3-D laser printer company Glowforge made a big splash at Las Vegas's annual tech trade show CES this week.

Founded by serial entrepreneur Dan Shapiro, who sold his comparison shopping website Sparkbuy to Google in 2011, Seattle-based Glowforge's flagship product is sort of the opposite of a traditional 3-D printer. Instead of slowly building objects out of plastic, it uses a laser to quickly remove layer after layer of raw material with 1,000 DPI (or dots per inch) resolution. It has the ability to sculpt objects out of materials including acrylic, glass, leather, and wood.

Shapiro got the idea for Glowforge after experimenting with an industrial machine called the CNC Laser Printer Engraver, used by companies like Apple and Boeing for large-scale manufacturing. The 700 lb. machine costs between $10,000 and $30,000 and requires constant maintenance, according to Shapiro.

"I know because, like a chump, I went out and bought one," he says.

Last May, after determining he could make a smaller version for consumers and get the price point down to under $3,000, Shapiro raised $9 million in funding from Foundry Group and True Ventures. MakerBot co-founder Bre Pettis and former CEO Jenny Lawton also invested in the Series A.

During a 30-day period between September and October 2015, Glowforge pre-sold more than 10,000 units of its consumer 3-D laser printer, which costs $2,395. The $27.9 million generated in pre-sales gives Glowforge the largest ever pre-order campaign for any product ever, according to Shapiro. For $4,800, consumers can pre-order Glowforge's "pro unit," which gives you the ability to put longer materials into the printer and slide them through on a conveyor belt.

While the $27.9 million in pre-sales is already a record-setting figure, Glowforge has continued to accept pre-orders since October. How much additional revenue has the company generated since then? "I'd need to ask my CFO," Shapiro says. 

To see how 3-D laser printing works, check out the video below:

Published on: Jan 8, 2016