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 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.)


We have a few safety checklists, separated by time, that keep you and other members in the space safe.

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:‚Äč

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 Calendly and/or the Google Calendar (the two are connected). Those who have reserved time have the right to kick people off the machine (politely, of course).

Short Cuts (<30 mins)

For cut times less than 30 minutes, no reservation is necessary. The one rule for these short cuts is don't be a jerk. Jerk behaviors might include: hogging the machine when others are waiting and when you both have minimal setup time, reserving the machine while someone else is on it to kick them off, passive aggressively glaring at someone using the machine when you want to be using it.

Longer Cuts (>=30 mins)

Cut times over 30 minutes, or cuts requiring significant setup time, have to be reserved. Reservations are made in 1 hour increments through the Calendly link below. Only outreach and classes can reserve time during peak hours, such as late afternoons during the week and midday on the weekends. This also means that there shouldn't be long cuts during peak times. After 5 minutes, no shows forfeit their entire reservations. Time cannot be reserved more than a week in advance. This is because people are likely to forget.

Because this wiki is public, it's not possible for us to list the private links to the reservation utility and calendar here. Please ask other Decatur Makers Glowforge users in person, email [email protected], or look at the pins on the Decatur Makers #laser slack channel for the link.

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.)