Form 1 Labs vs. B9 Creator Print Off!

I have been exploring the possibility of purchasing either a B9 or a Form 1 over the past few weeks. I have not seen ANY side by side comparisons of the Form 1 vs. the B9, so I figured I would do one myself.

Please opine and educate me if you know something I don’t!

My background: I work in the toy industry and specialize in packaging and action figure design along with my business partner. We have employed the cutting edge of 3d printing technology in our projects. The goal of this test was to explore how a consumer grade / pro-sumer 3d printing device can be integrated into a pro workflow. Is such a thing even possible?

The test file: Since we specialize in collectible figures and action figures we used a 3.5” bust as our benchmark geometry. This sculpture features fine hair detail, facial anatomy, and skin carvings.

The files were printed on the following machines:

**ULTRA 3 **from Envision $34-$50k depending on configuration, the Ultra3 is used as a reference for a professional 3d printer and offers stunning quality far above the Form 1 or B9. B9 $5K fully assembled **Form 1 **$3300

**Verdict: ** It’s a tie between the Form 1 and the B9. The form 1 actually displayed better detail in the hair and subtle forms, but lost the winning position due to strong unsightly horizontal distortion. Another quirk consisted of strange vertical stretching in the overall head shape. I don’t know if this is a FORM 1 defect or simply operator error. The B-9 was a home run at first but upon closer examination there are strange horizontal build lines. From what I have read on these forums the machine that printed the bust was either assembled wrong or is an early version of the B9 printer.

CONSCLUSION: Now here is the question… Can they replace a $45k machine? The fact that I can even pose such a question is a testament to the genius of both Form 1 Labs and the B9 team. The future is bright for 3d printing! Ok, so the answer is…Yes and no. These machines can be a great tool for a shop that wants to take the load off an expensive higher end machine.  A small studio can develop prototypes and debug them BEFORE purchasing expensive professional prints

In the case of toy development, these machines are great for run and gun toy samples. Consider the case of a sales rep that needs clean, durable painted sales samples. With minimal to moderate cleanup, both machines can fill that space. You can even develop “photo finish” models depending on available time. One must take care to print heads and hands at higher resolutions and minimize support structures to reduce post processing.

Sadly, neither of these machines are production ready for the demanding needs of the collectible toy industry.

After heated discussions on the matter my partner and I came to the following conclusion. The only scenario where we can make these printers work professionally is through an interim solution.  In this type of workflow we would use the B-9 / Form 1 prints as a kind of detailed wax sculpture. We would mold, cast in wax and refine the wax casting until we retrieve any detail lost in the printing. For small studios looking to expand into digital sculpting without breaking the bank, this is good enough. If you are already a traditional sculptor who works in wax anyway then this is a no brainer. You can save yourself hours of time by developing digital figures very fast in your 3d modeling app of choice. If you are developing a portfolio and are fine with the extra labor associated with producing photo finish models you will be very happy.

Of course all of this is just opinion but it comes from experience in my market and would be happy to communicate with folks who are willing to run off a test print for me, I pay for prints and I pay fast!

Here is an album with all the images, the sculpt with the consistent horizontal lines is the B9 print.

It might be early to come to a strong conclusion, based on so few prints.

I do not agree on the horizontal bands: those were present in version 1.0 of B9Creator, which was delivered in the hundreds of units in November 2012.

Since June 2013, version 1.1 of B9C was delivered in the hundreds again and solved the band issues.

Also, for the type of comparison you are doing, one should not use the B9C with a resin optimised for lost wax casting, but rather for a resin optimised for high details (there are at least 2 such resins available for B9C). I strongly suspect that that models was printed in “Red resin”, which is not optimised to show tiny details such as hair.

There are comparison on the B9C forum between B9C and Form 1 (the bird-cage printed in Cherry resin). Even though one could argue that such forum is biased, the prints show that B9C can print much smaller details than Form 1.

Having said that, I am not saying that B9C is better than Form 1:

they aim to two quite different user bases: Form 1 aims to be VERY user friendly and silent/desk-friendly, which is very difficult to achieve.

I am getting another print done on a newer machine. I will see if the cherry resin mix is an option with the vendor I am using.

At any rate I am happy with the prints from both machines, the quality is so good I am now nitpicking and putting in the extra effort to explore extracting the most detail possible out of these machines before I buy. At this price you can’t go wrong.

I thank you for sharing your insights on how B9C and Form 1 can integrate in the workflow of your industry.

I agree that they can have a very useful role to play.

In my previous email I was only focusing on the comparison between B9C and Form 1: it would take a long time to compare them because they have got different strength and weaknesses. You were very clear in explaining that your comparison was focused on the specific needs of your workflow: still, I was worried that other people would jump to general conclusions reading your ranking.

Thanks again for sharing your research and your analysis.

You’re welcome. The real catalyst for this was that I ran into some form 1 owners that were reluctant to do paid test prints and were selling kickstarter units on ebay for handsome profits. So someone has to share real world data on these machines instead of running them in secret and not sharing experiences. We need 3d printing for the masses, not the classes!

My view on your last comment is the following:

  • I saw the founders in person at a 3D show: several hundreds people wanted a print and most would have paid something for it. I think that their “everybody or nobody” policy is the most fair. They offered some spinning cubes on kickstarter and it took a long time to print them because, initially, they had only one and then just a handful of prototypes.

  • The specs on the prototype might not have reflected what they could do with mass production (it is very difficult to get quality components and to test them). So there was no point in over-promising or selling their final product lower than it could achieve.

  • One of the most amazing things the founders did was to use kickstarter and venture-capitalists in a very innovative way. The involvement of VCs, and the 3D Systems attempt to stop/delay Formlabs, might have introduced restrictions that are perceived as secrecy. Also their team was very small initially: their customer service reflects that but also the price of the printer, which is amazing.

  • From their media and international trade shows presence, it seemed to me that they had an open attitude: for example, by attending one of the trade shows, I had a chance to see Form 1 printing and I touched the prints and they kindly answered a ton of my questions: that allowed me to place the order. In other words, you could have done the same and now you are asking users to print for you, which is the right thing to do.

Form 1 crew are awesome and of course have provided lots of data.  I was really talking about the users I have come across. It’s all understandable as it’s nearly one of a kind hardware.

So the value of this test for me at least  is that you see how the thing performs in the wild by the average user.Very  happy with the results, you’re talking to a guy that would clean FDM prints to photo finish quality on occasion. So both machines are a God send.

Jumped on the Form1+ will be posting a backlog of models I have wanted to print. Client work is riddled with NDA restrictions so sending files out to a 3d printing service provider is not an option. Thanks for all the input and patient question answering Form Labs peeps.

Looking forward to it, Manuel! Just a quick thought — it might be useful for people to see your new projects under new threads for organization sake! That can make them more easy to discover in the future and the like.

Will do, thanks!

If your making parts where dimensions are critical then the SLA units might not be a good choice in general. SLA models do have outstanding surface qualities but because of the way they are printed and supported there is a risk of distortion.

If your making parts with critical press fits and tight tolerances then the Objet machines might be better suited for that. I have had parts printed on both the Objet and Polyjet machines and Objets are better and have a better surface than the Polyjets. There are noticible build lines but those can be sanded. These types of printers print a Photo polymer (positive model) along with a non photo polymer (support) at the same time. This removes the necessity for support structures and are similar to Solidscape wax printers where the support is dissolved away. Downside to these printers is the edges tend to be a little ratty because the peizo heads tend to over spray a little. Other downside is these machines will run you around $33,000+ once you get into the cleaning stations, service contracts etc.

So far the Form1+ that I recently purchased does handle the type of stuff I do and does it very well with better fine details than the Objets and Polyjets but my parts aren’t all that critical. The surface resolution and stepping is actually less evident and smoother than a Polyjet model printed at 16 micron.

I never had a print done on a B9 machine but am really happy with the support from Formlabs and I was up and running out of the box. The community here has been really helpful as well.