Seattle startup Glowforge smashed crowdfunding records in the fall of 2015, raising almost $28 million (the original target was $100,000) in 30 days.
But what the heck is it? Although it’s been referred to as a 3-D printer, the product is actually a laser cutter/engraver, says Dan Shapiro, Glowforge’s CEO and cofounder. Whereas 3-D printers are “additive”—they build objects, layer by layer, from the bottom up—Glowforge is “subtractive,” beaming its microscopic laser at materials to cut, engrave and sculpt. The difference means Glowforge is much less expensive than 3-D printers (pre-order prices started at $2,395 on glowforge.com) and easier to use. It’s also a little less capable; to create three-dimensional objects (like the Space Needle model seen above), users have to cut and assemble multiple two-dimensional layers.
The machine has applications for architects, clothing designers, teachers, engineers, artists and others, says Shapiro—but we’re geeking out about its culinary applications: The Glowforge team has so far used it to sculpt seaweed, chocolate and even bacon.
Glowforge defines “cutting-edge” tech.