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.