Designs are made of vector images and different colors are used to designate distinct layers that can be cut, scored, or engraved. Glowforge offers a free Gift of Good Measure design for a keychain with a 2-inch ruler that doubles as a way to demonstrate all three modes. Cutting will cut all the way through the material, scoring adds small cut lines that don’t go all the way through a material, and engraving will burn text or designs into the material.
Glowforge sells its own Proofgrade materials that are designed to work with its laser cutters. Each material comes with a QR code on the front, which the camera in your Aura uses to automatically determine what settings to use for each material. This probably isn’t the most cost-effective way to buy materials if you plan to mass-produce items, but if you want to take the guesswork out of your projects, it’s as simple as you can get.
Despite simplifying so much work, the Glowforge Aura is still accessible for power users. You can make your own designs in a vector app like Adobe Illustrator and set custom cutting settings for whatever material you buy, as long as you don’t mind experimenting with some excess material.
The Glowforge Aura can cut through a wide variety of materials, including wood, leather, acrylic, paper, and even iron-on vinyl, to make custom T-shirts. Those materials are all things you don’t want to inhale when you burn them. You wouldn’t want to use the Aura on its own in a small home or common area.
The Personal Air Filter, however, changes all that. It pairs wirelessly with the Glowforge Aura and filters the air that comes out of the laser cutter. Once it’s set up, you’ll barely even know it’s there. It doesn’t add much noise to the experience, and it captures most of the smoke and particles that your prints produce. In practice, I noticed a slight campfire-ish smell while cutting some wood projects, but much less than I would without the filter.
Without an air filter, you wouldn’t want to use this thing outside of a garage, or at least a workshop that can easily vent out a window. With it, it’s possible to use your Aura indoors in just about any room. It’s not strictly a necessary add-on, and given its price you might want to consider finding somewhere well-ventilated first, but if you can spare the expense, the air filter is incredibly convenient.
At $1,199, the Glowforge Aura is firmly outside impulse-buy territory. But it’s inexpensive enough to consider as a tool for an extremely user-friendly hobby or a side hustle. The costs can start to add up if you want to go all out with the air filter, premium subscription, and, of course, the materials. But the simplicity of the entire process, start to finish, makes it a really appealing tool that justifies the expense.