Glowforge is the 3D printer of the future



Glowforge is a 3-D laser printer, or according to CEO and co-founder Dan Shapiro -- a "cloud-based consumer desktop laser cutter." It's nonchalant -- white and sleek and resembles an office scanner. But unlike other 3-D printers, which produce material, the Glowforge starts with a material and cuts away, "sort of like carving a marble statue," Shapiro said.

Glowforge's 3-D laser printer will be officially rolled out at the end of this year, but representatives announced Thursday that it can be pre-ordered for $1,995 -- half its usual price -- for the next 30 days. The machine can cut any organic material: Leather, paper, cloth, wood, cardboard, even chocolate. It contains a scanner which works with both the material and the design a user chooses to execute a project quickly -- most prints are done in under 20 minutes.

Shapiro recently showed AOL how his machine works. He dropped several sheets of maple wood into the Glowforge printer and pressed the only button on the entire machine. Indeed -- by the time he was done explaining how exactly his printer can build an entire dollhouse from plastic in just one try, or a leather bound notebook, or a world globe made out of strips of cardboard -- he was pulling cut material from the desktop laser, still smelling like burning wood, and putting it together. Sure enough, with a little prodding, the delicate slices of wood slid together and formed a candleholder.

If Dan Shapiro's name sounds familiar, it's because you've probably heard it before. Shapiro is a full-fledged tech veteran, who started his career at Microsoft in the late 90s, and has since founded four separate startups. Shapiro's other companies have dealt with primarily software: Sparkbuy was a consumer electronics shopping site (and was purchased by Google in 2011); Ontela dealt with image hosting (and merged with Photobucket in 2009); and Robot Turtles is a board game that teaches kids how to program (and was the most backed board game in Kickstarter history).

But Glowforge isn't exactly slow out of the gate; the hardware startup raised $9 million earlier this year, and its future looks bright to its very enthusiastic CEO: "I just can't wait for creative people to get their hands on it," Shapiro said. "I just can't wait to see what people do."

Originally published