Forget plastic — Glowforge’s 3D laser printer makes objects with wood, fabric, and leather

Forget what you know about conventional 3D printers because a company based in Seattle, Washington just unveiled what appears to be the next generation of 3D construction. Called the Glowforge 3D laser printer, this revolutionary new machine throws out the common model of printing with additives and instead cuts away at supplied materials to produce almost anything you want. Want to design your own etched leather wallet? Simply supply the piece of leather you wish to use, upload your desired design into the Glowforge’s Web or smartphone app, and voila! The printer perfectly etches your design into the leather while also cutting it into a shape that’s easy to fold into a wallet. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Because the Glowforge 3D laser printer utilizes a subtractive manufacturing process instead of the traditional additive manufacturing, the list of compatible materials is nearly endless. Aside from using the above-mentioned leather, owners also have the option of using wood, fabric, felt, acrylic, and paper, among many others. After placing the preferred material inside the printer, the Glowforge begins carving and etching the product using an incredibly precise laser light. In a demonstration video posted to the company’s website (and embedded above), it claims the laser possesses a precision accuracy of up to the width of a human hair.

Outside of the innovative hardware native to Glowforge’s printer, the compatible software allows even the most amateur of artists to create stunning projects. Whether it be uploaded image files, hand drawn sketches, or one of Glowforge’s many available templates and designs, it’s capable of handling almost anything thrown at it. Moreover, users have the ability to customize or create new images and templates via Glowforge’s Web application, or by using their smartphone. If using a computer program isn’t ideal, the printer has the ability to analyze drawn images, then cuts or etches the materials accordingly.

For a limited time — which was 29 days at the time of this writing — Glowforge offers early adopters of its 3D laser printers an astounding 50 percent discount on any of the three available models. This deal is particularly staggering for those considering Glowforge’s Pro model (it’s most expensive) which typically retails for $8k, however, those who preorder soon only need to pay roughly $4k. The company also announced it plans to start shipping pre-ordered models by December, meaning its shipment could coincide rather nicely with a New Year’s resolution to be more creative.