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Glowforge 3D laser printer offers a different way to create

Posted on February 5, 2020 at 6:00 am

By Abra Cole

If you’ve visited the North Spokane Library recently, you may have noticed the scent of burning wood. Or, maybe you’ve noticed machine that is over 3 feet wide and 1 1/2 feet deep back in The Lab doing… something.

That’s the District’s Glowforge 3D laser printer. And it is my newest favorite thing at the library.

The Glowforge is the newest addition to The Lab at North Spokane Library. We have classes coming up that you can sign up to take. And starting this month, you can also sign up for a one-on-one appointment with library staff to make your own creation on the Glowforge.

UPCOMING CLASSES

You can see the 3D laser printer in action during one of our Glowforge classes. Here are the upcoming programs.

Glowforge: Stamp Making

Make a custom seal, logo, or stamp design. We discuss the materials and shapes that make for good stamp imprints and how to make a reverse image perfect for stamping. Take home a stamp that’s uniquely yours. Registration is required. Ages 16+

THE LAB AT NORTH SPOKANE
Tuesday, Feb 25, 6–8pm

Glowforge: 3D Puzzles EVENT CANCELLED

Impress your friends! Confuse your enemies! Explore different wooden puzzle and brain-teaser designs and watch one created with our Glowforge. Take home a gadget guaranteed to mystify all who behold its wonder. Registration is required. Ages 16+

THE LAB AT NORTH SPOKANE
Wednesday, Mar 25, 6–8pm

Glowforge: Custom Jewelry

Discover how to cut and engrave your own jewelry with our Glowforge. Take home a one-of-a-kind accessory that you can create from ready-made templates. Registration is required. Ages 16+

THE LAB AT NORTH SPOKANE
Thursday, Apr 30, 6–8pm

Class size is limited, so make sure you sign up for a program as soon as registration opens (maybe put a reminder on your calendar or in your phone).

ONE-ON-ONE APPOINTMENTS

If you’re ready to use the Glowforge for your own project, be sure to sign up for One-on-One Glowforge Help at www.scld.org/glowforge-help. Each session is two hours long. Appointments will be available 30 days in advance on our event calendar.

During a one-on-one session, one of us from the District’s Glowforge team will help you from the beginning of your project to the end. We’ll help you to create a file using Inkscape (or Adobe Illustrator), give advice about materials (in most cases, you will need to bring your chosen material with you on the day of your appointment), and show you how to cut or engrave it on the Glowforge machine.

Depending on your project, you may require more than one session, so we can even get you signed up for additional one-on-one help, if needed.

IDEAS & INSPIRATION

The sky is the limit with this laser printer (within the bounds of the technical specifications shared below).

You can engrave photographs to be framed. You can make 3D animals, puzzles, and cupcake toppers. I’ve seen replacement game pieces made from multicolored acrylic.

I’ve also seen complex designs on bracelets made from vegetable-tanned leather and heirloom recipes in a great-grandmother’s handwriting engraved onto bamboo cutting boards.

You can create intricate mandala designs and fill them with resin to create a stained-glass effect. Cosplay costumes have been made from leather, foam, and cardboard. Some people even use their Glowforge to engrave images onto food items, such as marshmallows, chocolate, and even bananas!

Seriously, if you can dream it, the Glowforge can help you create it. You’ll find endless inspiration in the Glowforge Community gallery from other people who are creating.

If you are looking for templates and inspiration, Thingiverse is a great place to look. Although the site was mainly intended for 3D printing (using the additive method), many of the files shared on Thingiverse can be adapted to be laser cut too.

You may also be inspired by perusing our collection of books.

While these books were not written specifically with a Glowforge laser cutter in mind, they do offer many projects that would work nicely with it.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

The Glowforge is a 45 watt, CO2 (carbon dioxide) laser. This means it can cut, engrave, and score on a wide variety of materials.

The printer cuts through certain materials most reliably up to 1/8 inch and with multiple passes can cut up to 1/4 inch thick. Specifically, the laser printer can cut the following materials:

  • Wood (plywood, hardwood)
  • Mat board
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • MDF (medium-density fiberboard)
  • Acrylic
  • Cork
  • Bamboo
  • Leather
  • Foam
  • Fabric
  • Rubber

The laser printer can score or engrave the following materials:

  • Glass
  • Stone
  • Tile
  • Aluminum
  • Coated metals
  • Wood (plywood, hardwood)
  • Acrylic
  • Cork
  • Bamboo
  • Leather
  • MDF (medium-density fiberboard)
  • Rubber

The printer’s bed size is 12×19 inches and can handle materials up to 2 inches thick for scoring and engraving. This is usually large enough for most projects. Additionally, pieces can be created separately and fitted or glued together for large projects.

FINDING MATERIALS

Locally, there are several places to visit to fill your material needs.

Art Salvage has a wide variety of materials, and stock is always changing. If you just want to experiment with what the Glowforge can do, you can find materials here for many possibilities.

Windsor Plywood offers many types of plywood and some hard woods as well. Their staff is knowledgeable and will help you chose wood for your project, and even cut your pieces down to size.

Clearview Plastics offers acrylic pieces they call “drops” (leftover pieces from larger projects) that are available for purchase, giving you the chance to test your project in a variety of colors!

Tandy Leather sells a variety of sizes from small coaster-sized pieces to full hides. In order to create with leather on our Glowforge, you must make sure it is vegetable tanned leather. Other tanning methods produce a toxic odor when cut with the hot laser printer.

Overstock Builder’s Depot has an assortment of miscellaneous tiles in all possible sizes and colors. If you’re looking for engraving tiles, they have them.

You can also find many retailers online. Many are aware of the bed size of the Glowforge and are able to cut your order to size. Here are a few I’ve had success with so far:

DESIGNING FOR GLOWFORGE

I mentioned Inkscape as one of the design software programs that can be used with the Glowforge. If you want to learn Inkscape on your own, you can by using our digital resource: Lynda.com. All you need is your in-district library card to access the Lynda.com courses.

You can also head over to YouTube for Inkscape tutorial videos offered by laser cutting enthusiasts.

THE LAB AT NORTH SPOKANE LIBRARY

The next time you find yourself at North Spokane Library, I invite you to stop by The Lab. If you see me or one of my colleagues working with the Glowforge (and we aren’t leading a class), feel free to come in and ask questions. We hope to see you there!

Abra Cole

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