If you're a maker looking to cut designs and patterns, Glowforge and Cricut are two tools you can consider.
Which of the two tools will fit your requirement best? To decide, you need to know the practical differences between the two.
Glowforge uses a laser beam to torch and cut materials, emitting fumes, while Cricut makes clean cuts with a sharp blade. Cricut is best for cutting softer and thinner materials like paper and vinyl, while Glowforge can cut thicker materials. Both these machines work on sheet workpieces.
This article compares Glowforge and Cricut machines in detail by looking at their differences in various aspects.
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Glowforge vs Cricut: Which do you Need?
|Working||Cuts using a laser beam||Cuts using a sharp blade|
|Camera||Has built-in cameras||No built-in camera|
|Materials Capability||Acrylic, leather, glass, paper, food, etc.||Paper, vinyl, fabric, acrylic, etc.|
|Ease of Use||Hard||Easy|
|Software||Free and Paid versions||Free|
|Warranty||6 months or 1 year||One year|
Glowforge machines are what is known as CO2 laser cutters.
Glowforge Basic, Plus, and Pro are the three machines they have.
Cricut machines are called cutting plotter machines. They are primarily used for arts and crafts projects.
These machines can draw, plot, and cut out designs. In addition, they are more portable and affordable than Glowforge laser machines.
Like Glowforge, Cricut also sells three machines primarily. They are Cricut Maker 3, Cricut Explore 3, and Cricut Joy.
Cost Comparison: Glowforge vs Cricut
|Cricut||$160 - $400|
|Glowforge||$3000 - 6,000|
Clearly, Glowforge machines are much more expensive than Cricut.
Glowforge machines can cost anywhere from $3000 to $6,000, based on the model you choose.
The Pro model is the most expensive, but it is a good investment for large projects and it can run faster.
Cricut machines are relatively cheaper. The price of their most high-end model is $400.
Size, Work Area Differences: Glowforge vs Cricut
|Work Area||18” x 20” x 2"||18” x 20” x 2"||18” x 20” x 2"|
|Dimension||38″ x 20.75″ x 8.25″||38″ x 20.75″ x 8.25″||38″ x 20.75″ x 8.25″|
The Basic and Plus variants of Glowforge have an output power of 40W, and the Pro model has 45W power output.
The additional 5W power of the Pro model only makes a slight difference.
Its major highlight is the passthrough feature that allows you to work on larger workpieces. It also has a high transmission speed.
|Features||Maker 3||Explore 3||Joy|
|Work Area||12' x 12"||12' x 13"||4' x 4.5"|
|Dimension||22.1" x 7.1" x 6.2"||22.2" x 7" x 5.9"||8" x 5.4" x 4.3"|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, USB||Bluetooth, USB||Bluetooth, USB|
Cricut Joy is a great portable machine with a small size. It can cut up to 4' long workpieces.
Maker and Explore have a similar size, but the Explore variant provides a higher speed.
Differences in Working Mechanism
Glowforge machines are equipped with CO2 laser systems to generate the laser beam. It offers output power of 40W and 45W.
It has special lens and mirror alignments to guide the generated laser beam. Also, it uses cameras to autofocus the laser beam based on the workpiece thickness.
Cricut machines don't need such components to operate. Instead, it just uses a computer-guided blade to cut through the workpiece.
The working of the Cricut machines is pretty straightforward. It drags a blade across the surface of a sheet workpiece to make the desired cut shapes.
Cricut machines also support plotter pens to draw over the workpiece. It helps in repeatedly drawing intricate designs.
These machines are programmable and use computer-controlled transmission systems to work with great accuracy.
Unfortunately, it's not good at cutting heat-sensitive materials as the laser beam melts them, causing burn marks and producing toxic gasses.
Glowforge can cut materials up to 1/2" (6 mm) thick in a single pass. It can also cut much thicker materials, but you'll have to run multiple passes or lower the cutting speed.
You can only use Cricut to cut up to 2.4 mm thick workpieces. It can work on paper, vinyl, fabric, acrylic, etc.
When comparing Cricut to a laser cutter, Cricut is ideal for cutting heat-sensitive materials, as it does not involve risk of overheating and burning the workpiece.
For your reference, Cricut has provided a list of materials and cut settings on their website.
Ease of Use Comparison
Comparatively, Cricut is much easier to use as it has a simple work loading and operational setup.
Also, with Cricut, you only have to work on two control parameters: blade depth and cutting pressure.
Also, after processing, you might have to process the workpiece further to remove the char created over the cut surface.
Working with Glowforge is more dangerous than with Cricut machines, as the laser beam produced by Glowforge can damage your skin and eyes.
So you'll have to wear laser safety glasses when working with Glowforge.
Like any other CO2 laser machine, Glowforge also has an enclosed setup. This provides you with an additional layer of protection from the laser beam.
Also, it has a ventilation system built into it. So all you have to do is supply it with an exhaust pipe.
Even while working with Cricut machines, you've to be very cautious. For example, don't place your fingers near the cutting head, as the rapidly moving blade can injure you.
Cricut doesn't have any machine-specific accessories, but Glowforge has an air filter attachment available for their machines.
Both manufacturers sell different work materials specially processed to perform well on their machines.
Since Cricut is mainly used for making craft items, they also sell products like hot glue guns, hand roller sets, tool kits, etc.
Glowforge and Cricut have proprietary software to work with their machines. The software from Cricut is free to use, but Glowforge has free and paid versions of the software.
The software from Glowforge is not very advanced and can't make complex designs. For that, you'll have to rely on other laser software programs.
Glowforge does not support LightBurn and LaserGRBL software, unlike most laser machines.
The software platform from Cricut (called Design Space) is powerful and provides access to various tools.
|Glowforge Print||Cricut (Design Space)|
|DXF||Only on the paid version||✔|
Suppose you are a home crafter working on small projects using sheet materials like vinyl, leather, paper, fabric, etc. Cricut is the right choice for you.
Unfortunately, it can only cut thin sheet materials.
If you want to cut thicker materials, go with Glowforge. Also, if your projects are more wood-oriented, Glowforge is the better option.
A quiet machine is easy to work around.
Because of the air assist and exhaust systems on Glowforge, it produces much more noise than Cricut machines.
Glowforge has many optical components, cooling dents, and an enclosed setup, so it is hard to maintain them.
The fumes generated during burning and vaporizing materials can stain the parts, affecting the future processing quality. So it has to be regularly cleaned.
The cutting process on Cricut machines only leaves behind leftover dust and fibers from the materials. You can easily clean it with a vacuum or cloth.
Since Cricut uses a sharp blade to cut the workpiece physically, it's more vulnerable to wear and tear.
Customer Support Comparison
Glowforge and Cricut provide a 1-year warranty for their machines. Unfortunately, the Basic mode of Glowforge only has a 6-month warranty.
Both of them offer good support to their customers. You can reach them via phone or e-mail.
Comparatively, Cricut has better reachability as they have provided dedicated phone numbers for different countries on their website.
In terms of community engagement, the community of Cricut is more extensive and active than that of Glowforge.
Which one to Get? Glowforge or Cricut?
Get Glowforge if,
- You want to cut thicker materials.
- You want to etch and engrave workpieces.
- You want to do projects like wood and acrylic signs.
Get Cricut if,
- You are just looking to cut basic crafts like stickers, cards, labels, etc.
- You want to cut thin heat-sensitive materials like vinyl.
- You want an affordable machine.
Glowforge and Cricut certainly have their advantages and disadvantages.
Even though Glowforge offers a seamless user experience, it is not portable and is too expensive for most hobbyists.
On the other hand, Cricut is small in size, portable, and affordable. But you can only use it to work on small projects.
You can use it to create greeting cards, stickers, monograms, decorations, ornaments, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do Cricut blades last?
The life of the Cricut blades differs on a case-by-case basis. If the machine is used heavily, the blades will need to be replaced every 2-3 months to perform smooth and precise cuts. Generally, the blades can last around six months.
How long will the Glowforge laser tube last?
The Glowforge laser tube will last for around two years. If you regularly run the laser at full power, its lifetime will reduce. You can get laser tube replacements directly from Glowforge.
What materials can't you use with Glowforge?
Glowforge can't work on materials like copper, chrome, gold, silver, bronze, etc. These materials will reflect the laser produced by Glowforge. Hence it can't reach its sintering temperature to effectively these materials.