Summary & Current issues:
From an Engineering perspective do you know…
1 - Anyone would store SLT file (modified or not) into PDM workflow as part of ISO9001 traceability?
2 - Form 2 machine uses 32 bit? Which makes file transfer very slow when importing into the machine, even though this machine was designed during Win 7 era.
3 - Professional engineer who uses Solidworks, Inventor, PTC and others cannot generate high polygon count due to limitation of the “solid” 3D CAD packages itself? Which unlike surface CAD packages (or Art CAD).
4 - How many R&D firms uses cloud based storage without questioning the validity of it online security?
5 - How many injection tool makers, production engineers or CNC machinists you know of would prefer STL file over STEP?
I’ve seen a number of Carbon 3D customers would question the use of STL file.
6 - Form2 machine needed to send to another country for Z height calibration?
7 - I own the 3D CAD data, but I cannot delete my own data & log from my online dashboard? European GDPR law will have an issue with this.
8 - Many firms want to make use of “weekend or overnight build” to maximize productivity? e.g. no z height model stacking on top another to make full use with the available printer volume (more supports removal though) Also, print quality is difference when finished print left ‘hanging’ for too hang.
9 - Resin expire date display on software (even if it just estimation) would greatly improve productivity?
10 - Any professional Engineers who uses 3D “solid” CAD packages would prefer to modify using STL files over STEP / Parasolid?
11 - STL polygon file repair is not a thing for FDM machines? Not supposed to anyway e.g. CatalystEX, unless the polygon are very corrupted or incomplete.
12 - Optical window cleaning is a continual concern? Cleaning is an issue and window seal can come off and hard to replace, I even supplied a harder screw type to prevent less chance of screw head wear to their maintenance staff, but was skipped over during repair.
13 - The cost of resin (per litre) is actually higher than professional SLA machines 10 years before?
14 - Tray are heated? But slow to reach up temperature.
15 - The machine is noisy enough during printing? It best not sit right next to your office desk. Also require vibration free / clean room environment.
16 - The support structure produced are too thick (even at smallest settings)? Making “post process” more difficult compared to commercial SLA models.
17 - ‘No pause option’ during print from power outage (Protection) or from swapping out low cartridge to survive long weekend print?
18 - Orange cover easily get fingerprint marks (even with gloves) and are not easy to clean?
19 - Digital spirit level seem off compared to real one?
20 - Difficult to remove models from build platform without damaging the platform surface?
21 - Orange tank ghost up optical window after few litre of use? LT tank much longer
22 - Formlab recommend Orange or LT tank to remove it resin back into cartridge after use? To minimize seal damage on tank optical window to prevent leaks.
23 - Model require orientation before slicing? But this will increase Z height build time & more build supports attached to model (more ‘post work’).
24 - Commercial Machines never recommended for using mesh repair programs such as Netfabb, Mesh mixer & etc.? Never heard the need for it, until the rise of these enthusiast desktop machines begins in 2008-2011.
25 - It doesn’t have print failure detection e.g. auto pause + camera + ‘load cell’? e.g Stratasys F123 series
26 - It would’ve been helpful to give further design support for Engineers?
e.g. “Prototyping” tests: for Visuals, Tactile shapes, Functional housing and mechanical inc. Jig & Fixture and rapid tooling or “Production” parts that replaces: vac casting, vac / pressure forming, low pressure over-molding and other low quantity manufacturing.
27 - Power consumption / operational cost (inc. decibel) is a dirty word within 3D printing industry? Including (perhaps especially) with commercial machines. Particularly damning for high end FDM or SLS printers and admittedly less so with Laser SLA.
28 - You have to be aware of hidden cost (beside power consumption)? e.g. “consumables” has 1 year expire date, so you cannot overstock with wide ranging materials unless you have plans to use it and “maintenance cost”.
29 - Engineers are not “printing technicians”? Engineers prefer spending time designing and solving real world problems rather than messing with 3D printers (software & redesign models) whole day/s just so that what you “wanted” are also what you “get” after prints.
30 - It software doesn’t account for “refillable options” to show true resin amount in cartridge? Note commercial machines treat you like consumables like cost of Kodak / Polaroid films vs hardware, but I doubt Formlab had the same intention.
31 - Formlabs Tech Supports are more engaging than most commercial machines (positive feedback)? Even though it still taken a year to resolve things like the 32 bit to 64 bit software. At Least they are trying.
32 - Built estimation slicer (Preform 64bit) are still slower than a 10 year older commercial FDM software?
33 - Used cartridges, gluepy IPA and Cleaning tissues disposal are still an issue? No network, no reclaim (unlike Stratasys Cartridges)
34 - There are no machine rental or better still ‘trial’ scheme? Once you buy it you are locked into their eco system e.g. consumables & support. It hard for any small medium business to folk out 10k and not knowing what they are buying into especially with ‘resin’ based machines. (though Form2 cost half that). Cost argument is a nightmare of owning a machine v outsourcing e.g. post processing, consumables, maintenance, running cost & others are major factors to consider.
35 - Print / slicing software doesn’t include mesh editor? For those who use STL files (which is everyone).
36 - Having “upside down printers” (build platform move upward) are great for printing small scale, making materials more easily swapping? For quantity run, it much better to have “right way up model printers” (built platform moving down), because of “diminishing returns” benefits (even though the machine has to accommodate bigger volume resin tank).
37 - Formlabs tries to introduce maintenance program? Which is great, but the problem is you have to send it, rather than having the ‘option’ for (even 3rd party) service engineers coming over fixing it. Much less disruptive to businesses.
38 - All resins has a shelf life? Which should be store in a controlled environment (like those commercial resins) to extend the shelf life (temperature & moisture), but Formlab ‘seem’ to formulate their resins to have a shorter shelf life for the sake of having wide storage range, sunny cooked up dusty warehouse to indoor office environment. I really wish people would treat any resin with a bit of respect.
39 - Doesn’t have 3D mouse option? Though admittedly medical student are not engineers (and 3d art designers) who used to manipulate 3D object on 2D screens. Medical sector seem to use ‘AR’ input instead, also engineers doesn’t need 3D printing for themselves as they can test it “visually” (visual test) on 2d screen, they only printed in 3d for those who are incapable of seeing 3D objects on 2D screens.
40 - Print estimation time are not very accurate? As Form2 doesn’t take into account with the machines startup / heating time before printing.
41 - Resin tank walls are too shallow & wiper require firmer design? At best of times wipers tend to splatters to the inside wall of the orange cover after some use. At worst, the wiper (single point attachment like a ‘pivot’) and can flicker violently when caught up solid resin stuck to the tank optical window (messy).
42 - Tank optical window can get cloudy? Formlab uses software to ‘estimate’ this cloudiness, which are useless in practice. Because in real life, it always better to inspect the optical window before ‘every print’ and it would be far better to have a camera inside looking from underneath the optical window to inspect cloudiness remotely without the need of opening this UV protective orange cover and exposing the resin to outside condition to the minimum. You then then automate the wiping action during visual inspection (remotely) if it a non-transparent resign. Less resin mess are generally good practice, avoid touching/ handling resin directly,
43 - The direction of the resin level sensor are questionable? As it can work only in the best of circumstances i.e. if the resin tank/ tray where changed from the machine, the resin remain sticky to the side wall (after being sloshed around during the change), interfering this level sensor, even though the resin itself is at it “max” level.
44 - Unreliable & questionable ‘valve’ design underneath the resin cartridge? Which basically just a rubber plug with a ‘perforated cut’ in the middle. I had to "cut a small incisions " myself rather than relying the machine to “squeeze” open this perforation to allow resin to fall through into the tank.
These are some of the daily Engineering challenges I have to go through with Form 2 & resin in general. I hope Form 3 would address some of my Engineering concerns and perhaps improvement in reliability.
If you are an artist with surface A models or figurines to print then that is great, because their design focus doesn’t seem to include engineer users (and I really wish this isn’t true), because Formlab “could” be a great potential to replace commercial SLA machines (not yet) as Formlabs tend to focus their machines for “ease of use and some level of autonomy”, but proven unreliable in Form2 and not good enough for use in Commercial (SME) / Engineering environment.