Glowforge cuts deal with Michaels to expand retail reach of its 3D laser printers

(Glowforge Photo)

Glowforge has signed on with a new retail partner in a bid to get its 3D laser printers and other products in front of more customers who are already thinking about making and creating.

The Seattle-based startup announced Tuesday that it is teaming with Michaels, the North American specialty retailer that sells arts, crafts, framing and more supplies online and from more than 1,200 stores across the U.S. and Canada.

Glowforge makes a line of 3D laser cutters/engravers. Instead of making objects out of plastic strands like traditional 3D printers, Glowforge uses a laser to quickly cut and engrave products made from raw materials like leather, paper, plastic, fabric, or cardboard, all with the push of a button.

The 7-year-old startup’s Glowforge Plus and Pro model printers, as well as its air filters and Proofgrade materials will be available on the Michaels website and at select stores.

“This is really an opportunity to hit a wider piece of America,” Glowforge co-founder and CEO Dan Shapiro told Mekhato. “What we’ve seen over the years is that increasingly our product is going into homes and schools and being used not by tech early adopters but by people from all walks of life.”

Shapiro said customers are empowered creatively by the machines to start an Etsy, sell stuff on eBay or at the corner store, or start and scale a home-based business.

“Most units go into homes, and schools are this new and growing piece of our business as well, and those are worlds that intersect at Michaels,” Shapiro said.

Glowforge CEO Dan Shapiro. (Glowforge Photo)

Founded in 2014, Glowforge set a crowdfunding record in October 2015 but had some trouble fulfilling orders, delaying production and shipping numerous times. Prices now range from $2,995 for a basic model to $5,995 for the Pro version.

The startup has raised about $120 million to date and made its brick-and-mortar debut in December 2018 when it announced craft retail giant JOANN as an investor and new national retail partner.

Glowforge is growing along with its customer base, jumping from about 100 employees at the end of 2020, to more than 200 now.

“Most of my coworkers I have never met in person,” Shapiro said, adding that most jobs are now 100% remote. Some hardware jobs will remain in-person jobs at Glowforge Labs in Seattle.

Shapiro credits the doubling in size to the fact that Glowforge has doubled its revenue year-over-year and sold a record number of printers customers, prints and “doubling in amazing things people are creating.”

“Almost half of our purchases come from another Glowforge customer who loves the product and told their friend about it,” Shapiro said. “That customer referral is really the core of our growth. That’s why we’ve been able to sustain that over time and through the pandemic and everything else.”

Shapiro called the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting supply chain issues a “road with a lot of potholes,” but he said Glowforge “had good shock absorbers.” Products are back in stock and the new deal with Michaels will offer another place to shop.

Glowforge says that 12 Michaels stores nationwide will be participating in the program initially, expanding to 152 stores by the end of November. In addition to purchasing laser printers and Proofgrade materials, Michaels customers may also get to see Glowforge printers in action through periodic classes or demonstrations.

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