Will not prepare designs

I received my unit yesterday and was able to produce a couple smaller engraves and cuts, but it seems that trying to cut or engrave anything large or complex is causing the process hang on ‘preparing your design’ for a very long time then kicking me back to the interface with no error message or anything.

This brings to light a much bigger problem, though… the ‘cloud’ saas concept is just broken. What happens to this machine when GF goes under? Why gimp the machine to require constant internet access (and accept all of the complexity and drawbacks associated with having to batch things out etc)? What’s the upside of this? Most machines that use a ‘web-based’ interface just serve it locally. Why isn’t this an option? It seems like a no-brainer. Will it ever be? Seems silly to intentionally hamstring the machine that way.

In any case, if it’s going to be so strictly locked down then the sole offering has to work. Every time, regardless of how big or complex the file is. We don’t have the option of just using better software. Very frustrating. Please advise how (if it’s even possible) to process large and complex files without rasterizing them first.

the latest file i’ve attempted is the marvel engrave from the free section, but i cant see how to attach it here. it’s just the file from the other thread (pre-converted to svg by a member). the same file works if i scale it down a bunch. it just chokes once it’s scaled to actual size.

Sorry if i come off as frustrated, but i am. Such a silly, artificial limitation with real, immediate and material drawbacks and no apparent upside to the end user…

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The cloud situation isn’t going to change. But you can use whatever “better” software you like to create your files - you’re not limited to any one design program.

I actually like to suggest the following tutorials to get new users up and running quickly. Taking the time to read through them (they’re short) speeds up understanding of how the process works, and really reduces that frustration factor. :smile:

Here you go:

Then if you want to get started doing your own stuff quickly, the Matrix has a lot of tutorials and video links showing the best of the tips and tricks:

For using the Glowforge:

For Using Photoshop, GIMP and Paintshop:

For using Illustrator, Inkscape, CorelDRAW and Affinity Designer:

For using Fusion 360, OnShape, Openscad, Rhino, etc.

Have fun!


The files in the Free section have no implied warranty or guarantee of working.

Ignoring the rant about the GF being cloud-dependent (which you knew beforehand, right?), it’s a lot easier to give advice on making something work if you actually provide details on what you’re doing.

Lots of vector files aren’t made very well.

What material are you using?

What settings are you trying to use?

Even if everything was being served locally - why would that change a single thing about what you’re doing? If it doesn’t want to process the file for whatever reason, a local installation wouldn’t help. The error reporting needs some work. Everyone here pretty much agrees on that.


I’m not referring to design software. Of course there are plenty of options for design software that can generate an svg. I mean the actual control software that drives the machine.

Yes, I knew it was cloud-based. I also assumed it’d work with any proper file and have something approaching feature parity with other options. But you’re right… i shouldn’t rant. It’s just silly… the hardware is amazing and you break it’s leg on purpose. I guess there is some business case for why that’s a good idea, but it’s definitely not ‘because it’s good for the end user’. You can just have both (online and locally served) if you must. But yes i apologize for the rant… it’s just maddening lol.

The material i’m using is Proofgrade plywood. It doesn’t even get that far though… it just hangs on ‘preparing your design’ for arond 10-15 minutes or so then kicks back to the main interface with no error or anything. The same file will engrave fine if i scale it down in the glowforge UI. It’s engraving beautifully right now… just half-sized :).

Your design is sent to a cloud service that translates vector and raster data into a set of stepper motor waveforms which is downloaded to your Glowforge and which plays back that waveform (pulsing the steppers and laser power in the order and timing specified).

There are currently limitations on how much complexity that the cloud service can compute over as well as limitations on how big of a waveform file can be produced. It amounts to about 3 1/2 hours of Glowforge run time. If the produced result will take longer than that, it’ll fail to run.

Sometimes you’ll get an error message to that effect. Unfortunately, for your user experience, it takes the cloud a while to decide that the result will be too big and even longer if understanding the input svg has some complexity (lots of nodes).

In many cases, you won’t get an error message at all, making it difficult to figure out what needs to be changed about the input to get the desired result. (In my opinion, this looks like the software has “timeout” errors that aren’t reported to the user since “timeout error” would be about as inexplicable as the dialog going away.)

The error reporting could clearly be better and the software could be made to handle large jobs in parts. I believe both improvements are “in the hopper”.

There are tutorials for breaking a large raster image into smaller tiles manually while we’re waiting for the GFUI to add an automatic way to chunk up large jobs.

As an aside, I would point out that both of those failures are not inherent in the cloud model. You can make both frustrating limitations happen in a locally served web app.

Having the algorithm (vector to waveform) in the cloud has the theoretical advantage for the user of seamless upgrade to the best version and the benefit for the company of keeping it as a proprietary advantage without silly copy protection schemes that don’t work anyway. And at the same time, they’ll be able to give away an open source firmware without giving away pieces they’d like to keep proprietary (also theoretically at this point).

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To be fair, having to potentially timeout in the first place is a limitation of the cloud model… it could run on my computer (or even a little embedded ARM board like a BBBlack or something) for as long as it needed to without bothering anyone but me. Also, remotely updating software is a solved problem, and ‘open’ doesn’t mean ‘open source’. Just let the thing accept gcode (or publish the gf equivalent) and let the community get to town with solutions. Anyway, let’s just forget I ever mentioned that … not gonna change because I complain about it :).

is there a file size that is ‘too complex’, or is it arbitrary or based on server load or something? should i be trying to limit files to <x kb? perhaps there is a way to minimize complexity without effecting the output much (something like the ‘tolerance’ param in F360 CAM)?

Thanks for the help! I love this machine, just trying to figure out how to work around the software limitations.

Mostly based on engrave time. Currently the GF doesn’t reload it’s internal buffer to allow long engraves. No reason why it couldn’t other than the complexity of ensuring a smooth transition.

Engraves are limited to something greater than 3 hours at this time.

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For what it’s worth, I downloaded the Marvel design and it… could use some work from a laser perspective. I see the OP ended up converting it to PNG/raster to do his engraving.

No idea how you’re trying to process it, if you’re trying to score it… if you’re trying to engrave it, etc.

The file has over 90,000 points, and it has 1,820 paths. None of those paths are closed.

I was using the preprocessed file offered by a user on the forum, not the original. It engraves the majority and then just cuts a circle around the engraving. It didn’t have any issue at smaller sizes, but it’ll choke anything much larger than half the original scale. The engrave job itself only took around 20-30 minutes at the smaller scale.

If it’s a time/buffer limitation it would seem that rasterizing wouldn’t help? Is it just not possible to run the machine for more than that contiguous block of time (whatever it may be)? I’d imagine engraving something like a huge image would be the only thing that’s ever take that long anyway…


What LPI are you using? Oftentimes a lower LPI still looks really good and can drop the total time below the threshold.

As one of the few people trying to blaze that path, I’m starting to have my doubts that there will be much a developer community around this product.


i was using ‘sd engrave’ proofgrade defaults. on an unrelated note, the only other issue i’ve had since i’ve gotten the machine is that i tried ‘hd engrave’ on some walnut hardwood and it barely burnt through the paper (same file, scaled down to quarter size as a test). tried it again later on acrylic with a slightly larger one and it worked fine.

i’d imagine the solution for now would be to split the file and just do two separate operations. maybe add a ‘none’ operation type alongside ‘engrave’, ‘cut’ etc in the ui such that you could do it without moving anything around, just flip the operations in the configuration and run it again.

I see a few in there. One, I see where “Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities” was left on. That’s a sure fire way to cause SVG processing issues, or used to be (I’m guessing it still is). All anyone is doing is guessing because we don’t know what file was used or what settings were used on what material, or the actual size of the engrave, etc.

The current job buffer is storage limited to somewhere around 100mb, IIRC, which equates to about a 3.5 hour run time.

Another factor, and this is a software deal… is that it can take a minute or two sometimes after a complex SVG is loaded for all of the parts to actually render. I’m not sure exactly what to call that step… basically, you upload a file and it loads into the UI, but behind the scenes, it is still processing the data. You can actually watch it process the data if you hover over a job operation (that has settings applied) - you’ll see things changing colors. If it all changes colors (from pink to teal), it’s all loaded and processed. Unfortunately, it allows a user to hit the print button before all of that data is processed and sometimes prints can come out incomplete because the button was pressed before all of the data was processed. They are aware of this.

As I mentioned above, the material and settings used can and do make a difference. But without knowing some of the details, we can not know if you having a processing issue with the file itself or if you’ve exceeding the buffer, etc.

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I often find the draft settings more than sufficient for most projects and haven’t run into the 3.5 hour limit yet. Was the HD engrave with a bitmap or a vector? I just did one with a vector and it burned well into the wood. I have run into issues when using bitmaps and them not getting through the masking. I also know that the HD engrave setting automatically does convert to dots for bitmaps and often the dots don’t make it through the masking. An option would be to use vary power instead and/or potentially remove the masking for the engrave. Just some food for thought.

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Yesterday while I was doing a 2 hour job (over 3 hours with the stops to cool down) Microsoft came in and rebooted my machine (even though I had rebooted it earlier the night before) I was quite upset that the cut was ruined but even though I had no access to the machine it finished the job on its own.

It has been my understanding that the entire cut file is sent to the machine so it can continue even if WIFI is lost after it starts.

Thanks for all the tips! I think the hd engrave issue may have been because the file was scaled down so small (the marvel vector scaled down to about the size of a quarter). Not sure if it matters or not, but the second try worked just fine a little larger :/.

Thank you, everyone, for all your help. @jmartin2683, I’m so sorry you ran into trouble. We’re working on improving our ability to handle large engraves more reliably. When we say your engrave is large, we really mean that it will take a long time to print. When your Glowforge prints an engrave, the head moves back and forth, line by line, like a inkjet printer. If the design is physically large or if you set your print to have a high LPI, the print will take longer, because the head needs to move further to finish the print. I don’t have exact numbers on size or print time for you, but I hope that helps a little.

If your design includes a large engrave, you have two choices. You can reduce the size of your print in the app by signing in, selecting your file, clicking on your image, and then dragging a corner towards the center of the image to make it smaller, which you mentioned having done successfully. Alternatively, you can divide your image into pieces and print them one at a time, as shown below.

  1. Split your image into pieces
  • Save your design as a PNG file
  • Go to imagesplitter.net and upload your file
  • Click on the “SPLIT IMAGE” tab and enter the number of rows and columns you want to split your image into
  • Choose PNG
  • Click the blue “SPLIT IMAGE” button. The software will split your image into the number of rows and columns you specify and automatically download a zipped file of the pieces.
  1. Create a single file with all the pieces
  • Locate the file on your computer (where your downloads go) and unzip it
    • Mac: Double click on the file to open it
    • Windows: Double click on the file to open it, then click “Extract All”
  • Open a new file in Inkscape (used for this example, although other software will work too)
  • Choose File > Import and select all the images from the zip file
  • Line up the images up so they are seamless. In Inkscape, when you drag the images near each other, they will snap together. (If they don’t, go to View > Show/Hide > Snap Controls Bar and adjust the settings.)
  • Select File > Save As and save the file as an Inkscape SVG file
  1. Upload and Print
  • Sign in to app.glowforge.com, click “Upload” and choose the file you saved.
  • Each piece of artwork will import as a step in the app. Click on a step and choose “Ignore.” Ignore all the steps but one, and then press “Print.”
  • When that print finishes, leave your material in place
  • Without moving your design in the app Workspace, set the step you printed to “Ignore” and print another step
  • Continue ignoring and printing until you’ve finished

Regarding your concerns about our cloud service, should something happen to us, the firmware is flashable by the owner. You can read a bit more about this here: https://glowforge.com/blog/we-ll-release-a-gpl-licensed-firmware-for-glowforge/

Could you please try out the suggestions above and let me know if you’re able to engrave the design at a larger size?

It’s been a little while since I’ve seen any replies on this thread so I’m going to close it. If you still need help with this please either start a new thread or email support@glowforge.com.