Glowforge has become one of the leading names in the laser engraving and cutting industry. It is known for manufacturing high-quality laser cutters and engravers for different industrial purposes. Laser technology is beneficial for cutting thicker and thinner materials.
You may have heard that engraving glass and cutting various other materials is no longer challenging with a laser, but can the Glowforge cut glass? The Glowforge is able to score glass which can then be broken manually but you will not be able to cut through glass. This scoring process is best for straight lines and becomes more difficult with curves.
Why Choose A Laser For Scoring Pieces of Glass?
Sharp cutting tools like a cutting wheel have a V-shaped profile designed with tungsten carbide and are effective in cutting glasses. However, they can cause a fracture line to the glass. Moreover, the piece can become weaker due to the use of these tools.
The application of pressure causes the glass to get weak. There is also a risk of developing micro-cracks. Most importantly, the cut and the glass surface will not be perpendicular to each other. Cutting along the wrong path also results in the wastage of materials.
You can overcome these problems by using a laser cutting machine to score your glass. Laser cutters heat the glass and melt up the incidence line. Then, the cut is cooled with a jet of cold air. Please note that scoring glass with a Glowforge as with any low powered CO2 Laser is not a easy process and will require patience with lots of trial and error to achieve the desired results.
You will only find controlled and precise results with the laser cutting process when using industrial lasers like the Hyperrapid Nxt which is specifically for glass cutting or investing in a desktop waterjet like the Wazer which is priced at around $9999.00.
If using a Glowforge or any low power CO2 Laser to score your glass then you may need additional processes such as polishing and grinding which can be done with a rotary tool like the Dremel.
Dremel manufactures a variety of diamond bits that are infused with minute particles of diamond dust, resulting in extremely smooth cutting tools for glass. In this YouTube video, a jewelry maker and gemologist offers guidance on using lubrication when cutting into glass.
More information on engraving pens and the rotary engraving tool like the Dremel can be found in this article: The 5 Best Engraving Pens
Is Laser Technology Effective in Cutting and Marking Glass?
When the wavelength of the laser beam is within the visible spectrum, you cannot cut glass. However, it must be noted that glass is clear, and minimal laser energy is absorbed.
Stained and colored glasses have pigments intended to absorb heat and light energy. They can get marked easily with the visible laser. In a few cases, visible light rays can score and cut glass. When the intensity of the laser light is very high, it can ionize the air.
The highly focused beam cracks the glass because it heats the air around it. That is why it can cause the marked glass.
What is the Correct Wavelength For Cutting Glass With A Laser?
10,600 nm is the most common wavelength for cutting glasses. This is because the Si-O bond in glass absorbs a high amount of light. 355 nm is another wavelength for laser cutting of glass.
How to use Glowforge Pro Cutter to Score Glass?
You must go through a few steps to score glass with laser technology.
- Choose a piece of glass that is to be scored with a laser. Make sure that you have inserted it properly into the laser machine.
- To use the laser cutters, you have to make a DXF file. However, there may be a variation in the process based on the chosen software. You will also find a difference in the speed according to the version of the Glowforge model you have chosen. For instance, Glowforge Pro is the fastest performing machine for your laser glass-scoring project.
- Wear your protective equipment.
- Find the laser platform to place the piece of glass.
- Ensure that the ventilation system (the integrated fan of the laser machine) is turned on.
- Before engraving, etching, and scoring glass with a laser, you have to load your file.
- After scoring the glass into the desired length, you will need to snap it manually by hand or with a pair of pliers. You may also need a rotary tool like the Dremel to grind and polish the edges.
It is to be noted that the first pass of the laser beam may not be effective in scoring the glass. Therefore, you need to adjust the number of passes to ensure that you can snap the glass accurately. In addition, some users use oil and cold water, which may cause unwanted parts to break.
Please note that scoring glass with your Glowforge will require patience and lots of trial and error to achieve the desired results as seen in the below YouTube Video:
Types of Lasers: Which One is the Best Choice For Cutting Glass?
You can find different options ranging from CO2 to fiber lasers. You need to know the details of every type of laser to make the right decision.
CO2 lasers have become highly popular for industrial glass-cutting purposes. With this laser, you can reduce work time and material wastage. It also enables you to cut glass more accurately and faster.
The infrared wavelength of the CO2 laser is around 10,600nm. You will find it a perfect choice for cutting glass with a laser. It can absorb 80% of the laser energy.
CO2 lasers generally rely on a single-stage fracture-controlled technique (also known as laser scribing) to cut glass. The glass can be melted below the transition temperature. The coolant nozzle helps in cooling the material. The innovative technique effectively cuts the glass surface concerning surface cooling. You can also cut thick glasses with this technique.
The best Laser for cutting Glass would be the Hyperrapid Nxt industrial laser but as you can imagine this industrial laser will cost a small fortune and may not be suitable for small business.
Do CO2 lasers have limitations in cutting the glass?
With a 2-stage melting and evaporation process for the laser, the CO2 laser cutting process gives the desired output. However, the laser can raise the glass temperature level. That is why only the industrial environment is suitable for cutting glass. The glass needs to be heated. The annealing temperature can range from 510 °C to 600 °C.
Using UV Lasers For Glass Cutting Projects
The UV laser with an operational wavelength of around 355 nm effectively targets the tight spot (less than 10 micrometers). It is also helpful in creating higher intensities needed for cutting glass.
You can use the UV lasers for cutting borosilicate glass with a thickness level of 0.007”. The speed can be around ~47.2 ipm. You need to adjust the rate based on the thickness of the glass.
The best fact is that the accumulated heat on glass can be reduced by applying a small laser spot size.
The primary use of UV lasers is in industrial glass cutting projects. Glasses used for smartphones, TV, and other consumer electronics can be cut with UV lasers.
Can Fiber Laser Cut Glass?
It is better to avoid using a fiber laser for cutting glass. The CO2 laser is more effective than fiber lasers. In addition, the wavelength of the fiber laser is not within the absorption range of a typical glass. Its wavelength varies between 780 and 2200 nm.
However, you can use fiber lasers for engraving and etching purposes of your glass but you will need a black coating. For engraving of glass CO2 Lasers and UV Lasers are the best options.
What Type of Glasses Can You Cut With Lasers?
Glass is available in different types. Thus, you need to identify the type of glass you need to cut with laser machines. In most cases, soda-lime glass is used for industrial purposes. This transparent material is designed with a float glass method.
Other types of glass you can cut with lasers include:
- Stained glass
- Borosilicate glass (known as lead glass)
- Glass with 96% silica
- Aluminosilicate glass
- Fused silica glass
It is very easy to cut soda-lime glass with an industrial laser such as the Hyperrapid NXT.
Scoring Glass With Laser: The Most Important Factors
While using Glowforge Pro laser cutter, you need to focus on a few factors.
The Thickness Level of Your Glass
You need to adjust the laser speed and power levels based on the thickness of your glass. Thinner materials can be scored with a single pass. But, for thicker materials, you need multiple passes. You should also make a focus adjustment of laser technology to score the thicker materials.
The Preciseness and Accuracy Level
One disadvantage of multiple passes is that there is a risk of inaccuracy in the cut dimension. That is why fewer passes can give better results. However, the number of passes you need can vary with the type of laser chosen for the project.
What Material Size Can You Cut With Glowforge?
You can find a difference in the cutting size based on your chosen model. For the Glowforge Basic and Plus models, the cutting size should not be bigger than 19.5″ by 11″. In the case of the Glowforge Pro laser machine, it is 19.5″. This is because the pass through slot of the machine is 3/8″, and it is intended to deal with materials with a thickness of 1/4″.
What Materials can Glowforge Cut and Engrave?
Wood, cloth, leather, paper, Plexiglas (acrylic), Delrin (acetal), mylar, rubber, Corian, and other materials can all be cut using Glowforge. Additionally, glass, coated metal, marble, anodized aluminum, titanium, certain phones, tablets, and laptops may all be engraved by Glowforge.
Use Laser-compatible Materials For Your Laser Cutter From Glowforge
Make sure that the chosen glass materials can be processed safely with a Glowforge laser cutter. Materials with coatings, additives, and contaminants are not laser-compatible. Moreover, materials that reflect the laser beam may damage your machine.
The width of your glass piece should not be more than 21 inches. The length must not be such that the material touches the end of the unit. For example, it should not touch the side portion of the crumb tray.
Preventive Tips For Glowforge Laser Cutter Users
You should not attempt to modify this laser cutter, as it would result in some risks. To minimize the risk of injury, you can rely on factory-authorized technicians for servicing. Open only the top lid while opening the case. Moreover, you must not try to detach the sealed parts of the unit.
If the crumb tray has been separated, you must be cautious to ensure that the beam hits the material properly. It should not strike the metal base of the unit.
Safety Tips For Glowforge Pro Users
Glowforge Inc. has arranged a laser safety program for its users, and it is available at a very low cost. In addition, laser safety training professionals will guide you to use the machine without risks. Still, we have shared the following tips for using the machine safely.
- You do not need to be concerned about the small gap near the edges of the unit’s pass through slot. There are powerful fans to remove fumes and smoke away from the system.
- Ensure you have installed CO detectors in the building where you deal with your laser glass cutting projects.
- When you have identified a strong, sharp smell causing irritation, you must re-check your exhaust setup. You must then discontinue using the system and look for a technician.
- Wear the best eye protector to obstruct the laser wavelength.
More information on laser eye protection can be found here: Laser Engraving Eye Protection
Can Glowforge cut glass? Glowforge has introduced a versatile laser machine capable of dealing with different projects. Colored glass and silica glass to soda-lime float glass can be scored with a Glowforge Pro laser cutter.
As a first-time user, you may feel safety concerns. However, laser safety training can make you better suited to handle laser cutters. You can also join the Glowforge community to learn about the different details of the machine.
Check out our best laser engravers for glassware: Best Laser Engraver for glassware