Calling all engineers, is this the real deal?

As a disclaimer, the Form 1 is at the top of my list for a sub $5k printer purchase.  I am already biased in favor of it.  However, there are a couple of competitors and after reading and reading various posts and reviews, I’m starting to have second thoughts.

I’ll start by asking the question that has been on my mind for a long time:  why does EVERY single prosumer 3D printer company highlight it’s ability to print a useless figurine?  It’s confusing.  You boast all of these great specs and look the part, but you insist on showing off your product with an Eiffel Tower?  My opinion as a product development (mechanical) engineer is that it’s really hard to take you seriously when all you show off is a highly detailed figurine.  Sure, the occasional gear will show up, but that’s not impressive.  How about a two piece clam shell rigid housing with features like bosses containing inserts?  You know, actual engineering examples.  Before I can commit to tens of thousands of dollars in injection molding tooling, I need to know the design is perfect.  To date, the only way I have done that is relied on companies like Forecast 3D to provide me with a high quality SLA or FDM part from one of their $100+ Stratasys machines.  Next step would be to invest in single cavity prototype aluminum tooling, but that’s typically cost prohibitive for most projects.

So, when I see users like Katz on this forum complaining about how he can’t successfully build “large” objects and don’t see engineers showing off their excitement of the Holy Grail that’s sitting on their desk, I begin to worry that maybe none of these guys (Form 1, Solidator, B9, etc.) are actually ready for engineering primetime.  I’m tired of paying hundreds of dollars per part from vendors that take days to deliver.  I want that Holy Grail of taking my SolidWorks part file, converting it to a STEP file, and coming back in the morning to see if my design is efficacious.

Please.  Someone.  Convince me.

  • L. M.

L. M.

There is no way I can convince you that the Form 1 is the right or wrong decision for you.  That being said, I can share my 2 cents for what it is worth.  I think many companies use cute figurines like a chess piece because 99% of the world knows what they are.  If they printed a gear box and showed it function, (wait Formlabs sort of did this) I think many would not appreciate the fact that the gears actually turn.  That was one of the selling points for me.  I saw the Form 1 make something I plan on doing.  I think if you want a test part of something like you described above, post up the .stl’s or an email address and someone will print samples for you.  Last I checked Formlabs is not printing things for individuals so it is up to the community to help out.

It seems that you are looking for “perfect” prototype parts.  I can say perfect is relative.  Not everything prints perfect every time.  If you have to have perfect parts every time, I think you will need to add a zero to the 5K price tag.

Comparing the Form 1 to other printers, I have had test parts printed off a Makerbot, Mojo, Form 1, Invision LD.  The Form 1 was the most accurate with best overall surface finish.  The FDM prints off the Mojo were impressive but not 10K impressive.  The Makerbot top surface was as good if not better then the Mojo.  The support side of the Makerbot was terrible.  Search the site for pictures.  They are all here somewhere.

I was able to print Katz’s parts as well as the other model in the thread.  Many others have been able to print large parts also.

At the end of the day, The Form 1 is a great printer.  It does not fit everyones wants or needs but it does fit mine.


Hi L.M.

This topic was somewhat covered in this thread:{}

I am not a fan of the extruder type machines for professional prototypes. For my work the tolerances other users are getting is just acceptable and is compensated by the great finish the from1 provides.

@ David

Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful response.  Regarding the convincing, I was going for comedic effect.  Only I can convince myself, but feedback from people like you can certainly help me.

I’m not looking for perfection.  I know nothing is perfect.  Even injection molded parts will always have undesirable defects like flash.  With that said, I am mainly interested in consistent, dimensional accuracy of printed parts.  Surface finish is secondary.  I believe your suggestion of uploading a STEP file and having some generous community member print it for me for evaluation is a great one.  I didn’t even think of asking because it seems like a lot to ask for.  I would be happy to pay for the resin and the time.  Is $50 reasonable for a part roughly 2.5" x 3.5" x 1.0"?  If so and whoever is reading is willing to help out, please email me at lmachon AT gmail DOT com.  I just had a set of parts professionally printed by Forecast 3D.  It would be great to have one of the two parts printed using the Form 1 to compare to the $100k+ Stratasys FDM job.

@ Andyj

I appreciate you sharing the thread with me.  It’s not one I came across.  I read through it and got some useful info out of it.  Regarding professional FDM parts, I hear what you’re saying. I just had Forecast 3D print me a set of ABS parts (delivered today actually) and I paid $60 extra for vapor honing to improve the surface finish. Sounds like the SLA based printers like the Form 1 can achieve a better finish, eh?  As long as the dimensional accuracy is there, it sounds like a winner to me.

@LM - at this point I’d have to say no, the Form1 is no good for engineers. They did publish promotional prints of functioning nuts and bolts, and planetary gear boxes, but this now seems disingenuous.

My first Form1 (NaturalChicken) had X-axis dimensional error (compression) of approximately 3%. That has been replaced and the new printer (ObtainableLamb) also has poor X-axis dimensional accuracy (expansion this time) of approximately 1.5% - eg a part 80mm in length oriented exactly parallel to the x-axis is printed 81.19 mm across, and 30 mm parts are printed 30.3x mm across.

Weirdly - Y-axis dimensionality in both my printers seemed ok (30mm parts were within 0.05mm) - and this reflects comments elsewhere on the forums. Significant X-axis dimensionality error seems quite common (amongst those that care, I’m not sure if any non-engineer users are actually measuring their figurines and busts), but I haven’t seen any reports of Y or Z axis issues - I haven’t got as far as rigorously testing Z accuracy myself.

My theory is that the X and Y galvanometer deflection amplitude is adjusted via the unglued-still-adjustable potentiometers on the galvo breakout PCBs inside the Form1. I have an open ticket regarding ObtainableLamb’s x-axis accuracy and have asked Formlabs to confirm the pots are used to adjust galvo response - if they do, then I will go ahead and void my warranty and attempt to improve the accuracy of my second printer to the point it’s actually useful, and of course will publish my results on the forums.


I have to agree with Kevin.  I am a product designer (ME) and my experience so far has been disappointing.  I had such high hopes for this machine, but so far anything larger than an inch and a half or so has too much dimensional instability.  Flat faces are not flat, straight edges are not straight, positional accuracy between features on mating components is poor.  The bigger the part, the worse it seems to be.  I actually just sent my machine back because it stopped printing all together…hopefully the next one will be better.  So far, though, I am supremely sorry to say that the Form1 has not been a good tool for product design.

I just dusted off GiganticDog, having given up with it about 9 months ago. I was hoping that, in the meantime, the preform software would have matured enough to make it useful. But, even with the latest software and firmware, the same old issues are still there such as prints not sticking to the platform and parts printing with geometry skewed.

It is a terrible shame as the surface finish puts my uPrint SE Plus (HP Designjet Color) to shame, even at 0.1 resolution.

But the uPrint prints a useful part first time, every time, of correct size and geometry. And if you are using a 3D printer for engineering, that is what you need.

I just posted a response to a similar thread here with some pictures and measurements:

I suspect it might depend a lot on what your experience has been with and what you realistically expect from a printer that fits on your desk and costs what you might have paid for half a dozen small prints from service bureaus not too many years ago.  It’s certainly not an Objet, but it also does stuff that I’ve yet to see an FDM of any sort pull off.  If your tolerances are ‘machinist’ like (single digit 1/1000ths or less) you’re not going to get there under five-digit pricing yet.  If you’re more ‘pro-sumer’ level (10-20/1000th’s is reasonable) the Form1 is quite a nice little tool and time/money saver.

There might be definitely be “good” and “bad” Form1’s out in the field based on what I’ve read on the forums here.  I for one have never had a print not adhere to the base and the only failures I’ve had were due to operator error (admittedly, that can be hard to comprehend at the time).  Smudges or resin on mirrors, lack of supports, pushing the limits for feature sizes/thickness, etc. can make for really weird print failures.

I get maybe ~0.7% accuracy on X and Y and better than that on Z on prints in the ~70mm size at 50micron slices.  I *did* need to use the Fine Tuning settings to achieve that.  I’m mostly working on enclosures and small plastic parts for consumer electronics (~1mm wall thicknesses destined for injection molding).  The Form1 is a good “print preview”, IMHO.  I can check mechanical features, make sure circuit boards fit, buttons, screens, memory card slots, etc.  I can print 20+ prints in less time and for less money than quantity one of them cost from Shapeways, so I consider it useful.  That having been said-- when I have something “done” after a bunch of iterations with the Form1, I do order a ‘better’ one from Shapeways for final checks.