Newbie Looking to estimate maintenance and consumable cost of Form2 or Form3


#1

I am a freelance designer making small figurines / capsule toy design.
I also design model kits like the BANDAI Gundam ones.

For work i just send off my design to industrial printers or third party model makers for finishing.
At home I have an FDM printer, would mostly scale up my design so they could print well.
I use an ultimaker 3 printer, I love it because I can almost print and forget, without much issues.

Now I am moving on hoping to get into the business more seriously with resin printing.
So I was pondering on buying myself a Form 2 or Form 3.
While I am also looking into other brands of course, like some other LCD or DLP printers.
However I will need to know a ballpark of the overall cost to see if I can really afford it.

I am only familiar with FDM so far, Resin printing requires post-processing.
I know there will be maintenance costs, and regular consumables.

What would u say that i am making small figurines, printing 24/7 non stop, how much would it cost for the maintenance and consumable per month or per year?

1. I am guessing the tank needs changing once and a while, but how long would it last generally?
2. What about the build platform, how often you guys have to change it?
3. Are third party resin popular in Asia (I am from Taiwan) that works okay with cheaper cost?
4. What about post-processing with IPA, I know it is reusable but how often you change it?
5. small figurines, printing 24/7 non stop, will a liter of resin last me a month? (On an FDM Printer I roughly use 1KG - 1.5KG of spool filament per month, 24/7 nonstop)
6. How long until the laser parts reached it’s end of lifespan that inevitably requires replacement?(I heard LCD or Laser parts will need to be replaced from time to time on some printers)
7. Will the maintenance and consumable cost differ on form 2 and form 3?

I am saving up money for this and have to ballpark if I am financially up for this.
I hope this isn’t too stupid a question, I really need to know what I am diving into.
I rather have a reliable machine with a foreseeable regular cost that I know I have to prepare for.


#2
  • Yes, the tank is a consumable, and will require changing. How long it lasts depends on the resin you use. Some of the more exotic resins wear the tank out faster. The LT tank is supposed to last a lot longer than the original PDMS tanks, they said up to 10 times longer. The reality is they last about twice, maybe three times as long. So that means about 5-7 litters of standard resin.
  • The build platform will almost never require replacing, unless something goes wrong with it.
  • Yes there are some 3rd party resins that are popular like the ApplyLabWorks, but in the Form2 they require that you use Open Mode to print. The cost is usually less than half the cost of FormLabs. Currently the Form 3 doesn’t have an OpenMode, so you can’t really use 3rd party resins.
  • the IPA is not really re-usable. The uncured resin will mix in with the IPA t the point of the IPA becoming “greasy” and unusable over time.
  • It depends on how large you models are, and also how much support will be needed. I print small figurines (28mm gaming figures like Warhammer 40,000), and I certainly don’t print 24/7, more like 6-8 hours per day 4-5 days a week, and a liter of resin lasts about 3 weeks at most.
  • It depends, on how much you print, but usually 2-3 years under normal use. For someone doing 24/7, I’d say less than 2 years. You will not be able to buy replacement parts like the laser for your printer, because FormLabs doesn’t want to sell them to the end users. They will charge you to repair your printer, assuming they still have the parts.
  • I’m sure maintenance will differ, but consumables are roughly the same price.

If you are concerned about costs, and the models you’re printing are relatively small, and you can’t recover your costs by selling your models, then I can’t recommend a FormLabs.

I own a Form 1+ which I bought used at a time when FormLabs were pretty much the only choice if you wanted a good quality printer and good output. Since then a lot of other companies have jumped on the SLA band wagon with both laser SLA printers (MOAI, XYZ Nobel), and a plethora of MSLA (LCD) printer like the Photon, Elgoo, Sparkmaker, Wanhao, etc). Some of these printers are pretty good. They don’t have all the fancy features the FormLabs do, but they do the job, and do it well.

I recently bought an Anycubic Photon, and have been using it daily for the past 2 months and I love it. The quality of prints is as good as anything I got from my FormLabs printer, and the consumables are less that 25% the cost of FormLabs’s. Additionally, if I need replacement parts, they are easily available, or better yet, just buy another one, as the cost of the Photon printer (<$300) is <1/10th the cost of the FormLabs ($3500)

So my advice is this. If you’re doing this for a business, and can justify the costs of the printer, consumables and repairs, then by all means buy a FormLabs printer . If, on the other hand you’re doing this for a hobby, are not going t make money from your printer on a regular basis, and do not have a lot of money to start with, then printer like the Photon are the better solution.


#3

Thanks for the detail rely.
I am more concern about the running cost of the machine(consumable and repairs) than the installation cost, this is why I am writing to seek advises from experienced users like you and this is helpful.

so to be safe, if I am a heavy user printing small things I am about to account for:

  • 2 Liters of resins per month
  • changing tanks every 2-3 months at worst
  • IPA will be a cost but it’s rather cheap I guess
  • plus a fingernail curing machine if sunlight isn’t enough
  • and this should last me for about 2 years

the above look like a reasonable estimation in your opinion?

I also read from news that Form3 will allow third party resin if using some sort of “universal cartridge” in close mode?
It is also said that the form 3 came with tech that prolongs the life time of a tank, and replaceable Optical module can be swapped when it met its life span.
But I am yet to hear from users talking about that.

On a side note, I am also looking into Photon S, as a back up or to begin with before I consider buying a Form2/Form3. Since you already got one I would like to hear from you on how promising the Anycubic machine really is. The only thing that really bugs me is that, I have my concerns on the slicing software that came with Photon or other brands.

Although I only have experience ranting 3rd party printing services for print, but the formlabs Preform really is amazing and I only have to slice, print and forget. I have tried Anycubic’s ChiTu based slicing software some time ago, it’s a headache and auto-support generation isn’t reliable. I have the opportunity to look into the code base of the ChiTu software, it is a mess and it has doggy internet data transaction from a programmer’s perspective… which bugs me to speculate if this software is going to have a bright future. I am also hearing people uses Zotrax slicer on Photon with better user experience. What’s your take on this?


#4

Your figures seem ambitious.

You can only use the print 24/7 if you can arrange the builds so that they can run continuously overnight. This probably means having one long build overnight and shorter ones during the day.

You will need short builds for prototyping new pieces.

Builds take longer when the cartridge is less than a quarter full.

With builds of 60-80ml I can use a litre of resin a week.

I suggest you use Preform to produce builds of your products to give you an idea of typical resin usage and build times for your work flows. Though Preform will underestimate the build times significantly if you can’t upload the file to a printer.


#5

To add to what Bill said, we don’t yet know how long the new tanks will last, and we really don’t have any data on the replaceable LPU (Laser module), since the Form 3 is so new, nor do we know the costs to replace it.

Regarding the Photon. It comes with a few slicers, it’s own Photon Slicer, Sli3r for SLA which is rebranded from Prusa, and ChiTu Box. I do like Slic3r, and it’s easy to use, but while I did like it a lot for FDM printers, it’s not as flexible for resin printers.

On the other hand ChiTu Box, works well without any tweaks for the Photon, it’s easy to use (fairly automated, AND it has a lot of options you can tweak to improve the printability. In fact I now use it to generate the supports for most of the models I print, including the ones I print on the Form 1+ Printer. I can generate the supports, then save the model with supports as an STL, and print it directly on the Form 1+.

The reason I became “disenchanted” with the Preform, was the way it egenrated support. While it works perfectly fine on larger models, I found that when I got into the small miniatures, the support was oversized, the vertical and diagonal branches are too thick, even though the contact points were small. In many cases, the support branches were placed so close the model that they fused to the sides and that required a lot of cleanup and ruined the surface.

With ChiTu, I can tell the software what the minimum clearance needs to be, and I can also manually move the support away from the body, and even move the contact point. As for “internet data transaction”, I’m not familiar with that function, as I simply save the photon file to a thumb drive, put that in the printer and print, so there’s not wireless printing or anything like that.

Personally I think the ChiTu box has a pretty good future. It’s being updated periodically and it’s being used by a lot of printer users. As for Zotrax, I never even heard of it until you mentioned it.


#6

I just took a look at Zortrax and these guys are selling an MSLA Printer (Inkspire) that’s virtually identical to the Elgoo Mars. The Elgoo Mars is <$300, the Zortrax is > $2000.

I’m sure that many people fell for their specs, which which are written in such a manner as to make the printer sound like it’s so much better than anythig else out there (spec wise). For example they use sentences like this:

  • Zortrax Inkspire is made for all applications where superior precision is of paramount importance. The human eye can’t see individual pixels when the image has more than 336 pixels per inch. Pixel density in models 3D printed on the Inkspire exceeds this value regardless of the viewing angle.

Then they state the resolution in terms of pixel/dot size:

  • Surgical precision
  • The XY resolution is 50x50 microns with minimal layer height of only 25 microns.

The reality is that their printer specs are no different that the Photon or the Elgoo. Any printer with a 5.5~6" screen and 2560 x 1440 resolution will have a pixel size of 47~50 microns.

Then they tout the speed which is between 20-36mm/hour. There is no specification as to the layer height, so I downloaded their software and did a comparison using the same model between ChiTu Box and Zortrax, and at 0.05mm.

The model is 101.669mm tall or 2033 layers. The resulting slice at 0.05mm from ChiTu will take 9:43 hours to print, the Zortrax was 10:45 hours, 1 hour longer, so it’s not even as fast as my Photon.

Which means their 20~36mm/hour statement is based on printing at 0.1mm, rather than 0.05 which is the typical resolution for these printers.

So what makes these guys think they can charge 700% more for their printer?


#7

"So what makes these guys think they can charge 700% more for their printer?"

Arrogance. I bought their M200 FDM printer several years ago when it was 1st released after the Kickstarter and it’s produced some very nice prints, but the company had a very authoritarian attitude at the beginning. For example, their ZSuite slicer is proprietary and produced encrypted printer control code that is not usable on anybody else’s product, but you have to type in your printer serial number to download and install the registered version that you download. It’s one reason that I won’t buy another Zortrax product. Their generally much higher price than the competition is another reason.


#8

I was able to download the software without a printer serial number, you can enter your email address instead.

But you’re right, it saves and exports to a proprietary format, which isn’t usable on other printers, nor can you export the positioned and supported model either. Another thing I noticed is that it generates way too many supports (in default mode).


#9

Update:
After saving the proprietary files (.zcodex and .zproject), I tried to see what they are, and both a re zip files.

The project file contains a single large file that looks to be encrypted. The codex file, which is the print file itself contains a few data files and a folder which contains all the PNG files for all the exposure layers.

image


#10

I think you need to change the question a bit, and focus on the revenue side. You don’t have a hardware problem. You have a business problem.

If you’re so focused the consumables cost of a model, you’re not charging enough to have a business.

With FL, you’re paying for production; goods out the door, through a shrink wrapped, tested environment. Less time trouble shooting, readily available support, all equal more salable production, This commands a premium over other hardware, which is more self service. SLA is still early stage, and it’s easy to get subsumed in production issues, so it’s likely your time vs. your money.

If you’re unsure of your market to the extent you’re worried about consumable and operating expenses, you should probably stay with a cheaper machine (assuming you can get sufficient quality), and build your business to the point where your current concerns fall away.

If it were me, I’d spend the money on sales and marketing, getting by with a lesser device until your problem is fulfilling demand, and you need an upgrade.

If your concern is keeping up with demand, FL is a rational choice. If you want to focus on designing models, and selling, and want to spend less time fussing with production variables, FL.

You can always buy a cheap machine, and when you outgrow it, go with FL, while in the mean time, you’ll have more funds available to build the business itself.

Good luck!


#11

That’s a great reply, however, I would add the following:

Take a look at the prints you make, and try to figure out if you need a Form 2/3 printer in order to print them (size of model would be paramount). Then look at the smaller cheaper machines. Can they produce the same model as the Form printer?

If they can, then then look at it in these terms, you can buy a mini farm of printers (8-10) for the price of 1x Form 3, and have them printing “24/7”. Then once the business builds up, like Rob suggested, you can add a Form printer and use it for those specialty jobs that can’t be done on the smaller cheaper printers.


#12

thanks.
I was looking at FL over other brands because I really love their slicer.
I got limited access to a Form2 and other brands of resin printers at work, and the slicing experience on Preform is just unmatched by others. But it could be me not being very experienced at handling supports manually.

I hv experienced starting with a cheap kossel delta FDM printer until I came to a point where I can afford an Unltimaker3. The bliss of having a good printer and good slicer and without having to worry about the print save me lots of lots of time focusing in designing models. I pretty much just send print and done.

My work requires me to make tiny adjustment to my design in batches, sometimes it is tedious to tinker with printing in a resin printer. And i am reckon having my own resin printer would save me time from waiting it printed from a third party.

I would probably start with a cheaper resin printer first just to see if i am okay to move forward. and thanks.


#13

Thanks for the advice.

I was thinking about having a cheaper printer first, but it also occur to me that if i purchase Formlabs later, the resins are not inter-changeable and it could be messy.

That is unless the cheaper printer i get is also of SLA(not DLP?) i guess?

My work currently is mainly to design gashapon/capsule toys so they are pretty small in size, volume isn’t my concern.

I did have access to several machines at work(school), we banned the use of chitubox due to IT security because we found dubious transaction online when the software runs. And the chitu software that comes with anycubic we only allow use on standalone PCs without internet connections, until i think recently the software must require internet connection to run so it’s kind of a headache and staff here kind of deserted the machine. The software might have improved and changed that, though. Formlabs is really a big brand here and a go-to for people here(Japan), so it felt like it has all the glory and i hv met no problem with Preform so far, but there are also chances that staff or third party services might hv helped me redo the supports and slicing without me knowing it. I am eyeing Photon S, and the slicing software was kind of the only thing i worried about because of the problem we have using it at school. I am also looking at Peoply Moai by the way, and students seemed to speaks highly of its asura slicer. Still pondering which to choose but thanks for all the comments.


#14

Moai have great cominity and when set up good is a great machine. The dailing in is a PITA.
For beginig cheap lcd printer is better choice