January 15, 2022

Glowforge vs CNC Machine

Welcome to the ultimate crafting showdown: Glowforge vs CNC Machine! Whether you’re a passionate hobbyist, an aspiring entrepreneur, or a seasoned professional, choosing the right tool for your creative endeavors can make all the difference. In this blog post, we dive into the fascinating world of laser cutting and carving technologies, contrasting the famous Glowforge with the versatile CNC machine. Join us as we explore the features, capabilities and factors to consider when making your next creative investment. Get ready to explore a world of possibilities and discover which powerhouse will reign supreme in your crafting realm!

CNC machine vs Glowforge

What is Glowforge

A Glowforge is a laser cutter, also known as a 3D Laser printer. That is why some people confuse the laser cutter for a 3D printer. It uses filament and makes little plastic things. It is for cutting and engraving surfaces using a laser.

You can explore the variety of materials you can print with Glowforge. It is built on a laser cutter and engraver technology that uses a light beam. It has the width of hair to cut, engrave and shape designs from many materials.

Glowforge cuts:

  • wood
  • fabric
  • leather
  • paper,
  • Plexiglas (acrylic)
  • Delrin (acetal)
  • mylar, rubber
  • Corian
  • foods,
  • and more materials.

Glowforge can engrave the above materials and:

  • glass,
  • coated metal,
  • marble,
  • anodized aluminum,
  • titanium,
  • phones,
  • tablets,
  • and laptops.

Glowforge uses subtractive manufacturing, unlike traditional 3D printers that use additive manufacturing. A 3D printer builds up material, like plastic filament, layer by layer. With Glowforge, you put a piece of leather, wood, or acrylic in the machine, which carves out your product using laser light. The Glowforge tool is a CNC laser cutter engraver, but you can still call it a 3D laser printer.


Features of Glowforge

Live Camera Preview

The live camera preview features allow you to see your design take shape before you start printing. That onboard camera shows you a preview of the design of any material you choose. Use your finger or mouse to place your design where you want it to be.

3D Autofocus

It is an automated focusing system that cuts and engraves thick and thin materials. Before printing a design, you can measure the height for precision and accuracy.

3D High Res engraving

A Glowforge offers a three-dimensional curve with 1,000 DPI resolution. It pays attention to detail and sculpts with real depth. As a result, you have impressive cuts leading to precise carving.

Laser precision

Glowforge features motors that control the movement of your materials during operation. The laser focuses on any size of the width of your work material. A combination of motor and the laser creates prints with detail and precision without hiccups.


Print a design using a pen as you draw directly on the material. Pay attention to the way your designs transform into items. The onboard camera scans the Glowforge design and turns it into a product. You are allowed to resize, copy and personalize. That does not take time, but it takes a single button to transform.


You can control the Glowforge without installing software on a computer. Drag and drop your designs on your materials. Upgrade effortlessly.

Automatic setup

Materials are recognized automatically by your device, and settings are instantly configured. That allows you to shift all your attention to your project.

What type of CNC has features like a Glowforge

OMTech machine

It has the same cutting abilities and cutting speeds as Glowforge. Like a CNC run by software, it is run by an application. The cutting speeds used by both tools yield high-quality work. The design and operation system is the same as the CNC due to automated features.

Features of a CNC

G Code Program

Choose an easier way to machine your part. Avoid doing it in one operation since it is easier in two CNC operations. That helps you achieve accuracy. You still have to figure out how to hold the part of each setup. Decide on each setup you have to write your geode programs. These should be different programs since it evolves around tool changing.

Use various programs for each setup. You are allowed to combine all the programs into one to reduce confusion. That way, they remain short and simple. Familiarise yourself with the CNC tool, for separating the programs.

When you switch to a different tool, create another program for that tool. For a standard g code program, look for a simple text editor and the basics of G Code programming and CNC terminology. If you have been to the CNC program training center, you can do this.

Keep a folder on your laptop with programs to avoid rewriting each program when using the machinery. That way, you only pick a CNC program for running and editing numbers. The result is a better understanding of the writing skills of g code programming. Using  CAD/CAM software is quick.

Cad/Cam Software

You need the software if you do not intend to write your Gcode. Using the software saves time and effort. CAD is software for computer-aided design. Use it to draw your part. When done, save it as a digital file to be read by the CAM software.

Cam is an abbreviation for computer-aided manufacturing. It produces cutter paths from the profile you imported from your cad software. Use it for a post-processor in your cam software for a Gcode program from those paths. Using cad/cam software is more convenient. It does both processes in the same program.

Control panel

It is amongst the CNC machine parts used to set the program for activities done on the workpiece. It allows you to have control over the machine. That is where you change settings and control your speed. The operation code is fed into the CNC machine via the control panel.


The pedal known as the foot-switch is where the operator opens or closes the chuck for gripping. The material needs a grip before it slips away. Operate the same way you do a tailstock.


The chuck is onto the main spindle. It makes sure that your workpiece is in the correct position.


It brings extra grip to the workpiece. The chances are low that it will move from the position as the machine runs. It comes with the tailstock quill, a setting the workpiece needs between the centers.


That is the heart of the machine that fixes the material. It comes with a motor that drives the main spindle.

Similarities between Glowforge and a CNC

  • They are both cutting tools.
  • High-quality materials.
  • They cut different materials.

Difference between Glowforge and a CNC

  • Glowforge is a 3D laser printer and cutter. CNC devices use computer programs and software to operate printers and other CNC-based devices. The working methods of both are different.
  • When using Glowforge, the printing and cutting command is given by a connected computer. Whereas the cutting command is by CNC by the software program.
  • A feeder helps to cut any material at any length when using the Glowforge. The CNC laser cutters use laser beams and gases for cutting metals.
  • The Glowforge is less accurate and more precise and cutting when using the CNC.
  • Glowforge is for wood, whereas CNC is for metal.

Price Comparison

A CNC machine ranges from $150 to $300,000, whereas a Glowforce ranges from $2995 to $6,000. CNC machines have a wide selection, from low-budget to high-end.

When would you use Glowforge instead of a CNC?

  • When cutting different materials.
  • When you want to use less effort.
  • For cutting wood material.

When would you use CNC instead of Glowforge?

  • CNC laser cutters are for metals.
  • Making cleaner cuts.
  • Work with a computer.

Is Glowforge a CNC machine?

No, the Glowforge is not a CNC machine: although both the Glowforge and CNC machines are used for craft purposes, it is important to note that the Glowforge is not classified as a traditional CNC machine. While CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines typically use various cutting tools and a computerized system to cut and shape materials, the Glowforge uses laser technology to cut and engrave.

Unlike CNC machines that rely on physical contact between the tool and the material, Glowforge uses a high-power laser beam to precisely cut or engrave various materials. This laser-based approach offers unique advantages, such as the ability to work with intricate designs and finer details and the option to engrave more delicate materials.

So while CNC machines and Glowforge create custom designs, what sets Glowforge apart is its laser-based technology offers users a different range of capabilities and artistic possibilities.

David D. Hughes

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