In 2013, a little-known startup by the title of Formlabs made an enormous splash on Kickstarter with the discharge of a groundbreaking new 3D printer. On the time, this printer (known as The Form 1) was one of many first consumer-oriented stereolithography (SLA) printers the world had ever seen – as a substitute of making objects by squirting molten plastic via a nozzle, it used a laser to ‘develop’ objects out of a pool of photo-reactive resin.

The Type 1 ended up being an enormous success on Kickstarter, gathering up practically $three million earlier than the marketing campaign concluded. Since then, the corporate has grown to over 100 staff and raised practically $20 million in enterprise capital — and now it’s again with a brand new and improved SLA printer that’s poised to take the 3D printing scene by storm but once more.

Options and specs

The Type 2 is a beast. It’s not only a small improve just like the Type 1+ was — it’s an entire and whole overhaul. Formlabs has principally taken all the issues and shortcomings of the first-gen printer and systematically addressed them via a collection of main design adjustments.

With a construct envelope that’s 5.7 × 5.7 × 6.9 inches, the Type 2 can print objects roughly 40 % larger than its predecessor, the Type 1+. It’s not large by any means, and also you’ll nonetheless get extra construct space on your buck with a traditional fused deposition modelling (FDM) printer, nevertheless it’s positively an enchancment, and at the moment one of many largest construct areas you will get in a consumer-level SLA printer.

It’s additionally fairly a bit sooner than the primary technology — someplace round 30 to 40 %. This pace increase comes from the machine’s extra highly effective laser, which solidifies the photopolymer resin about 50 % sooner, and with extra precision.

Invoice Roberson/Digital Developments

Invoice Roberson/Digital Developments

Why does a 50 % extra highly effective laser solely translate to 30 to 40 % sooner printing? Formlabs additionally modified the printing course of. After every new layer is created, the Type 2 performs a “slide peel” to detach the newly-formed layer from the print mattress, after which runs a wiper blade via the resin tray to take away any hardened particulate which will have been left behind. Whereas this makes the printer a bit slower than it could be in any other case, it additionally makes it dramatically extra dependable and much much less vulnerable to printing errors.

A myriad of little interface and usefulness upgrades additionally make the Type 2 simpler to make use of. To vary settings on the Type 1, you needed to join a laptop computer operating Formlabs’ PreForm software program. With the Type 2, every little thing will be managed proper from the printer’s massive, stunning touchscreen, proper on the machine.

You’ll be able to join it through Wi-Fi now, too, slightly than USB. Together with Formlabs’ accompanying cellular app, this connectivity makes it potential for the printer to ship alerts when your print begins, finishes, or requires consideration.

Setup and configuration

Even though the Type 2 creates objects in a basically completely different manner than a filament-based 3D printer, its setup course of kind of follows the identical set of steps.

The first step is loading the printing materials. It was once that you just poured sticky resin into the tray, however with the Type 2, you merely seize a resin cartridge, slide it into the slot situated on the aft of the printer, after which pop open the highest to permit airflow. That’s it. The Type 2 takes over from there.

Step two is leveling the machine. A particular disc-shaped instrument lets you regulate the person top of every of the printer’s 4 ft. When you do that, the printer’s touchscreen shows the digital equal of a round bubble degree utilizing inner sensors to information you thru the method. If you hit the candy spot, the Type 2 will know — so when you set it on a superbly degree to start with, you may not even want to finish this step.

All in all, this is likely one of the easiest setup processes we’ve ever skilled with a 3D printer. If you understand how to make use of a touchscreen and comply with primary instructions, you’ll don’t have any hassle in any respect.

Construct high quality and design

When it comes to design, the Type 2 is arguably probably the most considerate, user-friendly SLA printer on the planet. It’s not only a minor, evolutionary improve from the primary technology — it’s an entire overhaul that’s deliberately designed to handle the entire main ache factors related to SLA printing.

In Formlabs’ first-generation printer, creating massive objects was a little bit of a problem, because the printer needed to be stopped periodically and have its resin tank replenished. The brand new cartridge-based system permits the printer to refill itself mechanically as wanted.

One other challenge that plagued the primary technology was coping with leftover resin chunks that may be floating round within the tray. Earlier than you began every new print, you needed to be diligent and ensure that there have been no particles left over that may screw every little thing up. Within the Type 1+, this meant opening up the printer and operating a putty knife via the tray — however the Type 2 truly comes with an automatic tray wiper that mechanically clears the tray after every layer is accomplished. This drastically reduces the probabilities of getting a misprint, which in the end makes the printer extra dependable and simple to make use of.

In technology one, you needed to be extraordinarily cautious about spills. One stray gob of resin may fall into the printer’s innards and damage the optics — however within the Type 2, the printer’s guts are utterly sealed off.

Formlabs is manner forward of the sport right here.

The checklist goes on. Formlabs considered every little thing within the Type 2 — even issues that occur after your print is full. It was once that completed prints have been tough to take away from the construct plate as a result of they fused to the metallic so strongly, however within the Type 2, Formlabs added an ingenious resolution. Now, the printer’s auto-generated assist constructions are constructed with a small lip alongside their base, which lets you simply pry them off with a particular instrument that comes with the ending package.

Merely put, Formlabs is manner forward of the sport right here. It’s addressing issues that different SLA printer firms have barely even encountered but, not to mention begun to repair. The design of the Type 2 isn’t simply good — it’s progressive. It raises the bar for any newcomers hoping to compete within the SLA 3D printer house. That is the way it ought to be completed.

FormLabs Type 2 In contrast To

Person interface and software program

The Type 2’s onboard software program and touchscreen interface are remarkably easy, however the UI you’ll work together with most is PreForm — Formlabs’ proprietary slicer/editor program. Aesthetically, it seems about the identical because it at all times has, however a number of new options tucked away inside this system make it extra highly effective than ever earlier than.

For example, PreForm’s improved print optimization software program helps you orient your object in order that it prints easily: Simply click on one button and this system will analyze the thing and select the most effective place and orientation for you.

Assist constructions work the identical manner: One click on will auto-generate assist scaffolding to make sure that your print doesn’t fail. This function was accessible in earlier variations of the software program, however within the new-and-improved program, customers can now add or take away assist constructions from any given space. That is particularly useful because the auto-generated helps aren’t at all times situated in probably the most handy spots.

One of the best half is that FormLabs has carried out these new options and enhancements with out including any further muddle or complexity to this system’s person interface. The newest model of PreForm is simply as easy and approachable because it was in earlier iterations, which we admire.

Print efficiency

The Type 2 is, fingers down, some of the detailed and dimensionally correct printers we’ve ever used. The decision is so good, you’ll be able to barely see layers. Fantastic particulars come via in ways in which FDM printers can solely dream of. Bridges and unsupported spans? No drawback. Tiny objects with extraordinarily exact dimensions? Convey it on.

It’s some of the detailed and dimensionally correct printers we’ve ever used.

As standard, we ran it via a collection of torture checks to find out the printer’s limits. The primary one we did — the 3D Benchy check, got here out practically flawless. The scale have been good on virtually each floor, and the one imperfections have been the nubs left over from the assist materials, which have been minimal in comparison with what’s left behind on most FDM printers.

Principally each object we threw at it was reproduced with close to perfection. We skilled a number of misprints at one level, however that was solely as a result of we tried to print with out ample assist constructions. As we talked about earlier, Formlabs’s new-and-improved slicer software program lets you regulate the dimensions, form, place, and site of the auto-generated assist constructions; as we discovered, when you stray too removed from the really helpful settings, issues can typically happen. Making them too small or sparse usually results in misprints, however we by no means bumped into any issues after we caught to the machine’s really helpful parameters.

Upkeep, repairability, and upgradability

The one draw back of this printer is similar draw back that you just get with different SLA printers: coping with photopolymer resin is a ache. It’s sticky, it’s messy, and it stinks — however Formlabs has made coping with it about as painless as potential within the Type 2.

Due to the aforementioned design adjustments, you now not should pause prints to refill the resin tank; battle to take away resin-covered prints from the construct plate; or fear about dripping resin into the printer’s optics. It’s far much less of a trouble to make use of and keep.

FormLabs Form 2 review
Invoice Roberson/Digital Developments

Invoice Roberson/Digital Developments

That stated, you’ll nonetheless have to wash up the occasional drip or spill, and end all of your elements with a 20-minute soak in isopropyl alcohol. Utilizing an SLA printer isn’t practically as straightforward because the “seize and go” expertise provided by filament based mostly printers — however the Type 2 is about as low-maintenance as an SLA printer can conceivably be.

You’ll be able to’t simply restore or improve the Type 2 your self, however in all equity, that may be stated of virtually any SLA printer. Because of the nature of their building and operation, they’re not fairly as easy to restore as your common FDM printer. If one thing goes unsuitable, you’ll have to ship it again to Formlabs and anticipate a technician to diagnose the issue — however the excellent news is that Formlabs has a whole group devoted to simply that, so that you’ll at all times have assist in that regard.

Our Take

The Type 1 made the case for at-home SLA 3D printing, and the better-in-every-way Type 2 is driving it residence.

Is there a greater different?

The quick reply is “No.” The Type 2 is, certainly, probably the greatest 3D printers we’ve ever had the pleasure of utilizing. It excels in practically each class, and contains a litany of user-friendly options that you just can’t get with different SLA printers. Formlabs has raised the bar with this machine, and rivals ought to take observe. That is how SLA printing ought to be completed.

The longer reply is “Perhaps.” Whether or not or not there’s a greater different to the Type 2 largely depends upon what you’re searching for. SLA printing isn’t essentially the best choice for all prototyping and printing wants, and when you don’t really need strong, good elements, then maybe an FDM printer could be more practical. If that’s the case, you need to try the Ultimaker 3. It’s in the identical value vary, boasts an admirable most decision, and comes with a construct envelope that dwarfs that of the Type 2.

How lengthy will it final?

A couple of years, most likely. The and capabilities of this machine will inevitably be surpassed as newer, sooner, and higher printing applied sciences trickle down and discover their manner into consumer-level printers, however even when this factor will get overshadowed, it’ll doubtless maintain printing like a champ. Formlabs often pushes firmware updates and software program upgrades, and has a devoted assist group prepared to assist out if any points ought to ever come up, so you need to anticipate a reasonably lengthy usable lifespan.

Do you have to purchase it?

Sure. it’s actually a bit on the costly facet, however in case you have the price range for it and need top quality printed elements, that is most positively the printer you can purchase.


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