Faulty 1+ Laser?

Hello all. My tank is filling up with tiny partially cured resin particles as well as almost every print being unusable. I did print the butterfly pattern and got 1 of the 5 to come out okay. The particles are too small to get caught by the fine tooth comb or screen filter.

From day one my 1+ has never delivered to its potential. I know mechanically it can do amazing things as a few instances the prints are flawless. Rest of the time I get disaster printing the exact same thing. Thousand dollars worth of resins wasted.

When I got my 1+ brand new, the laser was unplugged from the main board and a large fingerprint on the small mirror under the galvos. After consultation with FormLabs, I was told to go ahead and connect the laser as it wouldn’t void my warranty. After that I was able to get prints, but nothing of any substantial quality. Actually, part of the prints would be fantastic yet ruined because of large random defects such as voids and flaking. Out of frustration under the impression I was doing something wrong, I set the machine aside… sat it did for almost 8 months.

Eventually, I got back to the printer and decided to try again. This time I was prompted for a firmware update which I did. WOW! My first successful perfect print. Thought I had the problem solved. But nope. Just as before, the printer seems to go through periods where it prints great and then makes garbage parts.

For example, I printed a simple 100mm X 200mm cylinder with a 10mm bore out of flexible material. The first print came out wonderful. The clean and flawless lines were that as if it were injection molded. I went to print 3 more… complete failures. The resin wasn’t even cured! Just a glob like mound attached to the build platform. This was with new tray and resin.

Same thing with precision gears. I made about a dozen 7.5mm 32 tooth gears out of clear resin that were flawless. I made another batch and 100% failure. Then another batch where they are perfect again. Nothing changed.

Regardless, my tanks fill with sludgy partially cured resins before they are even half empty. Prints have ridges 180 degrees apart and have these large horizontal “flakes” that stick out of the printed part. Exactly as another member here has with “laser flare”

I insert a sheet of paper where the tray normally goes to check the laser beam quality. Beam looked like a trapezoid with brighter central beam. Thought I figured it out for sure. So I try again to get a photo. This time the beam looked like one would expect a laser beam to appear.

Can a solid state laser have an internal fault where it generates a sharp beam and randomly switch to an incoherent beam with a rectilinear shape?

To the guys at FormLabs, Have you ever heard of this?

If you have never cleaned the mirrors in your 1+, the odds are 99.9% certain this is your problem. The mirrors are the Form1’s Achilles Heel. They’re open to the ambient environment and as a result need to be cleaned periodically. They “haze” just like the windows in your house do. How periodic the cleaning has to be is dependent on the environment, of course. My Form1+ ran perfectly for 6-7 months and then started to print mush, literally from one print to the next. Mirror cleaning fixed it.

The lens flare issue was never really proven to be an issue, and dirty mirrors will cause flare. I’m not from FL, but I have used lasers and to the best of my knowledge there’s no way for a solid state laser beam to change shape like you describe. The only thing that can do that is something in the beam path. I can’t easily explain why the beam quality changed. But if you did the beam test with the sheet of paper, you had the optics deck open. Depending on how “energetic” you were with the sheet of paper, you could have stirred things up with a breeze and some “dust fluff” was disturbed between tests resulting in the improvement.

Hi Randy,

The optics are spotless, I examine with a dedicated LED penlight before each print. But I checked again for this post. It is clean aside from 2 minute little dust specks. No excessive cloudiness in the tanks. Even a brand new tank has the exact same print anomalies. The printer has its own “cleanroom” with sealed door, variable speed HEPA filter fan unit with an air quality monitor. I will take the laser out of the machine and examine it in detail in case there is something in the laser optics.

I can’t print anything of value as of now. Only with clear resin too. Items are made, but they lack details. Going to cut my loss on the machine as nothing of value has ever been produced. It has never worked to its potential. I have done all I can do. Anybody out there with a Form 2 willing to try this print? Just a very small part to see if the gear teeth details come out? Would like to see if the Form 2 can make the part to decide what route to take next… aka purchase a Form 2 and try to move forward.Gear.STL (189.0 KB)

You can’t see mirror hazing unless you really know what you’re looking for. And there are more mirrors inside the printer than just the one big primary mirror you see when the tank is removed. All the symptoms you describe are fully consistent with the mirrors being dirty. But you need to follow FL’s cleaning procedure or you’ll do harm to the mirrors trying to clean them.

If you bought this machine new, you have a warranty. Have you opened a support ticket with FL?


I had something similar a long while ago with my Form1+.
I thought it was the laser at some point as I did clean the mirror to the best of my ability.
After a lengthy try&error, the support team sent me a new mirror and eventually procedures to clean the galvanometer.
My Form1+ has been a beast ever since with consistently good prints…unless the tank goes hazy.
I also have a Form2 but to be honest I have been using my Form1+ more as it uses less resin and prints faster particularly for prototyping. The Form2 is there if I need to make multiple prints as the build is larger.

I do suggest you open a ticket and try getting a new mirror especially if it is still under warranty.
I wouldn’t touch the galvanometer unless necessary but a new mirror might do the trick.
Hope it works out for you.

Hi Randy. I am working with Formlabs now on the issue. Thanks for the assistance and making these forums do what they do best - expand user base knowledge. Mirror hazing is something I was never aware of. I’ll update here with the progress. The machine is long past warranty. I don’t mind paying for repairs as long as it moves me in the direction of having the machine work like it is supposed to. :slight_smile:

This is reassuring. Thanks and I am now working with FormLabs to find a solution. The machine is amazing the few times I had success.

I think I fixed it! I took the entire machine apart, removed the laser and inspected it. What I did find was a particle of “dust” dead center of the first galvanometer mirror in the laser beam path. It was stuck on there too… compressed air would not move it. So very carefully cleaned the tiny mirror. Did a 2nd cleaning of all optics.

Printing absolutely gorgeous perfect as perfect can be parts now. Never had this quality of print before on the printers best day in the ideal sweetspot. Speaking of which, those “sweetspots” appear to be no more. I can print anywhere on the build surface. It is as if the aliens detected my perpetual angst and swapped out my printer for an entirely new one.

With my “cleanroom” setup aka HEPA filter fan in the small room I house the printer, I am finding that dust particles appearing on the main mirror requiring the occasional blast of compressed air is not longer needed. Fingers crossed I now have a stable 1+ printing operation. :smiley:

1 Like

Now I am kind of jealous of your clean room setup!!
I still need a quick blast of compressed air before printing just in case.

Glad it worked out and happy printing :smiley:

Don’t use air to clean the mirror–it can blow the dust onto the other mirrors, if you keep things generally clean then the only dust issues you should have for the most part is the large mirror since it’s more exposed.
I think though over time dust will become more of an issue just because once it’s inside the printer it isn’t going to be easy to get out.

1 Like

Hi Gavin_Curtis,

Would it be possible to see some images of your clean room. im looking to do something similar myself. what size room is it?

This topic was automatically closed 15 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.