We have been making prototype and production parts with Form 2 printers for about 3 years. We received the Form 3 about 2 weeks ago. We have gone through a lot of F2’s. We are currently using two F2’s full time.
The F3 is very slow compared to the F2. It also has some other problems that cause the print times to skyrocket to 7-9 times slower. The entire print cycle is slower to start, each layer is a much slower process while it waits to perform a tray wipe and then the mandatory pause before it proceeds with the next layer.
The firmware seems unstable with lockups upon reboot that sometimes requires a hard reset. In 3 years I had had to hard reset our F2’s maybe 3 times. I have had to do this twice with the F3 in less than two weeks.
My printers pretty much run day and night. The F2’s are more troublesome to keep clean and operational. So far the F3 seems much more easy to maintain in a shop environment.
We use the tough and durable resins mostly. The print quality on the F3 is worse than the F2. It is not bad, but on some F2 parts that are perfectly smooth to the naked eye, the F3 shows layer lines. This happens regardless of orientation. This happens even with parts designed to be printed directly on the platform like packs of matches oriented upright. Large flat surfaces should be avoided regardless, but we routinely print a full tray using parts with a 10-20 mm cross section.
The automatically generated supports are much greater in number with the F3. It will therefore use more resin. We never use the automated supports. It places them in stupid locations with stumps embedded in the part. Instead we place all supports manually by stepping through the layers. In this way, the F3 seems to use the same amount of resin as the F2.
My biggest problem in production is the speed. We had planned to purchase a F3L and a Fuse, but the experience thus far with the F3 has left us thinking that we should look elsewhere for our production printers. A decent production printer could cost between $20-50K for something that is a workhorse and has production level materials and support. Right now, the F3 is just too slow to be usable in a production setting - we are talking a minimum of 9 hours to print 400 layers @ 100um for eight 5 mm wide parts. This is compared to less than half that time on the F2 which is not that fast either and why we run multiple printers.
If you look at earlier posts, you will see that Formlabs has chimed in that they are working on increasing the speed. I sincerely hope so, because with the Form 2 being discontinued, we won’t be buying any more F3s or F3Ls until this is resolved. If you only need a tray of parts a day, then the F3 might work for you. If your parts are tall, the print times will be higher due to the cycle time for each layer.