Hello all Resin Cost questions and other interesting Formlabs costs


#1

I wanted to talk a little about Resin prices and if Im misunderstanding something. So Standard resin or the cheapest resin costs Formlabs offers at 149.00$ while it can range up to 300$ on more complicated Resins for only 1L of resin total. I have considered picking up a Form3 but with this price tag and other concerns im seeing not to mention or i guess to mention other Consumables with similar prices am I missing something like the Trays? your Resin LT tank looks to only last 1-2L while also costing 100$. I also realized Formlabs closed the system to the Form 3 for third party resins but with repair costs alone this could effect my decisions alot.

Alot of things can break down in the Form2 also which surprised me because it felt like more than the average printer from the information i’m gathering… Are no parts offered for self repairs?!? from what my buddy told me his experience was not very positive and almost turned me away entirely, but my friends wrong alot of the time but something he saves me. Is this one of thos times what am i missing?

Also what happened with Open mode for the Form3? and is there now No way to use third party resins becasue at 150$ for 1 L i cant make that work well for me. Any fails at this resin price will hurt alot…I find that most Printers on the top 10 lists of 2020 with SLA or equal quality resin is going for a range of 30-80$ for a L rather than 150.


#2

is anyone going to talk with me about this?


#3

I was a Formlabs backer on Kickstarter and have been a customer for the last 8 years.

You mentioned several concerns in your post; I’ll try to lend my perspective on a few.

Yes, in my opinion the resin costs about twice as much as it ought to - especially considering how much competition there is in the marketplace these days. I suspect this is a primary revenue generator for the company, and they are content to target higher-margin customers (e.g. professionals) even if it means more frugal consumers slip to competitors.

I think Formlabs Support is the best in the industry. In my experience, they’re responsive, and the people on the front lines tend to be knowledgeable about their machines. You don’t have to work your way through humdrum “Level 1” staff who are less familiar with the printer than you are. They’ve typically gone above and beyond to help me solve my problem, and have been fairly generous in terms of replacing failed components or faulty consumables (sometimes even after my printer is no longer in warranty). To be frank, that’s one of the main reasons I keep coming back to them when it’s time to buy a new machine. Most of repairs or replacements I’ve had to do have been “in the field” (e.g. cleaning, swap a mirror or motor, etc). IIRC there have been two occasions when I’ve had to send a printer back to them for repair - once it was on their dime, and once on mine. One of the times I was disappointed with the result - the printer worked but the spilled resin in the refurbished unit from a previous customer wasn’t thoroughly cleaned. I believe they were having QC issues at their repair centre at the time. I can’t remember how they made it right for me (I think they may have shipped a whole new replacement?) but I do know I don’t hold a grudge anymore so I’m pretty sure they did resolve it one way or another. In all, I would say the Form 2 in particular has been a pretty reliable machine for me.

There have been one or two times I felt dissatisfied with the ultimate outcome of a support case - but I’ve opened many dozens, and no company is going to hit home runs 100% of the time.

Purchase price of their printers has stayed pretty consistent over time, which is impressive considering the Form 3 has WAY more sophistication going on inside of it than the original Form 1 did.

Longevity of the machines could be better. If you take good care of them they’ll last for years, but after enough printing (I’m talking lots of heavy use) the laser will eventually degrade. The replaceable LPU on the Form 3 should help with that.

Your consumables are: resin, tank (the tray that slides into the base of the printer), and build platform (one will probably last forever). Per Formlabs, Standard Form 2 tanks last 1000-3000 layers. LT tanks, which are only for the Form 2, last at least twice that (I thought I saw an estimate of around 10L for standard resins, but can’t find it). They’re recommended or required for some of the more exotic resins like glass-infused Rigid, which wear tanks faster.

On the Form 3, certain resins (Tough 2000, Elastic, Rigid, Grey Pro) only work in a v2 tank, and there’s a limit to how long you can store them in it (35 weeks). On previous printers the time limit was only a “recommendation” and I’d regularly surpass it, but you need to take it more seriously on the Form 3 as the way I understand it those resins eventually leak through the adhesives which secure the flexible film. More info is available here:

https://support.formlabs.com/s/article/Maintaining-the-Resin-Tank-Form3
Scroll to Resin Tank Lifetime

Other consumables, not bought from Formlabs, are things like alcohol, paper towels, gloves, cleaning supplies (for the printer itself), razor scraper blades (if you’re printing direct-on-base), etc. I don’t think you have to budget much in the way of repair costs until the printer goes out of warranty.

I believe Open Mode on the Form 3 has been promised, but hasn’t been implemented yet. I’m looking forward to it as well, but they have some higher priority work to do on the Form 3 before they get to that (e.g. dialing in parameters for some of their own resins). Keep in mind certain third-party resins really stink when you run them (not sure if that’s a factor for you).

I can highly recommend a Form 2. I can’t recommend a Form 3 yet, but I’m optimistic Formlabs will get there in time.

Hope this feedback helps you. Maybe others will chime in as well.


#4

Everything you are saying is correct. The resin is overpriced, the tanks don’t last as long as they feel like they should for the price, and there aren’t really many, if any, third party options. All of that said, i never once was disappointed with my decision to buy a Form 2. The quality, ease of use, and reliability of the Form 2, always made it feel well worth the additional costs. The repairs were never an issue for me either, because Formlabs have always been great with it. They have either sent me parts to replace myself, or swapped out the entire printer, and I’ve always been satisfied with every support interaction.

Now that isn’t all really true with the Form 3. So far, the experience with the Form 3 has been pretty rough, and not as positive as the Form 2. Support has still been great, in terms of swapping out parts, or even an entire printer in my case, but it’s taking them a long time to deliver on the quality, reliability, and features they promised. I have every hope that years from now I will feel as satisfied with my Form 3 as I did with my Form 2, but at present I have a hard time saying the additional cost over a cheaper and more open printer is justified.


#5

Oh, and as a side note, as great as an Open Mode might sound in theory, the current problems with the Form 3 demonstrate very clearly why it isn’t a slam dunk road to cost savings, and more material choices. As things stand at time of this post, Formlabs can’t even get decent quality prints out of most of their own proprietary resins, after months of tweaking the settings. They are having to do custom firmware, and specialized settings for different resin types at different resolutions, and still most of their resins have pretty bad artifacts, and overcuring. Can you imagine what a mess it would be with a free for all of whatever random resin you threw in the machine?

Now, it’s entirely fair to say that’s a design flaw in the machine, and a failing of QA. However, it does illustrate the problems with Open Mode pretty well.


#6

I just purchased a Form 3 a few months ago and have had some thoughts about costs too.

For the most part I don’t mind the costs. The materials are 2-3x more expensive than their FDM analogs, but some of the materials are really unique (and awesome), e.g. Rigid and Elastic, and the detail level and finish is astonishing.

I tend to look at it at cost per part, and its very reasonable from that perspective. Also I’ve changed some of my design practices with material savings in mind; removing unnecessary bulk from parts, etc, saves a lot of resin. Autodesk makes a free tool called Meshmixer that is great for hollowing out parts, and of course most CAD tools provide shelling features as well.

All in all I’ve found the cost to be worth it as a tradeoff for the material variety and detail level, and easy workflow. That said, unfortunately, I’ve never used a Form 2, so I can’t really speak to any quality issues with the Form 3. I’ve been satisfied with it, so far, mostly, though.

That said, sometimes the detail / materials aren’t needed for a job, and in those cases, the costs feel unnecessary. For that reason I also purchased a cheap FDM printer, which I use for larger jobs / draft prints when I just don’t care.

I think having both printers is the way to go.

OTOH there are a few industrial FDM printers where the materials are even more expensive than Formlabs’. For example, the Stratasys printers (we have one at our shop - the Form 3 and Prusa I3 I own are my personal printers) chip their FDM cartridges so you are forced to by OEM, and they charge upwards of $300-350 per liter of material (just for ABS). So, ya know…

If you’re printing large runs of the same object, btw, also consider picking up a low cost injection molder and just printing the molds. In fact, Formlabs worked with Galomb (look them up they have <= $1k benchtop molders) on a whitepaper, https://archive-media.formlabs.com/upload/injection-molding-from-3d-printed-molds.pdf, with some mold printing techniques.

As for consumables, the resin tanks are a bit pricey but you get a lot of use out of them. You have to own at least one, and replace it eventually, but there is a huge convenience vs. cost tradeoff of owning more than one if you use multiple materials. It is a big PITA to clean a tank and load it with a different material.

All in all though I’ve been happy with the costs; I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth, but if you don’t need the level of detail or the variety of materials then the Form series might not be the best printer in terms of cost. If you do need those things, though, definitely worth it.

My only complaint with costs is I wish that Gray V4 was a bit cheaper (because it kind of sucks but it’s also super useful for one-off stuff, I don’t think its worth $150/L) and I also wish the Draft resin was significantly cheaper (a few liters of it costs as much as an FDM printer so… I’ve never used it solely because of the cost).

Hope that helps.


#7

Yeah, Draft would be a really nice one to see them drop the cost on.