Formlabs Introduces Affordable Hi-Res 3D Printers

Formlabs 3D Printer

Formlabs Introduces Affordable 3D High Resolution Printers For Professionals

2013 promises to be the "Year of the 3D Printer" with several companies aggressively seeking to open profitable markets in these new and vibrant technologies. One such company is Formlabs which recently introduced the Form 1 High Resolution 3D Desktop Printer. Selling for an estimated US$ 3,299.00 (approx.ZAR 27,000) the printer will become available early this year.

What is particularly interesting about Formlabs' Form 1 printer is the technology utilised to deposit the layers which make up a 3D printed object. So far the "affordable" 3D desktop printers available have relied on molten plastic filament micro-extruders to deposit thin layers of molten plastic to create the 3D object. This somewhat primitive method gave the objects a "dot matrix" appearance with coarse resolution - not particulalrly suited to presentation grade architectural models.

After a year in development, Formlabs has officially unveiled the first “prosumer” desktop 3D printer. The Form 1 achieves professional quality resolution at a price individual designers and engineers can afford. This revolutionary technology fills the gap between low-end hobbyist machines with limited resolution and high-end printers that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The company’s founders - Maxim Lobovsky, David Cranor, and Natan Linder - met as graduate students at MIT in 2009. As researchers, they were inspired by the promise of 3D printing technology but frustrated by the price tag and complexity of truly high-quality machines.

Currently, around 30,000 professional 3D printers are installed around the world, while around 10 million people actively use 3D CAD software. In 2011, the three founders decided to target that disparity by starting Formlabs, a company whose purpose is to design a simple, professional, end-to-end 3D printing package that individuals can afford. Formlabs has received initial seed investments from the likes of Mitch Kapor, Joi Ito, and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors.

The Form 1 uses stereolithography (SL) technology to achieve resolution unheard of in the low-cost 3D printer market. The printer forms layers as thin as 25 microns (.001 inches) with details as small as 300 microns (.012 inches) in a build volume of 125 x 125 x 165mm (4.9 x 4.9 x 6.5 inches). No longer limited to low-end FDM machines, users can now print parts with the complex geometries, exquisite details, and beautiful surface finish necessary for professional quality design and digital fabrication. The easy-to-use Form software (compatible with any 3D CAD package), custom-formulated printing materials, and Form Finish post-processing kit complement the beautifully simple printer to make desktop 3D printing as easy as pushing a button.

Formlabs is turning to the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to finance full production. The Form 1 has been designed from the ground up to enhance the creativity of individuals, so it is only appropriate that early adopters are the key to launching this revolutionary product. Formlabs is pre-selling the full printer, software, and accessories package at a discount on Kickstarter for as little as $2,299 for those who order first.

At 25 microns these printers start to become feasible for the construction of architectural models, as the "dot matrix" effect is much reduced. With a "construction envelope" limited to a 125x125x165mm volume (ie 12.5M square x 16.5M high at 1:100 scale)models will need to be built either in segment form or - a much more exciting prospect - in component form (BIM on steroids!).

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Formlabs - Quick Facts.pdf61.73 KB
Form 1 Printer Overview.pdf66.76 KB
Formlabs Announces the Form Store.pdf65.89 KB
Designing the Form 1.pdf82.36 KB
Formlabs Founder Bios.pdf52.19 KB