Materials & Uses
- What are Proofgrade™ materials?
- Do I need to buy Proofgrade™ materials for my Glowforge?
- Can I send you a sample project?
- What materials can Glowforge cut? Engrave?
- Can I engrave my phone, laptop, tablet, or eReader with my Glowforge?
- Are there any concerns preparing food with a Glowforge?
- What is the thickest material that Glowforge can cut?
- Can Glowforge cut metal?
- Can Glowforge engrave PCBs?
- Can Glowforge cut gold or silver?
Proofgrade™ materials are specially formulated for the Glowforge 3D laser printer and give you 1-click access to perfect settings and fuss-free prints. We offer bright, colorful acrylics, heirloom-grade hardwoods, plywoods, and veneers, and full-grain leathers sourced with the highest quality standards.
Take a look glowforge.com/materials for the full rundown on why we love Proofgrade and a list of available sizes, colors, and prices. You can also peruse the community forum for some great examples of what magical things people are making with Proofgrade.
Definitely not! Inventables sells a wide variety of material that they market as laser-compatible, and you can find a huge number of reliable suppliers of hardwoods, acrylics, paper, cardboard, and more both locally and online. Some plywoods can have glues that make them difficult to cut, and unknown plastics and other materials can be something other than they appear, so if you buy from other suppliers you'll need to do some research first to make sure they are laser-compatible. A Glowforge is like a microwave - putting the wrong material in can damage it.
Unfortunately we're not staffed right now to run samples or experiments for potential customers, so we can't give you a definitive answer about any specific materials or projects. If there is a local makerspace or shop that has a CO2 laser with a power of about 45 watts, you can test it there - if it works, it will work on a Glowforge.
Glowforge can cut wood, fabric, leather, paper, Plexiglas (acrylic), Delrin (acetal), mylar, rubber, fiberglass, Corian, foods, and more. Glowforge can also engrave all of the above plus glass, coated metal, marble, anodized aluminum, titanium, some phones, tablets, and laptops, and more.
We have a line of materials designed for use with the Glowforge printer, called Proofgrade materials. That includes hardwood, acrylic, plywood, leather, and more - and the list is growing all the time. We guarantee that prints on Proofgrade material always work. Note, however, that we can’t offer technical support for prints performed on other materials.
You can engrave many consumer electronics items - check with the manufacturer to see if yours is laser compatible. We have preset settings for some products, with more to come.
We’ve made some beautiful food experiments but this is mostly untested ground. Food can be made from a huge assortment of ingredients and we don’t know just what you might put in or what might happen. Outside of chocolate and seaweed (which we've tested), this is new science!
Note that you should purchase a Glowforge that is dedicated solely to food if you intend to consume the food.
Glowforge performs well with many materials 1/4" and less on a single pass. It can accommodate material as thick as 1/2", but may require multiple passes or flipping the material over. For engraving, you can remove the tray and insert objects as thick as 2”. It can then engrave the surface up to 0.5”, depending on the material.
Glowforge can etch some metals, like anodized aluminum, directly. Other metals, like stainless steel, work best if you spray them first with a product such as Cermark. This process discolors the metals but does not engrave them away, so the surface still feels smooth to the touch. Unfortunately the power levels of a desktop machine aren't quite enough to cut metal, so your best bet is laser cutting a template or jig, then using that as a guide for a blade or saw. You might also consider a Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine or X-Carve instead of buying a Glowforge. These are desktop CNC machines that can mill out soft metals. We want to be sure you get the right tool for what you need!
Because copper is reflective at the 10,600 nm wavelength of Glowforge, it doesn't work well for directly engraving PCBs. You can put resist on the board and use Glowforge to etch it away, though. That process is described here.
We're also big fans of the Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine. It's a CNC mill that's specially designed to mill PCBs. We want you to have the right machine, even if it's not ours!
Unfortunately, soft metals like gold, silver, brass, copper, and the like don't cut or engrave well. A high-powered YAG laser or fiber laser may be able to do it, or consider a product like Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine or Carvey that use a spinning bit to chip away at the material - both are excellent devices from friends of ours!