The FormLabs Form 2 is considered by many to be a premium 3D printer with specs and features that place it on the higher end of the market. It falls under the category of an SLA (stereolithography) machine and as such is capable of producing patterns and products that are weaved from a CAD-powered laser beam.
We’ll be breaking down our FormLabs Form 2 review into key areas to cover the main aspects of the machine. For those who are interested or unaware of the different types of rapid prototyping solutions – we have a short explanation below.
Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) Vs Stereolithography (SLA)
As mentioned above, FormLabs Form 2 used the SLA method of 3D printing. In basic terms, SLA is a process by which a model or design is built layer by layer. It works by using a liquid plastic resin (known as a photopolymer) and an ultraviolet (UV) laser to form the 3D model.
The liquid plastic resin is cured by the ultraviolet laser within the machine following a CAD design in which the machine converts to instructions for printing.
The FFF method of 3D printing works slightly differently. In this method, consecutive layers of material are layered on top of each other at high temperatures, each layer is allowed to cool down and bond before the next layer is added.
A big downside of the FFF method is that the accuracy of the finished product can be off. In contrast, the SLA process finishes with a high level of accuracy and precision.
Appearance/Setup of the FormLab Form 2
It wouldn’t be a push to say that the FormLab Form 2 looks like something from the future. The design is clean and simplistic. Housing the internals is a orange opaque cover and setting up the FormLabs Form 2 is relatively simple and took just over an hour to complete.
To start printing, Form 2 needs to preheat the resin to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, which may take some time if the room it’s in is cold.
The color touch screen of Form 1+ has been upgraded to an LCD display. The LCD screen on the front of the device allows you to start, stop, and pause prints directly from the printer. It also displays an estimated time remaining which we felt was an impressive touch.
Even if you’re completely new to the world of 3D printing, you’ll be able to set Form 2 up with few issues if any.
Out of the box, you’ll need to set up the printer on a sturdy and flat surface. Bearing in mind that whilst this printer isn’t huge when compared to other printers, it’s still big with the dimensions being 35 x 33 x 52 cm. Once the printer is on the flat surface you’ll need to attach the “build platform.”
This is simple enough, just open the orange cover and secure the platform. Don’t be put off by the fact that the build platform of Form 2 hangs upside down, this is an intentional design as the model is “drawn out” of resin.
How Does the FormLab Form 2 Print?
It’s universally accepted that SLA printers generally have a higher overall build quality than FFF printers. Since Form 2 uses a laser to solidify the resin, the layers of the models it produces are almost indistinguishable from each other.
Form 2 is also capable of producing highly detailed and complex models with ease. Even designs with sharp edges or overhangs are handled with ease.
The speed at which the Form 2 prints is very impressive. This translates to being able to churn out working prototypes quickly, without having to worry about wasting time on reprinting or a failed print. For reference, a 5-foot tall design took just over seven hours to complete.
In terms of the printing process, Form 2 eliminates any gunk or air bubbles. It does this by sliding the print tray in sync with lifting the print head, then it uses a wiper to get rid of any bits or bubbles before lowering the print head again.
The process could be considered a little involved, once the prints are completed they need to be cleaned. Releasing the print model from the build platform involves can be quite a chore.
The model needs to be almost chiseled out from underneath the bottom layer of the print. There are holes in the print base to make this easier, along with the scraper tool which comes with the kit.
FormLab Form 2 Features and Technical Specifications
As you might expect from a 3D printer on the higher end of the market, Form 2 can print from files sent over WiFi. It also has a Gigabit Ethernet connection port for local file transfer. If all else fails, there is the option of printing from a USB stick.
Form 2 also has Quick Print functionality. With Quick Print, Form 2 orientates the model correctly and builds any supports need to hold it in place. In the kit, you have all the tools necessary to finish the model too – including plastic snips to get rid of the supports after building.
As we’ve mentioned, the LCD screen can be used to control printing.
There is also FormLab’s PreForm software included which gives you a total of two methods of control. However, PreForm is not a 3D-modeling app, but you can do simple things like shifting and scaling a 3D model.
Loading a 3D model onto the PreForm software and preparing it for printing is straightforward enough.
There are seven types of resin available from FormLabs: White, Grey, Black, Clear, Tough, Castable, and Flexible. This is quite a diverse range of resin that should accommodate most users.
Third-party resins are also compatible with Form 2. This is particularly useful as the resins from FormLabs are on the pricey side.
The resins from Formlabs come in a new container, which simply drops into the back of the printer. You won’t need to worry about the resin running out mid-print as Form 2 automatically detects when the resin in the tray is running low and refills it.
This takes out some of the human error involved when manually refilling a printer.
Customer Support for the FormLab Form 2
A one-year limited warranty is included with Form 2, which as far as warranties go for 3D printers is relatively standard. There is an option to purchase a service plan which comes with numerous benefits. You’ll be provided with training to maintain the printer yourself.
They also prioritize your queries over those who do not have a service plan in place and hot-swap any broken parts. If you’re working in a 3D printing business, a service plan is essential.
The team of Customer Support staff advises on its products in four languages: English, French, German, and Italian. They’re available via email, phone, live chat, and a user forum.
Pros and Cons of FormLab’s Form 2
- Design is simple and easy to use
- Excellent printing quality
- Third-Party Resin Friendly
- Setup of the Form Lab 2 is straightforward
- Faster than average print speed
- Resin bought from FormLabs is expensive
- Printer is expensive
- Some cleaning is required post-print
FormLab’s Form 2 3D Printer is truly exceptional. The build quality and precision of the models it produces are high-quality.
The edges of the models are sharp, clean, and subtle details are reproduced with ease. It’s an excellent machine for prototyping and makes an invaluable addition to semi-professional or professional consumers.
The whole process of using Form 2 can be automated, making it ideal for those working in the engineering, or manufacturing field. On the topic of the intended user(s) this 3D printer, whilst being easy to set up and use, isn’t aimed at the regular consumer who intends on dabbling with 3D printing.
All in all, the kit includes nothing to be desired, but for the price, this is to be expected. The PreForm software has an exceptionally user-friendly interface and the functionality of the LCD screen is excellent.
There is a question of cost. For those with a larger budget, this printer is one of the best you can buy.
But with the add-ons, support options, and cost of materials some may be priced out of purchasing FormLab’s Form 2. A standout aspect of Form 2 is the consistent quality of the models it produces.
While printers that use the FFF interface need a regular rebalancing of temperatures, parameters, filaments, and extruders FormLab’s Form 2 delivers without needing to worry about quality.