Why do you call the Glowforge a "3D laser printer"?

Traditional 3D printers work by building up material, layer upon layer. The technical term for this is Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Additive Fabrication. But that’s a mouthful, so people just call it 3D printing.

The Glowforge takes a different approach. It is subtractive instead of additive: you put a piece of material like leather, wood, or acrylic in the machine and it carves out your product using laser energy. The proper name for the tool is a CNC laser cutter engraver, but that’s a mouthful, so we call it a 3D laser printer.

But your founder says it is not a 3d printer. It makes one hesitant to pre-order.

It is a laser CNC. It is hard to say “Computer Aided Design”, but we don’t call Autodesk a word processor as a result.

1 Like

Hi Archbid! Founder and CEO here. Not sure what comments of mine or my cofounders you’re referring to - like most machines, there are a lot of ways to describe it. For example, what most folks outside the industry refer to as 3D printers are technically CNC fused deposition modelers, but that’s a bit of a mouthful so about five years ago people started calling them 3D printers.

But I don’t blame you for being hesitant! You should withhold judgment until we launch our preorder campaign; we’ll be able to share a lot more information about the product then.

Thanks for your continued interest.

Ok, but the use of terms like “3D” and “carve” have me wondering still.

Will the machine have a particularly large Z axis (compared to other laser cutter/engravers)? Will the software toolchain support cutting at multiple depths, in some new or particularly easy way?

If not, CNC laser cutting or engraving are 2D processes (with a possible exception for rotary mounts).

We haven’t shared all the features yet - I can’t wait until we do (stay tuned!)

Ah, I see. Standing by…