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Review: Formlabs Form 1+ 3D printer offers mind-blowing precision

Lucas Mearian | May 20, 2015
This incredibly accurate 3D printer can reproduce intricate models -- but is also costly and slow.

Every 3D printer requires this rather inelegant model removal process, but some machines have better print surfaces than others. The Lulzbot Mini 3D printer I reviewed had a really remarkable surface that allowed most models to almost pop off with a tug. But for its part, the stainless steel surface of the Form 1+ does not make model removal easy.

To make work a bit less arduous, included with the Form 1+ are a finishing tray and accessories package that act as a post-printing workspace to help clean up and put finishing touches on a printed piece. The printer's build platform fits snugly into one of the tray's compartments, so it doesn't slip and slide around when you're jabbing at it with the spatula.

After you print an object, it's covered in gooey resin. Once you've scraped it off the platform, you have to agitate it in a bath of isopropyl alcohol for two minutes and then let it sit in the bath for another 10 minutes. The company then suggests you give it a second rinse -- this one 12 seconds long -- in a separate tub of isopropyl alcohol. I found some objects needed even more time in the alcohol bath before they'd been de-slimed of the resin.

Thankfully, you're also given a large ziplock baggie of rubber gloves to protect your hands from excess resin and the alcohol used during post-print processing.

The resins come in four colors: clear, white, gray and black. And, like the printer, they're quite pricy -- for example, a one-liter bottle of resin costs $149. (The resin tank holds 200 millileters; you can make approximately 5 to 10 objects -- depending on the size of the objects -- with one full tank.) Additionally, resin tanks must be protected from ambient light or the liquid will harden. By comparison, a two-pound spool of polymer filament for a FFF printer sells for as little as $29 and will print just as many objects, if not more.

Other issues: I found that after a few print jobs, I had problems with smudging on the bottom of the optically clear resin tank; that affected the optics and the machine's ability to print.

The fix is to purchase a special spray cleaner and wipe the tank down with the supplied microfiber cloth. I didn't have any spray, so effectively, I was done using the printer after a few jobs.

A Formlabs technician told me that the resin tank can become fouled after using one to two bottles of resin. Once the optically clear resin tank becomes permanently smudged, the laser can no longer accurately trace the CAD image in the resin and you'll be required to buy a new tank for $59. Formlabs also sells the removable print platforms for $99 each -- after you've scraped at the metal surface for a while, it can become marred, which can affect print object adhesion.

 

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