Form 3 Unboxing and First Impressions!


#1

It’s always an exciting day when a new printer shows up in the shop, and we were very surprised to see the new Form 3 arrive! Kudos to Formlabs for almost simultaneously providing an email with some nicely produced setup videos which helped us get through the first steps. We have worked a lot with the Form 2 and know many of the strengths and weaknesses of that printer so we were very quick to purchase the new Form 3 when it was announced. Since information regarding new Formlabs machines is always scarce we will endeavor to provide our first impressions and update the thread as we learn more about the Form 3.

It should also be stated that opinions are my own and Formlabs has not endorsed, or sponsored us in any way.

We did upgrade a couple of our Form 2 machines and we still have a few remaining $500 referral codes if anyone needs one, (Please feel free to send a DM.)

Update 2! We have been working with the Form 3 quite a bit and though we have run into a couple of snags (mostly due to early firmware) we have a bunch of beautiful prints. Formlabs Support did follow up with us and they have been really helpful. The only complaint is the delay in messages and the lack of phone support. To be fair, they DO offer faster responses and phone support as part of their paid support plans. (We are debating this now…)
We have been through about 3L of resin so far and have had nearly 100% success with everything we have tried to print and we are just starting to put the new technology to the test by printing parts with much larger surface area, not orienting parts at an angle etc. so look for more updates. Sadly, I cant share pictures of many of the parts we have printed for our customers but I will share a few closeups and a couple of prints we did just for fun.

The biggest shock so far has been Clear Resin. On our Form 2 all the parts printed in this material had almost frosted look and though they could be polished to be near optical clarity it took work. The new prints straight out of the machine are stunning! The image below was of a fairly small part taken under an inspection scope at approx 20X magnification to show the surface finish. There are some vertical lines which are more prominent with the improved surface finish though you see similar artifacts on Form 2 parts.

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Lighting and background were chosen to highlight the surface finish, to the naked eye these parts look perfect!

Now on to the fun part, Unboxing!

Seeing the Form 3 in person for the first time, its almost shocking to see how much it has changed from its predecessors. The esthetics seem very familiar but it is also immediately clear that virtually every component has been re-thought. The packaging is larger, with thicker foam to absorb impacts. The case includes a much larger molded back section with thoughtful recesses for power, Ethernet and USB cables. First impression is that it will be easier to work on, though we all truly hope that we don’t have to!

We were very pleased that the new hinges were able to hold the cover partially open. This was a training point for our Form 2s as a cover not fully opened would often shift slowly before gravity took hold and it would slam down with great force.

Here are a few glimpses into the interior where we also found a clever locking mechanism for the Light Processing Unit (LPU).


The quick start guide strongly warns about the importance of removing the latch. It was easy to loosen the thumb screws and retract the latch but the screws didn’t want to come out… After re-reading the instructions multiple times to convince ourselves that the thumb screws SHOULD come out, we proceeded to loosen them with a bit more force that we were comfortable with. The screws did yield and further inspection showed a still sticky substance on the last few threads. It appears some coating was applied to the interior wall of the LPU which coated the protruding threads and made them difficult to remove.

Hopefully the coating getting stuck to the threads will be resolved in later units as I assume we received a very early build.

The next fun surprise was the completely redesigned resin tank. Much talk has surrounded the flexible film on the bottom of the tank but we were delighted to see a float based resin level sensor hiding under the cover. Our Form 2s suffered a couple of unfortunate incidents where the contents of a resin cartridge found their way inside the machine and it looks like Formlabs has been proactive about a solution on these new machines.


The new resin tank is much larger and has a more thoughtful design. It feels substantial in the hands and provides much more room to catch splashes or failed prints. We also LOVED the new housings that keep the cartridges protected while they are not in the printer.
We had heard concerns about durability surrounding the new flexible tank and it clearly looks robust in person. The “film” is very thick and nothing like what we have seen on some other low cost machines. It is wrapped around metal rods on each end to hold it in tension and there is a secondary seal on the interior or the tank.
Only time will tell, but initial impressions are very encouraging!


Not everything is a welcome change though, the exterior plastics lack gaskets to help guard from dust and the somewhat larger cover feels a bit less sturdy. There is a new fan which may be related to heated chamber that is quite noticeable on first power up but seems to settle down shortly after. The noise won’t be an issue for us but may be more noticeable in an office environment. The same bite valve remains on the resin cartridges and the contacts on both the resin tank and tray are still likely to cause problems at some point. Lastly, there is no reference to Open Mode and though we hadn’t heard of it being discussed we were hoping it would make an appearance in the Form 3.

Initial Setup and First Print
Initial setup went quickly but we ran into a couple of snags. As is common on modern electronics, Formlabs ships the printers with firmware that is not quite ready for prime time and the user must update the machine before first use.
WiFi Setup Issues:
Walking through the setup or “onboarding” screens, we could see some local WiFi access points but the only button that would move us forward was “Skip” and there was no way to join a wireless network…


Sorry for the terrible picture!
Update After many failed attempts to update the firmware over USB and with no response from Support, we went back to the drawing board and decided to try the WiFi connection again. We speculated that possibly, the early version of software didn’t support encrypted networks (EVERYONE should use the strongest encryption you can on a wireless network!!!) We set up an unencrypted network using an iPhone and sure enough we were able to join! Fingers crossed, we joined with a laptop and were pretty disappointed when we still couldn’t add the machine in Preform…
A quick ping test revealed that we could ping our other printers but we could not ping this one. One more reboot and our new Form 3 re-joined the network and this time we could not only ping it but we were able to add it in Preform!!! We clicked on the firmware update button and an update was promptly downloaded and sent to the machine! Following the instructions on the screen we are (FINALLY) running software version 1.0 which is still designated with “rc” indicating that this is a Release Candidate and not fully vetted software.

With the 1.0 release installed, we are now able to join the encrypted WiFi in our shop and we are able to send prints to the machine! It should be noted that we have already had a few disconnects and the printer will indicate that the network is disconnected. Clicking on the network causes it to reconnect without prompting for a password so not sure exactly whats going on but we will keep an eye on it and update you here.

USB Connection Issues:
The Getting Started Guide talked about the need to update firmware over USB and so we went for that next. We installed the latest version of Preform (3.0.2 as of this writing), plugged in the cable and waited until the Form 3 was installed and ready to use. Preform could see the printer but reported it was already in use and I was unable to add it or update firmware. No combination of rebooting, unplugging and re-installing resolved the issue.

We have opened a support ticket with Formlabs and are waiting for further instruction.

Don’t damage the resin tank! We heard this a lot in the instructions and have more than a few scars from working with the Form 2s. Continuing to follow the guide we preped our new resin tank and went to install it, but the next instruction tells us to remove the film from the bottom of the tank!

After inspecting the tank again, it seems that our tank must have been shipped without this protective film but it is also obvious that the tank is not clear, as expected, but instead is a translucent white color. A separate note was sent to Formlabs and hopefully we will get clarification (no pun intended) on our tank!

Lastly, the instructions mention installing the resin mixer in the bottom of the tank but they are not clear on how to do this. The instructions mention that it connects with magnets and should be pushed to the far left so here is how we think the mixer should be installed.

Overall, the care and thought in the design of the Form 3 is impressive and we are eager to update our review with first prints and long term durability results. Sadly, those will have to wait until we get some of the new product gremlins worked out!

Happy Printing!
Mark
(automaticmfg.com)


Form 3 Production Update
Form 3L Issue Seen on Video!
#2

Thank you for taking the time to post this info. Very insightful.
Look forward to the updates.


#3

Mark, if you’re on a Windows machine, you might try uninstalling PreForm and then installing 3.0.2. We’ve seen some cases where earlier versions of PreForm left the USB drivers in a weird state. Sorry about that.


#4

Nice review. Thanks for sharing. I find it very interesting that they took inspiration from inkjet printers in designing their new LPU.

Anyway, another thing I found interesting is the error you got about the printer not being available because it was in use by another instance of PreForm. I had the same issue when I installed the latest version of Preform 3.0.2, and like you, I couldn’t get past it no matter what I tried.

Unlike you, though, I have a Form 1+, and was told that the error is because v3.x.x of Preform doesn’t support the Form 1 any longer. I wish the error would just say that rather than make me waste my time installing and uninstalling software, and rebooting the computer.

So is this error more than meets the eye? Maybe my Form 1+ is not incompatible after all, or maybe… the Form 3 is incompatible ??? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Anyway, congrats on your Form 3, and keep us up to date.


#5

Thanks for the first impressions. I am eager to see how it matches up against the Form2 in usability and print quality.


#6

oh, waaw, i’m glad this is not happening to me. I’d be very frustrated having bought this expensive machine and have to open 2 support tickets on start up. This surely does not feel right to say the least. Rushed out?

Wim


#7

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mark!


#8

Hi All,

I will be receiving a Form 3 in the near future, so I began reading the setup instructions, operation, maintenance, etc. on the website. What I am recognizing is that (to me, at least) the workflow seems analogous to taking film photos and developing the film yourself. Ok, I can do these things, however, I don’t think the post-processing operations lend themselves to an office environment. Does anyone have thoughts on solvent odors, handling, etc. or any cautionary tales to share?


#9

Hi Charpernh,

I think the question depends somewhat on your office environment and how sensative your coworkers are to repetative sounds and some chemical smells.

I previously had a Form 2 in my private office and in a small space the noise never bothered me, but there was some smell with some of the resins which could get to be fairly strong. At the time (prior to the release of the Form Wash and Cure) I was using the included cleaning station and preferred to keep that in the loading dock area. I would simply walk the parts back when they were ready to be washed.
We now run quite a few machines and though the FDM systems seem happy in almost any environment, we have found the best results for SLA systems come with a very clean office/lab environment. Dust is an enemy and though you will need to be mindful of drips, if you are in a large office or shared space, the Form 3 should fit right in.
I could add that the Wash and Cure make the cleaning process MUCH easier and cut down on time spent, while improving consistency of parts. It may be worth considering these if you are using the machine in an office.

Good Luck!
Mark
(automaticmfg.com)


#10

As far as finishing, it involves some sanding, so it’s going to make a mess.


#11

Sanding is only involved if the user thinks it is necessary for the part to be what they want. Some users are going to absolutely sand every part they print, and other users are going to sand almost none of the parts they print. For @charpernh , it’ll depend what kinds of parts they’re printing, and in which resin, support structure, etc.


#12

It’s very uncommon to have a part that wouldn’t need sanding, basically only with parts that would be printed directly to the platform without supports, even then you might sand the bottom a bit because the first layers are cured longer.


#13

In my experience, I probably sand about 5% of the parts I print, even when they’re printed on supports, because the support locations are inconsequential to my end use, whether it’s an aesthetic or functional print.

Sure, if I were making figurines, looks-like prototypes, jewelry or molding positives, or dental parts, I might have to carefully hand-finish everything, and that will definitely be the case for some users. But if I need to print a jig or fixture or something, I may not have a reason to care about the surface where the supports are because it has no effect on the end use. Even on aesthetic parts, sometimes the support marks can be hidden in the texture of the part, or will be adequately covered by paint without sanding them first, or they’re on a surface that won’t be seen, and so forth.

Or maybe my prints just aren’t up to your standards :slight_smile:


#14

Most likely you’re just more OK with the support points then I am, unless supports points can be hidden (like connecting them to the key part of a print) then they’ll be very obvious on parts that need to look good. As far as painting goes, if anything it would make them more obvious. 100% of the parts I’ve printed need some degree of sanding, and some need it just to look as smooth as necessary.
I’m hoping though that the Form3 won’t require as much work though, it’s not just that the support points are there but due to indirect curing there will be extra resin cured around support points but it seems like a number of improvements on the Form3 should make that not as much of an issue.


#15

@Mark_Harrison, I wonder if you were ever able to try Ethernet instead of WiFi. I am waiting for a Form 3 and my intent is to connect it with Ethernet, and my (perhaps naive) hope is that that will make updating the firmware more straightforward.


#16

Thank you Mark, I appreciate the feedback!

I watched a video from “Adam Savage’s Tested” on YouTube that covers the Form Wash (and the Cure unit as well) and put the link here for reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AVVXNKHDUw. It answered a lot of questions I was having, so I think he successfully sold me on the unit. I will still wait to buy it, but now I know what the advantages are.


#17

Thanks for the feedback on the Form 3.

I’ll let the bugs get squashed before considering getting one.


#18

So just curious about this…have you been able to print anything yet? Mine just shipped today.


#19

Great content, thanks for taking the time to share this and look forward to further reviews of this product.


#20

For those that received theirs, when did you order it?
I am trying to get an idea when mine might ship.