PREFORM - printability feature, overcompensation on support columns

I’ve always liked the software, it’s simple (to use), intuitive and powerful.
However some of the most recent updates have added “features” that are more than questionable.
PRINTABILITY feature…WOW! have the guys over at Formlabs gotten that one sideways!

First -
the software is already powerful enough to show everyone whenever more support is needed, making the printability feature obsolete.

Second -
If one is just starting out or doesn’t care about the core problem (proper rotation/orientation) the default setting is good to have. Just by default alone the program will add so much support it’ll be way beyond the “Safety Zone”.
So much the printability feature will be happy with the result, making it - obsolete.

Third -
talking about my own stash of models and parts, which have been built successfully with even the Form 1+, when loading those into the latest versions of Preform they all - without any exception - will fail according to the new printability feature. I had to redo 2 older parts. Loading them into the updated preform software they lit up like there was no tomorrow using the printability check.
In short they would be a complete failure if I didn’t add more support columns - I mean much more support columns…!?
Needless to say the parts came out perfectly fine as they should with their original setting.
What is the idea behind this printability feature?
It seems to promote maximum amount of support, which causes maximum waste of resin, use of tank and all consumables while adding more building time…I doubt that’s what Formlabs wants to promote here.

Whoever cares about surface quality, speed and the most efficient way of using consumables eventually won’t be using default anymore and for sure not this feature as a guide. Which again makes it - obsolete.

In general Preform tends to overcompensate on support columns but it seems more so with the newer, updated versions of Preform.
We need to push the software into the right direction not going off into space. Of course support columns are a necessity but not the ultimate cure for failed parts. The guys over at Formlabs have the experience and should know where to go with their already good software. Instead of keep adding support columns we need to go less support columns while maintaining dependability and repeatability of parts. Using the machine and all consumables much more efficiently should be the goal not the other way around. Also keeping this software simple and powerful is one of its great appeals. Keep adding more features that are a mere redundancy for sure doesn’t help.
Here are some examples:

Thanks for the feedback - striking a balance between advanced capabilities for our power users and ease of use for less experienced users is one of the core focuses of our team.

Safety features like the printability check and support shading are designed to be overly conservative in some cases so that users can be confident in a reliable print. This is engineered into other parts of the machine like the ‘cartridge is low’ message which is designed to be as conservative as possible when predicting if there’s enough resin to complete a print.

As you’ve noticed, these features do sometimes go well beyond what’s necessary for a successful print. We’re continuing to iterate on the model preparation algorithms to reduce the number of support structures and improve cleanup for all of our users. Power users with printing experience do have an edge as far as preparing models to reduce cleanup goes. We’re continuing to improve the algorithms such that new users can both be confident in a successful print and enjoy the ease of printing and cleanup that some of our power users are able to achieve. I’ve made sure to forward your comments to our software team.

Hi Frew,
that’s perfectly understood as I said above, the system has everything in place for these cases.
Preform seemed to have been in a better spot, 3 to 4 updates ago. We had some problems there as well like points not attaching to the model, ending up somewhere in mid air, which was surprising as it never had happened before. However I can definitely understand something like that happening as stuff (code) is being added to the program constantly and to keep everything in check is not easy, so yes little “hiccups” do happen.
An addition like printability however does not help in any way it’s unnecessary weight to the program. Of course the shading is great - always has been and is necessary, that’s all we need here.

People who use the default setting are not running into the “non-printable” problem anyway as the software has that covered quite well by now.

I did outline all that above.

Essentially with all the experience it should be the goal to become more efficient and faster not the opposite way, part of that is keeping the program “lightweight”.

Additions to this otherwise great program should be kept and made in a way that they are not just extra weight.

I also understand that there are countless different parts and needs etc. and to cover all that is practically impossible. But things can be confined within certain areas.

Here is what I would envision:

Let’s say one opens preform, 2 options come up first; FORM 2 and FUSE 1, once the correct machine is selected (just as an example) 4 options come up - DENTISTRY, MODEL/ PART BUILDING, SPECIALTY MATERIALS (Rubber, Ceramics, Wax), PCB BOARDS, then the user can click on the appropriate selection and preform opens up - same look but with more useful values for each application in the sub-menus.

As an Example; give the user 4 modes, like Default setting (as we have now), Settings for thin walled parts up to …lets say 3mm, then settings for Hollow parts where one can add release holes and make a model hollow (for example) and settings for solid parts.

Within all those categories we still have the same useful stuff as we have now, since everything is based on those values to begin with.

This would make the software a much bigger production system.

People might become annoyed with the pre-selection screens if they only have one machine, in that case the software can be set to a default or even custom setting, which either gets them straight into the Form 2 window (as it is now) or to the Fuse 1 window. So nothing would change for those people, they simply would go about it as always.

Adding custom settings might not be bad in general. So people can choose what they want in their Preform setup. Some don’t need anything else but the hit and go button, others might want to keep certain features like support generation but don’t care for manual settings(custom settings), etc. Basically being able to disconnect certain “modules” in a preference setting, to keep the program as lightweight as possible for one’s own needs. Some of course don’t care either way and they just keep the program as it comes.

Something completely different, talking Fuse 1 - do you guys have a surface-smoothing system in mind as well? As the SLS parts tend to have a “sandpaper” like surface. Typically tumbler-systems are being used to take care of that - is there anything like that you guys are working on?

SLS is the far superior technology but the surface smoothness and detail size won’t match that of an SLA machine. So this is a nice step you guys are making!

Thanks for the suggestions - our team is always looking for user feedback. It does seem that the printability feature can be somewhat counter-intuitive in that new users are unlikely to find themselves needing it and power users are likely to be more knowledgeable regarding which setups are printable.

As we expand our material and machine libraries, it might make sense to create hierarchical menus like you’ve described. I’m sure time will tell! We’ll keep your suggestions in mind going forwards.

A surface smoothing system might be something we pursue in the future and we’ll be releasing guides for the Fuse 1 that detail best practices and post-processing steps.