Maintaining optics (Form 2 vs Form 3)


#1

Sooooo I lack the coordination, small hands, sharp eyes and most of all patience to continuing trying to clean the galvos / mirror / plate window on my Form 2. Worst of all, I feel like I have to do it every few months because my print quality degrades really fast if I dont.

How is the form 3 with respect to longer term maintenance and upkeep (ie keeping optics clean)? The optics are in a sealed chamber right? Does any mean users no longer have to open up the machine to clean this stuff themselves?

If not, what options are there (if any) to have the machine “professionally” serviced on an interval to keep it printing well?


#2

Unlike the Form 2, the Form 3 internals are not protected by a sheet of glass. So dust, spilled resin, etc. can get into the main chamber of the machine. On the flip side, that means it’s easier to clean that section.

Instead the LPU, which houses the optics, is now an independent, user-replaceable unit. This should do a better job of protecting some of the sensitive components, and make replacing them in one go dramatically easier should something go wrong. If I’m not mistaken, the printer parks the LPU in a location that provides some degree of shelter to the narrow optical window (which is a thoughtful detail).

There are still a lot of moving parts in the printer (I expect more than the last generation) and some - like the flexible tank bottom - are somewhat radical new innovations. Nobody knows yet how robust those will prove in the field. Some issues already presented with tank adhesive leaks, which were addressed in the V2 tanks, but still necessitate a limit to how long you can safely store certain resins in them. One or two users have also complained about contaminated rollers scratching or marring the bottom surface of a tank.

The Form 2 was a more iterative upgrade, where Formlabs refined existing designs on parts like galvos, etc. The latest model once again introduces brand new elements like the tank tensioner, new sensors, more linear moving bits, etc. They simplified some things that were finicky in the Form 2 (eg. switched to a more traditional float sensor vs. previous capacitive method of resin level sensing).

All that said, each time they release a new printer they incorporate lessons learned from past models. For getting consistent prints and maximizing printing uptime, I found the Form 2 to be a big upgrade from the Form 1 and 1+.

Since your beef seems to be with the degree of labour-intensive finework to maintain and repair, I actually think the Form 3 is potentially a really good fit for you. Most of the delicate cleaning steps like small/large mirrors, galvo mirrors, etc. are simply gone. In time there may be a need to lubricate gears (like the Z screw) or clean / tension / replace drive belts.

I expect the Form 3+ or 4 or whatever will one day iterate on the present design and further improve reliability (unless they finally come out with a new polyjet).

In terms of a 3rd party maintenance plan, have a look around where you live and see if there’s a good Formlabs reseller there. If you buy your printer from them, I imagine they’d let you simply bring it back to them when it’s having problems, and you might be able to negotiate more personalized repair/maintenance coverage when the warranty runs out. If that’s not an option, there’s always the Pro plan from Formlabs themselves (although I know someone on the Pro plan who told me once they were frustrated with the number of in-the-field steps they were made to do before shipping back their printer).


#3

Fantastic breakdown; I really appreciate you taking the time to outline this.


#4

If you are looking for a professional cleaning for your Form 2, you might inquire at an old-school camera repair shop. One of the places that cleans and repairs old film cameras or even the newfangled digital ones. Those guys should know their way around sensitive optics and electronics.

I run my Form 2 farm with their top glass removed. So I can just reach in and clean the galvos and mirrors as necessary without needing to disassemble the entire machine. It takes only a few minutes to clean as required. I run 100% open mode so I’m not concerned about the machine spilling or flinging resin into the open optical cavity. I just need to be careful not to ever remove the vat while a wet build platform is hanging in the machine.


#5

You might want to check this thread out.
It might solve some of your maintenance issues.


#6

Also, you really need to consider the Z-VAT printer cover. This considerably reduces the amount of dust the printer gets.


#7

Purchased! brilliant! thanks for the link!


#8

You are welcome.
Another fantastic tool to maintain the Form 2 in good shape if the Arctic butterfly from VisibleDust in Canada:

https://visibledust.com/products/arctic-butterfly-724s-super-bright-sensor-brush-for-cleaning-sensor-of-digital-cameras/

It is a static electricity brush that allows to clean the window and mirrors in seconds.

Another bit of advice, is to use flexible tape ( 3M blenderm is really good for this ) to close the printer joints around the front enclosure.


#9

i was literally getting the same results with the optics test and after cleaning the galvos i came to the conclusion that there is something with the model itself, if you notice the towers with the numbers are like 3 different models stacked on top of one another, after i copied the model into a single one without the red lines i got an actual great print , im still having issues with the center part not printing the tracks but its a start.


#10

Regarding the Optical test…
Yee92, thats intentional. the superimposed blocks increases the laser-passes (by adding more and more instances on top of one another) the further along the tower you look… as I understand it, this trick amplifies the print problems so its much easier to see.


#11

interesting, well then i guess my form 2s laser might be on its last legs, since i cleaned the galvos thoroughly


#12

It’s always worth talking to our support team before you dig into anything drastic! There’s a non-zero chance that things could be sorted without needing to dig in too much.

You can contact them here to check!


#13

It’s always worth talking to our support team before you dig into anything drastic!