Non-Proofgrade™ Materials FAQ

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Can You Advise On Settings For Non-Proofgrade Materials? 

With regards to printing on materials provided by other vendors, unfortunately, we cannot provide guidance for settings.

If you want to see if the community has suggestions about materials and/or material settings, you can post in Beyond the Manual. Note however that advice in this section is unsupported and is not reviewed by Glowforge.

Lastly, if you are considering printing on materials from another source, you'll need to determine if the material is 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 unit.

 

Will Using Non-Proofgrade Materials Void My Warranty? 

Using materials that are not Proofgrade™ materials does not void your warranty, but if there is a problem with your materials that damages your Glowforge, the damage caused by your materials would not be covered under the warranty.

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

 

Can I Print On...

Below is a list of materials our customers frequently ask us about. 

Please note: There are a wide variety of materials that are laser compatible, including many (but not all) woods, plastics, leathers, and papers. Like a microwave, though, you have to be careful what you put inside. 

Using the wrong materials can cause damage to your Glowforge or harm to you or others. For example, some leather is processed with chemicals that aren’t laser-compatible. To make it simple, we created the Proofgrade™ line of laser-compatible materials. They're extensively tested for safety and print beautifully every time.

Our Proofgrade™ materials are high-quality wood, leather, acrylic, and other materials, designed specially for your Glowforge to ensure you achieve the most reliable print quality each time. They come with protective masking to ensure your materials are finished perfectly after cutting and engraving. Char, or bits of black debris, is worst when the settings don't precisely match the material. Our Proofgrade™ materials are encoded with expertly determined settings, so there is very little char. What is left can be removed by brushing the edges.

Our company has a very high standard of safety and reliability, and we only offer support for products that we sell and have tested. We can't speak to the safety and reliability of printing on materials from other vendors.

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 unit.

You can read more about materials safety in the manual at glowforge.com/manual.

 

Acrylic

Our customers regularly print on acrylic. They use it 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.

 

Aluminum

Our customers regularly 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 


Cardboard

Our customers regularly print on cardboard and matte board - you can see some examples as well as discussion from our community about it 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

 

Ceramic

We haven't heard of people cutting ceramic, but customers have definitely done 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

 

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

 

Fabric

Our customers regularly print on fabric - you can see some examples as well as discussions from our community at community.glowforge.com.

Here are a few favorite prints to look at:

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

 

Firearms

Our customers 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 2" thick and can engrave on many materials, including anodized aluminum, acrylics, and some polymer plastics. It can also mark many other metals with a pre-treatment, so it depends on what your particular firearm is made of and what part you want to engrave on.

 

Foam

We have a number of customers who print on different kinds of foam, including EVA foam. PEVA, or just EVA, is a soft and flexible plastic used sometimes instead of rubber.

Here are a couple of 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

 

Food

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!

You should purchase a Glowforge that is dedicated solely to food if you intend to consume the food.

 

Galvanized Metals 

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

 

Glass

Our customers regularly engrave glass - you can see some examples as well as discussion from our community about it here.

 Here are a few of my favorites:

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

https://community.glowforge.com/t/engraved-shotglasses/32148


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 2”.

 

Leather

Our customers regularly print on leather. They use it to 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.

Leather is a popular material for Glowforge owners. Our own line of Proofgrade™ vegetable tanned leather is a bestseller! 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 Glowforge printing process and create hazardous smoke and fumes.

 

MacBook or iPhone

Our customers 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 the consequences of any problems are going to be etched in your device forever, we want to highlight that engraving your device is entirely at your own risk. The engraving could come out poorly, it could land in the wrong location, and it could void the warranty of your device.

 

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

 

Paper

Our customers regularly print on paper. From custom wedding invitations to lightboxes, you will be delighted with our customer’s creations. 

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

Plywood

Our customers regularly print on plywood. However, some plywood is made with glue that isn't laser-compatible. It’s always best to check with the manufacturer to make sure the plywood is laser safe.

Here are a few great examples of prints our amazing customers have 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

 

PVC

While you can use many types of plastics in your Glowforge, unfortunately, vinyl isn't laser-compatible. When cut or engraved, vinyl can release gasses that are hazardous to people and can cause damage to 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 is available 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.

 

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 from a Glowforge owner: 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.

 

Slate

Our customers regularly print on slate and create some truly beautiful projects.

Here are some examples of what Glowforge owners do with slate: 

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

 

Soft Metals

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 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 cause damage to your Glowforge. 

 

Stone/Rocks

Our customers regularly print on rocks and some of their results are really beautiful.

Here are a few amazing prints to look at:

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

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


T-Shirts

We have customers creating 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

 

Vinyl Stickers

While you can use many types of plastics in your Glowforge, unfortunately, vinyl isn't laser-compatible. We have seen customers use a variety of laser-compatible sticker sheets though.

Here are some customer projects that show just a few ways to create stickers.

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


Wood

Our customers frequently print on wood. It’s beautiful and functional, and gets used to create maps, customized cutting boards, gift tags, shelves, even doorbell covers! Take a look!

 

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