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that are better, cheaper, more beautiful, higher-quality, and personalized, than what you would get buying the same thing from a store or over the Internet, and in fact, you can have them more quickly.”
The funding Glowforge has raised so far is enough to take it through an initial manufacturing run, with plans to have units available by the end of this year, Shapiro says. “We know we’ve got what we need to be successful and deliver this,” he says.
The manufacturing location is still to-be-determined. It’s a complex piece of equipment, combining technologies and techniques including welding, injection-molded plastic, power supplies, lasers, machinery, smartphone sensors, and a software stack that Shapiro hopes will make it easy to use, and less costly than competing devices that lean more on the hardware.
Glowforge’s new investors—who join an A-list of angel investors from Seattle and beyond who helped seed the company—bring expertise in the arena of at-home manufacturing. Both the Foundry Group and True Ventures were early MakerBot investors. MakerBot’s founder and former CEO Bre Pettis, as well as his erstwhile successor, Jenny Lawton, also invested in Glowforge.
“These are the people who understand this business better than anyone and have had more success than just about anyone,” Shapiro says. “It’s standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Shapiro and his team—now numbering eight with plans to double that soon—believe that laser cutters are much more satisfying to use than consumer-grade 3D printers, which, he says, are often more about the process of getting them to work than the result. Maker space operators I’ve talked to confirm that people come for the 3D printers, which have received lots of attention, but stay for the laser cutters.
“You spend hours tuning up your 3D printer and you try print after print and each one takes half a day and at the end you get a little blobby piece of plastic,” Shapiro says. “People enjoy the challenge of making it go, but the results are oftentimes not worth it.”
He sees Glowforge fitting into a resurgence of urban manufacturing, allowing professional craftspeople to scale-up their businesses in ways they couldn’t before. Shapiro says about 1 percent of Etsy creators use a laser cutter now, despite their current high cost.
“We think this brings laser technology beyond the 1 percent that’s discovered it already and lets creative designers and artists scale-up their creativity without losing that homemade touch,” Shapiro says.