Is the form1 mature enough to use is production?


I make my living making model trains, currently most of my stuff is produced by Shapeways with about 85% it being in their polyamide material. I sell some direct on their site, but most I buy myself in bulk and resell.

I’d like to start increasing the quality of much of what I produce by printing it on a SLA machine in resin and the recent price increases at Shapeways have spurred me to look at other alternatives.

One of those would be to bring production in-house, but I’m not a huge enterprise and most of the commercial machines are outside my price range.

I’ve looked at the Form1 when it was on Kickstarter, but it seemed too slow for my needs. Now there is a faster and I presume more reliable version.

So the question is how would a Form+1 perform if I tried to use it in a manufacturing environment - using it every day all day. What percentage of failed prints would I get and how would the machine itself stand up to this sort of usage ?

I would guess I will need multiple machines, we produce about 100 items a week, but of a very varied mix of sizes - look at my Shapeways shop to see the mix How do I get a better estimate of capacity ?

To make things even more complicated we will almost certainly be doing this in the Far East. We have suitable property we could use in Bangkok and labour is cheaper there, so I can employ someone to look after the machines. How easy will it be to get machines serviced there ?


1 Like

I’m a modeler and lives in Singapore and has a Form1+ so hopefully can bring some context to what you want to know.

The printer is actually great now. Prints have excellent finish and the printer prints quite reliably now. But with running your own prints, you’d have to think about cleaning up the parts and general maintenance of the printer which will be a constant job if you run multiple printers. In my opinion, maintenance have to be done by a skilled technician, the printer is very delicate.

There are mandatory procedures before a print can be fired off and parts come out with supports which need to be cleaned manually.

I guess the biggest advantage you’d get is cost savings. It’s miles cheaper than using Shapeways. But you have to be aware of the relatively small build volume too.

Regarding having the printer serviced… it’s a painful process as I went thru 3 printer exchanges… Hopefully not so much of an issue as the printer is more reliable now. But I don’t think FL ships to Thailand.

The main problem I have identified with the Form1+ is that organic shapes print great, but models with straight, flat areas can be problematic, and if they are thin as well, you might as well forget it as the hardened resin warps too much. I have just finished printing some electronics mock-ups for a client and whilst the main casing has come out fairly well there is still some warping, but the inner circuit board components have warped pretty badly even though they looked great when they first came off the build platform (they are currently sitting under several heavy books on the off-chance I can straighten them out!), if model trains are your thing I would imagine lots of long, straight and thin elements, which to be fair seems an issue for most 3d printers (I used to have an Ultimaker and that had warping issues too).

Machine reliability has been as issue for me also, see my other posts.

Yes I’ve had warping problems with long thin straight sections on stuff printed by Shapeways on their SLA printers - the solution seems to be make them considerably thicker that the minimum recommendations, but that’s using a lot more expensive material at Shapeways prices. I’ve not had problems with items made by the SLS process though.

The reason for doing this in Thailand was I can afford to employ someone full time to run the machines there - it will cost around $15 per day, here in Europe it would be around $20 per hour when you take social security payments into account. I personally spend about half the year in Asia and half in Europe.

I had not realized though that they do not sell the machines worldwide yet - I assume even if I was to export them there myself I would be left without support.

I can’t find the posts where you mention problems with machine reliability - can you point me to them ?


The problem for me with machines like envisiontec ultra is they cost more than my yearly profit . It’s taken me 3 years to go from nothing to a living wage, but I’m still not making the sort of money I’d need to get a bank loan to b a machine like that. Something like 3 form 1 is much more affordable, but I need to know if they will be up to the task.

Downtime is critical if this is to make economic sense and if I’m continually sending machines back to the US the lost production time and transport costs may make the whole thing unfeasible.

The problem is I’m currently spending around $400 a month buying stuff from Shapeways to resell, but that same stuff will now cost me around $1,200 a month . Added to which I sell about another $1,500 a month of stuff direct from Shapeways, much of which is now much more expensive, and I suspect almost unsaleable at those prices. I normally sell around 3 items a day, but have sold nothing since the price increases.

So to produce what I currently sell, it’s going to cost around $,2000 a month if I continue to use shapeways. Something like a Form 1 is what I will be spending in 2 months, but the
envisiontec ultra is 2 years expenditure

So far I haven’t had any warping on part. Just got the machine and had some trouble getting the 90/10 IPA and been using 70/30. Because of that I have been cleaning the parts pretty aggressively and not soaking too much. They seem to clean off well with a soft chip brush and then a quick blast from my air compressor. Wondering if the soaking in IPA is the problem with warping?

Just printed out some tiny parts for a computer case door. 2 hinge pins and latch and the tolerences seem to stay at .0005" and parts fit perfectly. Models were printed from the gray resin and because of their tiny size I used 25 micron layers.

In my opinion the Form1+ is absolutely NOT ready for a true production environment. I am in product design and print a lot of “man made shapes” (i.e. not organic shaped parts) and flat faces on the support sides always come out with a terrible surface finish. I’ve discussed this with others and have confirmed it’s not just me. So, expect to spend a lot of time sanding the faces to make them smooth.

Not only that, I routinely need to print 2-3 parts in order to get one good one, and even then it’s not perfect. There is typically an area with rough surface finish, or even missing geometry.

The Form1+, based on my experience so far (about 5 weeks worth of printing), is useful to have around for preliminary prints of parts used for fit checks or crude functional evaluation, but it is by no means on the same level of reliability or accuracy that you’d expect from true commercial SLA printers. But hey, for $3500 I guess you need to expect to make some sacrifices. Maybe buy one and start testing it in the background, but my guess is you are better off with Shapeways until Formlabs can increase the reliability of their machines.

I totally agree Aaron, the form1+ is pretty good with organic/curved (even highly detailed) surfaces, but on long flat areas (for prototype electronics housings or architectural models for instance) the warping issue is very obvious - and as you mentioned the surface where the supports touch can be very rough, especially if there is a large density of supports.

Recently I have had bizarre cases of printing objects where in certain areas of the print, I get a pocket of uncured resin in-between the inner and outer cured ‘skin’, I think due to a high density of inner supports - but I don’t see how it could physically happen. It,s only happened on one specific model but I’ll be paying close attention in future.

Yes I have been seeing the exact same thing: pocket of uncured resin in between the inner and outer surface of walls. Orientation seems to help a little, but does not completely solve it.

I wanted to bring my little project (see where I build some Playmobil-compatible modern weapons and offer them via Sculpteo to the next level with a Form 1+. As a side effect I wanted to speed up prototype turn around time and increase my margin with production on my own.

After having received the Form 1+ I have to say that I am pretty satisfied with the overall print quality - even at the small sizes I need - but when it would come to really production the support structure itself is a big hurdle for me as it is time consuming to eliminate the sometimes very many support pillars. See some pictures attached that show the support structure and a playmobil helmet and my first draft swat helmet.

If you have successfully removed the support structure it can leave some spotty marks that would need to be sanded away. For a simple product that I want to offer in the range of 1 - 1,5 Euro it is unfortunately too much work.

Potentially I will stick to Sculpteo and use their batch control function to save money and increase the margin. The Form 1+ will then only be used for checking the size and details of new products.

In the future I plan to try and experiment with MadeSolid tough resin in the future to produce some injection molds on the cheap and try to produce some stuff with my simple manual injection molding machine.


We have lots in common. I am eyeing the Form1 as well mostly for train parts. Please contact me directly to continue the discussion,


I find if the angle of the flats is too shallow on the part you get those lumps. Also take care on sharp edges closest to the build platform and make you have enough supports so they come out more accurate. Too few on that edge may cause indentations. or sags.

You can go Supports button then click “Edit All” and manually add supports rather than use the auto. Sometimes the auto generated will put in supports in bad locations and be difficult to clean off.

I am quite new here and didn’t have my Form 1+ for too long, therefore I cannot talk about reliability and downtime, but I’m very interested to find this statistical info.

Regarding the cost comparison with Shapeways, please take a look at my post here:

I’m elaborating a cost calculation where all factors are considered. Maybe it would be useful for you to take a look and would love to hear your opinion.


1 Like

Very interesting.

Hi, Tom,

I’ve been using a Form One for printing HO flat cars and assorted detail parts. (Examples, photos, and video here: ).

I’m finding the Form One is close to Shapeways frosted ultra detail in quality. There’s a couple of significant gotchas that can affect what you can easily print at commercial quality. First, the Form One doesn’t print a dissolvable support material. You’d need to attach a support structure to each model, and cut and file off the support structure after printing. (It’s also possible to print flat on the build platform, but there’s some issues that limit when that’ll work.) The need for the support structure makes the orientation of the model important; in my case, I was attaching a wood deck to the final model, so the support structure could attach to the top of the car, allowing underbody detail to be printed successfully. With a model tilted on side, the support structure attached to the delicate stake pockets. Although I didn’t mind breaking one or two on my models when removing the support structure, I suspect commercial buyers would expect perfect models.

Second, the print surface is less than 5 inches square. That’s fine for the models you’re selling in HO, but it’s not quite big enough for a 40’ flat car in HO. I’ve been able to print a 36 foot flat car diagonally stretched across the bed (with some of the problems listed by others about printing large flat surfaces). For larger objects, I’ve had to print the model either tilted on its side or end; see the link above for one picture of a flat car printed at an angle to fit. I’ve had problems with corners of the model warping/curving a bit because of the pressure of the build platform on the early parts of the print.

As for production, my two issues have been dust on the mirrors causing bad prints, and overall time for prints. I don’t think there were any obvious problems for running the printer 24/7, but Form Labs is still more of a startup than a multinational vendor, so parts and material might be harder to get in random countries than one of the commercial machines.

All that said, the cost of Formlabs resin does mean that the Form One can do prints much more cheaply than Shapeways on a continuous basis once you figure out orientation. I might suggest that you try the Form One with some of the easier models - the diesel locomotives would be easier to print with the support structure inside the shell, and the ore skip bodies might work really well. Finer models (such as the open coaches or the rail bus modes) may be more appropriate to print at Shapeways, or you might need to print the model as separate parts. You might also consider using the Form One to make master parts, then cast the actual products using rubber molds and resin.


1 Like


I came very close to getting an Envisiontech Ultra last year. To make a long story short the costs involved were just obscene, But the kicker was last month I picked up a sample I still had and it shattered under very light pressure! I am SO glad I did not get that machine!

Bill Lane

When you say obscene, how obscene?

I don’t do metric measurements well, but the material bottle was + - about the size of a quart. It was $350.00 a bottle. Getting a new machine was $8000.00 to charge it to operating conditions. I call that obscene.