What do you get when a $100,000 Kickstarter campaign nearly reaches $3,000,000 in pledges? An overnight sensation. But overnight sensations don’t always deliver quality…
…the Formlabs Form 1+ does.
The Formlabs Form 1+ brings professional print quality to consumers for an affordable price tag. Using SLA (stereolithography) technology, the Form 1+ can print objects with much higher precision and accuracy than the more popular thermoplastic extrusion printers on the market.
However, with the affordable price tag (as least for an SLA printer, anyways) comes some downfalls, namely the Form 1+’s build platform. At a little over a 5″ cube of space to work with, the Form 1+ doesn’t offer much more build volume than something as small as a Printrbot Simple. This is understandable, though, considering the cost you pay for the finish quality you receive.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for showroom finish quality and you have a good-sized budget, then hands down the Formlabs Form 1+ is one of the best resin 3D printers on the market.
|TECHNOLOGY||SLA — Stereolithography|
|BUILD SIZE||125mm x 125mm x 165mm / 4.9″ x 4.9″ x 6.5″|
|BUILD SPEED||Up to 1.5cm/hour|
|RESOLUTION||As low as 25 microns|
|INPUT||.STL and .OBJ file input|
|SIZE||300mm x 280mm x 450mm / 12″ x 11″ x 18″|
|WEIGHT||8kg / 18lbs|
Formlabs Form1+ Features
While FDM 3D printing technology is the most affordable and widespread form of consumer-level 3D printing, it doesn’t quite lack the professional quality that SLA printing brings to the table.
In SLA (stereolithography) 3D printing, rather than having layers of melted plastic being laid on top of each other, full layers of resin are cured by a UV light one layer at a time.
This allows SLA printers to produce some very high-quality and detailed prints that ultimately come out a lot smoother and have a better finish quality than the prints that come out of an FDM model.
Of course, SLA isn’t without it’s own downfalls (which we’ll dive into later), but if you’re looking for the best quality prints possible, an SLA 3D printer (and subsequently a Formlabs Form 1+) are your best bet.
As for the features that stand out for the Form 1+…
The Form 1+ Can Produce Showroom-Quality Prints
Again, as already mentioned, the Form 1+ can produce highly-detailed prints that have an excellent finish quality. For anyone looking into getting a 3D printer for reasons that depend on getting quality prints, then an SLA printer is a must.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison between two Kings out of this chess set on Thingiverse:
Granted, the black King was printed on a Printrbot Simple Maker’s Kit, which really is one of the cheapest FDM offerings on the market. I also didn’t attempt to finish the Printrbot King, which if I would have, it could have come out looking a little better.
However, this side-by-side comparison gives you a taste for what kind of finish quality you can expect out of the Form 1+.
Ultimately, it’s the Form 1+’s print quality that is it’s primary feature. And, while there isn’t a lot of other features to rave about with the Formlabs Form 1+ (operating costs, print speed, availability of material, etc.), the print quality is so good that it is a must have machine for any 3D printing enthusiast.
The Form 1+ Is Easy to Use
Just because the Form 1+ uses the better and more advanced technology, doesn’t mean it is more difficult to use. In fact, the Form 1+ is so easy to setup and use that even beginning 3ders can jump in and start printing with it. (Though the high costs should probably keep most first-time 3ders away.)
The software it comes with is also straight forward and easy to use. Formlabs have cut out most of the clutter that comes with other 3D printing software and gives you exactly what you need to get your print going.
Full List of Features
|Capable of producing incredibly detailed and accurate prints|
|Finish quality is very smooth|
|Perhaps the best consumer-level SLA printer on the market|
|Solid customer support|
|Backed by a growing community|
|Supports a wide array of filaments|
|Easy and straightforward operationg|
|Can be up and running within 20-30 minutes or less|
|One year warranty gives you peace of mind|
Setup, Software, and Configuration
One of the great things about the Form 1+ is how quickly you can get it up and running. You simply need to:
- Plug it in
- Insert the resin tank
- Fill the resin tank
- Connect it to your computer
- Download the software
- Find something to print
- Start printing
Ultimately, you should be printing within 20-30 minutes of opening the box.
I do recommend, however, that you get a resin tank for each of the different colors of resin you purchase. The reason being is that if you only have one resin tank and you want to switch between two colors, you’ll have to clean the tank out before pouring in the new color of resin. Resin tanks are $59, so they definitely aren’t cheap, but if you have the money to spend on a different tank for each color of resin, you will be saving yourself quite a bit of cleaning.
Formlabs Form 1+ uses their own software, PreForm. PreForm takes on an almost Apple-esque design, by eliminating unnecessary options and giving you only exactly what you need to start printing.
This minimalist approach takes the confusion out of setting up your print and allows you to have a good experience right off the bat.
With the software you can:
- Resize your model
- Reposition your model
- Rotate your model
- Add supports to your model, and
- Print your model
It also gives you an estimated print time (which updates as you resize or add support material). Perhaps the best part of the software is that it automatically generates support material for you and you can choose how dense you want the support material to be and how thick or thin you want the support-to-model connection to be.
Overall, the PreForm software matches the Form 1+’s quality and ease-of-use.
Printing With the Formlabs Form 1+ 3D Printer
There are a few things that matter above all others when discussing the quality of a 3D printer.
- The detail and finish quality of prints
- How fast it can print out the best models possible
- The cost of operation
The Formlabs Form 1+ goes above and beyond on the first one, does okay (at best) on the second one, and really sits below the bar on the third one.
However, as mentioned multiple times already in this review, the fact that the Form 1+ can produce some ridiculously detailed prints makes it a good enough option for enthusiasts with big budgets and the desire for amazing models.
Below I will go over some of the different aspects of the Form 1+ as pertains to the way it prints out objects.
The Formlabs Form 1+ can achieve a layer thickness of as little as 0.025mm (or 25 microns). It’s default layer thickness is set at 0.05mm (or 50 microns). Even at 50 microns, the Formlabs Form 1+ beats even the best of FDM prints in terms of detail, accuracy, and finish quality.
Here’s a look at some prints I’ve been able to put out with the Form 1+ so far:
The finish quality on the Dragon isn’t amazing, but that’s only because I didn’t do a good enough job removing the supports from the model.
The chess pieces turned out great, except for a problem I had with removing them from the build platform, which I will discuss in the “After Print” section below.
All-in-all, the finish quality of the prints I’ve made with my Form 1+ have been amazing. And, they could be even better if I took it a step further with the finishing process.
Print Area/Build Volume
The one downside to getting a consumer-level SLA printer is the fact that you won’t be getting a machine that can produce large prints. In fact, with just a 5″ cube print area, you really aren’t getting much more build volume than what you would get from a Printrbot Simple.
So, if you’re looking to print huge models, the Form 1+ probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking to print small, but highly detailed items, then the Form 1+ is exactly what you need.
The better the finish quality of a printed model and the bigger it is, the longer you should expect it to take. This is definitely true with the Form 1+.
From the pictures of prints I’ve done above, the dragon took me about ~10 hours to print and another 30 minutes or so to remove the support material. The dragon itself isn’t huge (although it’s a decent size) and without support material it would have taken about 7 hours.
However, since there was no flat base for the dragon, it definitely needed support material printed along with it and so it added quite a bit of time to the print.
As for the chess pieces, they (obviously) didn’t take nearly as long as the dragon. I actually printed a half set of the chess pieces (just the white) and the rest of them weren’t pictured above. I printed them in two different ways. First, I printed a pawn individually, and then the king individually.
These took about 1-2 hours each. In comparison to my Printrbot Simple, the pawn only took about 30-40 minutes. So, on the surface an hour+ to print our a single pawn seems like it is a little lengthy. But, again, the quality difference between the two is significant.
Once I printed the pawn and king individually, I decided to print the rest of the pawns in one batch, and the rest of the other pieces in another batch. One of the cool things about the Form 1+, is that unlike FDM printers, when you add more models to a single print, it doesn’t increase the print time nearly as much.
So, when I printed the larger batches of chess pieces together, instead of seeing a double print time, it only increased by 20-30 minutes.
The reason why this happens is because unlike an FDM printer that relies on a moving print head, the Form 1+ has a UV laser spots the area that needs to be cured and then cures it as an entire layer. This makes printing multiple items in one batch much quicker.
Overall, the Formlabs Form 1+ doesn’t feature print speed that will blow you away. One thing that I haven’t included in the print time that should be considered, though, is the finishing process of each print. This adds at least another 20-30 minutes of time to your print. We’ll discuss that in the next section.
Finishing Your Print
Regardless of whether or not they’re using an SLA printer or an FDM printer, a lot of 3D printing enthusiasts like to go the extra mile and finish their prints to make them look better.
With the Formlabs Form 1+, a print isn’t finished until you remove it from the build platform and soak it in Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol).
For me, I made the mistake of making my first few prints without putting some kind of support material under them. You can definitely print items with flat bases without support material, but I would recommend avoiding doing this.
For starters, the resin is very brittle once it has been cured. Additionally, the model sticks to the build plate very securely. It’s not like on FDM printers where it just takes a little bit of force to get it off. In my experience with the Formlabs Form 1+, if you don’t put support material underneath the model, then you need a chisel and a hammer to get the print off without damaging the base of the print. And, even then, you’re not guaranteed to get the print off without chipping it.
This is why I recommend putting some support material under your prints. Because if you damage the support material it’s no big deal.
Once you have the model removed, it needs to soak in the rubbing alcohol so that all of the uncured resin is removed. Formlabs does provide a decent kit for finishing your prints…
The kit comes with a tray that can hold your build platform, two tanks (provided), a tray with handles to hold your print while it’s soaking in the rubbing alcohol, and a third area for holding your tools/drying your prints, etc.
Formlabs instructs that, after a print is finished and you have removed it from the build platform, you should place it in the tray with handles, and shake it in the rubbing alcohol for 2-3 minutes. Then you need to let it soak for 10 minutes. Once that 10 minutes is up, you are to transfer it to the second tank (also with rubbing alcohol in it), shake it, and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Once that’s done you need to let it dry.
So, in total, each print needs an additional ~25 minutes in the rubbing alcohol to remove the uncured resin.
While the kit is a nice addition, it isn’t without it’s flaws. The main problem with the finishing kit is the fact that it slides around when you’re trying to remove a print. This can be problematic (and even dangerous) as you may try to put your hand in some compromising positions in order to secure the tray from sliding around.
Though if you are more careful than I am, you can probably avoid any problems.
Ultimately, while the finishing process can be kind of a pain to deal with, it is definitely worth it for the quality of print you will get.
The operating costs associated with the Form 1+ is easily its biggest downfall and is the main reason a lot of casual 3Ders stay away from it.
The Form 1+ comes with a steep $3,299 pricetag. But that isn’t too bad if you have a big budget.
However, the cost of resin is incredibly high. Each 1 liter bottle of resin you buy costs you an additional $149. Furthermore, if you want to buy another resin tank (which is nice to have if you want to switch between resin colors) you will need to pay another $59. And, if you want another build platform, that’s another $100 as well.
Formlabs suggests getting a new resin tank every 2-3 liters of printing. So, that’s another $59 every 2-3 bottles of use. You can try and refurbish your resin tank by replacing the silicone, but I wouldn’t recommend this for people with limited experience handling the material.
Ultimately, if you are going to jump into bed with the Form 1+, be prepared to take on the high operating costs associated with it. It’s the price you must pay if you want one of the best consumer-level 3D printers on the market.
Printer Build Quality and Reliability
The build quality and design of the Form 1+ is outstanding. I really like the design and in my opinion, the printer looks even better in person that it does in the product pictures. I also like the simplicity of the design.
As for the build quality, I can really only rely on my personal experience with the Form 1+. And, as of right now, that includes 11 different prints. And, in those 11 prints, the Form 1+ has been very reliable. The print quality has been good throughout and I haven’t had a failed print yet.
However, there are some out there (mainly on 3Dhubs) who have found the Form 1+ to be unreliable. While I personally haven’t encountered the Form 1+ being unreliable (at least not yet), it is always a good idea to read multiple reviews of a 3D printer before purchasing it.
For me, though, the Form 1+ has been as reliable of a printer as I have ever used.
The Formlabs Form 1+ is not without it’s problems–namely, the high operating cost, the time it takes to completely finish prints, and the small build platform. These problems, however, are trumped by the only thing that truly matters for serious 3D printing enthusiasts…
I have been blown away by the difference in finish quality between my FDM printers and the Form 1+. So, while it does have its downsides and it does take a significantly larger financial commitment than its FDM counterparts, the Form 1+ easily stands above the competition in terms of detail, print accuracy, and finish quality.
And, for that, I full recommend the Form 1+ to anyone who is serious about getting the best prints possible, regardless of the cost.