Formlabs DLP Printer, Rumor only

First let me say there is no facts only speculation. Seems that FL would be looking toward a high end DLP printer especially with DLP type equipment cost falling. Better and Better everyday. This would probably be faster and more accurate than the current F2. Although I love my F2, only problems are usually self induced, so far anyway.
Wish the Fuse 1 would make some progress. Paid in full at the beginning, very beginning. No real updates. Anybody hear anything.

It will not be more accurate than the Form 2- Thus far no one has made a DLP printer with higher accuracy because the UV SCREEN has a limited pixel resolution. Object’s layers can only get larger or smaller by discrete pixels width jumps. Rectangular pixels mean the resolution diagonal to the pixel raster is significantly worse.

All methods available to make this resolution less blocky effectively BLUR detail on each layer.- giving a smoother result- but with less definition.

A directed laser has No set resolution because the width of the spot only defines how tight a corner the laser can draw. The actual contour of a profile can be drawn to a tony fraction of the width of the laser spot proper.
This is why spot size is not the true measure of an SLA printer’s achievable detail.

As such- the only thing DLP has the potential to offer is a simpler mechanism that prints dramatically faster. Fewer moving parts and perhaps a simpler modular means to replace the projector when it wears out.
They OUGHT to cost significantly less than a directed laser printer… but the Carbon printer is ridiculously overpriced.
And the only noticeably cheaper DLP printer I have seen- actually was no faster than the Form 2 and required you to hand pour resin into the tank as the part prints.


The Asiga machines are pretty good and super fast although the build volume is quite small. It achieves significantly more detailed parts and faster than the Form2 for 2-3 times the cost.
Finest detail achievable is a rectangle of 50um in width measured on various spots using a calibrated SEM at uni. Pixel jumps are not really observable as the reticulation grows as crystals and the software use grayscale. There are certainly papers in the literature describing this phenomenon.

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The use of ‘greyscale’ is called AntiAliasing. Its been used in graphic software like photoshop since the 80’s to try and make jagged pixel rasters appear to be smoother… - back in 84 when the best graphics on a computer were on a MAC- its screen could only display pixels that were BLACK or WHITE. No greyscale, and so no antialiasing was possible.
When we got greyscale displays, Antialiasing made large scale curves and planes appear smoother- because it could display gradations between each solid black pixel… but doing go BLURS fine detail.
However you can not have a "greyscale’ resin cure.
Either it is cured or it isn’t. - SO the only way a greyscale exposure could work on a DLP printer is to try and BLEED enough light between sharp cornered pixels to cure resin hard in a kind of FILLING operation.
And filling is going to blur fine details. It will help make a gentle curve smoother… but it will radius an inside corner.
The software would have to be sophisticated enough to NOT antialias areas with sharp details, but that would reveal the raster of the pixels in those details.

Of COURSE they would use a cubic shape- aligned with their raster- to show off how sharp a corner they can achieve by NOT using antialiasing. A 50 micron corner is a tighter corner edge than the Form 2 can produce.

But a 90 degree corner that is NOT aligned with the raster grid ( and most will not be ) is not going to achieve that tight a corner. The question is how much does the antialiasing average out in the profile… and from one layer to the next, how defined is the step where the profile has to add a full pixel o the next layer.

At almost 1/3 the spot size of the form 2 they are likely capable of achieving some kinds of very small features that the form 2 would not be able to… however, they still will not be able to produce as accurate a contour when it comes to other features… and their small scale features will have to show evidence of pixelation that will have a noticeable “grain” relative to features diagonal to the raster grid.

That is- they are not going to be entirely honest about where their system can not match the quality of a profile that is literally drawn as a continuous line.

I would be willing to bet that a side by side comparison across a range of models would show this printer’s output to be approximately On Par with the Form 2- with some very slight advantages… and other very slight disadvantages.

Outside of model quality being pretty much a wash, it has the serious advantage of speed.
But it also has the serious disadvantage of dramatically higher cost.
And the even more serious disadvantage of smaller print volume.

So this company is offering a machine that will not even print half the things I want to print for lack of size, unless I print them in multiple parts- which cuts into its speed advantage- and with a quality of the parts, while better in some respects, that will be worse in others… and I should pay 3 times as much for this?

Once again- companies like this are trying to factor pricing based upon comparative estimates.
Meaning, they think SOME users would be willing to pay 3 times as much for a printer 3 times as fast- because in their minds that’s the same cost per part. They believe the ‘perceived’ value is entirely in the price per part and that the advantage of a faster part will factor into the corporate buyer’s assessment as being equal to more money.
However… in business, a dollar spent is much larger than a dollar earned. ( that is- if you make a 20% profit- you have to SELL 5 dollars worth of goods or services in order to HAVE that 1 dollar to spend. )
the Form 2 has to produce $20,000 worth of billables to break even with its cost.

If this printer costs 3 times as much, it has to produce $60,000 worth of billables to break even with its cost.
They are claiming it prints 3 times as fast- so- TaDa! Its the SAME! right? the lure to buy is that Each job will print faster and they imply that turnaround adds value worth picking theirs over Formlabs’.

However- it has a smaller print volume… its smaller volume translates into slower printing as it takes maybe 3 builds to produce what the Form 2 produces in 2 builds.
If so then its not really 3 times faster… its 50% faster, given the occasional need I have for larger models.

I am gonna guess that this company does NOT produce or sell their own resin. So they have to make ALL their profit from the sale of the machine, allowing the user to buy cheaper resins.

But I would rather they sell the machine at a lower profit and make up the profit on proprietary resin… because the money I pay for the machine is Dead Cost- whereas I ONLY buy resin when I have SOLD something.
That is- everytime I buy resin, its for a project that I have a contract for so I KNOW i am making my margin on the resin.
The money I spend on the printer is money I have to invest on the HOPE that I will make it back.

If Formlabs can come up with a comparable DLP printer with the same build volume as the Form 2- I hope they are smart enough to sell it for LESS than the Form 2- because that would lower the threshold for More users to get their own machine.
And it would blow away companies who think the Current Form 2 defines the absolute value per print of 3D printing.


PS- on the issue of costing.
A printer that CAN produce $60,000 of billables in the same time as a printer that can produce $20,000 in billables is GREAT- if you reliably have $60,000 worth of billables coming in.

But if you only have about $18,000 in billables coming in during that time, then you would be silly to invest more in the faster machine. You don’t NEED that productivity and the machine will take 3 times longer to pay off its cost.


Great points! Thanks

I agree, BUT it all depends on your NEED… Still, good luck printing what’s described in this paper with your Form2 and its laser spot…
Kuo, A. P., Bhattacharjee, N., Lee, Y.-S., Castro, K., Kim, Y. T., & Folch, A. (2019). High-Precision Stereolithography of Biomicrofluidic Devices. Advanced Materials Technologies, 1800395. doi:10.1002/admt.201800395

I can come up with a model I know will make that printer look fantastic, and the Form 2 look worse.
I can also come up with a model that I know will make that printer look bad and the Form 2 look better.

but neither model are a model I need.

And I sure as hell don’t need to pay 3 times as much for a printer for a qualitative difference that is marginal in the vast majority of things I print.

More than half of my prints are at the lowest resolution. More than half pretty well fill the entire volume.

When they want to sell me a better printer- that is both faster And costs less- then they can have my business.
Until then, a McLaren sure is faster and sexier than my TT- but I already HAVE the TT- And on most roads the TT is more than fast enough to carry both me, and all the money I did not spend on a McLaren,

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The whole point of DLP is that you can choose between these two:

  • high resolution / accuracy
  • large build volume

You cannot have both.
SLA is needed for both.