Form1+ 3D printer review – Upgrading from a Form1

 

Update – 20th May 2015: Having spent a good 18 months using a Form1/ 1+ I thought it’s about time I updated my thoughts on the device. In the 18 months we have been using a Form1 we have had the machine replaced twice. Our original Form1 developed issues where the parts had rough surfaces and what appeared to be thin fins growing on the part. From what I read this was related to Laser issues, even though FormLabs.

The machine was eventually replaced after months of trouble shooting. We wasted considerable time and resin going through the various tests and eventually FormLabs agreed to replace the machine, as long as we would pay for shipping it to and and from America. The replacement Form1+ was a much better machine but within four months the same problems appeared. Again the trouble shooting process started and after months of no improvements after checking, cleaning and even replacing a mirror that appeared to have absolutely nothing wrong with it FormLabs agreed to replace the machine, again as long as we paid the very expensive shipping bill. Everything I read pointed to a laser issue however FormLabs insisted it was an optical path problem.

Would I recommend this machine? When it is working it prints great parts but unless you’re prepared to have it replaced every 6 months its a tough sell unless you are located in the USA so return shipments don’t cost a small fortune.

 

form1plus-complete-package@2x

FormLabs have just announced a welcomed update to the Form1 3D printer. Dubbed the Form1+ (the plus indicating the additional upgrades) the machine looks identical as the original Form1 on the outside but on the inside, the Form1 team have upgraded key components which allow it to print more accurately, more reliably and up to four times faster then the original Form1.

The Form1+ Upgrades include:

  • Second-generation laser module
  • Updated galvanometer control board
  • Reinforced mechanical peel system
  • Complete factory recalibration
  • New, redesigned resin tank
  • Extended 1 year warranty

Introducing the Form 1+ from Formlabs on Vimeo.

If you’re reading this theres a fair chance you are already aware that the Form1 was one of the first low cost SLA 3D printers to take the focus away from FDM 3D Printers that were dominating the entry level 3D printer market at the time. It received huge amounts of interest from industrial designers and engineers as it gave hope to be able to print highly detailed, very accurate parts on your desktop. I was especially excited as the products we develop were all a size that fit nicely within the 120mm envelop.

We received our Form1 in March 2013 and had it printing within 15mins of taking it out of the box. The ease of setup and operation are a testament to the FormLabs team. You can read my review on it here. The parts it produced were much more detailed compared to the parts coming off our Cube 3D printer but thats expected when comparing SLA parts to FDM parts. However the more I used the machine the more I started to notice that the parts were not as accurate as I had hoped and fine small detail was getting lost when the resin to cured between features. Over time this got worse and eventually the parts started to print with weird gill like features making the parts totally unusable. At this point I contacted FormLabs to see what was going on. After many emails back and forth the FormLabs support engineer diagnosed the printer as having a faulty laser. He informed me that I would need to ship the machine back to FormLabs in the USA to get it repaired, however FormLabs would not cover the shipping costs, not even one way! Not exactly impressed with the situation we figured the machine was useless in its current state so we bit the bullet and paid the shipping fee and sent off our Form1 for repair, luckily we had hung on to the packaging.

As time dragged on FormLabs contacted me to let me know that the machine would be upgraded with the new laser and peel system which would be released on their new model. Getting wind of the new model I asked if we could upgrade to the new version of which they eventually agreed to what we would be getting back would effectively be the same as the new Form1+. Unfortunately we didn’t get the extended 12 months warranty as we’re located in Australia but you can’t have everything. I believe FormLabs is no longer accepting orders from Australia so I guess we’re lucky to have actually have a Form1 in OZ.

Three months after the initial contact with FormLabs support we finally received our replacement Form1+ and could get printing again! Out of the box it looked identical to the Form1. I plugged it in, updated the software and firmware on the machine, filled up the resin tray and set of a print. The first thing I noticed is the peel system sounded different and the clicking sound it makes when homing the build tray against the build platform was much quieter than the Form1. The platform plunged into the resin and the laser started firing. Straight away I could see that the laser was much brighter and moved a lot faster than the original. As I was printing a fairly small part the peeling between each layer was the most time consuming part of the print. Two hours later I had a part which would have taken 4-5 hours on the Form1. I removed the build tray and removed the part. Straight away I could see that part was miles ahead of the parts printed on the Form1. The detail was clear with crisp sharp edges and you could see the consistency in the layers. In fact the part was that detailed that I could actually see the tessellation’s in the STL file and this was at the course setting of 0.1mm layers. Note to self, export STL files at higher resolution from now on…

The mounting system I designed (Quad Lock) requires very fine tolerance for the male mount plate to connect with the female recess. Parts I had printed on the Form1 would not fit together as extra resin had solidified on areas it wasn’t meant to making it impossible for parts to interlock without lots of manual adjustment and sanding. However parts on the Form1+ went together straight out of the machine! No sanding required.

I’m much happier with the Form1+ as its now much closer to my expectations of what the Form1 should have been capable from originally. And I am not alone with this opinion as you can see on the FormLabs forums.

If your looking for a great low cost SLA 3D printer I can highly recommend the Form1+. It’s not going to give you the same level of detail as you will get from a professional SLA 3D printer but for the money it is exceptional value.

If you are looking to upgrade your Form1 you can do so here – http://formlabs.com/store/us/buy-upgrade/

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Peters

This is the blog of Chris Peters, co-founder of Annex Products, designer of the Opena Case, and inventor of Quad Lock. Industrial designer | entrepreneur | maker - Based in Melbourne, Australia Twitter @cplicious Instagram @cplicious