forms 3d printer review

Form 3 3D Printer Review 2022

Best Product Reviews

Last Updated on January 1, 2022 by Daniel

Formlabs’ Form 3 is a high-end stereolithographic (SLA) printer that zaps liquid resin into a solid form using a laser. For those who want to do a lot of printing without having to do a lot of maintenance, this is the perfect printer.

Despite their quality, however, Form 3 prints aren’t cheap – they start at $3499. In light of cheaper SLA brands such as the Peopoly Moai, this may be a difficult price to accept.

However, budget SLA printers often need a lot of maintenance and experimentation to produce quality prints. Form 3 does not require either: It is simple to use. Because of this, Form 3 makes our list of the best 3D printers you can get right now.

In this review, we tested the $4,999 complete kit that comes with the Form 3 printer, the Form Wash and Form Cure cleaning and finishing devices.

Design of the Form 3 3D printer review

  • UV-blocked orange plastic
  • Portable
  • Lightweight

Form 3d printer

Formlabs’ Form 3 printer is similar to their previous models, with a hood of orange plastic covering the printing area and a black plastic base. In addition to aesthetics, the UV-blocked orange plastic lets you see what happens while printing is underway without interference from outside light.

With this hood, you can see the main components of Form 3—the resin tank and the print platform. Both printers have a printing area of roughly 237 cubic inches, which is a little bigger than the previous Form printers. It has a volume of 1,230 cubic inches.

The Form 3L is a larger model with 11.8 x 13.2 x 7.9 inches. Nevertheless, the Form 3L, which will begin shipping later this year, will cost you a cool $9,999.

During the printing process, the liquid resin is held in the removable reservoir. There is a thin layer of clear plastic that shines through the base of the tank. The build platform is lowered below this base layer, allowing the liquid resin to be trapped beneath it as each layer is created.

UV lasers transform the liquid into resin, which adheres to the build platform after being zapped by the laser. After that, the platform is lifted, removing the hardened resin. As the platform lowers again, another layer of liquid resin is trapped, and the process is repeated. This process is accomplished by printing layer by layer using 0.1mm to 0.025mm layer heights.

A feature of Form 3 is the flexible plastic on the bottom layer, which allows the hardened layers at the top to be pulled up with less force. In addition to providing more reliable printing, Formlabs calls this Low Force Stereolithography.

There are other printer makers who use this technique (like the Peopoly Moai), but it is effective for Formlabs. For the first time for a 3D printer, none of our Form 3 tests failed.

The Light Processing Unit (LPU) is a sealed package located under the resin tank in which the Form 3’s laser and optics are located. As a result, Formlabs claims the printer is more reliable because dust cannot get into the printer to block the laser. In addition, removing and replacing the whole unit makes the LPU easier to replace.

At the rear of Form 3 is a resin cartridge that holds liquid resin. You never have to fill the resin tank yourself since the printer automatically does it for you: it’s a great feature because the resin can be smelly and unpleasant. It is possible to switch out printing resins without having to remove the entire printer since the resin tank and cartridge are removable.

The tanks can be cleaned and reused, but the resin cartridges cannot. However, Formlabs warns that this may void the printer’s warranty if a cartridge is filled with a third-party resin. Formlabs recommends that you remove the print tank from the printer if you plan to not use it for a few days so that the tank doesn’t harden.

Controls

Forms 3d printer

You can control Form 3 directly by utilizing the touch screen to access all the features or to start and stop the printer. To operate Form 3, most users will turn to the PreForm software and the online printing dashboard.

This software prepares your print by loading a 3D model (standard .stl and Wavefront .obj formats are supported) and slicing it for printing. For Mac and Windows users, PreForm is a free download that has a handy one-touch printing feature that prepares the print, creates the support to hold it while printing, and sends it to the printer.

To manipulate the process, you can use PreForm to rotate, scale, move, and otherwise play around with 3D models, in addition to plating several models at the same time (a process called plating). Form 3 is managed online by the Printing Dashboard. It is designed primarily for users operating multiple form printers or sharing a single printer among several users.

Using this dashboard, you can customize queues and schedules, monitor progress, pause and cancel printing. In addition to notifying you through your smartphone when a printer is finished printing or when it has problems, it also indicates when maintenance is required.

Because Form 3 doesn’t have a camera inside to monitor the prints, you won’t know if a print has failed until it is finished, unless you check while it is printing. It’s not unique to Form 3 in this regard, though: Since this machine has a large print platform obscuring the printing area, it makes seeing the progress of the print impossible.

Review of the Form 3 3D printer: Performance

forms 3d printer review

Even when printing at the fastest speed, Form 3 produced excellent quality prints, with fine details and smooth, organic curves and surfaces. In our tests, the detail was smooth and even, with hardly a sign of layers.

In our first model, we scanned Rodin’s statue of The Thinker. It turned out to be an excellent print. Its shoulders and arms are curved and its face is adorned with excellent detail.

With the fastest 25-micron printing setting, the layering of the print was barely noticeable.

Using the minimum layer height of 0.025mm, the layers on The Thinkers’ shoulders are barely visible.

To test how well the printer can manufacture interlocking parts, we produced complex planetary gears as our second test. Likewise, Form 3 produced excellent prints here, handling intricate details like screw threads and gear teeth. The parts were simple to assemble, with screws that fit tightly into other parts and gears that matched up perfectly.

In the final test, we find out how well the printer reproduces sharp points and edges with a geometric sculpture. Once again, we found excellent results here, with the many angled surfaces of the sculpture appearing to have clean, smooth edges and sharp points that almost look like they could cut.

Speed is key in this Form 3 3D printer review.

Depending on how the layer height is set, Form 3 takes anywhere between 10 hours and 17 hours and 21 minutes to complete a standard 4.5-inch Thinker print. This is not unusual among SLA printers, and Form 3 does not buck this trend. In comparison to other SLA printers as well, like the Peopoly Moai, which can produce a similar print in between seven hours and twenty minutes and 18 hours.

Though our tests have been conducted with Form’s gray and clear resins, there is a special version called Draft Resin that can be printed in layers of 0.3mm thickness. The printing would be faster, but the quality would be less. Unfortunately, we were unable to test the resin.

Form 3 3D printer review: print materials

forms 3d printer

Formlabs only provides parts and materials for Form 3. Cartridges and resin tanks have to be purchased from the printer maker. You will need a new resin tank for $149, a cartridge that contains a liter of resin for $175, and a castable wax resin for $299, which is used to create molds by artists and jewelers.

Formlabs does not recommend using third-party resin on Form 3 by filling its cartridges with third-party resin, as this could void the Form 3 warranty. Each print cost about $21 based on the fact that we got about seven reasonably large prints out of a cartridge of gray resin.

Pros Cons
Provide support for the Formlabs material range. cost-effective
High-quality printing The use of third-party resin voids the warranty.
Multi-user and multi-printer functionality

Form 3 3D printer review: Final thoughts

Unlike many other 3D printers, Form 3 is a real plug-and-play device. It didn’t take us long to get printing-just plug Form 3 into the computer, load it up, and start printing. We found the process to be clean and hassle-free, which is quite different from typical SLA printers that require a lot of tweaking, calibration, and other fiddling to get good results. Form 3 works without any problems.

However, at $3,499 and up, the Form 3 is also one of the most expensive 3D printers we have tested, and it is also very expensive to operate. This won’t be an issue for 3D printers, professional or otherwise. Although Form 3 will cost a lot upfront, the easier printing it provides will be worth it in the end.

If you are willing to spend the time to tweak the printer and develop a cleaning and hardening workflow afterward, you can get the same or better results from a much cheaper printer, such as the $1,999 Peopoly Phenom.