I purchased a Form3 system in August 2020 after working with my sales rep at Formlabs for about 2 weeks. I emailed a couple stl files for their evaluation, was told they’d print fine using certain parameters and picked the Clear resin to begin since it had the best replication of fine detail at that time. I received thorough evaluations and detailed emails … enough to make the decision to buy the system.
Based on other responses to your post, I agree with those that state your bad experience sounds more related to your inexperience with 3D printing, creating hi-rez stl files (a LOT of facets are required) and working with the slicing software, which I find to be very user-friendly. I’ve been involved with rapid prototyping since the early 90s and know firsthand how frustrating the entire process can be, including failed prints after trying numerous set ups. Before you go after Formlabs as being guilty of bad marketing and sales, perhaps you can ask colleagues with different experiences in RP, 3D printing, etc. for advice.
As to calculating “true” printing costs, I created an Excel spreadsheet (which changes slightly as I print more parts) that incorporates the price per liter of resin, machine time (from Preform), amount of resin required for each build (from Preform), amortization of the tray (5 liters of resin equals 1 tray’s life) and the amount of time I’d need to set up the parts in Preform and clean/dry/package parts as they run thru the FormWash tank.
I’ve found that the amount of resin is the least costly aspect because my parts are very small. The biggest cost is how you calculate machine time (cost of the printer spread over how long you think it’ll last before needing laser replacement or complete machine replacement). Since this is a new system, there is no “life data” to use so go with 3 to 5 years as a basis. I use $30/hr for printing and my labor to yield an acceptable build. The more parts you put on the platform, the lower the unit price, just like any other “batch process”. If you end up with a bad build, that’s likely your fault, either due to poor maintenance, not properly setting up the machine/slicing software (which does include warnings where poor supports are used), etc. Practice is key. None of this is “rocket science” … 3D printing has been around since 1986 but not in desktop versions. While we can debate if the Form3 was prematurely launched or not, the bottom line is that the system works if used as intended for the VAST majority of geometries. You can’t “push the button” and hope that the system magically spits out acceptable parts. The responsibility to make YOUR system work best for YOUR parts is on YOU, in my opinion.
I am very pleased with my experience with Formlabs tech support, their equipment and resins. Yes, I’ve had a couple oops in printing as I learn what works best for my needs but with nearly 3000 parts printed in Clear resin at .001" and .002" layer thicknesses in the 7 months since installing the system, I can honestly say I’m impressed with the quality of their “desktop system” after working with million-dollar 3D Systems’ “Viper” between 2002 and 2017.