What my PRU experience has been so far

Thought I’d take a few minutes and just give my thoughts on my PRU experience (not the details, but the overall experience of having a GF), since soon all those PUs will be going out.

What an amazing experience this has been. Over the last 3 years I have gotten into the maker world as a hobby (I had worked with CNCs and 3D printers but in an industrial context) and have learned an incredible amount; this has spilled over into my professional life as well. Starting with 3D printing (which I built from a kit) to my X-Carve (heavily modified with a SuperPID, etc) I learned a whole lot, but of course the making on those is very twitchy and complex (and very, very long).

I had always wanted to play with laser cutting, and had toyed with getting a K40, but the readiness for use seemed like 3D printers in 2012. They worked, and some folks could get amazing stuff out, but there was a huge amount of tweaking required. I already had 2 devices that required that (which I love and learn from) but wanted a laser than just worked. Along came the Glowforge and boom, it clicked. Now onto my experience.

I am not artistic, certainly not compared to other PRUs you’ve seen posted: I will never, ever be able to make those incredible leather butterflies like @Drea can do or painting and prop making like @karaelena and others have shown, or jewelry like @cynd11’s leather earrings. I’m sure most of the incredible things I have seen on the forums, many of these folks can make with an Xacto knife and some scotch tape, but I never could. I have never done woodworking in any serious way (I mean I can frame a wall with the best of them, but that’s not woodworking, that’s construction).

Since getting my PRU, I’ve made artistic things, I’ve painted things, I’ve stained things, I’ve welded acrylic (heck I’ve cut acrylic), I’ve done woodworking, I’ve done some fabric things, I’ve marked aluminum, etc. Now one key reason is speed; I learn/do in an agile manner (some are planners, I’m an iterator) and have great problem solving skills [but I hate specs and being constrained in my problem solving]. The GF takes a lot of the tweaking (of getting the stupid machine to work today) out and leaves me to tweak to make my projects awesome. I was a pretty good CAD user (for 3D printing) but now had an added challenge of learning CAD for laser cutting.

When making things on my 3D printer I might not find out I screwed up the design for 48 hours, while I’ll find out in 48 minutes on the GF. I’m way less scared of screwing up (and I do frequently); I will say the community here is so supportive and when I’ve gotten stuck due to not having a skill, a quick PM to @jules, @markevans36301, @marmak3261, @takitus among others has gotten me over the hump and back to learning by doing. Do not underestimate the forums here for getting you inspired and over humps.

I started with Proofgrade, and still use it heavily, but have quickly been able to master other materials easily (again fast screwups with feedback allow multiple iterations quickly). I’m now at the point that I can shove things into the GF and have a sense for what settings work (guacamole anyone?), and most of all I’ve been able to make things for others, that just weren’t practical before.

If you’ve never had something like this, you can’t believe how fast you will go from “I could never make things” to “wow, I can make really incredible things”; the most important lesson I have learned is the GF will mostly take the hard part out, and leave you to the important world of making your stuff.

Has this PRU been perfect, heck no, but I’ve learned even more by having to get around a few things; although can’t wait for my forever unit where a few early-made mechanical things were a bit less-awesome!

I’m not waxing on like it has been a life altering experience in the sense I was incomplete before, but holy cow has this been fun so far, and I learn something by using it every day (and not just about lasering, but materials, design, art, etc) because the ease of use is just there. Because I can make stuff so fast, colleagues are coming to me that never would have before, because I can make their stuff instantly.

Anyway, for those waiting for your units, you have not waited in vain; it is worth the wait and expense.


Thank you for this. A great perspective in what it has been like for you


Awesome write up…I’m sure that will put many minds to ease. Your work so far has been truly wonderful and inspirational…dont sell yourself short…lol


Thank you for posting this!

I’ve been trying to tamp down my expectations and enthusiasm since the December delay, but all these great posts and especially this - a post from someone who sounds like me, more of an engineer than an artist - has made my enthusiasm go through the roof once more. Can’t wait to get started!!


Great story! And I can’t wait to see what else you come up with…never seen anyone pick up on software so fast. :smiley:



Thank you for your well thought-out reaction to your PRU. I know that feeling, having gone through similar experience over the past few years and, in the process, finding a whole new career (vancouverwoodsmith.com). I have been longing for a smaller laser equipment to hit the market, one that was a bit richer in the development tools, i.e. not having to draw something then fiddle with a “driver” to print it on the laser equipment. When I stumbled upon GF, I was immediately in lust. So, to get into the queue, I ordered one and now am hearing/seeing some things that raise questions as to whether this class of equipment can/will do what I need to do - with 40 watts, etc.

As you can see from above, I am a woodworker who makes mostly custom wooden games, which involves a number of small engraved and cutout parts. If done these on the CNC, but it is slow and fairly rough. I’ve taken these into a laser service bureau and was impressed by the speed and ease with which the actual work was done (80 watt system), but totally unimpressed with the various steps it took to set up to run these jobs. WHAT A PAIN!

So, if the GF, perhaps I’ve found a solution to the latter issue, but have traded it for a system that would actually be a bit of a dog in doing the actual work (40 watts). So, I found someone who actually owned a different manufacturer’s “hobby laser” and ran one of my jobs on it. Same slow, painful process to get it set up and ready to cut - but ALSO, v e r y s l o w in actually processing the job.

That worries me.

Can you suggest a way that I can validate the actual performance of the GF on a job like mine before they finally decide to send me one? I’d love to be as elated as you AFTER receiving my GF, but know I won’t be if it’s a dog in doing the actual work.

Thoughts … anyone?



Dave, if you would like to PM to me a representative file in SVG format, I will be happy to upload it to the GFUI and tell you exactly how long it would take to run. You should specify material (1/4" or 1/8" hardwood–walnut, cherry, or maple, or plywood) and the desired resolution in LPI of any engraving (or just tell me dark, medium or light).


Very well said!


Nice looking game boards. @marmak3261 just finished a scrabble board. Did you catch his post?


Send me a test file and I’ll cut it for you (in cheap Baltic birch if that’s OK) as a test.


And these responses are one reason this community is so cool. “Just send me the file and I’ll run it for you to get an answer.”


A great explanation of the joy of making! :slight_smile: And if I can just say thanks for the testing and posting you have done! It’s been fun to see you push into more complex projects.

Everyday I come into the forum ans/or get use the laser at work I get more and more excited for my GF…I see a small light at the end of a tunnel, a light from a laser beam :slight_smile:


I hope so. I’d really love to have one next week since I’ve got the next 9 days off…I’ll be making something anyway, but the laser would be really cool.

Thanks for sharing all your projects, you’ve given me a good sense of what I can do with this machine.


Depending on what you try to accomplish, the Glowforge can seem very quick or very slow. I’m learning how to design to speed things up, but engraving is going to take a while if you are doing a large surface. So if you can follow up with @cynd11’s offer, you might have a better idea of the time it will take to do something. To cut and engrave all the scrabble tiles took almost two hours since I was going for a pretty deep and detailed engraving. The boards themselves took longer, but part of that was just how I designed them going for a certain look. Cutting out the letters though for the inlay was 8 seconds per letter. That was amazing!

I think you have a good point: if you are wanting a volume production machine, you might want something that can engrave a little faster. I still think the bottleneck is the design part of things. I’m not quite as proficient with modeling and design software as @henryhbk but I am getting faster. If you would care to give a few more details about your use cases, we can give a little more feedback.


Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. This completely reinforces for me why I bought a Glowforge and I can’t wait to finally get my hands on it.


I totally agree with this, the :glowforge: is going to be a great first laser for me but I certainly can see where something that could engrave twice as fast could be necessary if you are doing a lot of the same things.


of course if you’re blessed with that much business it wouldn’t be a hard decision to buy a second, different laser and keep two.


@dave5. When you get an answer, share the results, I’m really curious to see how you think it would work for your situation.


The type of problems I dream of.

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I think you meant to put @takitus there not me. I don’t really do any cosplay/prop stuff.

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