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I’ve been enamored with Glowforge for quite a while. The allure of crafting, especially with laser precision, is something that has long called to me. As an author, I could see how this technology could take my love for making book nooks and bookmarks to the next level. But the hefty price tag of $6,000 for their other models always stood as a barrier, taunting my creative ambitions. Enter the Aura.
The Glowforge Aura seemed like a match made in crafting heaven. Priced at a more reasonable sum, a little less than $2,000, including material, a personal filter, and the machine itself, it appeared to be the tool I needed for my business.
I got mine the first day it came out, and when I tell you I was so freaking disappointed … please listen.
First Impressions: A Well-Packaged Promise
Unboxing the Aura was an experience filled with anticipation. The packaging was excellent, giving the impression of a well-cared-for product, ready to unleash a world of creativity. The Aura is stunning. It appeared my hyper-fixation on crafting would find a new outlet.
The Cracks Appear: No Return Policy
The first hint of trouble came when I realized the return policy, or lack thereof. Unlike other Glowforge models that offer a 30-day return period or 50 cuts (whichever comes first), the Aura has no return period whatsoever. This was concerning, but I forged ahead, believing in the potential of the machine.
Features and Functionality: The Dimming Light
The Aura is a diode laser, less powerful than a CO2 laser. This was understood from the beginning, but the reality began to hit hard when I put the machine to use. Here’s a breakdown of the specific features and my experience with them:
- Power: The diode laser’s lack of power became a prominent issue. The expectation of crafting intricate designs seemed to drift further away with every use.
- Intermittent Functionality: The machine’s inconsistency was more than just a minor annoyance; it became a significant problem. For a product with such a price tag, the Aura’s intermittent working pattern was a glaring flaw.
- Crafting Potential: The promise of creating unique book nooks and bookmarks quickly turned sour. The Aura struggled to meet my needs, turning what was supposed to be a joyful creative endeavor into a frustrating battle with technology.
- Cost Value: Reflecting on the expense, the Aura’s functionality didn’t justify the price. It felt too costly for a machine that only worked sometimes, leaving a bitter taste of regret.
My first cut
First, the app you’re required to use doesn’t work on Chrome. It says it does, but it doesn’t. I have to use Safari to get it to work.
Second, I made my first cut according to instructions. It was a piece of paper that I could fold into a cute little box. The very first cut did not even cut all the way through. I contacted support, and was told by support to change settings on the machine that would have me cut the lines where I’m supposed to FOLD them instead. I told them that this is what would happen, but then they had to consult management for a minute before coming back to me, and telling me I was right, and not to change those to cut lines.
After a little tinkering, we got it to work.
Subsequent cuts: repeated failures
Over the week, I contacted them no less than fifteen times because of errors caused by the machine. Namely, it usually would cut off-center from where it should. They told me that I need to send in pictures and videos. I did.
Then they tried telling me that the machine’s rails are dirty, and I need to clean them with alcohol. Hmmm, weird. I literally just got this machine and I’ve had an issue with every. single. freaking. cut. I’ve. made. since. I. got. the. dang. thing … But sure, I’ll do that.
I started to clean the rails with alcohol after every single cut because I was tired of them telling me that the reason it wasn’t cutting properly is because of “dirty” rails. Funny, I still have an issue?? And I’m using the materials they suggest, so what gives?
But still, cut after cut after cut:
I literally have HUNDREDS of these. I’d say maybe 2/10 cuts actually cut how they’re supposed to. For $2,000 I expected way better.
When you use Glowforge-approved materials, if the machine miss-cuts your material, Glowforge will replace them. However, the Proofgrade material is expensive. For example, take a look at basswood plywood offered by Glowforge:
And that doesn’t include shipping! Now let’s compare that to 3/25″ basswood plywood in the same 12″ x 20″ size:
Sure, you’re getting a bulk discount, but I had a hard time finding this size material in single sheets. But I think you can still see my point: Proofgrade materials are expensive. I don’t want to have to use Proofgrade materials with every cut, especially when making things in bulk. And even then, it still doesn’t cut the way it’s supposed to, so I’m constantly waiting on replacement Proofgrade materials to ship!
A new machine
They probably got tired of me contacting them after every screwup the machine made, and finally decided to send me a whole new machine. I just had to make sure to pack up the old one exactly as instructed in the manual and send it back, then they’ll send me a new one.
Cue my panic for several reasons:
- They said it must be returned in its original box, with all of its original packaging, or the warranty is void (!). They said this is in the instructions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t actually read the entire freaking booklet I’m sent beyond “set up” or “troubleshooting.” So I missed the part about needing to keep the whole box and all its guts that’s at the end of the book. Thank goodness I happened to still have it in my garage and hadn’t taken it out to be recycled. It’s a GIANT box.
- I had an event coming up, and at this point, I can’t make the book marks I originally bought this machine for because the new machine wouldn’t come in time.
I got the new machine, and low and behold, same freaking issue. It’s been months. It’s now a super freaking expensive paperweight sitting on the desk in my office because it’s a crappy device and doesn’t work as it’s intended.
Conclusion: Glowforge Aura Review … don’t do it!
My journey with the Glowforge Aura has been a tumultuous one. From the initial excitement to the cold reality of its limitations, it has left me wishing I could return it. The lack of a return policy only adds salt to the wound, making this a purchase that will linger as a reminder of what could have been.
For fellow crafters considering the Aura, I would urge caution. Ensure that it meets your specific needs and be aware of the non-returnable nature of this particular model. While it may hold promise for some, for me, it was a crafting dream that failed to materialize. Stick with an xTool instead.