Ready to take the jump ? Are you nervous about your decision? We are here to help!
First, "Hobby use" is defined as 20 hours or less per week. Do you plan on using it more, or less than this? Will you have deadlines that you need to meet, or can projects be completed at your leisure?
If you will be using your laser for extended periods, and/or have deadlines, consider purchasing a laser intended for business use. These typically start in the $6,000 range for a "chinese ebay" laser system, and can easily reach $20,000 or more. Some units with great reviews are the AEON Mira line, Thunder Laser, and Epilog. Expect lead times sometimes in the 4+ month range!
There is a way to start a business - successfully - with as little as $2,000. Here is how:
I would start with a very basic laser - including, but not limited to, a Glowforge "Basic". If you build the business up to need anything beyond what that machine is capable of, then that means it has easily paid for itself a time or two. At that point, you’ll be best served taking the money you earned and buying something that’s more suitable for business use, and now you can do it without laying out a large sum up front. Using a hobby machine for business use will cause some frustration - but it will be worth it in the end as it ultimately will be the start of a successful adventure. Yes, there will be issues ! Many common issues are related to maintenance, or over use. We need to remember that the Glowforge is a hobby laser that greatly OVER performs, not an industrial laser that UNDER performs. Also, their customer service slow and almost exclusively done via email. Having said that, I have seen MANY cases where they go way beyond and make it right in the end - in instances where they have zero obligation to do so. (Out of warranty units, issues caused by user error, etc)
Consider a basic style of laser as a stepping stone, so spend as little as possible to get to the next level. I bought my first Glowforge - a basic that was secondhand for about $2000, and it even came with an in-line fan. I easily had it paid off in 2 weeks. About a month in total, and I have sold that unit for what I had in it - essentially meaning all items I made and sold cost me nothing to produce aside from materials. I took that profit and purchased a refurbished "Pro" model to alleviate some of the expected challenges, and the cycle will repeat until I have a laser that is capable of more than what I would ask of it.
The Glowforge is an amazing hobby/starter laser for a business - and that’s exactly how I’d look at it. I would only consider the Plus or the Pro if you know that is the "end goal" machine you want - otherwise you are just prolonging how long it will take to break even, and it's also harder to sell used as the price, even used, is substantial for most that are looking for a deal. Scroll to the bottom for a discount code if you decide to purchase a new Glowforge!
Disclaimers and considerations for using a hobby machine to start your business:
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