Form3 - can't use mixer side of build platform

Hi all, I’ve recently started having problems where anything I put on the mixer side of the build plate fails (rips off supports) - identical models anywhere else on the plate print ok* but anything too near to the mixer side edge fail, or have heavy print lines. I’ve raised this with my reseller who have escalated it to Formlabs so it’s all in hand at the moment, but when I asked my 3D printing friends about their experiences I’ve discovered this is very common, so thought I’d post here and see just how common it is and see if we can work out what the actual fault is that is causing this.
*ALL prints now have heavy layer lines, something is definitely wrong!

Info on my machine - 4 months old, used almost constantly since I got it, fresh resin, fresh tank, resin filtered after any fail. Using PreForm, hundreds of successful prints of almost and exactly identical models until now. Models are miniature horses/unicorns/pegasus type things from 3-15cm in size.

I’ve always avoided the mixer side on the plate just as good practice as I printed fewer models at a time so it didn’t matter to me, I’ve had pretty much faultless results (I always print using standard grey at 25 or 50um), but I currently need to print a high volume of models and with the tank life dictated largely by layers printed I’m keen to be as efficient as possible with it by filling the build platform. It’s rather worrying that so many people just don’t use that side of the build platform - surely Formlabs can’t claim a print volume if you can’t use a chunk of it!

So far my resellers have been great and fingers crossed this will get sorted out ok, but hive mind always helps and I found very little in the forum on this problem when I searched, so am adding a post in case anyone else has trouble. I can’t see how to add photos but will add some if I can once this is a topic.

An older (acceptable) print on the left compared to one printed today. This is the best I can hope for at the moment even when printed to the mixer side. The copies to the non-mixer side didn’t print (detached from supports early on).

This is news to me. I’ve always used mixer side as prime location for my parts because it cuts printing time and, that might not be important for others, keeps printing noises less noticeable. Did I missed something here…?

As for the failed prints, my observation is that it might be PreForm instigated issues not the printer itself. Mind you, I only have anecdotal evidence, so at this point is mostly speculation on my side but what I’ve noticed on several occasions, and my friend also running Form 3 had very similar experiences, is that if you populate your part over the entire build platform there is a very high probability of failed prints. And if you run it again, the same issues will occur to the same parts on the platform. As if the .form file your printer received is already compromised and so when your printer follows these instructions it will print same garbage over and over again.

In one of my attempts I had 15 identical parts loaded over the entire platform. 9 of them came out unusable. When I rerun the whole set again I got exact the same issues on parts siting in same location on the build platform. Only after I reduce their count to 6 I’ve got good quality prints on all of them.

Now I avoid printing full platforms like a fire. I only dare to populate half of it max…

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Sorry I made a mess in my first post. I wasn’t fully awake I guess… in fact I actually do print my parts on the opposite side of where the mixer is but for a different reason. I place them there so to cut printing time. Information about lower parts quality when printed on the mixer side is still news to me…

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Thanks @PaperLab, this is all useful info. I’m currently at the point with Formlabs where they have recommended using larger supports, so I’m running a test with heavier supports and hoping that will help. My test file has just five models (I could squeeze about 14 on there, so they’re pretty well spaced out), one in each corner and one in the centre so isn’t overpopulated - though you saying that, I have been trying to get more and more models on the build plate lately so your theory may be useful here too - my reseller said something about allowing rivers of resin to flow between the models, so over-population could be my crime as well as the small supports. I’ll know more tomorrow.

Heavier? As in larger contact size or more supports?

Larger contact size defeats the purpose of LFS and quick release models.

But… Your layer lines are quite heavily visible on both models - I agree the one on right is deeper - but both are not great. Seems like this problem was there from beginning and got more noticeable.

@donnie yeah I’ve upped the main minima supports to 0.6mm each, mixed with the smaller ones. Fewer larger supports may work though, so I’ll give it a go. I think the machine was starting to deteriorate a while ago but the prints have been acceptable (these horses are tiny) so I’m not sure if I could pin-point when it started.

I’m happy to jump through some hoops to get to the bottom of this, I’ll know tomorrow if bigger supports help. I’m certainly getting a bit sick of having to empty out the resin tray and filter the resin after each test print due to all the failures!

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I dont blame formlabs support but it seems like “moar supports” is the first technical suggestion in their script. Like if you called Microsoft for support and they ask you. “Is your mouse plugged in” Erm, yes.

So good luck - I dont recall anyone on the forum ever saying better/more supports fixed these type of issues. I know plenty have been told this (including me) and it made no difference.

In the past to rule out supports as being my problem, I added LOTS and stupidly large sizes - like you, I added large contacts - 0.9 contacts IIRC - not something you would do normally but it gets to the bottoms of the “not enough supports” theory.

So you might want to over do the sizes - go up to .9 - add more where they might not be needed even. Go crazy.

Unfortunately stupid amounts of supports and large contacts did not help my layer issues.

Luckily for me, my printer has not gotten worse lines over time like yours - mine is reliable in that way at least.

Ok, so brace yourselves - adding bigger supports fixed the issue!! :open_mouth:

Well, I think it did as I have had things actually print on that side of the build plate now, and the quality sorted itself out in the end too so whilst I’m stumped as to how, it has actually worked!

But now I have a new problem - Error code 61, my latest and first production print since all the tests, a 17 hour print, finished an hour or so early and the models are all ruined, with error code 61. I remembered having a similar problem where the print finished early a month or so back, that reported error code 83. Both of these codes aren’t listed anywhere I can find, so if anyone has any insight as to what they may mean I’d be grateful. I’ve reported all this to my resellers but it’s Sunday so I don’t think I’ll hear anything until tomorrow and I’ve lost so much time to these issues now that every day counts now.

So glad to hear your original issue has been resolved!

I’ll also mention, our lovely support team doesn’t have any sort of script. While there are absolutely things we’ll often ask to check first, no one is ever running you through things that we don’t think have any bearing on the issue!(This is more just for general info, not specific to your case, but I figured I’d mention it!)

As far as the error codes go, definitely tell the support team about that as well. :slight_smile: If you don’t get a reply from your reseller in a reasonable about of time, please feel free to ping me here and I’d be happy to do what I can to push your case along a little bit.

@DKirch thank you so much, my support lady/reseller is lovely, she’s been very patient with me and my frustrations and has always got back to me in a timely manner, it was just as it was Sunday I felt rather alone and grumpy after the new fail having finally sorted out the previous issue. She came back to me this morning (super quick!) reporting that Error Code 61 is a software issue caused by the firmware and software updates not talking to each other properly, so I reinstalled both and ran a test print which finished not long ago. It is complete, I’m hoping that means this issue is sorted out but it is showing layer lines again, I need to cure it to see how bad they are but I could see them in the wet resin-coated print so I’m worried. I only put a single model on the build plate for this test and in a location on the “safe” side of the plate. This model has the beefed up supports - which I have to say I’m really liking, so now I add much heavier supports at 100% and get far fewer than I did when I was using smaller touch points! I tweak a few to be smaller, but removing/smoothing out the bigger ones is proportionally less work than more smaller ones, so that is definitely a win and I will be telling everyone to try beefing up the supports from now on when they get fails like I did!

Anyway, that appears to be two issues resolved with the help from my reseller, I can’t fault them for the support I’ve had, my frustrations are mainly because I had the biggest sale event on this model ever, (yey!) so am feeling a lot of pressure to deliver all these models now. Quality is a HUGE deal on model horses this small, so I may be running into another problem to deal with, with the layer lines, but at least I can say the original problem and latest appear to have both been resolved with the help of the Formlabs international team :slight_smile:

I should point out that I do add extra supports to areas at risk of layer lines (fast-changing areas and larger cross sections), so don’t believe the lines are down to having fewer supports.

Good to hear this worked for you. Do you have a pic of the AFTER result? Even though supports didn’t improve my problems it would be good to show what improvement is possible.

After increasing the supports and the contact sizes were you able to reduce the contact points back down to “quick release” size or did you just keep them large?

I’ve also been having problems on the mixer-side of the platform.

In my case, it seems to be connected with the rollers on the roller-holder binding. Not certain why they’re binding: the holder isn’t overtightened. It’s not contaminated, or damaged.

@Donnie no problem, when this is all sorted I’ll share pics of some good examples. I’ve actually kept the bigger supports as I now need so few of them it’s working out better for me. I do reduce a few on small details but mostly keep the big ones and just nudge them away from key details.

@rybu I’ll be honest, I don’t know what any of those things are, it’d be interesting to hear what Formlabs say about that though, as I’m sure there is a common issue making the non-mixer side problematic (you said mixer, mine is non-mixer aka the left edge when in LAYOUT mode)

Latest update here is that the bigger supports have solved the failed prints issues (which is fab as I don’t want to lose any more trays to floating debris!) but not the layer lines completely, the error code 61 has happened again since I updated everything and now I’m working with my reseller to try to get to the bottom of that. The Error 61 has happened only on the bigger production prints and stops the print just before they finish (early enough to ruin the models though - nobody wants a headless pegasus), it’s upsetting as that’s over 100ml of resin in those, but printing little models in singles is killing my tank lifetime, and they are still not at the quality I was enjoying previously. It’s a bit of a mystery still, I’ll keep reporting back in case this can help anyone else.

Ah, so moar supports might not be the solution after all - which tends to be the case. Look forward to the photos.

In the end it appears my problem was there was a tiny leak in my resin tank. It created a very thin film of cured resin between the layers. It was almost unnoticable, until last night. It’s strange because there was cured resin splotched across about 50% of the resin tank. It was thin-enough so that the tank bottom was still flexible, and prints usually came out just fine. But prints near the mixer-arm resting space, they would often fail.

I’ve replaced the tank and all seems to be fine now.

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Thought I should post an update as it’s been a little while.

Basically it’s not solved, the print quality has returned to the original level on most prints (firmware updates?) though the odd one is still covred in layer lines, so I am just avoiding using the one side of the plate altogether. There are 14 squares on the grid in Preform and I just avoid the left-most 4 of them. Some of my models are quite large (batwinged pegasus, small models, large wingspan) and the wing-tips dip into the left-most area and that hasn’t been a problem, but I wouldn’t risk losing a full tray of models (again!) by putting anything more substantial into that area.

I’m sure there is more to this, but I’m done wasting time, resin, tray life and money on this and I have a job to do, I’m self employed so simply cannot afford to continue losing to this (I’m up to about two weeks of lost printing time and I don’t know how many hours/days setting up and dealing with the tests, plus the resin, tray life and new tray lost to the original fail), so I’m just getting on with it, compromised but unable to fix it without wasting more time and resources.

Unfortunately, as I’m not printing hundreds of identical models (which is annoying as for my next project I will be, but I have to deliver these unique models first) it is impossible to run all the tests needed to accurately diagnose it. I’ve been offered the option to upgrade to the Pro service (the one thing I skimped on when I bought the machine, foolishly thinking the warranty would be worthwhile if anything went wrong) but I’m thinking that even then they’ll have me running test after test before accepting there’s a problem.

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Well, here another test for you…

Take the tray out and examine the back left corner of the printer base. If there are small black spots in that corner then you lead screw needs re-greasing. Be sure that you use lithium grease for this, other greases don’t work as well.

It happened to my F3, and I ignored it until the lead screw jammed in the IPU. After the re-greasing I was surprised at the improvement in the surface finish of the all the prints I was producing.

Sounds like you want an anycubic mono x - 4k screen - fill the build plate with models - takes almost the same time as printing one model.
The printer costs about the same price as a couple Formlabs tanks. Resin is cheap cheap cheap. The build area good. The speed is fast. Reviews seem solid.

Usually you say…choose two between CHEAP , GOOD and FAST. In comparison to my Form 3 I can choose all 3 with the anycubic 4k mono. Like you I gave up on commercial work - I do test updates now and again to see if progress is made - then once I confirm not much has changed, I pull the plug and leave it sitting there hoping my tanks last long enough to see some trouble free printing.