Formlabs, the segment-leading desktop SLA 3D printer manufacturer, has introduced theto its lineup. Thanks to its new Low Force Stereolithography process, it is said to offer improved accuracy and repeatability. Join us as we review what we know so far.
Formlabs, the Massachusetts-based company and segment-leading manufacturer of desktop SLA 3D printers, has lifted the lid on two new additions to its lineup.
Dubbed the Form 3 and Form 3L, these new professional machines build upon Formlabs’ work with the Form 2, a desktop 3D printer that has cemented itself as one of the first names in print quality and usability since launching in 2015 (was it that long ago!?). Where the Form 2 uses what you could consider a traditional stereolithography apparatus (SLA) setup of a laser directed by a galvanometer to cure resin, the Form 3 and Form 3L use what Formlabs is calling Low Force Stereolithography (LFS).
The direct successor to the Form 2, the Form 3 occupies a similar form factor and offers virtually the same print volume. But under the hood, it is a drastically different machine. Join us as we explore all we know about the Formlabs Form 3.
Traditionally, SLA 3D printing makes use of a directed laser to set photosensitive resin within a tank. The position of the print must change to allow subsequent layers to build on top of it, which introduces the problem of ‘peel’ force within the resin; the shifting and pressure therein exerted on the delicate printed part. To address this challenge, and allow the technology to supersize in the also-just-announced Form 3L, Formlabs has developed a new spin on the process called Low Force Stereolithography.
The low force aspect of this process is attributable to the new flexible tank that the Form 3 uses, which is said to reduce peel force and allow for linear illumination. With the side benefit of improving the surface quality, it was developed to minimize the impact the stresses of SLA typically have on a print.
In addition to the benefits of LFS mentioned above, the Form 3 also benefits from a uniform high-density laser spot thanks to Formlabs’ new Light Processing Unit (LPU). Developed from the ground up, the LPU makes use of a system of lenses and mirrors, alongside the galvanometer typically found in SLA systems, to consistently direct the laser perpendicular to the build plate.
Connectivity to the Form 3 comes via WiFi, Ethernet or USB. Notable here is the bump to include 5Ghz frequency WiFi networks. Formlabs is paying close care to the operability of the new machines, with enhanced monitoring through a suite of sensors set to alert the user when attention is required.
The print volume of the Form 3 is virtually the same as that of the Form 2. Here you get 145 x 145 x 185 mm (to the Form 2’s 145 x 145 x 175 mm), a functional space adequate for a number of industries producing small batches of intricate parts. Announced alongside the Form 3, the Form 3L offers five times the print volume, with a whopping 200 x 335 x 300 mm at its disposal. Unfortunately, those taken by the Form 3L’s size will have to wait for it — first shipments are expected Q4 2019, starting at $9,999.
As with Formlabs machines of the past, the Form 3 officially supports Formlabs-produced resins only, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Packaged in no-mess cartridges that plug into the printer, the company boasts of an expansive library of professional materials catering to a variety of industries. To coincide with the launch of the Form 3, Formlabs even released a new one. Called Draft Resin, it’s formulated to print with thicker layers, allowing for quick prototyping with little to no loss of detail.
The Form 3 will begin shipping in June as part of either a Basic Package including only the essentials to begin printing, or a Complete Package including the Form Cure and Form Wash post-processing stations, plus extended service care plan. These will be priced at $3,499 and $5,999 respectively.
All this excitement for new hardware casts quite the shadow over the Form 2, which is still no less relevant today than the day it launched. So there’s some small solace in the news that Formlabs will continue to offer the Form 2 following the launch of the Form 3 and Form 3L, albeit at a permanent $500 discount. That brings the Form 2 Basic and Complete package prices down to $2,850 and $4,499.
Printing Technology: Low Force Stereolithography (LFS)
Laser: Light Processing Unit (LPU), 250 mW405 nm
Build Volume: 145 x 145 x 185 mm
Z-Layer Resolution: 25 – 300 microns
XY Resolution: 25 microns
UI: 5.5-inch touchscreen
Connectivity: WiFi, Ethernet, USB
Build Platform Leveling: Automatic
Materials: Formlabs resin cartridges
Software bundle: PreForm, Dashboard Printer Management
File types: STL, OBJ
Weight: 17.5 kg
Dimensions: 405 x 375 x 530 mm
Available for preorder now, the Formlabs Form 3 is expected to start shipping in June.
License: The text of "2019 Formlabs Form 3 SLA 3D Printer – Review the Specs" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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