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Glowforge releases new $1,200 laser printer to make home crafting a more accessible hobby

Aug 16, 2023

by Kurt Schlosser on July 25, 2023 at 7:00 amJuly 25, 2023 at 12:41 pm

Glowforge, the Seattle-based maker of 3D laser printers/engravers, wants to bring crafting to a wider audience of consumers with a new lower-priced machine called Aura.

Priced at $1,200, the Aura is a smaller version of the startup’s existing main products: the Glowforge Plus ($4,995) and Glowforge Pro ($6,995) machines.

“This is the first craft laser because it’s really designed for the home crafting studio, for people who want to go create beautiful things in their home,” said Dan Shapiro, co-founder and CEO of Glowforge, as he ran Aura through its paces during a GeekWire visit.

Aura is not designed for businesses or hardcore Etsy sellers that use the larger Glowforge printers. Those machines still cut and engrave bigger, thicker material 10 times as fast.

“But they let you create really cool stuff, really easily,” Shapiro said of the new device, released Tuesday.

Aura will be available through craft retailers JOANN and Michaels, and will also be a featured item on HSN (the onetime Home Shopping Network), where Glowforge has sold out its original printer five times.

With a price point in line with a new iPhone, the Aura box looks like it could hold Apple’s old tangerine iMac from a bygone tech era.

“We decided we were going to be opinionated about the way it looked,” Shapiro said. “We were going to do something that we thought was going to be amazing and striking and fun, instead of a generic piece of electronics.”

Glowforge is also releasing a $400 air filter system that connects to Aura to catch fumes made during the cutting process. The unit looks like a little droid and can replace the need to run a tube out an open window.

Instead of making objects out of plastic strands like traditional 3D printers, Glowforge uses a laser to quickly cut and engrave products made from raw materials like leather, paper, plastic, fabric, cardboard and more.

Aura relies on the same software infrastructure and Google Cloud capabilities that are used to power the bigger Glowforge machines. It’s ready to work right out of the box, but premium Glowforge subscribers get access to a suite of tools such as Magic Canvas, an AI image generator released earlier this year.

“There’s only one button. When it lights up, you push it,” Shapiro said as he positioned a sheet of leather under Aura’s orange hood and dialed up a GeekWire-labeled luggage tag on his laptop.

Less than three minutes later, the finished product was cut out of the leather and ready to use. And Shapiro was beaming at his realization of making such a craft experience more accessible.

“To bring this to market at $1,200 is the way that we get to make this for everybody,” he said.

Shapiro founded Glowforge in 2015 with fellow startup veterans Mark Gosselin, the current CTO, and Tony Wright, who left the company in 2017. Shapiro previously sold the startup Sparkbuy to Google, and he created Robot Turtles, a coding board game for kids that was one of the most successful campaigns ever on Kickstarter.

Glowforge employs 145 people. It raised $20 million as part of an extended Series E funding round in May, and has raised $135 million to date. Shapiro said, “never say never” when asked about plans to raise any more money, but added: “We think we can build the company to profitability with the business that we’ve got.”

Glowforge declined to disclose a specific number of units sold to date.

In a city known more for its software startups, Glowforge has survived past delays in production, shipping and order fulfillment while chasing a hardware dream.

Asked if running a hardware startup is everything he hoped it would be, Shapiro said: “Not yet. But we’re on our way.” And he’s excited about the path ahead.

“This product represents the culmination of eight years of waiting for the broader technology industry to catch up,” Shapiro said of Aura. “It really is riding the wave of technology innovation on so many different fronts on software, on hardware, cloud services and AI.”

Shapiro made the case for artificial intelligence and generative AI as he sat surrounded by creations made on Glowforge machines and mailed to the company by customers. From intricately engraved coasters to toys and large pieces, Shapiro is inspired by those who use his products.

“I can’t draw,” he laughed. “The piece I love is, [AI] enables people to create physical objects they didn’t have the skill to create before. I love the empowerment it gives our customers. And there’s so much that’s possible that wasn’t before.”

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