Glowforge is the go-to brand for a small business or home laser cutter. But is it really what you need?
A Glowforge is an accessible and reasonably powerful jack-of-all-trades machine. But they’re also expensive, have limited power, and are just so slow.
When the standard solution fails, a Glowforge alternative can rescue you. With plenty of machines available, you can find a laser engraver that offers better performance at a much lower price.
Yet you shouldn’t buy a cutter just because it’s cheaper than a Glowforge or you might waste your hard-earned cash on a machine that just doesn’t cut it.
Read on and discover the best Glowforge alternatives in 2023.
Table of Contents
- The Best Glowforge Alternative for 2023
- Glowforge Alternatives — When Should You Get One?
- What is Glowforge?
- Why Do You Need a Glowforge Alternative?
- 7 Things to Consider When Shopping for Glowforge Alternatives
- How to Safely Use a Laser Cutter
- CNC VS Glowforge — Which is Better?
- A Laser Cutter that Works for You
The Best Glowforge Alternative for 2023
Work Area: 17” x 16” | Laser Power: 10W | Supported Materials: Wood, acrylic, fabric, plastic, rubber, cork, surface-treated metal | Feature Highlights: Included rotary, riser legs, fixed-focus laser
If you don’t want to think too much about your Glowforge laser cutter alternative, go for the xTool D1. This laser machine offers great performance at a great price.
Unlike Glowforge’s CO2 laser, the D1 laser engraver uses a diode laser. Although not as powerful as CO2 lasers, a diode laser produces an ultra-fine spot that is much more accurate.
You can engrave the most finely detailed design you can think of.
Also, don’t be too worried about the lower laser cutting power. D1 can still slice through a 1 mm-thick wood or 5 mm-thick acrylic sheet with one pass.
As a huge bonus, the D1 set includes a rotary — something that Glowforge doesn’t have. The rotary attachment allows you to engrave curved surfaces. Make your own designs on travel mugs or drink bottles, for example.
Another fantastic feature is the detachable riser legs that lift the machine up from the desktop. They help you do laser engraving on taller objects.
How about burning a radical design on your skateboard? That’s on the table — literally.
Due to the diode laser, the D1 is more limited in its material range than a Glowforge. But it does have a deeper work area to make up for it.
All in all, xTool D1 is one of, if not the best Glowforge alternative.
Work Area: 8” x 12” | Laser Power: 40W | Supported Materials: Acrylic, wood, leather, plastics, fabrics, glass, rubber, cork, brick, granite, marble, tile, rock, bone, melamine, phenolic | Feature Highlights: Integrated controls, red-dot guidance, rotary
Performance always comes at a price but that price doesn’t have to be high. OMTech 40W (also called K40) brings inexpensive power to the table.
This thing is unbelievably affordable and easily within the price range of any business, single-person workshop, or hobbyist.
You don’t have to compromise power, though. OMTech 40W sports a — surprise, surprise — 40W CO2 laser that offers the same wattage as the two lower-end Glowforge models.
That means you can engrave pretty much any laser-engravable material with the OMTech 40. You can also cut stuff like leather, paper, plywood, and acrylic, although you may have to do multiple passes.
The machine has physical control buttons on the side. It might be old-fashioned, but you also don’t need a computer or the internet to jack up laser power.
As a nice feature, OMTech has included a red-dot guidance system. A small red laser shows the cutting location and helps you align your material on the admittedly small-ish work area.
One major downside is the lack of air assistance or the small air pump that keeps material from igniting. You might notice some significant burn marks, especially on paper and wood.
Some users also report wildly varying build quality between individual machines. OMTech has gotten better about it, but there might be some surprises in the box.
Still, OMTech 40W is one of the best budget-friendly CO2 laser cutters.
Work Area: 23.6” x 14.7” | Laser Power: 50W | Supported Materials: Wood, acrylic, leather, cardboard, bamboo, fabric, rubber, metal, glass, cement, stone | Feature Highlights: HD camera, touchscreen, high-resolution laser, rotary add-on
Premium production power is one of the main selling points of Glowforge laser cutters. FLUX BeamBox Pro squares up and even beats them.
The highest-end model of the BeamBox line, the Pro serves up 50W of CO2 laser power, beating Glowforge in sheer wattage. That also means it can engrave and cut a lot of different things.
The manual says the machine can cut materials up to 10mm thick. Of course, that depends on the material, and with stuff like fabric, you can safely double the thickness.
BeamBox Pro features a built-in HD camera, like Glowforge. It lets you preview the print results in real-time so you’ll know exactly where the machine will cut.
The high-resolution laser can make cuts thinner than a human hair. In other words, you can engrave even the most intricate designs.
And the work area is huge. You can put BeamBox Pro’s power to good use on large objects.
Unlike Glowforge, FLUX offers a rotary add-on for engraving curved parts. It’d be great if that was a standard feature, but at least the option is there.
Sadly, BeamBox Pro lacks Glowforge’s autofocus function. You’ll have to manually focus the laser, but at least the proprietary software is easy to use. The machine is also almost as expensive as Glowforge Pro.
In a nutshell FLUX BeamBox Pro offers premium power at a price comparable to Glowforge.
Work Area: 20” x 12” | Laser Power: 40W | Supported Materials: Wood, acrylic, leather, paper, fabric, glass, stone, surface-treated metal | Feature Highlights: Touchscreen, rotary add-on, removable floor, optional HD camera.
Do you like the idea of Glowforge’s performance but want something easier to use? FLS Muse Core 40W rivals Glowforge in power while offering a simpler and more streamlined user experience.
In specs, Glowforge and Muse Core could be siblings. Like Glowforge’s Basic and Plus models, Muse Core has a 40W CO2 laser, giving it good cutting and engraving power on a wide range of materials.
The cutting areas on the machines are also almost identical. Muse Core inches just barely ahead, offering 20” x 12” of engraving space as opposed to Glowforge’s 19” x 11”. It also has an HD camera option, but you have to pay for it.
But Muse Core wins clearly when it comes to usability. To begin with, Muse Core’s software doesn’t require a constant internet connection, unlike Glowforge.
It also has a 7” touchscreen that allows you to adjust some settings without an external device. You can also pop off Muse Core’s floor panel to engrave objects bigger than the machine itself.
FLS also offers the coveted rotary, albeit as an optional add-on.
Muse Core’s external water-cooling system gobbles up more desk space than Glowforge. But you can access the cooling components more easily, so it may be a decent tradeoff if you have a big desk.
FSL Muse Core 40W is a great user-friendly laser cutter with performance comparable to its rival.
Work Area: 4” x 4” | Laser Power: 5W | Supported Materials: Wood, plastic, fabric, paper, leather, acrylic, coated metals, glass, stone | Feature Highlights: Rotary add-on, removable power bank, small size
Know that laugh Woody Woodpecker does? That’s how we imagine LaserPecker 2 laughs as it finishes engraving way before any other laser machine.
This little laser engraver reaches fantastic working speeds. You just might be able to do two prints while other machines are still finishing their first one.
LaserPecker 2 is also very fast to assemble and set up. You can start engraving in no time.
Like xTool D1, LaserPecker 2 used a diode laser. But if D1 was accurate, LaserPecker 2 is even more so. The tiny laser spot can engrave extremely intricate designs.
As a unique feature, LaserPecker 2 has a detachable, long-lasting power bank. The battery keeps its form factor very small, ensuring it fits on any desk.
It’s also possible to angle the laser unit, instead of it always pointing straight down. That gives you a lot more options vis-a-vis the objects your can engrave. You can also buy a rotary add-on.
But the machine’s small size means you won’t be engraving very big designs. LaserPecker 2’s work area is the smallest on this list.
Also, notice how we’ve been talking about engraving all the time?
We’d hesitate to call LaserPecker 2 a laser cutter. Although it can engrave a lot of materials, it likely won’t cut anything but paper.
If you’re willing to sacrifice cutting power and work area, LaserPecker 2 is an impressively accurate speedster.
Work Area: 16” x 24” | Laser Power: 60W | Supported Materials: Wood, acrylic, leather, plastic, fabric, rubber, cork, stone, glass, coated metal | Feature Highlights: Integrated controls, red-dot guidance, rotary
Do you already have a Glowforge and are looking to upgrade? Or maybe you thought the OMtech 40W sounded good but you’d like a bit more punch.
In either case, OMtech 60W CO2 laser cutter is the perfect next step on your laser machine journey.
The 60W CO2 laser packs more power than even a Glowforge Pro. You can engrave virtually anything you want and cut much thicker pieces than with most other machines on this list.
You won’t have to worry about material size, either, thanks to OMtech 60W’s large work area. Also, like Glowforge Pro, it has pass-through doors for feeding pieces larger than the machine through the engraving space. The swappable dual workbeds accommodate many kinds of materials and objects.
Controlling the machine is also easy with the integrated digital control panel that’s compatible with most third-party software. Built-in air assist helps keep materials from burning and improves engraving quality — as if the high resolution wasn’t enough already.
You need a lot of space, though, since OMtech 60W is a big machine. It’s also pretty baffling that a laser cutter of this caliber doesn’t come with a rotary. At least you can buy it separately.
In short, this is a fantastic power package for both home users and small businesses.
Work Area: 35.4” x 23.6” | Laser Power: 80W | Supported Materials: Anything | Feature Highlights: Pass-through doors, autofocus, optional HD camera, rotary add-on
For serious laser engraver users, like those running actual businesses, a Glowforge machine might not provide enough power. If it’s industrial-grade power and productivity you want, turn to Thunder Nova 35.
This laser cutter packs a wallop with an 80W laser that will engrave anything. It also expands your options for cutting exponentially. Like Omtech 60W, it also comes with swappable workbeds for enhanced material flexibility.
Basically, if you need to engrave it, Nova 35 will get the job done.
Object size won’t get in your way, either. Nova 35 has a very large work area that’s further boosted by its pass-through doors.
With some machines, that great object compatibility could present a problem with laser positioning. Not so with Nova 35 — it has an adjustable laser home position that lets you easily align the laser. A red-point tracker also shows you exactly where the laser will cut.
Thunder has also understood that speed matters in business. The steady servo motors on Nova 35 give it an engraving speed of up to 39” per second. Your job is done in no time.
Nova 35 has a rather low engraving resolution, though. Also, like with OMtech, you have to pay more to get a rotary or HD camera on top of the already expensive machine.
But industrial productivity is expensive, and Thunder Nova 35 serves up productivity in spades.
Glowforge Alternatives — When Should You Get One?
Standard solutions are good for most cases — that’s why they’re standard. But that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily right for you.
Take Glowforge, for example. They are some of the most popular laser cutters and laser engraving machines, thanks to their reasonable power and good engraving quality.
But they’re also expensive, limited in how large objects they can engrave, and rather slow. So, if the standard laser machine doesn’t work for you, what can you pick?
Let’s take a look at what a Glowforge alternative is, why you might need one, and how you can choose an alternative laser machine.
What is Glowforge?
Glowfroge is a brand of laser engraving and laser cutting machines. The company markets its machines as “laser printers” but don’t be confused — they don’t squirt ink onto a paper sheet.
Glowforge machines use a strong laser beam to permanently engrave objects or precisely cut thin sheets of certain materials. You can use them to make paper cutouts for craft projects, carve your business logo into your products, or engrave permanent safety labels, for example.
If you run an Etsy store, you’ve probably heard of Glowforge.
Glowforge sells three different models of their laser cutting machines:
- Glowforge Basic
- Glowforge Plus
- Glowforge Pro
The machines look near-identical and function similarly. The difference is in the level of cutting power and additional features you get as you move up the Glowforge family tree.
Why Do You Need a Glowforge Alternative?
Although Glowforge machines are popular, they aren’t the best machines for everybody. They perform well in general but have some real drawbacks, such as:
- Price: Even the basic Glowforge machine is very expensive and may be way beyond the budget of hobbyists or small businesses.
- Cutting Depth: A Glowforge is great for engraving, but it may not have enough cutting power if you have to slice through thicker materials.
- Too Much Power: Conversely, you may not need all the cutting power a Glowforge provides and might pay thousands of dollars for a machine you’ll never use to its full potential.
- Relies on the Internet: Glowforge’s software must be constantly connected to the internet. Losing connection shuts down your machine — and what if Glowforge goes out of business?
- No Rotary: A rotary axis is a laser cutter component that can rotate a round object, like a mug, for laser engraving. Glowforge simply doesn’t offer a rotary, severely limiting the machine’s usability.
- Speed: Sorry, Glowforge, but it’s a fact — you’re pretty slow. If you need good-quality laser cutting or engraving fast, a Glowforge might not be able to keep up with you.
There are also smaller issues, like the machine being very loud and having an awkward exhaust hose.
So, is Glowforge worth the investment? Yes, if its specs are what you need. If not, you should probably look for a Glowforge alternative.
7 Things to Consider When Shopping for Glowforge Alternatives
Since you’re here with us, you’re obviously interested in shopping for a Glowforge alternative. But what should you look for in machines like Glowforge that aren’t Glowforge?
Here are the seven most important things to keep in mind when browsing Glowforge competitors.
Before you start looking at alternatives to Glowforge, look into your wallet and decide your budget.
There are a lot of great machines at surprisingly low prices on the market, so you’ll find one that serves your needs. But knowing your budget means you won’t waste time admiring a laser cutter you can’t afford.
2. Cutting Area Size
Consider all the dimensions of the objects you plan to engrave or cut. It’s a real bummer if you buy a machine that can’t accommodate your products.
Planning to engrave very thick or tall objects? Then choose something like FSL Muse Core 40W with a removable bottom panel for that extra depth.
Want to engrave wide things? Then a Glowforge or OMtech 60W CO2 with pass-through doors is what you need.
3. Material Compatibility
Make sure your machine can engrave the materials you want to use. Check the wattage of the laser and the manufacturer’s list of supported materials to avoid blowing money on a laser cutter that doesn’t cut what you want.
4. Quality & Workflow
A machine’s specs might look great, but that means nothing if every moment of using it is agony. Go for laser cutters with good user reviews, integrated control panels, and wide file format support.
Speed means productivity. If you’re buying a laser cutting machine for a business, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t take hours to engrave a tiny logo.
6. Additional Features
Pay attention to the additional features the machines offer. The most important is a rotary axis. Even a separately sold rotary add-on can expand your possibilities significantly.
Other good features to have are a built-in camera for print alignment, an air assist for better engraving quality, and an autofocus feature for simpler usability.
7. Online Community
With any machine, you’ll eventually run into one problem or another. An active and friendly online community can help you resolve issues without sitting in a helpdesk phone queue for hours.
How to Safely Use a Laser Cutter
Most laser cutters are safe to operate, but there are some precautions you should take before you start engraving. Here’s what to keep in mind:
- NEVER look at the laser — it can severely damage your eyes.
- Wear certified safety goggles.
- Always keep the machine enclosure shut.
- Don’t leave the machine running unattended.
- Ensure the cooling system works properly.
- Clean the work area of any dust or debris that could catch fire.
- Don’t modify or otherwise tinker with your cutting machine.
CNC VS Glowforge — Which is Better?
You might wonder, “Could a CNC machine or cutter make a good alternative to Glowforge?”
It might, but that depends on your needs.
A CNC machine can cut much thicker and harder materials than laser engravers. They can also create 3D shapes.
But CNC machines are also much more expensive and require a wide variety of tool heads. They’re also significantly slower and generally not as accurate as laser machines
If power is all you care about, a CNC machine might be a good choice. But for a lighter and more accurate touch, go for a laser cutter.
A Laser Cutter that Works for You
A Glowforge laser cutter can be a great machine, but it’s not perfect. For a cheaper, more powerful, or versatile engraving and cutting machine, it just might be worth it to check out a Glowforge competitor.
This list has plenty of alternative options — maybe a few too many! Should you feel a bit lost, here are our recommendations for the best Glowforge alternatives: