The simple thing Formlabs could do to make a lot of customers happier (and stop me bitching)

Sell replacement laser modules, paired galvo+breakout-pcbs, and mirrors (and maybe the stepper motors too - but I suspect they don’t fail much)  on the Formlabs store.

It’s that easy; in one fell swoop a large chunk of your customer base will suddenly lose their anxiety over the brief warranty - and you’ll have a new revenue stream.

You could put the components behind any number of “at your own risk” warnings - or even sell them under a separate brand on a different site, however you want to spin it

As a business idea… I don’t think that’s a very good one and it will never happen. I think when/if such failures happen, I’m confident Form Labs will offer you and anyone who has a Form1, regardless of the warranty, a solution to have you up and running again. So if your laser fails, they may have you ship the machine back to be repaired for a cost, or sell you the part then to do it yourself. But putting the parts in a store and advertise them as consumables is a bad marketing/business move. I don’t see them doing that ever.

I’m also doubtful it will happen - as for it being a bad business idea - have a look at Makerbot, they sell stepper motors and other technical pieces in a “repair” section on their store. Even apple itself has a lively parts after-market for iphone components. I’ve replaced the a screen in a friends phone for example after it cracked.

As for your sublime confidence that Formlabs will just work it out if/when my laser or galvo fails - I don’t know what evidence you’re basing that on. Yes support have made some vague comments in the forums here about - “we stand behind out product”, and “no guarantees - but even if you’re out of warranty we may be able to help you”.

But there’s no hard evidence or explanation of what they will do in that circumstance - and it’s abundantly clear that the laser and galvo failure rate is alarmingly high. So until Formlabs come out with a concrete explanation of what they can do for machines outside of warranty with failed lasers or galvos - that doesn’t involve paying and waiting for a round trip courier of the entire Form1 - I will remain very anxious about my machine.

Up until their latest models Makerbot was pretty much a seller of nice customized repraps and mendels.  It was based off of a DIY market so making their products DIY reparable makes sense.  Apple doesn’t sell any of its parts to anyone.  All of those replacement screens and hardware kits are straight from China, probably out of the back of the same factories making iPhones.  It you go to an Apple store and show them a problem they will kindly take your phone, walk into the back, and either return with your fixed phone or give you a new one.  Similarly it voids your warranty if you fix your phone yourself.  Its pretty much what happens with all electronics now-a-days.  Verizon/AT&T/whatever doesn’t fix your phone if its broken within warranty. They take your phone and give you a brand new one.

The hard evidence that Form Labs will work something out for repairs is that they want to stay in business.  If reports started coming out that the machine only had an apparent 3 month shelf life (or guaranteed working period) and no factory support for repairs people wouldn’t buy it.  They would go from a growing 3D Printing company, to zilch.

I agree, Dylan. Also, it’s too soon to tell what they will do. So far, from what I see on the forum, and from my own experiences with the printers and how they handled the support, we have nothing to worry about.

Dylan - my point was simply that even apple can’t make products that are invincible, and there is a very significant market for spare parts. My friends phone was out of warranty - so apple was no use to her. I used the phrase “after-market” which of course means not sold by apple themselves.

Your experience thus far it seems has been flawless, mine has been far from that. Let me catalogue the issues I’ve had with my 2 form1s - then stop an think for a moment. One customers experience is flawless, and another customers experience is a catalogue of failures. Flawless customer thinks Formlabs is doing a fantastic job and wont hear anything to the contrary - Catalogue of Failures customer thinks Formlabs needs to do better, engage with its customers; make replacement parts available, and publicly document how to maintain it.

Now - logic 101; which customers point of view is more valid? At what percentage of customers experiencing issues like mine would you start to be critical of Formlabs yourself? 1 in 100? 1 in 10? 1 in 5?  given your happy experience so far - what is your intuition of what the Form1 failure rate is? Do you think that perhaps your experience might be colouring your view? Certainly I know mine is - but I would say my intuition about Form1 failure rates is more accurate.

Issues with my Form1s:


  • Inaccurate to ~3% in the x-axis, 30mm parts were printing at 29.04 mm across, 80mm parts at under 78mm

  • laser broke after about 2.5 litres printing and started shining like a spotlight

ObtainableLamb - out of the box issues…

- Very significant shipping damage, case around power plug was bent to the point machine could not be plugged in - not wanting to wait for yet another replacement I bent case back in place with a spanner, damage proved to be to the external case only.

  • Inaccurate x-axis galvo - but “only” ~1.5%, 30mm parts printing at 30.35mm, 80mm parts at 81.16mm - told by formlabs this was within expected tolerances - fixed myself.

  • Wobbly build platform - once I started printing parts beyond flat 80mm and 120mm test slices, everything was horrible failures with bent supports, completely missing supports, and congealed messes. Only when I noticed the build platform visibly tilting during peel did I figure it out - again fixed it myself. See my thread on the subject.

  • Incorrectly levelled resin tank frame - part bases specified at 2mm were printing at about 0.4mm which also caused failures on larger parts, and flaking into the resin tank from the base as cured resin was squeezed out under pressure. Again I fixed it myself having figured out how to level the resin tank frame springs to match an individual form1. 2mm bases are now printing at about 1.5mm 1.6mm and flaking is almost gone. How to level your resin tank frame will be the subject of another thread soonish.

So - my replacement machine, the machine that came from their service floor - supposedly checked and vetted; out of the box it had 4 serious issues - 3 of which would have dictated a return to Formlabs - and the remaining of which Formlabs declined to fix.

Perhaps you can begin to understand why I think its sensible to take an active role in my machines maintenance, and why I think Formlabs - who keep protesting that “they are only a small company” should take their head out the apple cloud and start behaving like one.


I can certainly understand your frustration, but I do believe they will stand behind their product especially with the Kickstarters and pre-orders.  The reason I say that is I just got finished shipping back my second printer and my third is on the way.  I know that my warranty was up for even the second one they sent me and they didn’t even ask about it.  This fact alone leads me to believe they understand their printer is still in a beta stage.  This is a lot better than other companies I’ve dealt with and helps calm my concerns about the short warranty.

As for them selling you parts directly, they may eventually do it, but I think they need to have you send the printer back so they can understand the failures.  You can only understand so much in a controlled environment.  They needed people to use them (and for them to break) so they could see what they needed to change. Not everything that is going to go wrong will show up in the lab while you are testing a new product. I’ve already seen changes in their packaging and I’m sure they have been making changes to other things we can’t see or compare.

It’s just my two cents worth, but at least they seem to know that they don’t know in some cases.  It’s better than them thinking they know when they don’t.

Kevin, I understand your frustration. I have had my share of success and failures. With that I can say that I believe FL will stand behind their product. I am not going to explain why I feel this way as it really only can reflect why I feel this way. Looking at the machine, most if not all the electronics, stepper motors, etc are available on the internet. One just needs to source the exact part. Obviously the plastics, PCB’s and sheet metal assemblies will not be available from anyone but FL. So to compare Apple’s 3rd party part availability I see the components available for the Form 1 from somewhere. One would just need to find them in a Digikey, MCMaster, etc’s catalogue. I am not saying that they get the components from them or that they will have a direct replacement part but for arguments sake, parts are available. I understand why you fixed your second machine but looking at the history, I believe you should have let FL make things right and replace the machine due to shipping damage. Since FL has yet to document the precision one can expect we have to accept what they say or void our warranty and try to adjust it ourselves if one is willing to assume that risk. At this point in time, I am not willing to assume that risk. To each his own. David

@David - my main concern at this point is the Galvos. The laser is tricky but not impossible - it’s a 4 wire module - with a custom Formlabs branded PCB (see pics on the wiki) I have yet to find a 120mw 405nm 4 wire module (not that I really know what I’m looking for, I only know 120mw because that’s what Etienne said)- but I’m guessing that laser failures probably mainly come down to the diode - and in the end at the last resort I expect it will be possible to source a replacement diode and just solder it in.

The galvos on the other hand I’m worried about - I now strongly suspect that the daughter-boards that they are attached to, with their 3 glued trimpots are “tuned in the rough” as it were and the final unglued trim-pot is only for “fine” adjustment.

So my concern is that it won’t be possible to just drop in a replacement galvo even if the exact part is located - that we need a galvo paired with its configured daughter-board.


The laser is easy.  You are not going to find the assembly from anyone besides FL.  They made it.  On the other hand, diodes are available from Digikey, I looked it up before I posted previously.  I obviously have no idea if it is the same one FL is using but saying parts are not available is not exactly true.  Components are available, assemblies they make are not.  I assume the galvos are a similar issue with 1 huge issue.  I believe one must calibrate the machine if a galvo is replaced.  I highly doubt they would be a simple swap.  That is why the pots are glued in place.  This is why I believe one will void the warranty if they are touched.  In my past I have had to void warranties on different products due to someone messing around.  Usually end-users make things worse when trying to fix something.  For me, If my machine breaks, I am going to leave it up to FL to repair/replace it.  I have had dealings with Makerbot and all those parts that are available on the website.  I will never do that again and yes, I am more then qualified to have done the work.

David - so didn’t you just repeat what I said? “laser is doable, galvo probably not” - and that was the trigger for this post, since I’ve seen a lot galvo failures posted here - the latest from Vince.

Hi Kevin

I believe Formlabs will be and is actively looking to set up a European distributor/ service network possibly even somewhere close to you?  I can envision a module swap out to simplify maintenance, with a module including the complete optics frame with the laser and galvo’s and matched (calibrated) PCB’s. The Form1 while it is a quality machine it is also a value engineered unit and I believe critical components are at their manufactures limits and beyond. When components are pushed like I believe they are their useful live expectancy is lessened. Shipping whole Form1 machines across the pond and around the world for servicing is not an option.

Well, it seems the verdict is in - I am officially out on a limb.

No-one shares my concern that international customers will have to ship back to the US when a galvo fails, that’s assuming a service program will happen.

Time will tell I guess - in the meantime I really, really hope my galvos don’t break.

Kevin Holmes in reference to the Incorrectly leveled resin tank. There is a way in the software to fix at least part of that run preform with the -diagnostic switch from the command line. Then under the Diagnostic menu select Z Offset. This can adjust the starting Z position ±1mm in 0.1mm increments. So if you want to adjust that 1.5mm - 1.6mm base to actually be 2mm that ought to get you the rest of the way there. However the design they seem to be going for is excessive slop in this base area. I’ve recently been informed by them that they intentionally angle the plate and the

As for your shipping concerns I understand them. I think Formlabs intent is good and they are trying to move towards better ways of providing support but they have a way to go yet. But they are a young company and they still need to mature in some areas.

To be clear Kevin, I do understand your worry about shipping internationally twice for every service.  That really does suck.  I hope Form Labs does set up something in Europe to help the international backers with repairs and service.  But I do have every faith that Form Labs will do everything they can to keep the Form 1’s already out in the world, working.

As far as the galvos go, I don’t think anyone outside of Form Labs has any idea if its the galvos going “bad”.  Vince’s post seemed to indicate it was somehow software related (directly after a firmware update) and you yourself noted here that the galvos are paired to calibrated daughter boards (possibly final calibration through software?).  Form Labs has also mentioned numerous times on the forums that they are working hard on something to improve the accuracy of all of the Form 1’s.  Unless this means recalling all the Form 1’s in the field, I’m thinking it may be PreForm scaling or galvo calibration.  Total speculation on my part, but the framework is there.

I want to chime in, as this is an interesting and important discussion for us. I don’t want to wade into the details, here, but I do want to say to Kevin, and everyone else, that we’re absolutely committed to making sure our customers – in particular our earliest customers – are happy.

I know there are different ways to that end, and we certainly appreciate and consider all feedback to do that better (we’ve had a number of internal discussions about the feasibility of replacing various components in the field), but I do want to re-affirm that we stand behind the Form 1 and our service.

That’s good to hear Sam! Also, it was very nice meeting you in person at the 3d Printer Expo in Burbank today. Out of all the printers I saw, and there were couple of SLA and DLP printers there, none of them came close to the quality the Form1 is capable of. Except maybe the Envisiontech. That thing outputs crazy perfect looking prints. But then again they are too expensive, and in a totally different price range. Maybe eventually form1 will be capable of getting close to that quality. That will make us all happy :wink: