Why wait to buy glowforge


#1

I want to see some response to this article.
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-you-should-hold-off-buying-glowforge-laser-printer-christian-reed
Thanks!


#2

I think he had some very good points about concern for an new product. I think it would have been better if he had titled the article, “Why I am holding off buying a Glowforge.” Don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t do. I don’t think he really appreciated the team that the founders were putting together and the whole ecosystem that was going to come out. Here’s the topic discussed before:


#3

Saw it when it first came out. Pretty much an OK write-up of the risks, both in the new approaches to the technology and risks of backing a startup. Don’t know what to say other than that. I know the risks, understand the technology, and can afford the cost.


#4

I agree with a few of his points (yes the “3D” laser “printer” are both confusing) but he seemed quite against the GF from the start. I remain quite thrilled about the GF. :slight_smile:


#5

I think it’s a reasonable argument. I, too, was originally skeptical of the ability of the filter to get rid of all the bad stuff. I opted to vent instead, so it became a non-issue for me. I don’t have any prior experience with what it costs to make a high quality motion guidance framework, so I can’t comment on his skepticism in that respect. He seems like a typical anti-Apple type, who eschews sleek form in favor of raw function, but that’s just a superficial preference, so again, a non-issue for me.


#6

Christian Reed has some valid points, like some of the marketing details. But he puts a lot of emphasis on reliability and performance based on a cost comparison with already released products that, frankly, is premature. Maybe after the Glowforge is released would be a better time to make such judgement, although I certainly understand why people would be reluctant to be the early birds in that light.

But if people didn’t take on the challenge of commoditizing traditionally expensive technology, like 3D printers, then we would not have things like sub-$1000 3D printers either.


#7

He says nothing wrong. But what I do not like about the review is this:

Apparently if Glowforge did absolutely everything exactly the same way they are doing now, but charged $20,000 instead of $2,000… his only complaint would be suspicion about the capability of the filter.

Speculating on the capability of the machine merely because of the price point is a very long-winded way to say “I have nothing to add here” He makes no attempt to explore why the price is lower, he just postulates that it means a lower quality tube, then talks about other machines which have been unreliable in the same price range. There have been unreliable machines at the higher price ranges too… what is the point?

Anyway… he doesn’t say the glowforge will be terrible, he just says he wants to wait and see reviews. So at least he personally has a rational approach. But I think the tone of the article is more dismissive/negative than cautious.


#8

The first thing to note is that it was published on Sept 25, 2015. This was before the incredible pre-order campaign which minimizes some of his concerns, but more on that later.

His five bullet points, taken together, basically say, “this is the same marketing hype as every failed startup crowd-funded or not.” It is also the marketing hype of successful companies. But most importantly, except for the 3D thing, those points are absolutely necessary for any product that proposes to move something from the specialist realm to the consumer market place. Normally failure is the correct bet, but when the long shot comes to the wire first the following plays out. Every expert in a specialist field will tell you how it is impossible to move their specialty into the mass market. Then when it starts to happen some will defect, but those who remain strong will point out how the mass market version really sucks. More will defect as the offerings increase in capability and decrease in price, but those with an unshakeable faith will keep muttering. Then, one Mother’s Day, their grandmother shows them what they did in a few minutes that they spent thousands of hours learning. At this point they retire to a quiet place and weep for what the world has become.

What I take issue with is his statement that a BOM breakdown proves the glowforge is impossible. I considered this myself before I ordered that first morning. Molded plastic pieces that large can be quite expensive, but not BOM-busting expensive. The rest of the unit is a simplistic PCB with WiFi chip, some cabling, LED lighting, a couple of motors, some mirrors, some lenses, two imaging sensors, a power supply and a laser tube. The laser tube is, cost wise the biggest item, but online research would have shown glass tubes fit in the BOM. I’ve never dealt with a custom power supply or a high voltage one, but unless he has specialized knowledge here… My BOM estimate is that at $2k there isn’t a lot of margin. The Pro model at $3.5k (remember $500 is for the air filter) is essentially 1.5k of margin, so the mix is important. There is room here for caution, but a blanket statement that it is impossible is not warranted unless he has information he isn’t sharing.

Overall, what I take away from it is an engineering-centric attitude towards mass market CNC equipment. Sitting between engineering and customer needs I have to deal with this all the time. That attitude is important for an engineer to have, but it also needs to be taken with several grains of salt when applied to what is possible. Otherwise, his overall assessment of “wait and see” is rarely the wrong one when giving others advice. Most new things fail; that’s just playing the odds.

Which brings me back to the pre-order campaign. With $9 million in backing and a million or two of pre-orders, the risk was not inconsiderable. It is what I expected. My analysis was that the most likely outcome would have been that glowforge entered another round of funding and the founders ownership interests would be further diluted. As a customer, I don’t care who owns what percentage of the stock (until they’re wildly successful and a whole new set of threats could appear.) What happened, however, was $28 million in pre-ordered units plus $9 million in funding. This was not known when he wrote his opinion piece and it changes things dramatically. For one thing they can commit to larger quantities and that lowers the BOM cost. As the orders are public, their suppliers may be willing to extend terms a normal startup would not receive. They can hire more engineering staff and that reduces the technical risk of features. They can blow some money on a power supply and spend money on a second attempt without wondering where that money will come from. The risk is not reduced to zero, and risks that originate with being too successful suddenly arise, but overall a small mountain of money minimizes much of the skepticism of the critique. An eventuality that would have been foolish for him to postulate on Sept 25th.


#9

Because I want the lower price. Easy enough why I am not waiting.


#10

Thoughtful answers here. Let me know if there are any specific questions I can help with.


#11

I am very exited about the product, but concern about reliability concern that was raised in the article. so anything you can offer will be great. Thanks


#12

Welcome to the forum, @himehran2000! Here is one of many discussions about reliability that took place on the forums. The motors, the cameras and the controller boards should be no problem of reliability since that is a very mature market. The CO2 laser has a limited life span, but sourcing the Glowforge laser to be reliable was an important part of the project. The power supply was a big concern as to reliability and ability to power all the systems correctly flawlessly. Evidently a huge issue. Now that there is a public beta, the question of reliability is getting answered in the real world. I would imagine over the next few months that testing the systems out will give some great answers to your question. Everything I read here is that Glowforge wants to meet and exceed normal expectations of reliability for this type of consumer electronic.


#13

A broad “is it reliable” would be hard to answer for anyone about anything they are working on. So if you don’t mind a suggestion, find other forums or discussion groups (reddit/facebook) with people who own laser cutters already and are working with them in isolation (K40 owners mostly).

First off… useful for you to see what kind of things people make. But also you will see many posts about the problems people are having with the cheap lasers the author of this article compares the Glowforge to. Then you can ask more pointed questions for @dan and team to answer.

Like one fairly common problem with cheap laser cutters is motor/belt slippage (or missed steps). Your long and intricate job about halfway through suddenly shifts up/over a few centimeters, and now nothing is aligning properly. This is TERRIBLE if you are doing something like cutting 100 copies of a small token, and have already engraved the faces for 70 of them, but the CUTTING of the tokens happens last (so now those 70 already engraved tokens will not cut in the right position).

Asking how often the belts need tightened, the tracks need cleaned, or the motors replaced so that a 5 hour cut job will suffer no misalignment is a pretty pointed question which the glowforge team can answer, or at least state that it is something they will be testing in the coming months.