Published on December 31st, 2016 | by Geetika Bhasin
Form 2 SLA 3D Printer Review
In the range of finest low-cost stereolithography printers, a new name has been added- Form 2 SLA 3D Printer. This machine is capable of producing smooth and perfect 3d printed objects with ease. Formlabs have created a much better version of its Form range. It covers up all the drawbacks that were experienced in Form 1.
First drawback of this printer that I would like to introduce you with is the price of the machine. It costs around $3499 which is next to impossible for the home users to afford. No wonder that this machine has got all the features that you will like but the price is always a hitch. However, the professionals will love to have this machine.
Since Form 2 is an SLA printer, the printing criteria will be different from the conventional printers. The print happens by firing an UV laser in the thin layer of liquid resin between the bottom of the print tray and print head. Once the UV light hits it, the resin solidifies. A solid layer is created by the printer after tracing a pattern with the laser. After the completion of the task, the print bed slides and the print head lifts and take off the solid layer to make more room for the resin. Then, it’s time for the print head to create another liquid layer and the laser fires again. The process keeps on repeating and creates the 3d model by creating layers after layer.
The process of the creation of the 3d objects is very similar as that of Form 1. However, there are more improvements and a lot of emphasis have been done in making the process work smoothly. The print area has been increased to 224 cubic inches and so as the measuring area 5.7 x 5.7 x 6.9 inches. Adding more to the list of improvements, the UV laser that solidifies the resin is also bigger with the double power of 250 mW.
A new mechanism has also been added in Form 2 that assists in lifting the solid layer and make sure that no junk or air bubbles interface with the liquid resin. In the former version i.e. Form 1the print tray was tilted and the print layer was peeled away from the bottom of the print bed. In Form 2, the print tray slides as the print head are lifted followed by a wiper that clear all the leftovers from the tray and print head lower again.
With an automatic mechanism, the print tray is filled with the resin as needed. It might seem more complicated but it is a better method. The print failures are a lot lesser than in Form 1.
The design of the machine is almost the same as Form 1. It has got an orange plastic hood that sits over the simple silver box, holding the laser and the electronics. There is a LCD screen that adds more grace to the designing of Form 2. The control features have become easier as now you can easily start, pause or stop the machine without much effort. During the printing process, the screen displays the progress. You can keep a check on the object and monitor when it will be done with the making.
You can find the connections at the back of the box. It includes Gigabit Ethernet, power, and USB. Yes, you heard it right, with Form you, you can connect not only via USB but also with wired or wireless Ethernet. Therefore, because of this feature, it becomes really easy for multiple people to use the printer at the same time. Different users can use PreForm Software in order to prepare a 3D model, send the instructions and commence printing.
The Printing Materials:
There are seven different types of resins that are compatible with Form 2 that includes Clear, White, Tough, Flexible, Black, Grey, Castable, etc. The users are quite satisfied with such diversity in the resins offered by Form 2. Talking about the Castable resin, it entices the jewelers and modelers who wish to cast objects in metal.
These resins are available in a new container which is a rectangular tank that drops into the back of the printer. Therefore, there is no need to manually pour the resin as the printer automatically keeps a check on the level of resins and refill it whenever needed. It is a huge change for Form 2 since Form 1 didn’t had any such feature. The resins tanks have a chip installed inside that recognize the type of printer. Therefore, you will be warned if mistakenly you use wrong type of resin for 3d printing.
The clear resin is used to produce cleaner and sharper details of a 3d object which is very attractive and has a glass-like quality. The outcome is very clean and you can also benefit it by a little bit of touch up. It can be done with the help of a sharp knife and a light polish with sandpaper. However, the clear resin is a little soft. The gears that are used in the process were worn from the continuous motion. You will also find it difficult to scratch and mark the print.
The Formlab resins are paid. Each tank of 1 liter costs $149 for white, gray, black and clear resin, $175 for the tough, $299 for the castable and $199 for the flexible resin. Therefore, this machine instantly becomes difficult to afford.
It has been assimilated that the print quality of the products produced by Form 2 is excellent. It is of fine details and creates an excellent reproduction of various model shapes. However, the printed parts require cleaning and are to be fitted together.
As per our test, the first model was a complicated pile of gears that comes together and formed a planetary gear reducing set. In the second test, there were no troubles in creating the screw threads and cogs of the gears. After removing the support, the parts were fitted together smoothly and it required very less trimming in order to remove few lumps that were still attached. Gear turned easily once it was assembled.
The second test model was a geometric sculpture which involved immense overhanging parts and edges. But this amazing printer handled the task perfectly, without any issues. The complex model was reproduced very well. The most astonishing part was that though this object consisted of very sharp edges and pointed parts but still the job was done remarkably.
How To Setup The Machine?
You first need to unbox the machine, plug it in and install a print bed. Then you have to slide the resin tank at its right place and connect it to the network or the USB.
It is easy to get the printer up and running and it is all set to go for its first test print in less than half an hour. Before every print, you need to fill the print tray and also preheat the resin to 30 degrees. This much time is sufficient especially when the room is cold.
Well, Form 2 objects require a process to be completed because the object is not finished as you take it out of the printer but it also requires post printing as well. Actually, the object has to be cleaned. First, you have to remove the print head and the model is released.
Releasing the model is very competitive and Form 2 does the task really well. Models usually stick from its bottom, especially the larger ones, thus making it really difficult to release. Formlab has changed the supports of models so it is a bit easier with Form 2 than Form 1. There is lesser sticking since the base has got holes in it.
In order to make the removal process easier, the print bed is fashioned with a plastic base. Some post releasing process is required to clean the object finely. There is a finishing kit that will be used to wash the object in isopropyl alcohol so that whatever liquid resin is left on the object is washed away. The kit also consists of a stand, two containers for the alcohol, tray that fits the container, few tools, and disposable gloves. You can find the alcohol at a nearby drugstore.
So once you are done washing the model, you can just leave it to dry and remove the supports. The snippers that are included with the machine can be used to trim off the supports. If you find your object to have the marks on it then you can simply remove them with the help of grade sandpaper.
There is not much speed difference between Form 1 and 2. It is not a slow printer in any way. With the help of Print Wizard in PreForm, a Thinker sculpture which was 4.5-inch high model took almost 7 hours and 5 minutes to print on the 0.1 mm layer height. Technically, it is faster than Form 1 since it took around 12.5 hours to finish the same task.
Among the finest 3d printers that are available in the market, Form 2 is one of the best machines. It produces high-quality prints with the sharper and cleaner edges. However, the clear materials used while printing was soft so the assembling of the objects was a little competitive. Also, the SLA printers that are available in the market are mostly slow whereas, Form 2 is the most spontaneous in producing results.
The software is good and it comes with decent speed. It is an ideal machine for the engineers and artists who require accurate and fancy prints. The only drawback with the machine is that it is expensive and difficult to afford for the home users. Other than that, there is not one drawback that you can consider. So, I would suggest that if you are looking for a machine that produces fine quality, support different resins, comes with wireless Ethernet and accepts multiple printing requests from different users at the same time then you will not find any other 3d printer better than this one. Enjoy 3D Printing with Form 2!