When I first turned on the original Formlabs Form 1 I knew I was in the presence of something special. This 3D printer could make amazingly detailed models using lasers and resin, a process that was at once exhilarating and, thanks to the curing process, kind of gross. Formlabs has taken a closer look at what made the original printer frustrating and smoothed out the bumps, creating one of the best prosumer 3D printers on the market.
Other printers like the Makerbot print by extruding a thin layer of plastic onto a surface. This is a stereolithographic printer that uses a resin that hardens when exposed to laser light. The objects are drawn, layer by layer, and then pulled out of the resin bath as each layer is finished. The resulting objects are completely solid. To cure the objects you must place them in a bath of rubbing alcohol, a step that has always kept this model out of the early educational market. Improvements to this process have made things a little easier and a little less messy.
I sat down with the folks at Formlabs to take a tour of the new printer. It has a 25-200 micron layer height as well as a new resin system that allows you to swap out official resins or pour your own. The system also has a unique “wiper” arm to prepare each layer as it is printed. The wiper spreads out the resin and removes any fragments, a big improvement over the previous print and pray method.
This is not for the average consumer. The quality of the pieces is amazing but the curing process requires a bit of patience and room. I’d recommend this for a design shop or a professional setting where, at the very least, you have a big sink.
But the Form 2 is great. Where the Form 1 could be considered a prototype for a consumer-grade SLA printer (a product that had never existed until then) the Form 2 is the finished product. It is beautifully built, features excellent onboard and PC software, and is ready to create almost anything you can throw at it. It’s available for order now for $3,499 plus $149 for a liter of resin.