Materials & Uses

What are Proofgrade™ materials?

We wanted to make sure your Glowforge prints perfectly every time, so we developed a line of materials designed specifically for lasers, called Proofgrade™. We’ve commissioned custom plywood with laser-safe glue and no internal knots, top quality leather tanned without the use of harmful chemicals, and more. While your Glowforge will work with any laser-compatible materials, we’ve created these to offer the very best experience.

Proofgrade materials are not just the highest quality - they have special features designed just for your Glowforge. For example, you can draw directly on them. There’s a paper masking applied to the material, with a low-tack laser-compatible adhesive so it’s easy to remove. You may have seen the incredible tracing power of your Glowforge - not only can you design directly with a pen, you can cut the material in half just by drawing a line!

The paper masking also protects the material during the print process. It keeps the edges looking crisp and new so your print comes out perfectly. When you’re done, you just peel it off to reveal your perfect print underneath. Alternately, you can peel off some of it, and then paint the material before removing the rest - making it easy to add color and interest to your creation.

Best of all, the paper has embedded codes that your Glowforge can read. This is absolutely magical. You may have heard that with lasers, you have to cut and engrave test pieces over and over again to learn the right power and settings, and you have to do it separately every time you use a new material. As you’d imagine, that’s a frustrating, slow, and expensive process. Proofgrade materials do away with all of that. Your Glowforge recognizes the material, automatically configures itself, and prints perfectly.

Best of all, Proofgrade materials will be priced competitively with the same types of materials in stores.

Do I need to buy Proofgrade™ materials for my Glowforge?

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.

Can I send you a sample project?

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.

What materials can Glowforge cut? Engrave?

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, and more.

Can I engrave my phone, laptop, tablet, or eReader with my Glowforge?

If you insert the item and it’s identified by the Glowforge, it will tell you if it is engraveable. If it is not, then check with your manufacturer.

Are there any concerns preparing food with a Glowforge?

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.

What is the thickest material that Glowforge can cut?

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.

Can Glowforge cut metal?

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 an Othermill 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!

Can Glowforge engrave PCBs?

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 Othermill by Other Machine Co. 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!

Can Glowforge cut gold or silver?

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 Othermill or Carvey that use a spinning bit to chip away at the material - both are excellent devices from friends of ours!