Formlabs Form 3 3D Printer Review
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been testing the Formlabs Form 3 3D printer. This printer can be compared to other SLA (stereolithography) 3D printers, but it works with an advanced process beyond the models we reviewed in the past. The Form 3 works with low-force stereolithography, a process that allows this printer to create extremely detailed, consistent, and smooth prints with minimal support. This printer is extremely easy to use and well worth the price.
The Formlabs Form 3 comes in a few parts. The parts are not as difficult to put together as, for example, the LONGER LK5 Pro. Most of the machine is already built and ready to roll in the box.
The only bit that took more than a basic understanding of where to attach what was balancing the machine with an included plastic tool. With said tool, the feet of the machine are turned like screws and the corners of the machine are lifted. The machine’s built-in leveling sensor informs the user when they have balanced the machine. The balancing task of this machine took about 5 minutes.
The touchscreen on the front of the Form 3 is responsive, as you would expect a top-notch machine like this to be. The touchscreen is usually the first place you see a budget machine showing where it cuts corners – with the Form 3, you’ll find a screen that’s better than most.
Once the device was connected to WiFi, the process of sending print jobs from a computer to the printer was quick and easy. Formlabs Form 3 works with an official Formlabs application called PreForm. This app is a miracle worker.
Due to the way PreForm pairs well with the Form 3, we had a much higher ratio of perfect prints to print attempts than we have had with any other 3D printer than we have tested so far. PreForm has different levels of automatic processing – if you just want to set media automatically, or if you want to drop all of your files at once and have the software do ALL the work for you – it seems to work, like magic.
Formlabs Form 3 works with a resin system that will keep you firmly within the Formlabs ecosystem. You will purchase Formlabs brand resin cartridges and Formlabs brand reservoirs. Much like paper printers of the past, you probably won’t bother trying to get around this system with third-party materials.
Formlabs has created here a cartridge system that automatically detects the type of resin used. The tank fits into the back of the machine and resin can flow into the tank below. When a tank is first used with a given resin cartridge, it is tagged by the machine. This resin is allocated to the tank (via on-board memory) until it is reset by the user.
So if I am using a resin (with its assigned tank), and want to switch to another resin, I just need to remove the resin cartridge, remove the tank, insert the cartridge I need , insert its corresponding (assigned) tank, and I’m good to go. The only cleaning needed between one resin and another is the printing platform, and it’s as easy as wiping a flat surface until it’s clear.
The print volume with this printer is 14.5 × 14.5 × 18.5 cm (5.7 × 5.7 × 7.3 inches). It is a compact area for printing. It’s still larger than the Elegoo Mars Pro (at 12 x 6.8 x 15.5cm), but it’s still quite small. You won’t print anything very massive on this machine, unless you plan to do it in parts.
If you want a LARGE SLA (MSLA) 3D printer, we recommend that you start looking at the Phenom by Peopoly. This printer has a massive build volume of 27.6 x 15.5 x 40cm, and the printer costs less than the Formlabs Form 3 we’re reviewing today.
Of course, Formlabs also offers larger printers, but they will also cost you a lot more than what Peopoly offers. Then again, the whole process with Formlabs printers is in a different galaxy when it comes to a professional software and hardware process – so you’ll know where your money went.
ALSO NOTE: Above you see the printing platform as it appears in the machine after printing is complete (holding prints while excess resin drains). You will see the removed printhead (held in one hand) and the printhead in the middle of the cleaning kit. The cleaning kit consists of two reservoirs that you will place the finished prints in, which will allow them to soak in isopropyl alcohol before it is time to dry.
We received a variety of cartridges to test with the Formlabs Form 3 including Clear, Model, Rigid 10K, and Color (with a color kit). Each material was as easy to use as the other, thanks to the auto-sensing cartridge system and the software’s ability to tell the printer to print based on that material.
With 10K rigid resin, the final product has a white matte finish. The resin is filled with glass, which allows it to be extremely stiff and heat resistant after curing. Rigid 10K is the “stiffest material” in the Formlabs collection of prints for the Form 3. Everything we have printed with Rigid 10K feels like it was forged in ancient Greece – it looks like a material. which should only be able to be mined from a mountain and carved into statues.
The price of Rigid 10K is double that of Clear resin, in large part because the composition of Rigid 10K is much more complicated than that of Clear. Clear is also not as rough and tough as the Rigid 10K – hence the name.
Formlabs Clear Resin prints fully translucent, provided you are working with a completely clean printing platform. As is usually the case with translucent material, any small drop of non-transparent resin or the smallest speck of dust may be visible in your final product.
It is a testament to the quality of the printing process with the Form 3 that we were able to create such smooth and crisp prints during our review process. The smallest detail can be seen and the most thorough post-print cleaning process should be used. In other words: don’t use rough sandpaper here or you’ll get scuffed!
The Formlabs Color Kit is a surprisingly simple package and process to get exactly the color resin you want to use for printing. You can either buy the full kit for $ 175, or you can get the Color Base Resin for $ 119 and individual pigments for $ 19. The color base resin is 0.8L (where most resin cartridges weigh 1L) because the amount of pigment you put in the base will give a total of 1L.
With the Color Kit, we created the color “Coffee”. We wanted to create a tone that would suit the skin tone of the action figures we used for testing, and Coffee hit the point. The mixing process was simple and the result was perfect. We had ZERO printing errors with the resulting resin.
To further test the figurine printing process, we tested Formlabs Model resin. This resin is specifically designed to be an “ideal neutral base tone for finalizing the shape and customer approval of designs such as character models, action figures and miniatures.”
The difference between what we got with the Color Kit and what works with the Model resin is slight. If we were working with a Form 2, we could print at 140 microns (faster print, lower resolution), while both resins work with 100, 50, and 25 micron options for the Form 2, Form 3, and the Form 3B. The Model resin also required post-curing, unlike the color.
3D printing tests of figurines
If I tried to create an action figure that was going to be launched and played with, I would NOT choose the Rigid 10K. If we print as little as that, the stiffness creates a situation where we may have some brittle parts. Usually that won’t be a problem with what the Rigid 10K is intended for. Here, that creates an end product that could be placed on a shelf and admired for many years to come – but when something doesn’t bend, it can break.
A clear resin would be ideal if I had a reason to need to see all of the parts of the model. The only downside here is that if I print an action figure, I can see the joints, ankles, etc. Clear resin is fantastic for one part prints, like the skull you see above. This skull is tiny and super, super sharp.
Also note again that it is not very easy with a resin 3D printer like this to get a truly transparent impression. Make absolutely sure that ALL your parts are perfectly clean and clear before pouring in the resin, and do not let anything contaminate your tray!
Model Resin V2 is great for showing off details. You will see light and shade with the greatest ease. It is another ideal resin for prototyping. It’s meant to give a bit – unlike what you get with the Rigid 10K. If you are printing with extremely tiny and delicate gaskets like we are here, it is very possible for this resin to tear.
The most excellent resin we tested with this printer for this figure test was the color kit. The color was exactly what we wanted – it exactly matched the guide included with the kit. The print quality is crisp and the stiffness of the final product is just the right point between hard and soft.
With this standard color kit resin, the parts can bend JUST a bit for the parts we printed, just enough to make the appendages appear in the sockets without tearing or breaking.
The Formlabs Form 3 3D printer isn’t the most economical machine for the average everyday designer. The basic package includes the printer itself, a single resin tank, a Form 3 build platform, and a Form 3 finishing kit, as well as a one-year warranty. For this – not including the printed materials – you will pay US $ 3,499.
For 1 liter of the most basic gray resin, you will pay $ 149 USD. We used the Clear Resin (also $ 149) and 10K Rigid Resin ($ 299), as well as the Color Kit ($ 175). You will either need to clean your resin tank each time you change resin, or purchase a resin tank for each different material. A Form 3 resin tank will set you back around $ 149.
You can also buy a stainless steel build platform for $ 250, or a standard build platform for $ 99 USD. This is the part that your print adheres to when it is removed from the resin. If you’re the type of person who likes to print as fast as possible, you might want an extra build platform so you can switch and keep printing while you remove the parts you just printed from your other. construction platform.
Formlabs has created a top-notch professional printer here, designed to create essentially flawless 3D prints in a wide variety of materials with the greatest of ease. This is by far the most excellent 3D printer we have reviewed on SlashGear so far. If you want the best compact 3D printer you can buy without having to order industrial-sized machines, this is it.