Do you want to laser engrave or cut, but don’t like the idea of pumping the smoke out of a window? Or perhaps, like us, you live in a climate not conducive to that?
The Glowforge Compact Filter has come in handy during our freezing cold winter days, but it is not entirely good news, so I thought I would put my thoughts into this post to serve as a review of the compact filter and feedback for how things could be improved.
What is the Glowforge Compact Filter?
Right from the start it seems Glowforge planned to have available a filter that would take the exhaust from the laser engraver and, rather than pump it outside, would take smoke into an enclosure, filtering it to produce clean air.
During production they hit some speed bumps, and came up with an alternative arrangement to serve folks who couldn’t wait for the planned version, but turned out to have its own advantages.
After attaching the filter, you need to set an option to tell the Glowforge interface the filter is being used, that way it uses the filter fan rather than depend on the vent fan that is in the engraver.
What is the difference between this and the planned filter unit?
Unlike the Glowforge branded filter that is still in development, this filter sits beside the laser, and is attached using vent tubing.
While not as elegant as sitting under the laser as is still planned for the first-party solution, it offers the opportunity to decide when you want to pump the smoke outside or into the filter. You can filter or vent, it is up to you.
It is mounted on wheels, so is quite a bit more portable than the planned Glowforge branded filter also.
What do you like about the Compact Filter?
As mentioned earlier, the main advantage is the whole purpose, and that is the filter means you don’t have to pump the smoke outside.
Cracking a window lets the cold in. As well as being not fun for humans, it is especially bad for the laser to be exposed to extreme cold, and that cold goes right up the vent into the machine if you are not careful.
Another advantage of the filter is it also keeps the sound in. Lasering can be noisy for your neighbours.
If you wanted to, you could take your Glowforge and Compact Filter and do demonstrations or personalized gifts at markets, conventions, and other events. Definitely something we are considering.
What is not good about it?
Right now it seems the filters, which are after all a consumable, fill up quickly.
The advice is to limit use of materials such as MDF to lengthen the useful life of the replaceable filters, which would be fine but 90% of what most of us engrave on our lasers is plywood, which has MDF inside.
This wouldn’t be bad if they were cheap, but all indications are these filters are going to be hundreds of dollars to replace, plus shipping from USA. Hundreds of dollars, heavy and bulky, plus cross-border will mean import duty and expensive shipping.
If there was a way to add a pre-filter that snags the largest particles, and sell the filters through Amazon or other regional options, some of these downsides would be mitigated somewhat.
As it is, this is still a better option than the first-party filter that will be attached under the laser so will not offer the option of venting outside and will be a pain in the butt each time the filter needs to be replaced!
While I have a gripe, it is minor in comparison to the benefit we received in being able to use our Glowforge right through -40c weather – essential as my wife launched a business off the back of the Glowforge that couldn’t take a vacation while the climate improved.
I’d recommend checking out the Compact Filter to anyone with a Glowforge, and I would suggest it as another advantage the Glowforge has over other similar laser engraving systems.
Check out my original Glowforge Review for more information on why I prefer the Glowforge over any other laser I have owned or used.