Form 3 vs. Photon Mono X


#1

Hi there!
I am currently looking into buying an SLA printer for my business. It will be mainly used for producing functional prototype parts / bringing ideas to life and test them. Currently, I have an FDM machine, but the results don’t meet my expectations (parts not waterproof, poor mechanical strength, etc.). Recently I ordered some SLA parts and was immediately blown away by the quality, so I want to have the possibility to produce such parts in-house.

I have been looking into the Form 3 for a long time now and so far thought it was the “holy grail” of SLA printers out there. However, in the meantime, other machines like the Photon Mono X came out, which really look great, too.

From what I’ve read, the Photon prints significantly faster (3-4x) than the Form 3 due to the new monochrome LCD screen. Also, the 4K resolution seems to be a gamechanger compared to previous “low-cost SLA printers”. The build volume is also bigger than the Form 3. And of course the price is almost 10x lower.

So - what is it that the Form 3 offers more compared to the Photon? Does anybody own both machines, or made some test parts on both? I found very little comparison on the internet so far. I will definitely get an SLA printer, and the price is not the main concern. However, I have a hard time justifying the 5k for the Formlabs system unless the quality is really that much greater compared to a machine like the Photon.

Looking forward to your feedback!
Cheers, Lukas


#2

I had a friend with the Elegoo Mars and another with the Form 3. The Form 3 could print my detail-oriented designs perfectly and the Mars couldn’t even make the designs recognizable.

I was unable to find anyone to test out the Photon Mono X or the Peopoly Phenom so I (sadly) cannot attest to their print quality in comparison to the Form 3.

What I can tell you is that the Form 3 is hands down better designed from a user interface point of view than the other resin printers I looked at. On the others the build platform is covered in resin goo all over it, the Form 3 just made their build platform taller so it didn’t get covered in resin goo on top. It’s a little thing but it also means less mess and bother when using the product.

The slicer that comes with the Form 3 is easy to use and lets you easily, quickly and reliably add supports pretty much exactly where you want them.

If you will have staff using it and don’t want to do much training on the equipment everytime you get a new employee, I suspect the Form 3 will make your life easier.


#3

I know someone who has a Phenom, Form 3 and 3L… they like the resin handling system on the Formlabs platform better - automatic dispense during the print, easier to use tank system. They said working with the Phenom is a lot messier. There was also more manual tuning required initially to get up and running with the Phenom.

From what I gather the Photon series are great printers. If I was just getting into the market I’d probably go that route.

Formlabs really stumbled on the release of their latest printers (delays, quality issues, limited materials support at launch - although they’re progressively addressing the issues). Until they regain a decisive market lead in terms of print accuracy, surface finish and speed, I think the main remaining differentiator is their resin library.


#4

What you get with Formlabs that you don’t get with a Photon is twofold - you get support, and you get a closed ecosystem that ensures the materials you use with the printer will work as specified.

If you don’t have a problem with your printer, it doesn’t matter. But that’s a crap shoot. SLA printing can be tricky. My Form3 is my 3rd Formlabs printer. I know a lot more about SLA now than when I started with a Form1+ in 2015. There are times I have wanted to try a 3rd party resin and was not able to. Which is annoying. I might buy something like a Photon at some point to enable that. But Formlabs has to budget for support resources, letting people use 3rd party resins would generate more support requests and increase that cost, so I understand. But it’s at worst a minor annoyance. The fact that I can drop a cartridge in to the printer and know with a high degree of certainty my prints will be successful and have the properties as-advertised for the resin, is a huge win.


#6

Thanks for the detailed input!
Getting perfect results right out of the box is a big deal for me - I always hated it when I had to fiddle around with slicer settings or spend hours of troubleshooting with cheap FDM printers. I guess having a set of resins that were specifically tested and optimized for the printer is a huge win, too. Also played around with the software during the weekend and agree with @drWendelken that already on the software level the user experience is just miles away from the Photon.
Long story short, I ordered the Form3 - let’s hope I won’t regret it, haha.


#7

My Egloo Mars is FASTER than the FL3. But the prints are awful.
I don’t use it anymore.

You are also paying for the FL software; the other software is very difficult to use.


#8

That is a mighty tall order and if anyone tells you that you will get that all the time, they’re lying to you. Neither FormLabs nor Anycubic, or anyone else for that matter can make that claim, at least not in good conscience.

I previously owned 2 Form 1+ printers and was happy with them. When the first one failed, I found that support at Formlabs is geared primarily toward the business enterprise, not the hobbyist, which is what I am. I found that FormLabs tries to help as much as they can, but ultimately if they can’t solve the problem, the only option is to plunk $800 for a replacement, because they refuse to sell you spare parts to do it yourself.

While this model may well be fine for businesses that can justify the repair/replacement cost as part of doing business, for someone like me it was a non-starter. I also toyed with the idea of getting a used Form 2, but then again, all the issues that people were having with them made me give that up.

So a couple of years ago, I bought a original Photon printer, just to see what they can do, and found that it was printing perfectly fine for me. So much so, that the still functioning Form 1+ printer went unused for nearly a year. When the new monochrome printers became available, I sold my last functioning Form 1, and bought a Photon X. And I’ve been quite happy ever since.

It’s anywhere from 3-5 times faster than the Form 3 printer, the resolution (or rather it’s ability to resolve fine features is on the par, if not better than the Form 3, and the cost of ownership is about 1/10the the cost of owning a Form labs printer.

In the TCO I inlcude the cost of materials (20% the cost of Formlabs), the cost of repairs (I can buy almost 6 Photon Xs for the cost of one Form 3), or repair one for about $300.

The SOFTWARE. Preform is an amazing piece of software, and 2-3 years ago had no equal, but today, there are alternatives like ChiTu Box, that does the same thing that Preform does, and IF YOU CHOOSE TO LEARN, it offers functionality that Preform simply does not.

Suffice it to say, the flexibility that ChiTu Box offers led me to use it to generate print ready files which I then imported into Preform for printing, when I was still using the Form printer.

So which one should you get?

If you need to use specialty resins like castable, dental, touch, elastic, etc, then FormLabs material library is simply unmatched. Also if you don’t like to dabble with settings and such, and you like the automated “magic wand” and hand-holding that Preform does, then again, the Formlabs is your go to printer.

If on the other hand you find yourself using primarily basic resins and you like to have more control over how you print, then give Anycubic or Elegoo a shot. The only advice I have is get a monochrome LCD model. Don’t bother with the color LCD models. The monochrome is a game changer, faster printing and most importantly, much longer life span for the LCD which, by the way, is a consumable.


#9

What’s your favorite Photon resin to substitute for Tough 2000?


#10

I don’t use specialty resins, but if i were looking for something like the Tough 2000, or similar, then Elegoo has something called “ABS-Like” resin, which they claim is less brittle than standard resins and it’s “Less Brittle and Higher Tenacity”, by which I think they mean it has higher tensile strength.

Anycubic offers a resin called “Craftsman” which has material properties very similar to the Tough 2000.
https://www.anycubic.com/collections/uv-resin/products/craftsman-resin.

And there are other manufacturers like Siraya that have similar products.

In addition to strong resins, you can also find castable resins, dental, and even “green” plant based resins.

So as you can see, these manufacturers are working on specialty resins, and while they don’t have the wide offerings that FormLabs has, they are not just one trick ponies either.