The Good Formlabs Form 2 3D Printer provides consistently reliable performance and can create extremely detailed and complex 3D objects. The printer supports both USB and network printing.
The Bad The printer and materials are very expensive. It works slow enough and its printed items need cleaning or will remain sticky for weeks.
The Bottom Line The incredibly expensive Formlabs Form 2 3D printer is worth the investment only for those with very specific needs and deep pockets.
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Want a great 3D printer? First, make sure you have good specific reasons, such as having to do something you can’t buy. Second, be prepared to spend a lot of money.
Formlabs Form 2 is a great example of an all-around good 3D printer. For $ 3,500, or $ 2,449, it’s an entire investment. (The formulas will be shipped to Australia from their international store , where Form 2 costs $ 5,740 equivalent. In addition, print material, a liquid called resin, starts at $ 149 per liter cartridge (about 1kg or 2 pounds) and is not cheap. In addition, as a stereolithography printer (SLA), Form 2 can only print solid forms that are unable to cut out thick portions of the prints. This means that it uses more material compared to the more popular and affordable FFF 3D printers. So yeah, it’s expensive.
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Instead, the printer worked well in my tests and was consistently reliable. It was also flexible – supported on USB, wired network and Wi-Fi – and easy to use with a large useful touch screen. Moreover, it includes a ready-made kit that will come in handy when cleaning printed items. (All SLA prints must be cleaned before use.)
Despite its cost, Forms 2 is easily one of the best 3D printers I’ve used, with excellent performance – albeit a bit slow – and stellar print quality. Of course, you can find cheaper 3D printers such as XYZprinting da Vinci Jr . or the XYZprinting Nobel 1.0 , but you will also have to deal with poor quality prints. Form 2 consistently delivers high quality prints. Just make sure you really have a specific need for it. For more information, see this article about others The 3D printers we reviewed .
Stereolithography 3D printing technology
FormLabs Form 2 is the second SLA 3D printer I’ve worked with. While this is a big step up from the first, XYZPrint Nobel 1.0 , it shares the same 3D printing technology called stereolithography (SLA). This technology is completely different from other popular 3D printing technology, called fused thread manufacturing (FFF).
With the FFF, the printer builds a layer-by-layer subject layer from top to bottom on a print platform, like icing a pie or using a seal. However, due to natural disasters, the printer’s print platform sinks into a container filled with liquid resin and slowly pulls the solid 3D object upside down. More specifically, when the printing platform is lowered into a glass reservoir with resin, an ultraviolet laser light under a test tube shines under it. (For this reason, SLA is sometimes called laser 3D printing technology.) Resisting in laser light, the resin solidifies, solidifies, and adheres to the platform. As more resin enters the laser light, the image is created and attached to the layer above. As more layers are created, the collection platform slowly – very slowly – moves up, finally removing the entire object from the reservoir when the printing process is complete.
Another big difference between FFF and SLA 3D printing is that, although FFF produces a lot of heat when printing (which is required to melt the plastic thread), SLA remains cold all the time. Instead, you have to deal with sticky resin, which can be dirty. In addition, although the FFF 3D object is ready for use as soon as it is printed, the SLA 3D object should then be rinsed with a solid solvent (75 percent or higher alcohol); otherwise it will remain wet (and sticky) for weeks.
To help with the cleanup, Form 2 comes with a Ready Kit that contains enough tools to work with.
Features of Formlabs Form2 3D Printer
|Technique:||SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus)|
|Printer dimensions:||13.5 × 13 × 20.5 inches (35 × 33 × 52 cm)|
|Weight:||13 pounds (28kg)|
|Light source:||EN 60825-1:2007 certified Class 1, 405nm, 250mW violet laser|
|Connectivity:||USB wire, Ethernet, Wi-Fi|
|Build size:||5.7 × 5.7 × 6.9 inches (145 × 145 × 175 mm)|
|Power requirements:||100–240 V|
|Layer thickness:||0.001, 0.002, 0.004, 0.008 inches (25, 50, 100, 200 microns)|
|Print material:||Photopolymer resin|
|Resin cartridge capacity:||1 liter|
|Operating system:||Windows 7 or later, Mac OS X 10.7 or later|
|File types:||STL, OBJ, FORM|
Beautiful design, expensive pitch
Form 2 comes mostly pre-assembled and looks like a rectangular box facing up. Like most SLA 3D printers, it has a large orange plastic hood on top that stores its resin tank from the outside world while printing. This hood is attached to the printer, but you can easily open it for access inside.
From the box, you just need to open the hood, install the included print platform, the resin tank (just below the print platform), and the resin cartridge; the printer is now ready. Form2 is well designed; all its parts get into his body quite easily. During a print job, the printer automatically detects the type of resin and pulls it out of the cartridge to fill the resin tank before the print platform descends into the reservoir as the basis for the resin to be adhered to.
The printer includes one printing platform, one resin tank and one resin cartridge. If you just want to print one type of resin, you don’t need to get an extra resin tank. However, if you plan to print multiple types of resin or resin of different colors, it is better to purchase an additional resin tank (and even an additional printing platform) for each resin type / color. This is because you do not want to mix resin types and colors together (which will lead to unwanted print results), and since the resin is very sticky, it takes a long time to clean the parts. Not only that, but it is not recommended to clean the container, as you may accidentally scratch its bottom, which will interfere with the laser beam when printing.
Formlabs sells additional resin tanks for $ 60 each resin cartridges It costs between $ 150 and $ 300 each, depending on the type, whether regular, rigid, flexible or flexible. Given that each cartridge contains 1 liter of resin (approximately 2 pounds or 1 kg of material cost), in addition to its high initial cost, Form 2 is also expensive enough to use over time.
Getting started with a printer is usually simple, thanks to the large touch screen on the front.
The only difficult part is that you have to install the printer on four adjustable legs, which is why it is more complicated (easier to reach three feet flat.) To help with this, the touch screen contains a bubble level that visually shows how located printer. After all, it only took me about five minutes for the printer to start up and out of the box.
You can connect the printer to your computer via the USB port on the back. It also supports network printing through the network port also on the back. Or you can use the touch screen to connect it to a Wi-Fi network. Whichever way you decide to connect the printer, it will be recognized immediately on your computer after you have installed the software called PreForm. You can download software from FormLabs which has two versions: one each for Windows and Mac.
The PreForm software is very similar to the software of most other printers I have reviewed. It’s simple and easy to use. Its interface consists of large and clear buttons that allow you to view and manage files of 3D models. After the print command is called, depending on the size and complexity of the 3D model, the software takes a few seconds to a few minutes to transfer data to the printer. You then need to use the printer’s touch screen to select the job you want to print, and then press the button to initialize the printing process. The printer then prints on its own without connecting to a computer.
The printer will save the print jobs you sent to it. You can always use the touch screen to scroll between tasks to delete it or reprint it. When selecting a job, the screen even displays a previous image of the 3D object, which makes it very convenient to know what job you are choosing if you cannot recognize it by name.
Form 2 supports standard and popular 3D model files. In a huge collection of free 3D objects Thingiverse which you can use, or you can make your own using software such as SketchUp or Autodesk 123D.
Like XYZPriting Nobel 1.0, speed is not a Form 2 forte. The printer is slow enough to take around an hour to print the iPhone 5, which is about the same as an FFF printer. However, if you print something with thick portions, such as a ball or model puppy, Form 2 will be much slower than an FFF printer. This is because, as an SLA printer, it cannot spill the middle. Instead, it prints everything as a solid form.
It is important to note that there will always be some resin left in the tank after each job, which means that if you do not print another job for a long time, you are likely to spend that resin. And even if you are printing often to save the resin, you will need to get a separate reservoir for each resin type and color, since it is not possible to pour the resin into the reservoir back into the cartridge.
The strength of Form 2, however, lies in its consistency and quality. In a couple of weeks of testing, I never came across a failed print. In fact, it was difficult to mess up the print job, even when I tried. One day I intentionally tilted the printer while working; the printer immediately paused and suggested to me through the touch screen to restart it. After the printer was released, the task automatically resumed and ended without engagement.
Form 2 print quality is superior to any 3D printers I’ve reviewed. Its printed items look just like the ones you buy in the store, with a smooth surface and great details. And the fact that it supports special types of resin (durable, foundry and flexible) means its prints can be used in many real-life applications, not just something to look at.
Please note that you must clean the item with a high concentration solvent before using it, and be sure to wear a pair of protective gloves. Usually, using an SLA printer, such as Form 2, can get messy, so don’t use it in your living room, but rather in a separate office or workshop.
For $ 3,500, Form 2 is way too expensive for most users, and the high cost of resin means you can certainly buy the finished stuff from the store much cheaper. If you’ve created something unique that you want to do, Form 2 is a great machine for literally turning that idea into reality.
However, until the price of 3D printing goes down, the only reason to get a 3D printer is that you have something specific to make; something you may not necessarily buy, such as chess pieces or your own business logo. And of all the 3D printers I’ve reviewed, Form 2 is actually the first to share the same level of reliability and consistency as most non-3D printers. In addition, print quality does not differ from any other 3D printer in its price range. I have seen other printers that can print even better items, but they are also much more expensive.
This means that if you can live with print quality multiple times, there are other 3D printers that also work well and do not dig a hole (or at least dig a smaller one) in your pocket, for example, Da Vinci Jr , the Da Vinci AiO 1.0 or the 3D System Cube 3 . These FFF printers are much cheaper than Form 2. And if an SLA is what you want, consider it too Nobel 1.0 . It’s not so good, but it’s also $ 2,000 cheaper than Form 2.