Formlabs Website Store Support

Complaint and feature request

For a printer marketed as something kind of industrial class the software has two glaring issues to me.

For starters, the time estimates. They’re so laughably bad they might as well not exist in their current form. My jobs are taking 2-5x longer than the estimates, but in no predictable way. Had I known how bad this aspect was, I wouldn’t have bought in to this ecosystem. Cost estimations/time management is just impossible in its current state.

Next, no cost estimate that I can find in software. Maybe I’m overlooking it. Even hobby level slicers let you input your material cost and use that to tell you what the cost of a given part is. Assuming the volume estimates are better than the time estimates, you have full control of prices top to bottom. This should be an easy addition and useful for industrial/commercial purposes.

2 Likes

The first issue has been going on for years now so it’s what we have and shouldn’t change much. There have been many “improvements” but, in the end, it’s always a mess. Depending on the resin used and / or the models, you can either get more estimated time than it took or less than it will take.

Regarding the second issue, it’s not that linear. You can purchase resin at the one price or another. I can think of three examples:

  1. In some countries the resin is way more expensive.
  2. Currencies are not all the same (for example, a cartridge costing 200 USD wouldn’t cost 200 EUR).
  3. If you use Formlabs’ volume discount then the listed price wouldn’t be the one you paid (for example, it costs 200 USD online but you got it for 180 USD, 160 USD or less).

On top of that you also have the cost of the tank, electricity, etc. For example, Tough and Rigid resins (and a few others), have the tank’s lifetime severely reduced so a 10 hour print costs more using those resins than using a standard resin. Also electricity adds up depending on how long it takes. Both the tank and electricity’s price will vary a lot depending on your location and / or country and / or volume discount. The printer used also needs to be taken into consideration (for example, a Form 3 doesn’t uses as much electricity as a Form 3L).

Additionally you’ll have the wash and cure process. IPA (or any other solvent) has costs and those depend not only on how much it costs you to purchase them (which varies by country) and / or destile it. The cure process also has electricity costs and not only the cost per Watt varies but also what type of curing you’re using (for example, the Form Cure gives you medium curing results at a specific cost but the Form Cure L gives you great results at a much higher cost).

That being said, it would work only IF you were the one adding the following variables:

  1. What you paid for a specific material’s cartridge.
  2. Price per watt
  3. Price per tank
  4. What curing station you’d be using and for how many minutes (could be the recommended, or different)
  5. Cost of IPA per wash
  6. Etc.

It would be a cool thing to have but too many variables to input in my opinion. And all of these variables don’t include the human workmanship cost nor any other costs (tools, location, etc).

1 Like

I think that is perfection being the enemy of the good. Just a Rough estimate is anyone counts on most slicer’s estimates being. Also you could get an average of all those costs and sort of combine them into a per-ml price. Because clearly companies that do this commercially (like shapeways) have figured out all the costs or they’d rapidly go out of business (obviously they also calculate in labor costs in post-processing for prints like SLS which varied more on model complexity rather than purse size (a giant cube uses a lot of nylon powder but is relatively easy to clean, but a small model of Notre Dame would be horrible to get all the powder out of…

That is a fantastic attempt at over complicating the issue and making excuses.

I was specifically meaning material cost. Formlabs knows what I’ve spent on the tank. The slicer should know the amount being used for the particular print (including supports). And if that’s too much to ask, all hobby software I’ve used lets you just input the cost per ml or spool if fdm and calculates it based off of that. Open chitubox, prusa slicer, cura, just about anything else out there and it has this ability built in and accounts for support material too. On “hobby” software. It’s such a normal thing on anything else its jarring to not see it in preform.

True I can calculate that outside of the program based on its estimated volume on the print, assuming that can be trusted. With what I’ve seen on the time estimates, I’m unsure what I can trust in preform at all. I don’t see a way to export a model with supports to other software to verify its volume is correct. Another thing all other software in this space has that I use in my shop.

Excuses aside, it’s a bad look to me that hobby software has had these things for several years and I dive in to what is heavily advertised as an industrial ecosystem and it does not. I basically can’t do any sort of price and/or time estimates on this thing until after I’ve actually printed something and compare the time. Every other printer I own I can form a very accurate quote before I ever touch the printer, all in software.

In any case, I didn’t mean to start some sort of forum argument. I thought reaching feature parity with hobby software would be an easy win of a suggestion. If this has been a long ignored issue, I can only say I’m glad I only purchased one machine.

Edit: I didn’t like how fully negative my comment was, so let me add that I believe the hardware is fantastic. Loving the form 3, the cure and wash machines and the material options/properties. The time estimates being so grossly off will make this machine difficult to include as an option for most of my jobs though. I was hoping for it to be an upgrade and eventually replace several of my machines with form’s, but that can’t happen with the current state of its software.

2 Likes

Sorry but you oversight resing printing material utilization. The machine calculate the volume used on the part itself, it could add a percentage for the looses, but those depends on geometry, holes that are filed with resin, if you let the resing follow back to the tank for a few minutes or a few hours, the amount of resin lost in the tank that you cannot print (not lost if you use another botle, but lost if it is a one off for a customer).
I use also other software, and that price information is worth nearly nothing, and something you can do on the top of your head most of times, but never if you are really going to charge a customer for a part.
On te time calculation, I agree could be better, but when you tell Preform to recalculate is accurate enough (for me time means part will be same day, next morning, or in two days, anything outside working hours I don’t care.

you would think that with Formlabs positioning in the corporate space they would already have things built-in to the printer like access card limitation access user profiles in preform that can be logged in and logged out and running tallies of price and consumables per user for billing to different departments in a business