Sorta OT - Formlabs Form1+ 3D printer

Hi all,

Finally got my Form 1+ 3D printer delivered last week (having ordered it in late June)… For those not familiar, it’s the first “consumer level” 3D printer that uses a technology other than FDM - in this case it’s a real stereolithography process with photosensitive liquid resin and an LED laser.

As a test I made a 80 cell Voronoi wireframe cube in Grasshopper, 50mm on a side with 1.4mm diameter pipes, and ran it through the printer. Images of the result below. The resolution is pretty impressive. And the material is pretty strong, easily handleable without breaking. Print time was about 6 hours.

I found the printer software to be very nicely done, simple and intuitive, especially the way you can edit the automatically generated supports, manually removing or placing new ones with one click including real time visualization and indication of unsupported areas. It did take some time to adjust the supports in software, as this particular shape with its internal structure is tricky to print. It also took some time to physically remove them after the print was done.

All in all I’m very impressed with the design of the machine and how the system works, considering its 2800 dollar/euro pricetag…

Edit: one slight inconvenience (for us) that I forgot to mention, is that the printer only has a USB connection, so you can’t upload files to the machine via the network, and the upload time is relatively long. Hopefully one day these machines will have a network connection or even wireless and work with a printer driver like file upload system.

–Mitch

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Thanks for sharing! Always good to see a firsthand review by a reliable source.

Well, not sure about the “reliable” part… :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:
–M

Yeah, thanks for sharing.
First hand impression are very important.

Mitch,
I have been reading quite a bit on 3D printing so right after I get done going through the new posts on the forum I will go investigate this printer. As a jeweler that usually makes only one of anything I know for a fact that a 3D printer will put me in a new world. In conjunction with Rhino I could pretty much build anything I dream up.

Thank you for this information

All my best … Danny

Thanks for the write up Mitch… I wish I had known you had one on order the last time I saw you, not that we were at a loss for shop talk! I’ve been considering one of these myself and reading the user forum to see the issues you’d really run into operating one. It looks like part orientation is key for drainage of resin and preventing trapped air pockets when printing shelled parts. The mirrors also need to be kept pristine… do not use compressed air as this has an anti-inhalant additive that creates ghosting. I was also concerned about lawsuits from 3D systems but I think they may have settled.

I burned a lot of time on the first makerbot and a bit of cash so I’m extra cautious now about 3D printer investment. It makes sense when you think about it, humanity has yet to develop trouble free 2D printing.

Hey Mitch, thanks for this post and hopefully you will share more of your great experiences with that device. I would be interested in smell and noise, can this be operated in an office environment ? What is the price of this print and how much power does the printer use while printing ? How easy was it to remove the support material ?

thanks,
c.

I am also interested in the cost/print, so the cost of consumables and the amount of consumables used relative to the size of model. Looks like a lot is used up for supports.
Does the resin have a shelf life?
I get the impression that the container also has to be replaced frequently.
I’m a bit wary of proprietorial systems since the manufacturer can charge whatever they like. We have a 3D Systems (ZCorp) machine where that is the case.
That said it looks pretty cool!
Nick

Thanks Mitch! I too have been keeping an eye on this one. It’s good to know you have a happy first impression.

Is the resin easy to acquire in Europe? Do you get your money’s worth in amount of printed objects?

Cheers,

  • vane

To answer everyone’s questions…

We’re still at the beginning stages of testing here.

Formlabs now has a sales office in the UK, so Europe is supplied from there.
The resin is 125 Euros for a 1 liter bottle plus shipping. The unopened bottles have a shelf life of about 1 year, but once in the tank only about 2 months. The resin tanks are also considered consumables and need to be replaced periodically. There is a wealth of information available on their website, which is very well done.

The process is not as simple and clean as a consumer-level FDM machine, as you’re dealing with liquid light sensitive resins and post process cleaning instead of solid, dry plastic wire. The resin has a slight smell, and there is also the isopropyl alcohol (pretty volatile) necessary for post print cleaning. The printer makes virtually zero noise while printing. I don’t know how much energy it takes, probably less than an FDM, as there’s no heat involved in the process.

The build envelope is pretty small (125 x 125 x 165) so it’s mainly for smaller, higher precision parts. The material (proprietary) is certainly more expensive than consumer level ABS or PLA used in small FDM machines, but less expensive than professional FDM or polymer inkjet material. Supports are of the same material (same as in a professional level SLA machine), the part geometry will determine how many are needed. Support removal difficulty will also vary from part to part, they normally just snap off, but if you have delicate parts you may need to remove them with care to avoid breaking the part.

As we already have FDM machines, for us this is a good complement for making higher resolution parts - without having to spend 10x its price for a polymer inkjet printer. However, for most people who are only going to have one 3D printer, I think it may not be the ideal solution. There is no ideal solution actually, every system has its advantages and disadvantages, but the SLA process with its sensitive liquids may simply be too complicated/messy for the average consumer/small office.

–Mitch

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Thanks Mitch, very helpful! In that sense, I’ve been working with the UP! extrusion printer in our FabLab and, for an FDM desktop printer, I am pretty impressed with the ease of use and quality of the parts printed.

Not trying to tinkle in anyone’s Cheerios as the Form1 is a very useful tool for prototyping general objects…

But it really needs to be pointed out for the jewelers looking into any 3D printer is whether or not the supported resin has burn-out properties required in the direct casting process. A resin not capable of this will introduce production headaches ranging from ash residue to unwanted expansion inside the investment. Formlabs has been promising a burn-out resin almost from the dawn of their Kickstarter campaign.

The promise vs reality is something you’ll need to confirm for certain. Even machines that are explicitly marketed for jewelry use seem disingenuous judging from the struggles users have been having. Witness the battle to find the “right” investment to use with the ProJet 1200’s resin models:
http://my.rhinogold.com/forum/topics/projet-1200-first-wax-printes-go-to-casting-today
Almost all of the posted sample casts would be considered failures if it came back from my casting workshop.

I’ve seen examples of folks attempting to direct-cast the initial gray resin from Formlabs with equally abysmal results. The suggested recourse was to then silicone-mold the resin model. This left me flabbergasted since the whole point of 3d printing for jewelry was to specifically get rid of this step. (introduction of an uncontrollable amount of shrinkage)

Just my 2¢ for the jewelers.

Congrats and enjoy the printer, Mitch!

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Yes. As far as I can tell, the only real way to go for jewelry/investment casting is either a Solidscape wax printer or an Envisiontec machine. Both of which are far out of the “consumer” price bracket. And I would stay the heck away from ANY 3D Systems inkjet printer. --Mitch

Wow, that is quite steep considering that a lot of support material gets into the bin. But the quality seems to be much better than FDM printing. Please keep us posted with your results !

c.

Another interesting OT thing to note is that the Formlabs discussion forum is also using Discourse… Feels like home… :smile:

Yes, compared to consumer FDM’s that use ABS/PLA at $30-40 per kilo… However considering that we have to buy the same ABS from Stratasys for our machines at 10x that price, the Formlabs resin looks cheap…

–Mitch

Too late to get rid of the’osaur suffix now! :grin:

CarterTG,
You broached the subject I was getting ready to ask. I had heard that some of these printers output would not work well in burnout, as a one of a kind jeweler the last thing I need to do is make a silicon mold then inject wax and then burnout. I have looked at the high end machines but not being a production shop I just cannot justify their costs.

All my best … Danny

DWS does investment casting too. Envisiontec would need some custom burnout when I stop dealing with that market.

SolidScape burns perfectly, but models are extremely fragile.

Here’s another experiment, in transparent this time… The “floors” are a little too thin, a few were not sufficiently supported and ended up distorted. The original thickness was 1mm, but I had to scale the object down to get it into the envelope diagonally, and they ended up being only 0.8 mm. Support generation and removal were also difficult for this type of model with lots of overhanging stuff. But the result is pretty cool anyway. Note how the transparent material exhibits a yellow-purple flip-flop when backlit…

Having too much fun with creating challenging tests in Grasshopper and then printing them…

–Mitch

supports still on…

supports removed

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