First few successful prints - small custom parts

Even though I was a very early Kickstarter backer (backed the project in September 2012 and received the printer in May 2013), I just now printed the first few successful prints, and I am very impressed.

The first machine’s alignment was off (https://support.formlabs.com/entries/24479916-Miscalibration-circles-turn-into-ellipses), and the replacement machines had various other issues. During all this time I received awesome support from Formlabs. I should note that the reason it ultimately took so long to get the first working setup was mostly because I was very busy and sometimes had weeks without any time to run the tests requested by the support team.

I finally have a printer that seems to work great. The first things I printed that I modeled myself, instead of just grabbing something off of thingiverse, were a hook, a cover for a magnetic switch that I’m installing, and a vacuum adapter for a power tool. I attached some photos below. I also added a photo of one model I downloaded (the cats one, by PixelMatter at http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:241748).

I am still having some issues, such as the base of the vacuum adapter getting pulled off the build platform on one side or one or more layers of the hook getting ripped off (shown in one photo). It seems to be related to the forces in effect during the peeling process, and I think I can control that somewhat by experimenting with the orientation and placement of the models.

As noted the adapter and the hook didn’t come out perfect, a few layers failed to cure in the latter, but the switch cover looks and feels absolutely amazing. I modeled it after measurements (with a caliper) of the switch that it was going to contain. After I printed and cleaned the cover and put in the switch for the first time, I was blown away that it fit perfectly and snugly the very first time. The surrounding surfaces were completely flush, so the precision was amazing.

All prints in the photos were made at the 100 micron resolution.

I put my creations up on Thingiverse, including more photos and the model files: http://www.thingiverse.com/liyanage/designs

Overall I am extremely pleased by the quality of the Form 1’s output and I’m looking forward to modeling and printing more things in the future.

Some tips and observations:

→ I spent a lot of time researching 3D modeling software for the Mac. I was hoping to find something that was powerful, feature-rich, and not dumbed down, but still wouldn’t cost more than the printer itself (which is the case for example with Autocad 3D). Luckily, Autodesk recently released their Fusion 360 product, and I settled on that. I was beta-testing it for a while before it was released publicly. It is still a bit buggy and has some performance and stability issues, but I hope they iron those out eventually. It is otherwise a great environment. Like every 3D application, it has a steep learning curve. The documentation is pretty thin for now, but there are some good instructional videos. It normally costs $300 per year (which I’d gladly pay for an application this powerful), but they currently let enthusiasts use it for free.

→ If you use Fusion 360 (or many other 3D apps) on the Mac, you’ll sorely miss a middle mouse button. I found that the MagicPrefs app can give you one with the Magic Mouse and some other input devices: http://magicprefs.com

→ To clean up resin after failed prints, I bought these paint strainers and they seem to work great: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A1Q0PTO (125 Micron) and http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000PA09V0 (190 micron). I’ve ordered both but have only tried the 190 micron ones so far (once).

→ One of the printers I had for a while eventually didn’t print anything, every attempt would be a total failure. At one point I cleaned out the resin tank completely and thoroughly, including with IPA (which is not recommended but I didn’t know that at the time), and then inspected it a bit more closely by viewing things through it. It turned out that the back half was totally wavy, I shot some videos of that:




Needless to say, that totally does not work. After taking delivery of the printer I have now, I did the same inspection with the new tank, and the difference is like night and day. It’s obvious, but the bottom of the tank must really be close to perfect optically.

The gotcha here is that you can absolutely not see this wavyness when the tank is filled with resin. The liquid will even out the surface, and if you look through it from the top at something below the tank, the wavyness will be gone and everything will look straight and perfect. You can really only see this issue with a clean empty tank. So if you get only failed prints, check for that. Looking at something through an empty tank, i.e through the PDMS layer and the acrylic bottom, should be crystal clear, like there is absolutely nothing between you and what you’re looking at.

→ That last printer’s laser was also overshooting the build platform. Here’s a video of that:

Cured resin would stick to the side and float in the tank pretty quickly. While the model for this print wasn’t positioned in the center of the build platform in PreForm, it also wasn’t that close to the edge, so the calibration was clearly off. This is also something to watch out for. Set up some test print with the model near the edge of the build area and check if the laser overshoots the platform.

Between that and the bad tank, it’s no wonder that nothing printed right on that particular machine. I was asked to ship it back for a replacement, and thats when I got my current machine, which seems to work well so far.

→ I could never get the prints completely clean when rinsing them with IPA, they always retained a slimy film of resin. Then I read a tip (by Adrian Kunzle in https://support.formlabs.com/entries/23703743-Printing-a-Moving-Part) about using a toothbrush. I started doing that, and it works great, now my prints are completely clean and dry after the IPA evaporates. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before.

→ From time to time I recycle the cloudy IPA in the cleaning tank by filtering it through a paper towel. That works great and seems to clear it up quite a bit.

→ Thingiverse is a lot of fun. I’ll continue to upload my stuff there. It’s also fun to see the amazing creations people put up there all the time.

→ What I find really great about 3D printing in general and printing with the Form 1 in particular is that I can make parts that are useful but that I can’t just go out and buy because nobody makes them, like the vaccum adapter or switch cover in this case. The vacuum adapter for example is a small, simple thing that adds value to other things that I already own. If you can think of it, you can make it…

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Glad you are having success!  I seem to be having the opposite problem.  My machine worked great out of the box but has went downhill and is pretty much impossible to get a good print.  It seems to always be a base/ support failure that causes the part to fail.  I know I have wasted a lot of resin!  The clear resin seemed to have worked better for me.  Here is a  picture of some successful clear prints. (Venus has been painted)  And a couple of the type of failures that I am getting now.  Luckily the part made it, but you can see that the supports are jacked up!