Non-Proofgrade® Materials FAQ


Glowforge Performance Series Performance Series Glowforge AuraAura

 

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions and topics about printing on non-Proofgrade® materials.

Can You Advise On Settings For Non-Proofgrade® Materials?
Will Using Non-Proofgrade® Materials Void My Warranty?
Can I print on...?
Acrylic
Aluminum
Cardboard
Ceramic
Delrin
Fabric
Firearms
Foam
Food
Galvanized metals
Glass
Larger objects (Such as a mug, wine bottle, softball)
Leather
MacBook or iPhone
Mirror
Paper
Plywood
PVC
Rubber
Slate
Soft Metals
Stone/Rocks
T-Shirts
Vinyl stickers
Wood

 

Can You Advise On Settings For Non-Proofgrade® Materials? 

Unfortunately, we can't provide settings guidance for non-Proofgrade® materials.

Whatever material you're considering, to print safely you first need to know that it's laser-compatible. This can be tricky: for example, many plastics look alike, and some plywood is made with glue that isn't laser-compatible. You need to contact the manufacturer, inspect their safety data sheet (SDS), and/or consult an expert to determine if each material is compatible with the CO2 laser inside the Glowforge.

You may find advice about materials in the Beyond the Manual section of the Glowforge Community Forum. Note, however, that advice in this section is unsupported and is not reviewed by Glowforge.

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Will Using Non-Proofgrade® Materials Void My Warranty? 

Using non-Proofgrade® materials does not void your warranty. However, if using those materials damages your Glowforge, the damage is not be covered under the warranty.

The full details of the warranty are available at https://glowforge.com/warranty.

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Can I print on...?

Glowforge creators often ask us what materials they can use. The short answer is that there are a lot of options, but please note, while many materials are laser compatible (including many (but not all) woods, plastics, leathers, and papers) you still have to take care with what you use.

Using the wrong materials damage your Glowforge or harm to you or others. For example, some leather is processed with non-laser-compatible chemicals.

To simplify the process, we created the Proofgrade® line of laser-compatible materials, which are extensively tested for safety. Designed specifically for Glowforge, these high-quality wood, leather, acrylic, and other materials include protective masking to prevent char. They automatically print with expertly determined settings to provide the best print every time.   

So, while we support our Proofgrade® materials and will happily help you get the best from them, we can't speak to the safety and reliability of other materials. 

We always recommend that you contact the manufacturer, inspect their safety data sheet (SDS), and/or consult an expert to determine if each material is compatible with the CO2 laser inside the Glowforge. You can read more about materials safety in the manual at glowforge.com/manual.

Now that we've explained some of the considerations to keep in mind while choosing materials, let's talk about specific materials.

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Acrylic

Glowforge creators regularly use acrylic to create awards, storage boxes, decorations, and edge-lit lights. Take a look!  

 A lot of plastics look the same and may not be laser-compatible. You should always contact the manufacturer, inspect their safety data sheet (SDS), and/or consult an expert to determine if the acrylic is compatible with the CO2 laser inside the Glowforge.

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Aluminum

We regularly see Glowforge owners engrave on anodized aluminum. The process discolors the metal but does not engrave it away, so the surface still feels smooth to the touch. 

Here are a few amazing prints to look at:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/aluminum-business-cards/27016

https://community.glowforge.com/t/im-loving-anodized-aluminum/12490/1

https://community.glowforge.com/t/pre-painted-aluminum-sign-blank/11394

https://community.glowforge.com/t/anodized-aluminum-keychains/16288 

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Cardboard

Glowforge creators print on cardboard and matte board all the time! The Glowforge app contains presets for both 1/8" Corrugated Cardboard and 5/32" Corrugated Cardboard in the materials selector.

You can see some examples and community discussion by following these links: 

https://community.glowforge.com/search?q=cardboard

https://community.glowforge.com/search?q=matte%20board

https://community.glowforge.com/search?q=chipboard

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Ceramic

We haven't heard of people cutting ceramic, but we have seen lots of ceramic engraving, and it's beautiful. You can see some examples here:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/ceramic-tile/87/4

https://community.glowforge.com/t/ceramic-tile-award-plaque/24891

https://community.glowforge.com/t/so-i-did-a-tile/24631

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Delrin

Glowforge owners regularly print on Acetal, including Delrin. Here are a couple of neat prints to check out:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/building-robots/29864

https://community.glowforge.com/t/first-paying-job-for-the-glowforge/12215

https://community.glowforge.com/t/delrin-leather-stamp/14256

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Fabric

Glowforge creators work with fabric a lot. Here are a few favorites to check out:

Quilting: https://community.glowforge.com/t/quilting-applique/24257

Felt: https://community.glowforge.com/t/more-coasters-in-felt-17th-project/24818

Canvas - engrave: https://community.glowforge.com/t/canvas-pet-portraits/27971/19

Canvas - cut: https://community.glowforge.com/t/art-canvas-cutting/25917

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Firearms

Our creators print on firearms from time to time. You can see some examples below:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/perfect-match/29030

https://community.glowforge.com/t/engraving-ar-mag/17159

Glowforge can engrave on items up to two (2) inches thick and can engrave on many materials, including anodized aluminum, acrylics, and some polymer plastics. In combination with a pre-treatment, it can mark many other metals, so it depends on the materials of your firearm and where on it you plan to engrave.

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Foam

Many Glowforge owners print on different kinds of foam, including EVA foam. PEVA, or just EVA, is a soft and flexible plastic sometimes used instead of rubber.

Here are come really neat prints:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/in-progress-halloween-costume-out-of-eva-foam/13575

https://community.glowforge.com/t/foam-swords/22630

https://community.glowforge.com/t/kaizen-eva-foam-pelican-case-for-drone/33486

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Food

We’ve made some beautiful food experiments but this is mostly untested ground. Food can be made from a wide variety of ingredients and we can't predict what might happen. Outside of chocolate and seaweed (which we've tested), this is new science!

You should have a Glowforge dedicated solely to food if you intend to eat the food afterward.

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Galvanized metals 

While you can use many types of metal in your Glowforge, unfortunately, galvanized metals are not laser-compatible. When cut or engraved, they can release hazardous gases and damage your Glowforge.

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Glass

Glowforge creators regularly engrave glass; you can see some examples as well as discussion from our community about it here.

Here are a couple favorites:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/still-working-on-glass/12308 https://community.glowforge.com/t/engraved-shotglasses/32148

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Larger objects (Such as a mug, wine bottle, softball)

Unfortunately, even with the crumb tray removed, you cannot engrave anything with a height greater than two (2) inches.

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Leather

Glowforge creators make beautifully engraved leather journals, purses, and even pet collars! Take a look!

You can go further and create gorgeous, burnished edges that look like designer creations, too.

Be careful, though, because some leather is processed with chemicals that aren’t laser-compatible.

  • Vegetable or Veg tanned leather is processed using tannins extracted from vegetables
  • Chrome tanned is processed using chromium which could be released during the Glowforge printing process and create hazardous smoke and fumes.
  • Oil-tanned leather isn’t tanned with oil; it is usually chrome-tanned leather with oil added for weather protection

In addition, some dyes may have toxic chemicals that could be released during the printing process and create hazardous smoke and fumes.

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MacBook or iPhone

Our community members have done some fantastic engraves on iPhones and MacBook Pros. In fact, we have beta settings in the Glowforge App for several iPhone 7s and for the Silver MacBook Pro.

Here are a few examples:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/iphone-7-plus-engraving/18261

https://community.glowforge.com/t/iphone-8-engrave-duh-duh-dunnnn/19656

https://community.glowforge.com/t/macbook-etching/18010

Since etching your device lasts forever, this is entirely at your own risk. Things can go wrong. The engraving might not look like you expect, and it could void the warranty of your device. Proceed with caution. 

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Mirror

Glowforge owners have done amazing things engraving both glass and acrylic mirrors. Here are a few excellent examples:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/mirror-mirror-on-the-well-in-my-glowforge/12127/10

https://community.glowforge.com/t/engraving-mirrors/27690/12

This next one is mirrored acrylic:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/mirror-and-a-mirror/24071

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Paper

Glowforge creators regularly print on paper, from custom wedding invitations to lightboxes. The Glowforge app contains presets for both 20 lb Copy Paper and 80lb Cardstock in the materials selector.

Take a look: https://glowforge.com/discover/paper

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Plywood

People regularly use plywood in their Glowforge. However, some plywood contains glue that isn't laser-compatible. Check with the manufacturer to make sure the plywood is laser-safe.

Here are a few examples of great prints done on plywood:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/meteorite-display-light-box/26771

https://community.glowforge.com/t/first-few-hours/26528

https://community.glowforge.com/t/eagle-scout/26539/11

https://community.glowforge.com/t/makecnc-allosaurus/26837

https://community.glowforge.com/t/decision-maker-or-adult-fidget-spinner/26713

https://community.glowforge.com/t/teddy-bear-counters-box-replacing-an-oldie/10833

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PVC

Your Glowforge works with many materials, but vinyl isn't laser-compatible. When cut or engraved, vinyl can release hazardous gases that can hurt you and damage your Glowforge.

If you’re interested in hard plastic, we recommend acrylic as a substitute for vinyl. Acrylic is inexpensive, beautiful, cuts and engraves well, and come in many colors.

If you’re looking for a flexible fabric, some customers have reported success with https://www.stahls.com/heat-transfer-material-thermo-film, but we haven’t tested it ourselves.

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Rubber

Glowforge owners print on rubber, for rubber stamps and other artistic endeavors, too. Rubber works well in your Glowforge, as long as it's natural rubber. 

Here's a great example of a rubber stamp: https://community.glowforge.com/t/another-rubber-stamp/26986

Because rubber varies from supplier to supplier, you'd need to experiment with settings to find what works best.

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Slate

Glowforge creators regularly print on slate, producing some truly beautiful projects.

Here are some examples:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/underwater-garden-plant-tag-on-slate-i-love-slate-now/30617

https://community.glowforge.com/t/updated-slate-coasters-and-some-other-slate-antics/15038

https://community.glowforge.com/t/video-tutorial-how-to-design-and-make-a-slate-coaster-with-your-glowforge/17110

https://community.glowforge.com/t/lets-change-the-slate/37463/11

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Soft Metals

Unfortunately, soft metals such as gold, silver, brass, copper 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 the Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine or Carvey - both excellent devices from friends of ours!

While you can use some types of metal, unfortunately, materials that reflect laser light are not laser-compatible. Copper and chrome can reflect the infrared laser light, which can be hazardous to people and damage your Glowforge. 

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Stone/Rocks

We've seen a lot of Glowforge projects that use rocks, with some beautiful results!

Here are a few:

https://community.glowforge.com/t/experimenting-with-rocks/18731

https://community.glowforge.com/t/etching-rocks/20608

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T-Shirts

Glowforge creators have definitely experimented with designs on t-shirts, although we don't know of any that are directly cutting or engraving.

Here's a neat example: 

https://community.glowforge.com/t/bleach-shirts-with-freezer-paper-stencils-etched-on-the-glowforge/33676

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Vinyl stickers

While you can use many types of plastics in your Glowforge, unfortunately, vinyl isn't laser-compatible. You can still use laser-compatible sticker sheets, though! 

Here are some great examples: 

https://community.glowforge.com/t/glass-pebbles-and-polyester-stickers/9121

https://community.glowforge.com/t/want-vinyl-stickers-but-poison-corrosive-gases-got-you-down-polyester-to-the-rescue/26371

https://community.glowforge.com/t/simple-stickers/34761

https://community.glowforge.com/t/the-optimists-report-craft-foam-stickers-settings/11441

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Wood

Printing on wood works well for maps, customized cutting boards, gift tags, shelves, even doorbell covers! Take a look!

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