Formlabs Form 2 and Hollywood magic

Greeting Form2 users,

I just wanted to jump on here and share a bit about my personal experiences with the Form2 and how its contributed to some of the coolest Hollywood props. My name is Ken Palkow and im a Hollywood special effects, weapons and prop fabricator. Iv’e been printing for longer than i can remember. Iv’e owned various 3d systems, Stratasys commercial machines over the course of my career. This also includes non-commercial DLP, SLA and FDM machines like Makerbot. Im also one of the first to bring 3d printing to the film industry.

Over the course of my career, iv’e seen High Def play into the game more and more. Lead times get shorter and shorter. Budgets get even smaller. And, expectations of prop quality go through the roof. Fabrication time was my worse enemy. The days of skulpting, pulling molds, and casting was getting harder to utilize. Right now my primary fabrication processes are… Design, CAD, Program CAM, Machine, STL to Print, CAD for Laser Cutting Parts, Vacuum Forming, and Useually last… Molding to Cast or Rotocast. Now there are many other things i do in house like Leather working, Plastic Injection, Welding. But those are on the lower spectrum of what i typically get commissioned for. My specialty is most often Weapons and Gadgets. Some of you may be familiar with my work. I’ve built weapons and gadgets for Kate Beckinsale, Mat Damon, Tom Cruise, and lately Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool 1 & 2).

So now i’ll get to the rntire point of this posting. After parting with most of all my DLPs, FDMs, and SLA machine… which included my commercial ones, I started using polyjet technology and purchased an commercial Objet machine. It wasn’t bad at first. Print quality wasn’t bad in gloss mode so long as you had absolutely no undercuts. But was the worst printer for detail work in matt finish or if your part had undercuts. If you were trying to print fine details in gloss mode, those details were almost certainly lost. Any parts with any size undercuts… even say… .000001, you had support material all over that area and your part was ruined. I say ruined because you now had two different surface finishes which were horrible to try and blend. Enough about that… trust me… the parts were horrible. If your parts are extremely large and have very little details, you can get away with it by sanding and filling and painting. Let’s not forget the nasty sodium hydroxide solution needed to fully clean those parts of all support material.

I was eventually, my rep talked into trading in and upgrading my machine to a newer multi material machine. Even worse decision i ever made for my company. The printer right from the start had mechanical issues. It made it to about 300 hours before finally dying and a good portion of those hours were diagnostic in nature. Service techs came and went often. The printer always ended up doing the same thing. Eventually my maintenance subscription came due and i refused to dump literally thousands into that plan for this printer. So it sat… for a long time.

Eventually, i was beginning a show called Altered Carbon. I reached out to Formlabs and explained my situation and what my expectations were. Keep in mind a lot of my props are hero props and the camera is always doing closeups. I needed fine detail printing. I saw some samples from Formlabs off the Form 2 and i was instantly sold. See, a lot of printer companies will send you samples showing the absolute best you can get out of their printers. What they don’t tell you is that they have i tentionall CADed the model to avoid details that would not print well… for objet… this was undercuts on gloss parts or matt parts with fine details etc etc. You know where im going with that. With Formlabs, the little castle tower is a very good part to demonstrat real print quality. Im not saying commercial SLA printers can’t print the quality Formlabs can. In my opinion, SLA printers on any level is and will be for a while… the best printers for quality. I won’t discuss DLPs… too much in this post slready my head is spinning. Again, i won’t to stay on the non commercial level because there are fantastic commercial printers out there. But… $$$$$

So, i get this castle tower from Formlabs and i started calling friends up. It’s at this point i want to do a small flash back and recognition. There was a time i needed a printer to do the detail quality of a viper in clear material. So, i purchased a Form 1 for a small film job. That didn’t go so well. At all. Anyone that knows me knows im straight forward. So forgive me Formlabs for my following comment. The Form 1 sucked in my opinion. Its failure rate was the worse. If i had a 24 leadtime on a show… like the Flash, there is no room for print failures. So if i had a 15 hour print and it failed at 10 hours, i was screwed. That happened a lot with my Form 1. Now, to Formlabs defense, this printer was all still new and Max and his people were working hard with this tech to scale it down for a desktop. Thats a huge accomplishment. They worked with me better than anyone else ever did for my company. Eventually, the printer wasn’t at a stage ready for my company’s expectations. Years pass and i get a call from one of my best friends Gary Barth over at Sony Computer Entertainment. He said we just got this printer from Formlabs and its awesome. At first i will admit i laughed. I replied to Gary with… “maybe if you don’t mind a 50/50 chance a good print”. I then followed up with… “when i started my Form1, i would then flip a coin to see if my day was going to be good or not”. That’s exactly what i said to him. Well, he then explained about the Form 2 snd the advancements put into it. Once he mentioned the sliding tray and wiper system, he gad my attention. After our long chat, he put me in contact with his contacts over at Formlabs. I then reached out to them and got the amazing little castle tower you guys all know so well.

It wasn’t long at all before i had a Form 2 in my office and making money. In fact, i ended up purchasing a second machine to run side by side for that show Altered Carbon i mentioned earlier. Now to come to the climax of this post. Both those printers ran for Altered Carbon’s almost a year production… non stop. These printers made parts and complete assemblies for almost every prop i made on that show. How many print failures do you ask?

Absolutely fucking ZERO!

The print quality surpassed every commercial and non commercial machine i ever owned. The funny part… or sad if you consider the money i wasted… i had my very expensive Objet printer sitting next to those two machines the entire time… as a shelf for my materials.

Since Alttered Carbon, those two printers are pumping out parts left and right and have contributed to some major films… like the new X-Men, Skyscraper, and yes… Deadpool 2.

I have no interest in continuing to look at other machines because i believe in Max and his team. Ever chance i get, i brag about the quality of the prints. I even got quite a few fellow industry friends to buy them. In fact, one individual and a dear friend, Rick Gamez, who laughed at me so many years for printing, purchased one after hearing my preaching. Lol The reason this in itself is so iconic… is that Rick never owned a printer and he loves it. He’s doing amazing work.

Finally, Formlabs and their Form 1 have helped fabricators like Rick and myself by producing extremely accurate detailed parts without the failure rates. This, in itself, takes a huge amount of stress off our minds knowing we can meet ever changing leadtimes and quality expectations.

Thanks Max

Hope that didn’t sound too much like an infomercial. Lol


Hi Ken,

Thanks for sharing this saga of your experiences in 3D printing! What a coincidence - I helped out in a very minor way with some of the filming for Altered Carbon.

Appreciate the battle stories with the Polyjet - in the back of my head I was thinking about venturing down that road one day (especially after the NexD1 Kickstarter turned out to be a bust), and your post made up my mind not to waste time pining over it.

I’ve owned the Form 1, 1+ and 2. The Form 1 was an industry breakthrough in terms of price/quality ratio, but I agree it took a high degree of tinkering to achieve success out of it. It wasn’t a printer I could easily recommend to friends. I have no problem recommending the Form 2 - they’ve made it fairly easy to get good
quality prints in a fairly consistent manner.

Looking forward to see what you create next!