MIT spinoff spiffs up desktop 3-D printing with Form 1

Sep 27, 2012 by Nancy Owano report

(Phys.org)—Up to now, says a new company planning a price/quality upset in the 3-D printing market, people have been able to get affordable, low-end 3-D desktop printers but below the higher quality standards that professional designers seek. The company, Formlabs, says outright that "There are no low-cost 3D printers that meet the quality standards of the professional designer." They have an alternative to expensive but advanced stereolithography devices, They have developed the Form 1, a desktop-sized machine that will be made available at a lower price point but will offer a high-resolution resin system that can produce professional-grade 3-D prints.

The creators have achieved features and capabilities that professionals would require. Their process can handle translucent parts and complex geometries. The build envelope volume, according to their specs, is 4.9 by 4.9 by 6.5. Creators who want something bigger can print multiple segments of a larger structure, allowing them to print as big as needed.

Formlabs, spun off last year from the MIT Media Lab, is a company led by a team of engineers and designers, David Cranor, Maxim Lobovsky, and Natan Linder. They have already attracted seed funding and are now going after for donations to launch into manufacturing phase.

Their key pitch is that, for , 3-D printing capabilities are now in the form factor of a desktop printer, and at a lower cost. Using the printers, designers will be able to produce high quality presentation models that are suitable, for example, for small runs of production parts, or for models with enough detail for jewelry casting.

Formlabs has produced all the elements of a 3-D printing system—hardware, software, and resins. For hardware, a translucent orange box is on the top of the machine, to protect the acrylate photopolymer resin inside from , and designers can see their products being built in real time. The company's proprietary desktop software is custom-designed for the stereolithography process.

Where the project now stands: The team has reached a stage where they have fully functional prototype units. They said they have built and tested seven generations of prototypes, and they tested a production run of alpha units. Now, they say, they are prepared to set up full-scale manufacturing. They hope to get the manufacturing financing from their new Kickstarter campaign.

Initial backers can pre-order Form 1, at the time of this writing, for under $3,000. As for the company's retail price, the answer is that they have not yet set an ongoing price. "Our Kickstarter supporters are definitely receiving special treatment for believing in what we do," they said.

Explore further: New filter technology uses inert gas to bore holes in high-quality steel

More information: formlabs.com/
www.kickstarter.com/projects/f… fessional-3d-printer

via Wired

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User comments : 16

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Parsec
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 27, 2012
Lots of hype. I would absolutely buy one of these things if they make them real, but I was disappointing they didn't talk at all about the average/min length of time it takes to make something, and what the resolutions are. They talked about using a resin of some sort. How expensive it it now? What do they expect the costs to be if their are a million (a thousand?) of these in the field creating a big big demand.

Is the left-over resin toxic? Do you have to handle toxic/volatile compounds to clean the parts afterward? (i.e. acetone or benzene). Do you have to talk used parts to the toxic waste disposal to have them disposed of?

More questions than answers.
Telekinetic
2.3 / 5 (7) Sep 27, 2012
The real question is, Parsec, do you have a prototype in mind to sell to a manufacturer? This is not a toy, but a tool that can generate business if you're in the industrial design business. The potential of the return is far greater than the cost to buy and operate this printer. In my experience, an actual 3-D model can clinch a deal. Even if it takes a week to produce it's well worth it.
Parsec
4.4 / 5 (5) Sep 27, 2012
I spoke too soon. I followed the link provided and all my questions were answered. This looks a like a cool tool, comparable in cost and production speed to the very low end ones with much higher quality.
VendicarD
4 / 5 (3) Sep 27, 2012

"I was disappointing they didn't talk at all about the average/min length of time it takes to make something, and what the resolutions are" - Parsec

Print speeds will be on the order of multiple hours even for something the size of your thumb.

It is the price you pay for high resolution.
VendicarD
4 / 5 (2) Sep 27, 2012
Around $200 per liter.

"They talked about using a resin of some sort. How expensive it it now?" = Parsec

Strength and flexibility unknown. Looks to be somewhat flexible and moderate strength. The eiffel tower could be crushed with one hand but not all the connecting members would break.

NOM
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 27, 2012
The build envelope volume, according to their specs, is 4.9 by 4.9 by 6.5.

... um, missing a unit here.
Actually the whole article is pretty uninformative. No build speed, no resolution, nothing on the durability of the material.

But the Wired article is better:
4.9 by 4.9 by 6.5 inches with layers that are just 25 microns (0.001 inches) thick.

Deathclock
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 27, 2012
I can't wait until these are common household appliances, I think I am going to teach myself CAD/CAM now in preparation!
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2012
but I was disappointing they didn't talk at all about the average/min length of time it takes to make something

Does it really matter (for the private household or even for the small design bureau top make the ccasional prototype/model) whether you print a 3D part in 1 hour or 24 hours?

Is the left-over resin toxic?

Acrylate photopolymer resins aren't toxic. Unused parts (or support structures you remove after printing) can go into the trash.
Magus
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2012
Another step towards the future where a 3D printers can make another 3D printer. (Yes I know this 3D printer does not make working objects but models)
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (2) Sep 28, 2012
Another step towards the future where a 3D printers can make another 3D printer. (Yes I know this 3D printer does not make working objects but models)

I'll bet you're a fan of M.C. Escher.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2012
Another step towards the future where a 3D printers can make another 3D printer.

Except for the motor, electronics and nozzle that's already been done.
And the electronics and nozzle are definite possibilities given that conductive ink and printed electronics are available.

The motor will be tricky, though. Of course ine could replace that with a polymer that expands and contracts when a voltage is applied. So, yeah, I think a 3D printer that can make all the parts of a new printer (if not make a new printer in one go) is probably not far off.
NOM
1 / 5 (1) Sep 30, 2012
Does it really matter (for the private household or even for the small design bureau top make the ccasional prototype/model) whether you print a 3D part in 1 hour or 24 hours?

I have a 3D printer, and I'm often using it to print items to use around the house or garden. I'm fine with an hour or so for a build, but I wouldn't want to wait a day each time.
baudrunner
not rated yet Sep 30, 2012
Answers are on the Formlabs FAQ page: http://formlabs.c...Material
NOM
1 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2012
The print quality on this machine looks impressive. It would be worth waiting a few hours per print for this level of quality.
VendicarD
3 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2012
You can't produce anything practical with the polymer used. It has insufficient strength for most applications.

Still.. For modeling it is very nice.

Here is another Perdy model

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_UaLWp72nij4/THb7Vu1XR6I/AAAAAAAAUG4/Snx6PzTr4As/s640/miranda-kerr.jpg
NOM
1 / 5 (1) Nov 22, 2012
Update.
Formlabs have been sued by 3D Systems for breach of patent.
http://www.bbc.co...20434031