Decatur Makers Wiki

Glowforge Laser Cutter/Engraver

Using the Glowforge

The Glowforge is our laser cutter/engraver, located in the back of the space near the e-shop. You must take the Decatur Makers Glowforge Safety Check class before you may use the Glowforge.
Here's the introductory Glowforge video that shows you what the machine can do (and was instrumental in raising all that cash.)


Before operation, make sure to follow the procedures outlined below and reference the Glowforge Safety Check Handout
Before turning on
  • Check that the ventilation hose is connected to both the Glowforge and the vent to the outside.
  • Open the blast gate
  • Check that the double doors to the outside are closed.
  • Check that the pass-through guards are in place
During operation
  • Make sure your material is from the list of approved materials.
  • Never leave a cut unattended!
After you are finished
  • Turn the Glowforge off.
  • Disconnect the ventilation from the outside.

Getting Access

You must take the Glowforge class before you can use our Glowforge. After you have taken the class, you'll be given your own login to access the Glowforge User Interface.
The calendar of classes is here: Link
If you haven't taken the class, you could still potentially use the machine by getting someone with a login to help you on an Open Build Night. You'll have significantly more luck getting help if you already have a file properly designed and formatted.

Reservation System

It's your responsibility to be aware of when the machine is reserved through our Equipment Reservation Calendar located at the bottom of the Member Portal Page. Those who have reserved time have priority and the right to ask people get off the machine (politely, of course). After 5 minutes, no shows forfeit their entire reservations. Time can only be reserved several hours in advance to prevent snap reservations.

Short Cuts (<30 mins)

For cut times less than 30 minutes, no reservation is necessary.

Longer Cuts (>=30 mins)

Cut times over 30 minutes, or cuts requiring significant setup time, should be reserved.

Tips and Tricks

For a better understanding of how to design for the Glowforge, including the differences between raster and vector images, please take a look at this pdf: Laser Design Basics.
The Glowforge Community is an active group of Glowforge users who post everything from tips and tricks to project files. The Tips & Tricks section, in particular, is a rich source of information once you understand the basics. If you're new to the Glowforge, the Official Tutorial Thread is a good starting point.


The official Glowforge cleaning manual describes general clean-up instructions as well as regular maintenance. The instructions recommend laser and glass cleaning after every 40 print hours as well as mirror maintenance after every 120 print hours.
There is a clear bin under the left side of the GF table which holds Zeiss wipes, the lens tool, and anything else needed/approved for cleaning. Do not spray anything in/on the GF. Allow time to dry before use. If you leave after cleaning, leave a note allowing others to know/judge when it will be safe to use.

Cool Laser Stuff

Living Hinges

From wikipedia: A living hinge is a thin flexible hinge (flexure bearing) made from the same material as the two rigid pieces it connects, rather than cloth, leather, or some other flexible substance. It is typically thinned or cut to allow the rigid pieces to bend along the line of the hinge. The minimal friction and very little wear in such a hinge makes it useful in the design of microelectromechanical systems, and the low cost and ease of manufacturing makes them quite common in disposable packaging.
ReidB has a plugin to add to Inkscape in order to create your living hinges.


The Glowforge is our Laser Cutter/Engraver that was acquired by Decatur Makers around Christmas 2017. It was a crowd-sourced product that raised $27M in 30 days. DM jumped in during the initial offering but it took years longer than was promised to receive the product. It is one of our most popular tools to have at our space (and it is also a very good case study in marketing/branding/venture capping.)
Here's the introductory Glowforge video that shows you what the machine can do (and was instrumental in raising all that cash.)
(Here's also a very good analysis of the viral marketing tools that Glowforge used.)