Labs, Universities and some States follow either their own guidelines or ANSI standards. Our lab, (DoD) has very detailed rules that follow closely the old OSHA guidelines. Bottom line is the regulation of Class IV lasers is all over the map. And different countries probably follow different rules.

This thread has really made me aware of storage issues around the Forge. Because of the fire risk, I won’t be storing anything that can’t take a blast from a fire extinguisher within reach of the machine. Steel tools, yes. Papers, fabrics, leather hides etc., no.

That isn’t actually much of a concern. If you are properly equipped. You want to be using a CO2 extinguisher, because of the electronics inside the GlowForge (in the event you are fast enough that only the loaded material has burnt, you do not want the extinguisher to be what kills your cutter).

Most CO2 extinguishers I have seen are on the small side, so having a larger classic extinguisher handy for those times you are not fast enough and the entire Glowforge and surrounding area have caught fire may still be advisable. Then keeping other things far away becomes attractive, but you are already going to be talking with insurance, so may as well heap everything on the list.

Also, many people haven’t used an extinguisher before. And since you want to react fast and properly… take a trip to the local fire department and ask if they can let you practice using extinguishers. No clue if they would, or if there would be a charge. But it seems like a service they should want to provide.

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Good point, though if there’s a significant fire risk, I still don’t want to have the delicate, sometimes irreplaceable stuff around. I have a few blockprinted papers that were created by Japanese masters who are now long gone from the earth, along with any hope of getting another one of those papers. Having to walk a few feet to where they’ll be hung is an OK sacrifice. :slightly_smiling:

While I’ll agree, everyone should be prepared for worst case scenario safety, I will let you know that I’ve used a Universal Laser system for over 6 years with over a thousand hours of use cutting and engraving leather mostly but also use fabric, paper and numerous other materials and not one fire… But this is just my personal experience and yes we’re prepared for the worst case scenario if that was to ever happen, safety first my friends.


In my building, if it gets to that point… all 22 sprinklers will turn on. eeps!

Thanks for the tips all. Helps me to get the space ready.

I will add, I have made (actually for all of my devices) a big e-top button that cuts off power. I use the e-stop button from Inventables (which nicely is a double throw switch, so if the device also has an e-stop feature (like the X-Carve) that can get called too until the power supply runs out) that shuts of the electricity. Yes it is suboptimal if you were in the middle of a job, but this isn’t for pausing, it is for “OMG, badness is happening NOW!” type problems - like fire, etc). This is a hard e-stop to cut all power (it actually controls an outlet - although you could put it in the middle of a power-cord too). My 3D printer, X-carve (although the upcoming replacement X-controller finally has one built in) and the GlowForge all get them. I would strongly recommend it. The switch is here if someone wants to get one.


@henryhbk, brilliant idea–I’ll definitely be doing this.