3D Printing & Imaging Workshop
Review: Formlabs’ Brand New 3D Printer, the Form 2

Form-2-printer-three-quarters-Hart

With the release of the Form 2, Formlabs has taken all they have learned and released a machine that is set to keep them on top.

Today, Formlabs announced Form 2, a larger machine with a bigger build volume and new technical innovations. It’s not just an iteration, but a reimagining of the printer that brought stereolithography (SLA) printing to the desktop. It’s priced at $3499 and, unlike their initial release, will not be Kickstarted.

Make: magazine was invited to Formlabs’ headquarters earlier this month to test out a beta version of the Form 2; this is our full review of the brand new device from the upcoming Ultimate Guide to Desktop Manufacturing in our November issue of Make:.

LEADING THE PACK

Manufacturer: Formlabs Price as Tested: $3,499 Build Volume: 145×145×175mm Print Untethered? Yes, via Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or USB Open Resin: Yes, uses chipped cartridges but has an open mode Onboard Controls? Yes, touchscreen LCD Host/Slicer Software: PreForm OS: Windows, Mac Firmware: Proprietary Open Software? No Open Hardware? No
Manufacturer: Formlabs
Price as Tested: $3,499
Build Volume: 145×145×175mm
Print Untethered? Yes, via Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or USB
Open Resin: Yes, uses chipped cartridges but has an open mode
Onboard Controls? Yes, touchscreen LCD
Host/Slicer Software: PreForm
OS: Windows, Mac
Firmware: Proprietary
Open Software? No
Open Hardware? No

Reading the updates to the Form 2 felt like someone had been spying on conversations I had had about issues with SLA printers. It’s rare that a next-generation product release looks at so many issues — not only those affecting their first generation, but the industry as a whole — and incorporates so many fixes without needless and unwanted extra features.

The most obvious change to the Form 2 is the increased build volume, growing from 125x125x165mm on the Form 1/1+ to 145×145×175mm. The team realized that, since many products we use on a daily basis are tactile and handheld, the new machine had to be able to produce hand-sized objects. While we will almost always want more build space, the new volume feels like a good compromise between that and having a machine you would have a hard time calling a “desktop” printer.

REFRESHED, UNTETHERED MECHANICS

The mechanics of the Form 2 have also been upgraded. A horizontal slide peel, combined with a vat wiper to remove debris, has replaced the original hinged peel (the method of separating new layers from the bottom of the resin vat). The Form 2 possesses a more powerful laser and new custom galvanometers for faster cure times and greater precision. It keeps these new components dust- and resin-free by placing a protective glass plate between the electronics, lasers, mirrors, and the outside world.

Earlier Formlabs machines forced users to connect their laptop to the printer via USB, upload a file, and then unplug the computer once the print has finished uploading. While this didn’t tie you to the machine permanently, it wasn’t optimal. The Form 2 is now connected to your network via either Ethernet or WiFi. (Don’t worry, USB is still there if you want it). Once files are uploaded to the printer via Formlabs PreForm software, the user can select the file they wish to print from the machine’s onboard library using the beautiful built-in touchscreen.

With its wireless functionality, the Form 2 can also connect to the web, and users can check the status of the printer from anywhere. With the ability to log print data, these web tools will surely become one of the machine’s most useful aspects for makerspaces where the Form 2 will be shared by multiple users.

The Form 2 uses resin cartridges to automatically fill the container, and save your leftovers. They've also thoughtfully added an "open" mode to allow you to manually fill the vat to use other vendor's resins.
The Form 2 uses resin cartridges to automatically fill the container, and save your leftovers. They’ve also thoughtfully added an “open” mode to allow you to manually fill the vat to use other vendor’s resins.

The Formlabs team has also introduced a new resin system, bottles that slide into the back of the Form 2. The bottles, which range from $149 – $299 each, are chipped, so the printer can recognize what type of resin is being installed and keep track of how much is left in the bottle. The vat is then automatically filled with a unique mechanical system that leaves no moving parts or tubes in contact with the actual resin. Of course, because chipped proprietary materials can throw up red flags, Formlabs also includes an “open” mode. This won’t allow for auto filling of the vat, but a user can pour in any resin they want and get on with the print.

HIGH QUALITY, HANDS DOWN

Form-2-printed-parts-2

While at the Formlabs offices, I ran a few copies of the SLA torture-test rook, as we’ve done on other resin-printing machines in the past. The print quality from the Form 2 is what we would expect from any Formlabs machine at this point: high-quality SLA prints that run circles around filament-based prints (although resin prints still show some level of artifacting from those made with more expensive laser sintering processes).

The machine I had a chance to play with was an early beta version; Formlabs is striving to make the print quality even better by the time it is in full production.

WHY TO BUY

The upgraded build volume, self-filling resin vat, and Wi-Fi printing keeps Formlabs on the top of the SLA pack.

PRO TIP

When ordering alternative resin formulations, be sure to order extra vats too. This will prevent cross contamination and make swapping faster.

CONCLUSION

If you are looking to get into the SLA game, the Form 2 is the flagship product to get. You can definitely get started at a lower cost, but the feature list of the Form 2 is currently unbeatable and is especially powerful for collaborative environments.

36 thoughts on “Review: Formlabs’ Brand New 3D Printer, the Form 2

    1. So expensive? This is not expensive to print an OBJECT. 15 years ago that was not a thing that was possible. 30 years ago it was science fiction. The price has come down so much, that now they are home devices. This is not that expensive for a new technology.

        1. It’s still kinda expensive to me. But not unaffordable. Half a year’s income? Jeesh. Sorry about your luck. You probably can’t even afford food.

          1. That’s good. I guess you probably don’t need one of these either (most don’t).. however in the grand scheme it’s cheap if you could use it.

    2. I remember when a CD-Rom writer was $2000.00 and then a few years later I think I paid about $150.00. Hopefully once they sell enough I can pick one of these up for > $500.

  1. whichever one of these 3d printers reaches the $400 price point and can flawlessly recreate tabletop war miniatures first wins the game..

  2. I love the fact that with this machine you get the ability to auto save the resin into the bottle, but also allow you to use other vendors resins. This is a big plus for us. Now, if only i can convince the boss.

  3. Not sure how this can be considered a review when you don’t even have the printer to test anything on. Using stock images from Formlabs and their spec sheets is not way to verify if a product is worth buying. Moving along, nothing to see here..

    1. I went to Form Lab’s office and actually did run some prints. This is a hands on review from actually using it. Would I have liked to spend more time with it, sure but mostly because it was a great machine and I would like to tinker with it more. Did I spend enough time and run enough prints to be confident with my review, absolutely.

      1. The fact alone that you state that the Form 2 is “currently unbeatable” makes your whole review worthless, because it is clear that you don’t know what else is available. I suggest you check out the B9 Creator.

  4. While being nitpicky the above states for the Form1, the computer has to be unplugged after the file upload. That is not true.

    I had a 3D Systems CubePro that was wireless of thumb drive fed. The wireless was unbeleievalby slow. The thumb drive was annoying. I would have much preferred hardwire USB or Cat5. I sold the CubePro after almost no use because it was a complete piece of junk. The Form2 looks interesting, but I will stay with my Form1 for now.

    1. Oh yeah, I see how the wording comes across that way. You are correct that you don’t HAVE to unplug your computer. We are just talking about the fact than most folks don’t want to dedicate a computer to running their printer and would like to print untethered and USB transfer was the only option for the Form 1. Wifi transfer on the Form 2 is pretty fast though.

  5. “… the feature list of the Form 2 is currently unbeatable …”

    Bullshit! The B9 Creator 3D resin printer has a Z layer height of as small as 5 micron, which is 5 times as small as the Form 2 which has a smallest Z layer of 25 micron. Not even close! And the smallest XY resolution of the B9 is 30 micron! So far no printer beats the B9!

    I would prefer a reviewer who knows what he is talking about instead of being a fanboy.

    1. Wow, I think it’s time to settle down there fella. We tested the B9 in both 2013 and 2014, I was part of the team both years. I agree with you, I find DLP based machines to be of much higher resolution and clarity of prints, I have a Projet 1200 and love the quality that comes from it.

      But as you quote me “… the feature list of the Form 2 is currently unbeatable …”, I was talking about the full feature set, not solely the resolution. The B9 does not do auto vat fill, the B9 does not have a wiper, the B9 is not wifi connected, the B9 does not have leveling sensors, shall I go on?

      I love the B9 and won’t actually go into other specifics here about it but your fervent jump in two comments to point out how much better the B9 is and then calling me a fanboy make me question if the pot is calling the kettle black?

  6. How good is Form 2 for Jewelry industry? Does it print quality high detailed rings..etc..in a good quality?
    Is there other 3d printer under $6,000 for printing high detailed with great quality for Jewelry ?

  7. How does this fair against the B9 (i see you have already commented a little in this thread) as well as the DWS Lab XFab? :)

  8. Hi, i am looking at purchasing the form 2, but I have heard that the dimensional accuracy can be a little out in the z axis.. any truth in this? also, if I could provide som STL files could someone print a couple samples for me to play with?

  9. Thoughtful article , For my two cents , if your business needs to fill out a a form , my boss came across a template document here http://goo.gl/mQshHn

  10. Nice work! Unfortunately, I found this article too late – I already found the answer on another service. I’ve found PDFfiller – online service for forms filling. It’s pretty easy to use and pretty cheap. You can find fillable NY DTF DTF-802 here http://goo.gl/uPVUvp

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Matt is a community organizer and founder of 3DPPVD, Ocean State Maker Mill, and HackPittsburgh. He is Make's digital fabrication and reviews editor.

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