Formlabs Website Store Support

My Excruciating Experience with Formlabs

About Me:

I am a small product manufacturer and have been working extensively with 3D printers as part of my business–both FDM, MSLA, and most recently SLA–since 2012. 3D-printed products have been integral to my business since 2014.

This is going to be a long post because I have spent countless hours trying desperately to love my Form 3 and justify all its flaws. Even before purchasing, I was a huge admirer of Formlabs products since their original Kickstarter campaign. And though I could not afford to support Formlabs at that time, I finally purchased a Form 3 in January of 2021, believing that the tightly-knit and mature ecosystem of patented hardware technologies and post-processing tools, along with local service for my US-based company, would ensure greater reliability compared to overseas MSLA manufacturers who appear to be on an annual hardware release cycle, making replacement parts somewhat difficult to obtain.

And so, at the start of the year, I purchased a Form 3 with a 3-year extended warranty, Form Wash, Form Cure, and the necessary consumables ensuring I would have a working ecosystem for at least the next three years.

Along with many cartridges and resin tanks of consumables, my spending with Formlabs this year has exceeded the amount I have spent on every other FDM and MSLA machine and consumable I have used since 2014, combined. For the cost, I expected much more from Formlabs than what I received.

A Bad Start:

My trouble started immediately upon receiving the Form 3. The touchscreen would not display unless power cycled repeatedly. Sometimes it would take several minutes of power cycling for the touchscreen to start working. Once working, it and everything else would continue to work until the machine was restarted or power cycled.

I have had to disassemble several of my MSLA machines upon receipt to reseat display connectors or resolve problems created by shipping, so I am comfortable with small repairs. I immediately opened the Form 3, performed a visual inspection and reseated the connectors to the touchscreen. This did not resolve the issue, so I contacted Formlabs the very next day after the machine was delivered and set up.

For my brand new Form 3 that was defective out of the box, Formlabs offered me the choice between waiting 6-8 weeks for a replacement touchscreen assembly that I could install myself, or a refurbished Form 3. Not wanting to exchange a brand new defective machine for a refurbished one, I opted to wait. After all, the touchscreen and machine continued to work as long as I did not restart or disconnect power.

The Limitations of a Walled Garden:

For the next four weeks of near-constant use, I quickly learned that the Form 3 was not what I had hoped. Formlabs has constrained the Form 3 in so many ways via software and hardware, such that there is almost no flexibility with respect to operating the machine in any way other than how Formlabs intends it to be used: add a model to Preform, use automatic supports and auto-orientation, print, follow all instructions on the touchscreen and support pages exactly. In other words, turn off your brain and trust Formlabs!

In my case, I print very small models in large batches directly to the build platform to avoid the extensive post-processing that would be required to remove support marks on small, functional parts that are designed to be handled and viewed at a close distance. The market for my products is extremely competitive, and so I really needed a solution that is highly efficient with respect to labor cost and uses a reliable hardware ecosystem for cost control.

I bought into Formlabs’s mature ecosystem believing I would be printing, washing, removing parts, curing, and repeating without any sacrifices or workarounds. I could not have been more wrong.

Limitation 1, Flashing/Skirting:

Having experience with several MSLA machines, I was unaware at just how limiting the walled garden of the Form ecosystem would be. I soon discovered with the Form 3 a design defect where the first layer would scatter onto the shiny build platform in such a way to leave a 0.1 mm thick layer “skirt” of cured material extending 2-3 mm around the part’s bottom. Formlabs support advised that my tank may be defective, and so they replaced it.

After the issue persisted, Formlabs acknowledged in an email that:

“under normal conditions, there is nothing that can be done to eliminate the flashing entirely; this is simply how the Form 3 works.”

The issue could be resolved by making the build platform absorb the laser light slightly so that it does not scatter. A hard-anodized build platform, dyed red, would absorb the UV light and likely eliminate the issue. However, modifying the build platform proved to be more difficult than expected, and so I resorted to ablating the underside of my parts with a CO2 laser to remove the unwanted material, adding additional, unexpected post-processing time to my parts.

Limitation 2, Part Removal:

Removal of parts printed directly to the build platform is also problematic. While flexible magnetic plates are a common modification to MSLA machines and make parts extremely easy to remove, the unusual position of the Z-limit switch at the top of the Form 3 makes this type of modification impossible, as the additional thickness of such a modification would interfere with the pre-print initilization process of checking for obstructions in the tank and on the platform. Neither can the build platform be machined to remove thickness to allow installation of such a system, as it is a hollow aluminum extrusion. Consequently, no company has designed an aftermarket build platform or build platform modification for the Form 2 or Form 3.

This is yet another constraint that meant that I would need some creative solution to removing my small parts printed directly onto the build platform. The solution I devised was to wash and cure the parts on the build platform, and then use a bench vice to apply controlled lateral compressive force to remove parts printed in large batches. While this works okay, it takes an unacceptable amount of additional time and carries the risk of damaging the parts because the adhesion to the build platform is so great.

Yet another option for part removal was to apply aluminum tape to the build platform, which could be removed after printing to somewhat easily remove the part. This also worked somewhat well, but again takes a great deal of time and adds material cost.

I have also read anecdotes about parts easily removed by chilling the build platform. While this works okay for some resin types, I found it to be inconsistent and not effective enough for small parts that have not yet been cured enough to be handled.

Limitation 3, Material Level Sensing:

I also discovered a severe technical limitation that should have been disclosed to me during my discussions with a Formlabs sales representative prior to purchasing. This is where the problems go from annoying to enraging:

The Form 3 needs to maintain a specific amount of resin in the tank. While this is completely understandable, the machine is not very smart about knowing how much resin is remaining in the cartridge or how much has been consumed during printing.

I found that the Form 3 greatly underestimates the amount of resin required for a print job, as the manner in which uncured resin adheres to complex part geometry is not taken well into account. Claims that the Form 3 has a sensor that weighs the cartridge also appear to be false. The resin consumption appears to be based on the print job information, and possibly nothing else. This is demonstrated by the fact that aborted or failed jobs “consume” the entirety of resin for the job.

The Form 3 constantly checks the resin level using a mechanical float sensor. Given how the viscosity of resin varies greatly depending on temperature, and the temperature set point is not reached before the sensing process, this can result in extremely inconsistent measurements, especially during colder weather.

Further, the resin tanks require nearly 400 mL of resin to reach the fill threshold. I informed my sales rep prior to purchasing that I would primarily be using the Color resins to produce parts of many different colors. My intention was to purchase a Color kit, mix a specific color for the entire 900 mL of resin, and then exhaust that resin as much as possible before making a new color with a separate kit. Because I was printing small parts, with a typical job requiring around 50 mL of material, I did not consider and was never made aware of how the machine operates when it detects that the tank is underfilled:

At the start of a print, the machine will check the resin level and attempt to add resin to the tank. Unless the fill level is reached, the process of adding resin to fill the tank continues for 30 minutes before prompting the user that the level is low and allowing the user to ignore the error and continue.

After the machine prints several starting layers, it will check the resin level again, and repeat the filling process and force the user to bypass the low-fill level warning several more times throughout the printing process. This behavior makes it virtually impossible to use the machine without having spare cartridges of resin on hand at all time. And for custom Color materials, this means that it is not possible to fully consume only one single cartridge of a custom color, as I will explain.

Upon researching the issue, I discovered multiple complaints here in the official Formlabs forum. In November, 2020, one user resorted to drawing and posting to this forum a satirical cartoon mocking Formlabs for the unfriendly design, insinuating that the machine behavior appears to have been employed by the sales team as a way to force users to always have a spare cartridge of resin for every material on hand.

Upon contacting Formlabs about this issue, I was informed:

“…even if you stopped using a material altogether, you would only be discarding about 300mL…”

In other words, for my particular case where I may only make one batch of a particular custom Color resin kit, I would only need to discard “about 300 mL” of the 900 mL kit! In my experience, the amount is closer to 400 mL resin remaining before the machine would tell me that the resin level was low and it needed a new cartridge, or force me to wait ad nauseam before allowing me to continue even the smallest job.

Upon replying to Formlabs, politely informing them that this is a serious user experience problem and that other users had resorted to drawing cartoons ridiculing their company for being so unfriendly to their users (and linking to the Formlabs forum post), a different Formlabs employee responded:

“I personally will not be entertaining emails with images evoking slavery and depicting our employees abusing users. We’re happy to work with you, but this is inappropriate and offensive. Continuing this behavior will result in this case being escalated and consideration for how we proceed with servicing for you will be discussed.

Again, happy to work with you if there’s an issue. If you are unable to refrain from the mentioned behavior or the product will not work for your needs, I can see what we can do. Please let me know how you would like to proceed. We’d like to continue troubleshooting with you.”

While I will not link the image that was originally posted to this forum, it is safe to say that this employee was grossly overstating the “offensiveness” of this harmless cartoon. Neither I nor the Formlabs user who created it had any idea it would trigger such an emotional response.

Nevertheless, shortly after this conversation in February 2021, someone at Formlabs quietly had the cartoon removed from the November 2020 Formlabs forum post. According to the author, nobody contacted him with an explanation for why it was removed.

My Reply:

I first want to clarify that the image I forwarded was created and posted by another user to your own community forums in November 2020. I even provided an inline link in my response, but it seems you did not see it:

Print Without a Cartridge

The image was provided as an example of how other users have resorted to ridicule to express their frustration with this behavior. No one agrees with your newfound assertion that the resin fill level behavior is designed to “print safely.” I certainly do not, because I have experience using equipment that operates using similar technology. The community consensus is that the print behavior seems designed to annoy and inconvenience your customers into purchasing more of your materials. The FormlabsCommunity forums represent a minuscule fraction of FormLabs users and customers. If I and others are frustrated enough to post cartoons about it on your forums, the frustration is probably far deeper and more widespread than you may realize, particularly among new and low-volume users.

Your support pages are among the most helpful and well-made of any company producing any product in any industry. And nowhere in your support pages does it describe that a full Form 3 tank requires 350+ mL of resin, and that the machine will attempt to fill the tank for 30 minutes at the start of each print job before allowing the user to take action.

So imagine my surprise when my first cartridge of resin was exhausted, the dashboard said I had somewhere between 600-700 mL remaining, and the machine tried fruitlessly to fill the tank for half an hour before allowing me to continue printing a 3 mL job with what appeared to be a full 365 mL tank of resin. And the job after that, and the job after that. After researching your community forums and attempting to resolve the issue on my own, I came to you for help, and received an unhelpful and nebulous reply about how the behavior was to assure print quality. Now, you say it is about “printing safely.”

The feedback I left concerning my communications with Olivia was intended to be especially constructive; it would have been helpful to have been told about this behavior during our sales consultation when I discussed precisely how I intended to use the equipment–and especially the color resins–instead of being surprised, frustrated, and then insulted by the responses I have received from your company concerning this.

I think that threatening our business relationship over my reply has crossed a dangerous and disturbing line. I believe deeply that FormLabs is better than the attitude you represented in your reply, and your customers certainly deserve more. I hope that you can reply considerately to the points I and others have made in hopes of addressing these concerns.

A different Formlabs employee responded with an offer of one cartridge of free resin, but stated that the issue would not be resolved. This was simply how the machines work.

The following day, before I even had a chance to reply, the previous Formlabs employee scolded me a second time for the offense of linking to the official Formlabs forum post where the “offensive” image was published:

“I want to follow-up and again emphasize that relaying images (created by you or not) depicting slavery will have no more tolerance. Our employees will not be subject to that kind of ridicule, at this point, repeatedly. If you need help in the future and cannot refrain from forwarding inappropriate content, I will have to escalate this.”

In nearly 35 years before or since, I have never been admonished by a representative from a company with whom I had just spent thousands of dollars for the offense of linking to a post in their own community forums, or for any other reason.

Initial Conclusion:

In summary, I quickly learned over the course of several weeks of use and intense experimentation and collaboration that the constraints of Formlabs’s closed system were not going to save me any time or be more reliable than MSLA. In fact, the laser ablation and part removal would cost me even more time on top of the more expensive materials. I had likely made a very serious error in trusting that the Form 3 would offer any benefit to my particular business.

MSLA is not only a faster technology with the recent introduction of highly transparent and resilient “mono” screens, but the open design allows much more flexibility in creating a high-output, highly efficient workflow. Compared to the Form 3, the total cost of ownership for MSLA machines of equal build volume is cheaper to the point that it may be less expensive to buy a new MSLA machine when it breaks rather than bother with a repair or warranty.

And so, after March, I stopped using my Form 3 in order to contemplate a path forward.

The Saga Continues:

Today, after several months of non-use, I decided to use the machine to print a one-off part to modify one of my FDM machines.

After updating Preform and the machine firmware to the latest version, I went through the process of power cycling the machine for several minutes to get the touchscreen to display, as I opted to not replace it once I stopped using the machine earlier this March.

After performing all the regular maintenance such as installing a new resin tank, I started an 8-hour print job. 6 hours into the print job, the machine just stopped printing and displayed “Ready to Print” on the touchscreen. The Form 3 did not restart, the build platform did not raise, and there was no error message. It just stopped the job without any explanation. The Activity Feed in the Online Dashboard does not show the job as Aborted or Finished. But the Details page does show the job as finished. The job was not completed, and so the material and time was wasted.

I am now afraid to even use my Form 3 at all because there is no explanation for this most recent failure.

I recorded video of the issue and contacted Formlabs demanding they replace this lemon with a new machine. If I am going to continue to suffer as a Form 3 owner, they should at least give me a new, non-defective machine so I can at least suffer as they intended.

I will amend this post to update on my progress with my replacement and journey as a Formlabs admirer turned sufferer.


These are the kinds of well thought out responses that are important to know. Not in any ways meaning to simply ‘bash’ a company but to outline the issues that have happened and how they were(or not) resolved.

If a ‘low level’ is considered under 30%, that seems to be way too unacceptable. I’m considering getting into the FormLabs eco system and this post has given me pause, that I really did need. I am less concerned about the ‘walled garden’ as I’m still an amateur in the 3D ‘finessing’ of printing/orientating parts, so letting the software do that for me is fine. While it may not be optimal, it will do the job I needed it to do till I learn more.

Yet to waste 30% of each cartridge now feels like ye old ink cartridge ‘scam’ in inkjet printers. I can completely understand why a company wants to keep you in their eco-system, that I have no problems with. This resin-level does seem to take it too far. Again, I understand being concerned with running out of resin but the system currently in use doesn’t really do a good enough job. I do hope they upgrade that to something better soon, which would eliminate this who major issue.

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I immediately opened the Form 3

Brand new, out of the box, and you cracked it open? But you bought the printer because you wanted better support than you might expect for a printer manufacturer in Asia. You paid extra for a 3 year warranty. Why wasn’t the first thing you did “I called Formlabs to take advantage of the support I paid for, that was a key reason I decided to buy the printer in the first place”?

It’s pretty much a universal rule that you void your warranty if you attempt to service your under-warranty product yourself. Formlabs has to take your word for whether or not you busted something when you opened it up. They can’t do business (no one can) that way.

Your correct course of action should have been to contact FL, explain the problem, and suggest that maybe, because you have the skills, they’d authorize you to open the machine up to reseat all the connectors. So they could be sure the problem existed before you attempted your repair.

Note: I had a problem with my Form1+ and this is exactly what transpired. Once I’d convinced them I had the necessary skills to not screw it up, they sent me a replacement part at no charge and provided guidance on replacing it.

there is almost no flexibility with respect to operating the machine in any way other than how Formlabs intends it to be used

I beg to differ. There are a significant number of “knobs” you can turn in Preform to tweak things to your liking. You do not have to let it orient the model (I never do) and you do not have to accept the defaults for support density and contact point size/shape (I never do) and you have options for fixed or adaptive layer thickness (which I make use of all the time).

And if you don’t like the way Preform supports your model, you can use 3rd party software like Chitubox. Then you simply import your 3rd-party custom-supported model file in to Preform and send it to the printer as-is. Preform thinks you’re printing the model “directly on the build platform” so the printability analysis warnings have to be ignored. But that’s hardly a limitation.

a design defect where the first layer would scatter onto the shiny build platform

A hard-anodized build platform, dyed red, would absorb the UV light and likely eliminate the issue.

You seem to be pretty technically advanced. You could anodize the aluminum to change its color if you wanted. Though I don’t necessarily think you’re right that UV absorbing color would address the issue. If the skirt you’re seeing was only a few layers thick, I’d have less trouble believing it’s scattered light from the build plate. But given the thickness, I’d suspect a different root cause.

The printer treats the initial layers differently than subsequent layers since it’s trying to ensure the print sticks to the platform. I’m thinking the flashing is an artifact of that part of the printing process. If it didn’t do this, you might be seeing the parts fall off during printing instead.

the unusual position of the Z-limit switch at the top of the Form 3 makes this type of modification impossible

Are you aware of the Z Compression Correction parameter, and Early Layer Merge parameter?

Z Compression correction is there to allow for variations in the machine-to-machine mechanics and for people who print directly on the build plate and don’t want the first few layers of their print “squished”. I don’t know what the limit is, but if it’d take a few mm (the default is 0.75mm) you could adjust it for an additional magnetic plate. Where the limit switch is doesn’t matter. Top or bottom of the Z stroke, all that matters is that it’s fixed and that it’s actuation point is repeatable.

The Early Layer Merge may be why you’re getting the flashing. This feature compresses the first couple of layers in to one layer. The intent is to guarantee a smooth base for objects printed directly on the build plate where the model might not be perfectly smooth. If what’s being printed is a base for the model, it doesn’t matter. But if what’s being printed is the model itself, it might.

as the additional thickness of such a modification would interfere with the pre-print initilization process of checking for obstructions in the tank and on the platform.

See comment above about Z Compression adjustment.

no company has designed an aftermarket build platform or build platform modification for the Form 2 or Form 3.

I’m betting that making it easy for 3rd parties to manufacture customized parts for their printers wasn’t a design priority for Formlabs. They’re not targeting hobbyists or even prosumer users. They’re targeting enterprise customers who generally aren’t interested in hacking the machines, they want a “solution” they don’t have to hack. And FL doesn’t want to have to provide support for users who have problems with 3rd party components (or resins). The “garden” is walled on purpose. It’s part of their business model.

The Form 3 constantly checks the resin level using a mechanical float sensor. Given how the viscosity of resin varies greatly depending on temperature, and the temperature set point is not reached before the sensing process, this can result in extremely inconsistent measurements, especially during colder weather.

I have to disagree on this one, too. My printer pre-heats before the fill operation and it maintains temperature throughout the print once the setpoint is achieved. It most definitely does not attempt to fill before reaching the target temp for the resin being used.

The printer has a heater specifically because resin viscosity changes as a function of temperature and having the right flow characteristics are important not just to the fill operation but to entire printing process. It heats both the resin tray and cartridge contents.

especially during colder weather.

My one biggest gripe about my F3 is that the heater isn’t very high wattage. My printer lives in a basement workshop and in the winter I let it get down to as low as maybe 65ºF. The printer struggles to reach temperature with this low of an ambient. I tent it with the plastic bag the printer shipped with, to give it a little more insulation from the surrounding air (or I crank up the heater to warm the space up to 68ºF or so before I start a print run).

Unless the fill level is reached, the process of adding resin to fill the tank continues for 30 minutes before prompting the user that the level is low and allowing the user to ignore the error and continue.

I agree this is annoying as hell, too. I just bitched about it myself, recently. There’s a “PRIME” option on the printer. Priming shouldn’t just enable a job to be started remotely, it should start the heat-up and then the fill operations when you tell it to prime, which it doesn’t. So both the heat-up and fill cycles add to the print time and in my experience these can be significant (hours) when the ambient is low.

and force the user to bypass the low-fill level warning several more times throughout the printing process.

Not on my printer. I tell it to continue after the first can’t-fill warning and it never asks again. However, because it doesn’t know how much resin is in the tank, it doesn’t know how quickly the resin will flow back after a peel or wipe, so it waits a much longer time between layers and print times increase significantly.

Upon researching the issue, I discovered multiple complaints here in the official Formlabs forum.

The thing about user forums is that the people who aren’t having problems or that don’t need something explained/clarified generally don’t post. So you tend to see a disproportionately higher number of problems being reported in the forum. I’m betting FL sells 1000s of machines a year (or more). The number of people with problems is probably a small percentage of the total userbase. There’s no way to know what the statistics actually are, though (you can bet FL knows).

for my particular case where I may only make one batch of a particular custom Color resin kit, I would only need to discard “about 300 mL” of the 900 mL kit!

You don’t need to discard anything. You need a resin tray for each color you’re using. The cartridges and trays are all uniquely coded so the printer will keep track if you’re not constantly pouring resin out of the tray to switch to another color. The resin trays come in a nifty little plastic enclosure with a UV blocking lid specifically so you can do this - swap trays to change materials.

Also, if you haven’t had any print failures, or the resin is filtered, you can pour it back in to the cartridge.

I agree the printer does a terrible job of actually keeping track of how much resin is used, but it doesn’t limit operations based on those estimates, it just gives you warnings. The printer will attempt to fill even when it thinks the cartridge is empty. If the cartridge isn’t empty, the resin tray fills up the same as if the printer thought there was resin in the cartridge.

Neither I nor the Formlabs user who created it had any idea it would trigger such an emotional response.

It’s not whether something you say or do offends you, it’s how others perceive it that matters. The world is full of examples of people who said or did something they didn’t consider offensive and it turned out that it was and they learned a harsh lesson about “eyes of the beholder”.

Based on the response from the FL employee, it sounds like it was offensive. Rationalizing your re-use of the offensive material doesn’t make it less offensive to that employee. I’d argue it does the exact opposite. :frowning: I’m not surprised by the strong reaction.

According to the author, nobody contacted him with an explanation for why it was removed.

I am sure that Formlabs reserves the right to do whatever they want with the content on their forum. I’m betting if you read the user agreement you’d find this clearly articulated there, somewhere. Most companies do. And there’s no obligation to inform someone that their post has been removed. This isn’t a public forum like Facebook, it’s a business forum. Something inappropriate gets posted, it gets removed as soon as FL’s forum manager(s) become aware of it. That’s standard operating procedure for a business. The OP might even be permanently banned with no explanation being offered.

I purchased a Form 3 with a 3-year extended warranty

Today, after several months of non-use, I decided to use the machine to print a one-off part to modify one of my FDM machines.

6 hours into the print job, the machine just stopped printing and displayed “Ready to Print”

So the machine was defective out of the box and you never made any effort to remedy the problem with FL even though the machine sat idle for “several months”? So when you finally went to use the machine you knew had a problem you were surprised to discover it still had a problem? You assumed the display was bad, but that wasn’t necessarily valid. The flakey display operation may have been symptomatic of a more significant issue like a bad voltage regulator or some other marginal component. If you’d taken FL up on their offer to exchange the machine this probably wouldn’t have happened.

The phrase that comes to mind is “physician, heal thyself”. :slight_smile:

they should at least give me a new, non-defective machine

Why? You had a new machine that had a problem at T=0 (there is no company in the world that ships new product with a 100% success rate. There are always out-of-box failures) but instead of taking advantage of the warranty you bought, you opened up the machine on your own initiative in an attempt to fix it. If that didn’t void your warranty, I’d be surprised. Given you opened it up, their willingness to still exchange the machine for a refurb seems more than fair.

And refurb is what you get when you have a warranty failure - not a new machine (unless they’re completely out of refurbished machines). This is the way most companies operate. Your $2000 Samsung Galaxy Fold 3 dies under warranty and you send it in, they give you a previous warranty return that’s been refurbished, not a new phone off the production line. Even though this is the most expensive top-end phone Samsung makes. The refurb will be indistinguishable from new. Any cosmetic damage is repaired or replaced and any electrical or mechanical defects are repaired and replaced. And then the machine goes through the same test process as a new machine (maybe more). A warranty replacement might actually be more reliable than a new machine depending on how demanding the refurb process is.

While I don’t print small parts directly on the build plate, I have been using my Form3 for close to 1.5 years now and with one exception, it has printed beautifully every single time I’ve used it. The one exception occurred printing Durable resin using Beta settings. A bug in their code resulted in a 4-5mm thick layer of resin being semi-cured across the entire surface of the resin tank. I’m guessing the laser wasn’t completely shutting off. I reported the issue to FL and they sent me a new resin tray and cartridge to replace what I’d lost, in spite of the failure being due to a problem with Beta settings which are by definition “use at your own risk” features.

This is in fact why I’ve stuck with FL through 3 generations (Form1+, Form2, Form3). Their printers work great and their support has always met or exceeded my expectations.


The thing about user forums is that the people who aren’t having problems or that don’t need something explained/clarified generally don’t post. So you tend to see a disproportionately higher number of problems being reported in the forum. I’m betting FL sells 1000s of machines a year (or more). The number of people with problems is probably a small percentage of the total userbase. There’s no way to know what the statistics actually are, though (you can bet FL knows).

In my opinion this is a flawed assessment, this forum represents a sample of machines in use. and users reporting issues with the machine. Design flaws especially are persistent through out a production run. So if a model has issues, it has the same potential issues for all units, until it gets modified.



My statement: you tend to see a disproportionately higher number of problems being reported in the forum

Your statement: and users reporting issues with the machine


This forum has 11K users at the moment. I have to think that FL has sold more than 11K machines since they started in 2015, but let’s assume this is the entirety of their customer base… The average number of new topics/day is low, just a few, call it 4 or 5 (today, it’s actually only 2). With a user base of 11K. If I accept your premise and agree that maybe half the new topics are new negative/issue posts and half are generic user posts, that’s still a “negative” rate of only maybe 0.018% of the users.

While there are some new topics along the lines of “look at the neat thing I’ve done with my printer”, a quick review of the forum posts sorted most recent to least suggests the vast majority of posts are about issues, problems, or they’re questions about some aspect of machine operation. So if you accept my premise that the majority of posts are problems and we stick with 11K as the total user base, the complaint rate is actually higher, closer to 0.05%. But that is still a world-class level of customer satisfaction.

By way of an interesting comparison… I also own a Glowforge laser cutter. GF uses the same forum software as FL (just different colors, mostly). But Glowforge is targeted at hobbyist/crafting users, not Enterprise users (like FL). That forum averages 270 new posts/day (they have roughly 4x more users but a roughly 80x higher posting rate). Because the GF is targeted at hobbyists/crafters and “prosumer” users, there are a significant number of “look at what I’ve used my Glowforge for” posts. There’s a higher level of “community spirit” if you will, because the users tend to be using their machines to craft stuff - not as a tool to conduct their business - and sharing details on what’s been crafted is a key aspect of “crafting”. :slight_smile:

In contrast to that, FL users tend to be business users who don’t want share details of what they’re doing because those details are part of what makes them more competitive. Which is why the posting rate is so low and so few of the posts are “look at the cool thing I made” posts.

No, I think the data clearly shows that:

  1. The target market for FL printers are business users who aren’t interested in sharing details of what they’ve been using their printers for. So most of the posts are about issues users are experiencing.
  2. Given the number of forum members, the exceptionally low rate of posting in the forum suggests there really aren’t a lot of users having problems with their machines.
  3. This particular thread is from a user having an “outlier” experience that I’d argue is in part, at least, self-inflicted.

I’m not sure about the first two points here. The Form 3 costs less than a quarter of the price on the closest enterprise-level SLA/DLP printer, so, I would say that companies that have FL printers are more likely to see that developing direct channels to support is worth any extra cost meaning that they are less likely to report any problems they were having here on the forum.

I would wholly agree with point 3. FLs have a program they call Factory Solutions. One of the things available is that they are willing/able to adjust settings on individual machines to make them a better fit to use-cases that are problematic with standard machines.

I have no idea what the criteria are for making use of this program, But I would suggest that the OP contact FL directly, possibly through sales rather than support.

I don’t know anything about the “offensive” image, nor do I know if there is any history leading up to this whole tale that may add additional context, but what you say here is patently ridiculous. People are capable at taking offense to nearly anything, and the mental wellbeing and subjective taste issues of support personnel are far outside the scope of the responsibilities of a customer trying to get a product they purchased to work as expected.

Creating a pleasant and welcoming work environment is the job of HR, not the job of the paying customer. Dealing with customers who might say things that upset you or make you uncomfortable is a regular, normal and expected part of product support. If the person filling that role is not capable of dealing with people who are upset, who might say things the technician finds unpleasant, then the correct answer is for them to look for another role in the company, or another job altogether, not for the company to withhold support from a paying customer because one technician didn’t appreciate a comment they made.

In my youth I worked support for some very large companies, as well as having done technical training on site for customers. The proper answer for a support technician is to deescalate the situation, and calm the customer down, not to tell the customer you are escalating the situation, and outright threaten them! This is just flat out unprofessional, and frankly childish bully behavior. If something a customer says upsets you, that is an issue you take to your manager, and you ask to have the issue assigned to someone else. Not chastise the customer, and tell them you will unilaterally void their warranty because they have upset you.

It really bothers me to see more and more people who have completely inverted the relationship between corporations and customers to the point that they think customers should gratefully thank companies for allowing them to buy their products, rather than that companies should bend over backwards to keep customers happy. The customer owes the company nothing but the money they paid for the product. From that point on, it is the company’s responsibility to try and keep that customer, not the other way around.



After my most recent support ticket, Formlabs did agree to replace the machine with a brand new machine. I set it up over the weekend and it is much improved over the first one I received at the start of the year. Everything appears to be working as designed and I am satisfied with Formlabs’s handling of this case. I only wish now that there were some way to make the product work for my workflow.

To the best of my understanding, the extended warranty I purchased does not entitle me to phone support. I did email support and was advised that the touchscreen replacement was a self-service option, but that the part would take 6-8 weeks to receive.

The limited warranty and exclusions for Formlabs equipment are governed by the Terms of Service as well as any local, state, or federal laws, rules, or regulations. Based on my reading, Formlabs could only justifiably refuse to grant a warranty claim if they could prove that the warranty claim arose from damage caused by the disassembly.

The difference here is between someone claiming, “The screen was not working, so I opened the machine,” and another saying, “I opened the machine, and then the screen stopped working.”

I made a separate thread about this topic after receiving my machine and performing many detailed experiments. Based on experimentation and empirical observation, I stand by my conclusion that there is some kind of UV laser scattering effect occurring on the build platform surface, as UV-absorbing materials applied to the surface appear to prevent it from happening.

Your understanding of Z-Compression Correction does not match my own. This parameter merely duplicates the first layer so that the first few layers are not as squished. It is not analogous to Z-offset in FDM printing, which is a parameter that affects the starting distance between the nozzle and build platform.

When I print on the Form 3 with a standard, unmodified build platform, the final sweep of the mixer arm during the initilization happens when the build platform is almost touching the mixer arm. I guess I could perform an experiment, but I would be surprised if I could add more than a mm or so thickness to the build platform without causing a collision during this initialization step.

A magnetic platform would probably require 3-4 mm additional thickness. And even if the machine could handle the additional thickness, it would be printing the first layer 30-40 times on top of itself (assuming a layer height of 0.1), which would cause issues of its own.

I would refer to my earlier thread on this topic which did examine this parameter. There is some early layer merging going on even when the feature is turned off, so it cannot be eliminated completely.

I tried every possible modification to my CAD models to eliminate the problem, and nothing worked.

I have never argued the opposite. I really wanted a machine and ecosystem that perfectly fit my needs and did not require all the band-aids and workarounds. I mistakenly believed that Formlabs’s ecosystem would streamline my own workflow. The unfortunate truth is that Formlabs’s product probably wasn’t the best choice for my business because of the many extra steps and workarounds required to produce end-use parts of acceptable quality.

The Form 3 is great for economical rapid prototyping in various materials whose properties mimic industrial production materials. It may also work well for certain types of end-use parts, especially custom, one-off products. I have no doubt that enterprise customers with deep pockets can and have paid Formlabs to develop materials and workflows to enable new product lines, as I have read in Formlabs’s own White Papers.

At this point, I expect that I may use the Form 3 for rapid prototypes and stick with MSLA for production parts. But we will see.

When I last used the machine earlier this year, certain engineering resins would pre-heat, but standard resins would not. Has this changed? Maybe. But the fact remains that my first few experiences with standard Color resins was that the mixer arm would become stuck because the resin was cold and viscous after starting the pre-print initialization.

To fix this, I would often start a print and then remove the build platform after the heater turned on. Kept in this state, the machine would be ready for use whenever I needed to start a job.

I may have misremembered the behavior here. It may be true that after waiting 30 minutes for the machine to fill, that the machine will pause periodically throughout the print, making the job take significantly longer to complete.

Nevertheless, I stand by my assertion that the behavior appears designed to annoy users into always having a spare resin cartridge on-hand, less they be forced to sacrifice exorbitant and unreasonable amounts of time printing even the smallest job with less than a full 300-400 mL of resin in the tank.

I’m not sure if you’re understanding. I am mixing custom “Color” resins using the Formlabs Color Base and CMYK pigments. In contrast to other Formlabs resins, this comes in an 800 mL Color Base, to which 100 mL of pigment is added, totaling 900 mL of resin (the reserved 100 mL is air to allow the container to be shaken well to mix the colors evenly). By the time the tank is filled once, the cartridge is half depleted. So after using half the cartridge, I get a resin low warning.

If I were to mix a color only once (for example, say I do not like the color I mixed or it is not popular with customers), and each batch of parts takes 50 mL, and I am comfortable printing down to about 100 mL resin remaining in the tank, then I would be forced to wait an additional 3 hours (0.5 hours x 6 jobs) just to start my prints, plus an additional few hours of forced pausing for each small job. While this does not sound like much, the experience is excruciating in light of the fact that all Formlabs would need to do to fix it would be to give the user the option to bypass the filling without waiting 30 minutes.

There is absolutely no excuse for such an unfriendly user experience.

Again, this is based entirely on the warranty terms along with any applicable laws. While Formlabs’s warranty does entitle them to replace with either a new or refurbished product or parts for valid warranty claims, no reasonable customer would expect such a company to offer to replace a brand new, defective product with a refurbished one.

Because the commercial value of a refurbished product is almost always less than that of a new product, offering to replace the more valuable New product with a less valuable Refurbished one immediately upon receipt of a defective New product could be tantamount to fraud. The only defense to this would be the temporary issuance of a Refurbished product if New product inventory is not immediately available, with the option to replace the Refurbished product with a New product at a later date.

Who decides if something is offensive? “Is there not a difference between someone finding something offensive and something actually being offensive?”

The cartoon image depicted a man with a threatening appearance wielding a whip in one hand and a briefcase labeled “Sales” in the other, with the caption “Buy More Resin!” as a Formlabs user looks discouragingly at a Form 3 machine with the caption “Waiting…” on the machine’s display and an empty cartridge in hand. The illustration was intended to represent the artist’s interpretation that forcing users to wait 30 minutes before allowing them to bypass resin fill warnings was likely influenced by Formlabs’s sales team as an attempt to have customers “Buy More Resin!”

The illustration was originally published to this forum, where it remained without controversy for several months, and with only positive comments by other users, until shortly after the interaction between myself and an easily offended Formlabs employee.

As you have not read the entirely of the interaction or examined all the evidence, I can only reiterate that the behavior of this Formlabs employee was unprofessional. Following the emails, a different Formlabs employee phoned me to express her agreement that the warnings I received were an inappropriate reaction and that the matter would be addressed internally to ensure it does not happen again.

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This pretty closely mirror my experience…

The LFSLA LPU tech that FormLabs use in their Form3 series is cool, but it’s so much more complex, slower, louder, clunkier, and prone to failure or issuse than monochrome LCD MSLA. At the time of devleopment, it was about the only way to get good resolution at the scale of the Form3L, but now there are 8K monochrome LCDs on printers like the Phrozen Sonic Mega 8K which offer 22um precision (25um on the 3L) with pretty much the same build volume, and without the seemingly unavoidable seam-line of the dual LPU system.

The cartridge system and auto top-up is a cool feature, but restricts you to using FormLabs resin which is a lot more expensive than the competition, and has less variety than the sum of every other resin manufacturer. And in almost half the cartridges I’ve seen, the bite valve hasn’t been properly cut and the slit had to be cut manually with a stanley knife to be able to use them. Several cartridges have arrived with mysterious leaks, one of which leaked through the internal plastic bag because it hadn’t been sealed properly, leaked through the cardbboard storage box, and soaked into the packing box.

Support seem to prefer to deny that you have any issue than actually try to debug anything, and because the Form 3-series machines aren’t sold in the volume of a lot of other printers and use such a unique printing style, the distributors’ support is limited due to lack of knowledge. And because of the complexity of the system, and the number of points where something could go wrong, determining the cause of a failure can be complex and challenging. And sometimes error codes mean almost nothing. I recently had a Form 3L throw an error which turned out to be an internal formware error, and not a hardware issue. Because FormLabs don’t publish anything about error codes, I had to contact support who took several days to get back to me, during which time I put off using the printer in case there was a serious hardware fault.

When something goes wrong with an FDM or MSLA machine, it can be easily identified and easily rectified. If the local distributors are out of my preferred consumable, I have the freedom to use a different brand to get me through, and my preferred consumable need not be by the same manufacturer as the printer.

But what annoyed me the most are the anti-consumer anti-competitive measures they’ve taken of microchipping everything and locking the user out of the settings so they can’t use any third party accessories or resins, and the fact that they don’t really mention in any advertising or documentation!

FormLabs engineers clearly put a lot of effort into optimising the LFSLA system, and it’s a really cool idea to gradually peel the film off rather than pulling all at once. But this resulted in an overly complicated, bloated system of lead screws with glued toether plastic tank assemblies which are frankly way more expensive than they should be, and have to be thrown away when the film goes bad. Compare this to MSLA with only a single mechanical axis, and machined aluminium tanks (vats) with replaceable film held on with stailess steel brackets and some bolts.

“Possibly the most common error of a smart engineer is to optimize a thing that should not exist.”
-Elon Musk

I had pre-ordered a pair of those, but actually just canceled them as most of the early users are complaining about the speed being very slow for an MSLA (e.g. 2 hrs to print a file that runs in 20 mins on smaller mono MSLA’s). There was a popular video review that implied it’s because it takes longer to peel a larger area, which is true to an extent, but it turns out the actual bottleneck is the cooldown period of the UV lamps. If you parse through their Facebook user group folks have jacked up the speed settings to reduce that (one guy got theirs printing 50% faster), and I imagine Phrozen will tweak defaults as they get more real-world data, but presumably there’s a component lifespan tradeoff doing so.

I’ve seen some gorgeous prints from users and it’s obviously way cheaper, just saying speed isn’t quite as rosy as expected. I imagine the market will see more large-format, mono 8k products very soon which will solve that (and hopefully with a less-messy, chamfered instead of perforated build platform). I empathize with most everything else you said.

It’s not as good as a lot of smaller MSLA printers, but in my experince it’s still much faster than the 3L. It’s also not as loud due to fewer actuators (unfortunately FormLabs seem to have gone with cheap stepper drivers rather than silent TMC stepper drivers). And it doesn’t have that god-awful seam line which essentially changes the 3L from a 300x200 printer to a much less useful pair of 300x100 printers back to back. And in my experience, MSLA printer have hardware or print failures far less often than the frankly over complicated Form 3-series printers.

The only benefit I can see from the Form 3 and 3L over their competition is that they have built-in heaters and automatic resin topup, but these things are really simple to retrofit :man_shrugging: It’s simply not worth the 10x price increase, lowered reliability, lowered print quality, and significantly increased down time due to how long every diagnosis and repair takes.