Are Form 2 and Form Cell built for daily uses at a Factory level?


#1

Hello to the community,

We are an OEM using rapid prototyping to produce some custom parts for our regular product line.

After our experience with Formlabs, we doubt we can work with them to scale up our 3D printing facility.
We wonder if there are companies in this community having a Factory level printing setup running 24h/7 that can tell us their experience with Formlabs and their 3D printing setup.

We question if the customer and technical service is different when having a Factory level solution?

Gabriel

Here is our own experience with Formlabs so far:

We were at first really interested in buying the Form Cell station which is mainly promoted as an optimized, reliable and proven solution for 3D Printing at a factory level.
We wanted to verify those good promises, so we ended buying a single Form 2 printer + needed accessories. It ran perfectly and smoothly for 3 months so we bought a second one. On average we run the printers for less than 12 hours a day. We follow the official cleaning and maintenance procedures as mention in all the different documents on the Formlabs website.

The honeymoon with our printers started to fade around the 8th month of use. We started getting off tolerance parts, surface defect, parts falling from build platform and layer offsetting. We contacted support which than supplied a deeper maintenance and troubleshooting procedure. We followed the instructions and Formlabs sent us few replacement parts. The printers got better but we were still getting about 40% of rejects (bad prints).

We got tired and just before the end of the warranty of our second printer, Formlabs accepted to take the printer to their facility and repair it. It got back to us we the performance of a new printer.

Our issue now is that Formlabs does not want to provide the repair for free, even if our normal use is not the cause of the problem. We asked to have a call with them, but this option is not offer by their customer service.
We now highly doubt we want to further pursue using their printing solution.

We could also mention the unpredictable availability of material, build platform replacement, resin tank replacement, wasted money and time trying to troubleshoot these machines etc.


#2

Well I don’t run a facility using them at commercial scale… but I have 20 years experience in SLA printing and milling.
My two cents is that the Form 2 is the Closest you can get, right now, to a workable solution at an affordable price. They offer more costly maintenance contracts for the heavy duty user, which you might want to look into… but every other sla printer in the price range is a whopping lot more trouble to run, and they ALL suffer the same issues of degrading optics over time.

Higher end printing solutions in SLA - those using immersion tanks, are even more trouble prone and require constant maintenance. They are profitable for service bureaus only because their entire business is running and troubleshooting those printers.

With Formlabs- my experience is that IF you get one of their GOOD machines- its pretty much a printing appliance… I send things to print and walk away for 40 hours without a second thought…
tho you WILL occasionally run across a ;leaky cartridge, platform or tank issue- the company is actively trying to increase the service life and reliability of its parts. Tho I do not look forward to the first repair my machine will need post warrantee… I knew that that was part and parcel of running any SLA solution. And many cheaper SLA machines out there are unsupported outside of being disposable.

When I say ‘GOOD’ machine… that’s because my first Form 2 was one of their bad ones. They have had a raft of quality control issues that are common to most “manufacturers” these days because most manufacturers actually sub out their manufacturing to independent companies in Asia.
My first machine was a lemon, and it took a couple months to convince Formlabs that it wasn’t something I was doing wrong, But the replacement machine they sent has never had a failed print as yet. And their constant tweaking of software and firmware nets reliable results from each of their different resins without my having to fiddle with a bunch of settings endlessly.

That being said- I would have one question and one alternate piece of advice.

Question being that if you need to print that many parts as part of a product- is there a reason you aren’t casting those parts in molds- which are vastly cheaper and even higher quality…?
IS every print different or something?

The alternate advice would be that if you need a printing solution to print final use parts, and need that level of productivity- you might consider the Carbon printer- which is dramatically faster than the Form 2 and produces more durable parts thru careful control of oxygen exposure.

Its a costly machine- but you don’t buy it- you lease it, which means the company itself handles maintenance ( part of why its costly )

that is- One Carbon Printer would likely print as many parts as 3 Form 2s- though I think the Form 2 does beat the carbon printer in terms of actual print resolution. ( when its working correctly )


#3

I run 2 Form 2 in a commercial setting every day about 8 hours a day each. No issues with my machines or with dealing with Formlabs. I don’t use their resin but one from ALW which works best for me. Running in open mode I don’t degrade the resin trays so I get 3-4 times the life and possibly even more. Customers love my 3D products.


#4

Thanks Sculptingman,

Your story of GOOD vs BAD Machine makes sense. We had one of our printer repaired under warranty and it’s now running smoothly since 2 month and a half. It’s just a bit disappointing to be at the risk of getting a BAD one randomly.
The reason we use 3D printing as a manufacturing solution for some parts is because they constantly evolve over the year. We do have turned to injection molding for our non-evolving parts.

We will take a look into the One Carbon printer … but we are currently taking good advantage of the tolerance and the precision of our repaired GOOD printer.

We have not been propose a costly maintenance contract for heavy user(Only a hot swap option). Hope this contract offer the chance to get a person on the phone.

Thanks a lot for your input!


#5

Hi Walter,

How long have you been running those 2 printers? More than a year?

What did you mean when you said : you run them in open mode?

I would also be curious about the printing service you are offering, we are always interest in outsourcing some part of our manufacturing.

Thanks for the information about 3rd party resin supplier.


#6

One has been for almost 2 years and the second one I purchase last summer.

Open mode is when you run other than Formlabs resin. It turns the heater and wiper off. The heater is what destroys the coating in the bottom of the resin trays. So without that much heat I don’t get that problem. I’d like to have the choice to run the wiper as I don’t see why it should be turned off.

You can see my 3D products on my website www.rustystumps.com look specifically at the various DETAIL parts down the left hand menu. Also look at both the HVAC fittings and the PIPE fittings as those are all printed on these two Form 2 Printers.


#7

how fast do your designs iterate?

If you are making changes to the parts on a monthly basis… but otherwise running dozens of even hundreds of prints… then there is a vastly more affordable step between printing and injection tooling… and that would be production silicone mold tooling, that would enable you to produce anywhere from dozens, to thousands of parts at pretty low cost- using room temp compounds that often spec much better than any printed resin.

We use our Form 2 for patternmaking, and for one or two off parts… but anything we might need to produce in the hundreds we do silicone tooling for. Per part costing ends up a fraction of what printed parts run, even out of our own printer, and we can attain part specifications that UV printed materials fall short of.


#8

I have a spreadsheet that costs out every part I produce on my Form 2 Machines. If the cost is too high then I use the prints to make silicone molds and cast in 1-1 resin which is cheaper but more work. Some items just aren’t good for 3D printing so those are automatically cast prints.
Analyzing the design of a part so that you best understand if it’s better to 3D print or better to Cast. There are benefits to both ways and also negatives on both ways.


#9

Hi Walter,

Thanks for the precision on your production methods.


#10

Is there someone in the community running with more that 2 printers and/or have bought the Form Cell station?


#11

Truthfully I’m considering getting rid of my large Epilog laser unit and buying a third Form 2. I’m just scratching the surface of what I can produce in modeling parts. I’ve been invited to a meeting of the International Modelers Manufacturing Society this Friday. See what I can find out there on what others are doing and how they are producing their parts.
Not to bad for an OLD 76 year old now isn’t it. [LAUGH]


#12

Stop moving and someone will build a box around you.


#13

If you had any idea of my health issues you’d wonder how the hell I’m still alive. 10 stents and if I get 2 more I get a Free Toaster. [laugh]


#14

Here it is
7
lots of problems since end of 2017. Before that time I had 4 and they are still running with of course low quality as you mentioned also (8 month life time, which for me had been around 12 month). I do agree about GOOD and BAD form2s.
I have started to look at other brands. Am interested to learn what are you planning or have done.


#15

Hi ksaeid,

We were able to get some repair service done by Formalab on our older printer by paying them. The printer got back to us with poor performance. We are now in the process to get it replace, since even after repair they were not able to get it fully functional. We hope we will get a functional one now. We will pursue to give the printers extra care and wait until the market has a real factory level 3d printer to offer.


#16

I’m working with Formlabs and AWL on the issues but sort of the “it’s not us” causing these issues.
I have some Digital Forge resin coming as well as a resurfaced PDMS layer tray that I’ll test.

Thing is I ran for almost 6 months with no issues then the roof fell in. Lots of ideas coming from various suppliers but not a combined plan. Not real sure just one item change will solve issues.


#17

So I have not taken the time to read the rest of the thread but I was surprised that a search for 3Dsystems and Stratasys didn’t return any result.

Factory-level 3D printing is definitely a thing and it’s been going on for longer than Formlabs existence. Formlabs tackles the advanced hobbyist, prosumer and small professional sector with affordable machines, but 3DSystems (the initial owner of the SLA patent) and Stratasys have been on the market for far longer. Recently HP entered the arena with their polyjet printers as well.

With these companies and printer, you get industrial grade machines and service, including after sales services. But the price range isn’t quite the same as Formlabs’, obviously.


#18

A lot of the bigger 3D printers are designed for prototype builds, not production. So they get ruled out.


#19

Hello,

Very interesting thread here. :slight_smile:
We are all with the same problem…
Yes, Formlabs Form 2 is for the price a very good machine.
And yes you have to get a bit of luck to get a GOOD printer.
We have now 7 Form 2’s for our own production and with 2 of them we have a lot of problems.
It’s always the same explanation from Formlabs, Clean this and that…
4 of them are working very good for 1.5 Year now.

So yea, we are also looking for other solutions.
Now we bought a Prismlab RP400 and that will replace all of the form2’s for our production.
And the form2’s we will use them for special materials. If they still work at least.

I saw one line in this thread from “Walter_Gillespie”
“The heater is what destroys the coating in the bottom of the resin trays.”
So you are saying that the Tanks will last longer in Open Mode?

Kind regards
Ruben


#20

I’m told “no” buy many but that’s been my experience. I recently had a lot of issues with both my Form 2 printers, and, like you, I was told by Formlabs to clean the optics. Well that wasn’t the issue. The resin tanks are the issue as far as I’m concerned. If I run small support based parts everything runs great. But, if the parts have a large support base then it starts. These aren’t huge support bases either. What’s happening is the PDMS layer is being pulled up in the center of the resin tray. This then leads to the PDMS layer being de-laminated and the tray useless.

Again I’ve been given varying solutions from replacing the trays with LT ones, different resin, going back to FL resin (I run AWL resin) as the wiper is needed, etc.

If I install a new resin tank with out doing any cleaning of the optics at all I still get great prints…for a while that is. I may purchase an LT tank and give it a try.