Formlabs has made a name for themselves over the past six years, becoming the leader in desktop SLA 3D printing. Their business model focuses on a more professional level, but still offers high quality products at a fraction of the cost of the machines that had dominated the professional market for the last 30 years. Today at their own Digital Factory Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, Formlabs announced two new products that will continue to cement their role for professional makers.
The most exciting of their two announcements was the introduction of the Fuse 1, a desktop SLS 3D printer starting at $9,999. SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) printers are just now starting to filter into the desktop 3D printing ecosphere. They function by depositing a powdered material, in most cases a form of nylon, into a build chamber and then fuse the nylon powders together with a laser before applying another layer of powder on top and repeating the process. This creates highly detailed parts with complex geometries without the need for generated support structures — the un-sintered powder supports the prints until they are removed from the chamber. At nearly $10k, the Fuse 1 has a hefty price tag but it’s important to remember that professional SLS printers have traditionally started at around $200k.
The Fuse 1 is not the first desktop SLS to enter the desktop game and joins the Sintratec S1 and Sinterit Lisa, both startups who have been taking the slow road to bringing their printers to market. The Fuse 1 is now open for pre-orders and Formlabs promises to begin shipping in late 2017.
The second announcement from Formlabs today is for their new Form Cell system. Earlier this year the Formlabs team announced their new Form Wash and Form Cure accessories for the Form 2 SLA that help automate the cleaning and post curing process for their machines. The Form Cell now makes the entire process from print to clean to cure automated. The Form Cell system is a robotic gantry that can sit in front of multiple Form 2 printers and the Form Wash and Form Cure stations and move a print the entire way through the process before racking the print where it can be retrieved by the user. This will allow small production runs to be possible with far less user interaction allowing for 24/7 printing without the human cost. As 3D printing is getting more robust, the desire to use it for production work is catching on and we are seeing more and more automated systems for handling this, soon the automated home/small business factory may be a commonplace sight.