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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.

So over time, you could end up spending a significant amount of money on replacement parts just for upkeep.

Why would you buy this machine?

So after all the possible problems with this machine -- the price, the slow speed, the post-printing processing -- you may be wondering why I'd ever recommend it. The answer comes in one word: Precision.

The most stringent test I've found to date for checking a 3D printer's accuracy is a 5-in.-high Eiffel Tower model I found on MakerBot's website Thingiverse. The tower's scaffolding challenges a 3D printer to complete an intricate web of design. In my experience, only one printer completed the task flawlessly: the Lulzbot Mini. Until now.

The Eiffel Tower model consists of 1,209 layers, which took the Form 1+ three hours to print. I printed it without support material, as I've done with many other printers, to ensure it could be completed without a lot of post-print processing.

The Form 1+ printer added intricacies I didn't even know existed on the original download -- because other printers had simply excluded them. After printing the tower, I was amazed at the miniscule scaffolding cross-sections. A pedestrian handrail on one of the tower's catwalks had been reproduced on one other printer, but it was done with exquisite precision on this one. I found myself picking up the model over and over again to marvel at its detail.

Well-designed software

I also found that Formlabs' PreForm software was excellent in positioning models for the most effective printing job. For example, the "Smart Support Structure" feature automatically decides where to place scaffolding on a model to ensure a sturdy model.

The software also allows a great deal of support material manipulation, adding greater or lesser density and reducing the thickness from .40mm to 1.30mm.

The PreForm software, however, allows for a minimal amount of object customization. With it, you can only import a model, align it and resize it. You can also make duplicates of the model in order to print more than one at the same time.

One feature I loved about the software was the ability to inspect each layer of a model build. This is important to ensure a quality print; you can literally look at each layer in a model with more than 1,000 levels, to see how each will be printed, and therefore determine how well each layer will turn out.

Conclusion

The Form 1+ ships with a one-year warranty.

The machine can produce eye-popping detail, so it would be a standout for use in precision prototyping of parts. On the other hand, its ability to produce accurate detail must be balanced with its slow speed and the inconvenient post-printing processes, such as model removal and cleanup.

 

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