The Glowforge is a laser cutter & engraver that uses a beam of light the width of a human hair to engrave, cut, and shape designs from a variety of materials including cardboard, wood, metal, acrylic, glass, fabric, and more. The combination of high pressure and heat from the laser allows the Glowforge to cut through its materials and create designs that can lay flat or connect together to create 3D objects. Features of Glow Forge include a live camera preview, 3D hi-resolution engraving, 3D autofocus, and the ability to design with a pen. The Glowforge is available for use by NAU students, staff, and faculty only. Users are required to pass a safety quiz before their Glowforge Studio reservations will be confirmed. Users must provide their own materials.
Or you can view the Glowforge Pro User Manual at the bottom of this section.
Using the Glowforge Safely
Improperly operating the Glowforge unit can cause fire, eye or skin injury from laser exposure, or exposure to chemicals that may be health hazards. These can result in serious injury or even death. Because of this, please follow these safety instructions:
In the event of any emergency or malfunction, unplug the power cord on the back of the unit.
Always turn on the air filter before use. To prevent smoke and fumes from escaping the unit, do not open the lid until the fans stop.
There may be some odor present while printing. However, if you detect a strong, sharp smell that also causes eyes, nose, or throat irritation, or if there is visible smoke escaping while the lid is closed, stop immediately and re-check the air filter and connected hose.
Never leave the Glowforge unit unattended while operating – either when it’s paused and ready to print (with the button flashing) or while it’s actually printing (with the button on). Always stay within sight and look inside frequently; any damaged will be your responsibility.
Do not put anything inside the Glowforge that is not laser compatible. Only use the approved materials listed below (see next section).
Do not touch the head or arm of the Glowforge while it is powered on. If you do so, turn it off, then back on again to prevent damage.
Do not stack materials; for example attempting to cut two or more sheets of material at a time. Multiple sheets are more likely to burn.
Do not leave anything on, or around the Glowforge. This is especially true of objects or flammable liquids that may catch fire.
Always allow prints to cool for a few minutes before handling them. Many materials may remain hot for a few minutes after cutting.
A small, candle-like flame where the laser beam strikes the material is normal. This flame should move with the laser and should not remain lit when the laser has moved past.If there is a lasting flame that does not extinguish when the laser has moved past:
Pull the plug on the back of the unit.
If it is safe to do so, extinguish the fire with a wet towel. Full water will damage the Glowforge.
If a wet towel is not an option, extinguish the fire with the fire extinguisher located next to the Student Technology Center.
If the fire cannot be safely extinguished or if it spreads outside the Glowforge, pull the fire alarm and call 911.
Using Approved Materials
For safety reasons, the Glowforge Laser Cutter can only cut and engrave materials approved by the manufacturer. In addition, these materials must be CO2 laser compatible. You can view and verify available materials by visiting glowforge.com/materials or Inventables.com. Please note:
Not all materials will work in the Glowforge:
If you aren’t completely sure that your material is laser-compatible, do not put it in the Glowforge unit.
Some materials look similar to laser-compatible materials, but are different. For example, vinyl can be mistaken for some laser-compatible materials but emits harmful smoke and fumes.
Materials may have contaminants, coatings, or additives that are not laser-compatible. For example, certain plywood glues, inks, adhesives, dyes, and paints may not be laser-compatible.
Some materials can reflect the laser and damage the Glowforge unit. For example, copper and chrome can reflect the infrared laser light.
Materials must be an appropriate size:
Materials that do not fit properly may obstruct operation and result in damage and increased risk of fire. Materials must be no more than 21 in (53.3 c m) wide and must not be so long as to touch the end of the Glowforge unit. Material must be less than ½ in (1.2 c m) tall if the crumb tray is in, or less than 2 in (5.0 c m) tall if it is removed.
Materials must remain flat:
Materials must be flat so they rest on the crumb tray.
Material must never double back on itself, for example curling up.
Do not place rolled-up material in the Glowforge. It may be too tall, or unroll during printing, obstructing operation.
While a bulge is acceptable, for example from warped wood, the highest point of the material may not extend more than ½ in (1.2 c m).
Should material curl or bend so it reaches more than ½ in (1.2 c m) during a print, turn off the power immediately.
Approved materials for cutting & engraving:
Approved materials for engraving only:
* Users with paper-based projects may want to consider using the MakerLab's Cricut cutter instead.
Finding a Design
Here are a few sites where you can find or create a design for the laser cutter:
Choose a pre-uploaded design in the Glowforge account.
Creating a Design
You can create a design for the Glowforge using any vector artwork creator. The following instructions* use Adobe Illustrator, which is available on the Cline Library's PCs and iMacs in the Studios, as well as on the iMac in the Glowforge Studio.
Use strokes for cuts and scores. Cuts go all the way through your material, while scores are thin engraved lines. Stroke width does not matter for the Glowforge. You don’t have (much) control over how thick your score line is, so if you want something wider, use an engrave instead (see point 2 below). To tell the Glowforge to cut or score, make sure there is a stroke color selected, but an empty (NOT white) fill. You can tell the difference by the red line used to mark an empty selection.
Use fills for engraves. Set a fill color to tell the Glowforge where to engrave. Make sure your stroke is empty if you want to only engrave an area. To both engrave and cut out a shape, set a fill AND a stroke color.
Make each step a different color. Let’s say you’re making a file that includes cut lines, score lines, and two different depths of engraving. To let the Glowforge know that your scores shouldn’t be cut, and engrave 2 should be lighter than engrave 1, simply make them different colors. The Glowforge will ‘read’ different colors as different steps. In fact, if you want to get technical about it, you can even choose colors in a particular order to have the Glowforge automatically place the steps in order, but I don’t bother with this since re-ordering steps in the Glowforge user interface is so easy (just click and drag them).
Convert your text to outlines and unite the letters. The Glowforge can’t read text, so you have to convert the text into strokes or fills so that it will know what to do. Select the text, right click, and select Create Outlines. Then, especially if you’re using a script font, you need to use the Pathfinder panel to unite your letters. Script fonts include a little overlap between letters so that words don’t look disjointed. If you don’t unite the letters, those overlaps will either cut out too (so you’ll have tiny pieces and not a smooth, attached word) or will not engrave (overlapping engraves in the same step will cancel out).
Save as an SVG. It’s important to use Save As rather than Export or Save, and select SVG 1.0. It’s also important to turn OFF Responsiveness (uncheck the box) so that your file stays the same size when it’s uploaded to the Glowforge User Interface.
*Instructions courtesy of Jacquelyn Kyle from the Fable Tree.
Preparing a Design
All of your projects using the Glowforge will need to be processed through the Glowforge App, which is a browser-based program.
You can access the Glowforge app at App.Glowforge.com. You will see the dashboard, which has all of the Cline Library's designs plus other designs that Glowforge has provided for free. These are great projects for beginners and for your first cut.
The catalog has hundreds of different designs. Some of them are included with Glowforge premium and others you have to pay for in order to get them. If you don’t know where to start, this is a great place to do so!
When you are ready to do a design, you can either simply click on a design, click on a previously printed design, or click “create” in the top left of the dashboard. You will be prompted with three different options:
New blank design - used to create a new design using the Glowforge app.
Upload design - used if you have a design you created in another program.
Capture from camera - used if you have something that you want to scan into the Glowforge – such as a picture, or a drawing.
In the top right corner, it should tell you that your machine is connected. If it does not, make sure the Glowforge is turned on.
If you want to add artwork – either from the Glowforge vector collection or from your computer, you’ll select the big “+” in the top middle of the screen. Here, you can browse the vectors or upload an image from your computer.
Once you’ve added a design, it will show up on the screen and show you where it would be in your Glowforge.
On the left side, the image/element will show up as well. You can click on “enter settings” to put whether you want it engrave, cut, score, or, if it’s something you don’t want at all, you can click ignore.
You will encounter three different types of settings that your Glowforge can use when creating a design. They are similar but have subtle differences, so it’s important to be aware of those as you are selecting the right one for your project.
Cut - cuts all the way through your material using the laser. It’s high power than engraving and scoring – you will likely see more smoke with this. It works along lines.
Engrave - Bitmap images can only be engraved. It works by moving the head back and forth and side to side. It goes between the edges of a specific path or on a dot pattern, and it darkens a filled shape. It can do straight lines, but it is done in a different way than scoring because it goes back and forth. This tends to take longer.
Score - works with single line vectors, and they always draw lines. It’s basically a lower power cut that is designed not to cut all the way through like a cut setting.