Trying to decide between Solus and Form2

I am so close to finally making the purchase on a resin 3d printer. I started out wanting the form2 without doing any research but I came across one form pointing people to the solus.

In it they had a picture of a solus printed ring and a form2 printed ring. I thought the forum was a little biased so I wanted to see if I could get some pictures from you guys and your small detailed results using the form2.

If you’re curious, this was the forum/picture I found.

http://reify-3d.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=486

I suspect that they didn’t use the correct settings when they printed the ring on the form2. Does anyone have any pictures of similar rings printed on the form 2?

Thanks!

The resin colour in the picture is very wrong, formlabs resin have a very different blue. But this colour difference could be the camera.

I already did very detailed prints with very successful results (in print and cast), I don’t believe this comparison is real.

Thanks! Do you have any pictures?

I kind of thought that it seemed kind of biased by not listing the different settings they used or what resin they used in the print.

After using the form2, would you recommend it to others?

If it’s not the Formlabs resin then that can definitely be an issue. Also, castable is not the most high quality resin in terms of detail.
The other thing that is most noticeable there, is due to that the Form2 uses a laser–because of that, any part of a layer can not be thinner than the laser dot itself, so you can see that text does not look good and it’s most likely because it’s smaller than the laser itself.
The other thing–the Solus is a DLP printer, which means that you can get things that small by moving the projector closer to the build surface, that makes the pixels in the image much smaller. However, that also means that the print volume gets smaller if you want to get higher detail, so most likely they can’t print anything bigger than that ring at that quality. With the Form2, it has consistent quality at full volume. Also, in other cases it produces very high quality in the X/Y axis due to how it traces the layer with a laser rather than using pixels. Formlabs has a good article on the difference between the Form2 and other printers that use a DLP projector instead of a laser: https://formlabs.com/blog/3d-printing-technology-comparison-sla-dlp/
I’ve also noticed the Solus is not as well developed, their customer service doesn’t seem to know enough about 3D printing and the issues that arise. You also have to do some testing to figure out the best settings which is something you can avoid with the Form2.

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I’ve seen those 2 rings before; it’s not the greatest example of what a Form 2 can do. I don’t think the ring was cleaned thoroughly, but that’s only part of the story - there’s also the issue that for some reason the optimal resolution for the castable was selected as 50u layer height. For fine jewellery use this isn’t entirely helpful. As soon as I’m out of FL castable I’ll be looking at other options (WaxCast, BlueCast). In this case, there’s no good reason that text should not have printed more clearly as it’s well within the specifications of the design guide.

I went down a similar route; the Solus can give higher quality prints for small detail than the Form 2 but when you’re subsequently casting that detail it’s not necessarily the case that it will reproduce - if you go by Stuller’s recommendation to expect to lose 0.2mm of the surface in cleanup, then anything finer than that is going to be erased… You don’t have as big a build envelope with the Solus, you need a PC permanently tethered to it (although thankfully no longer running Creation Workshop) and the projector’s optical path is open to crud. The overall footprint of a Solus system is significantly larger than a Form 2 and it’s fractionally messier to work with that style of unit. IIRC, the projector needs to be modified to remove the UV filter to cure the more awkward resins which will reduce the lifespan of the micromirror array. Oh, the film layer they use for the vat is a lot longer lifed than PDMS so that cuts the consumables costs too.

Solus’ customer service looks to be pretty good; from what I’ve seen they’re very prepared to go above & beyond to sort out settings for resins and share them with other customers. They’ve been working in the 3d printing realm a while and are well aware of potential issues; this isn’t their first printer design.

BTW - if you weren’t already aware, I went the Form2 route instead of Solus.

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For what its worth @nrbelk

Send me any file you want and I will print it in whatever settings you want, and I can either post pictures or send you the part in the mail (hopefully US). I have the casting material if that is what you are primarily concerned with. Cheers!

-Kevin

PS Formlabs support is insanely good, and checking the forums is an excellent idea.

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There are some videos on Youtube and on Instagram that show you the print quality from the Solus.
Like this printing and casting ones.

But obviously coming to the formlabs forum and asking people’s opinion about another printer is a little counter-productive lol. What do you think they’re gonna say? Duh.

These posts are great, thank you!

@ESpy you’ve done a lot to help sway my decision towards form2.

@yoderkl , what do you mainly used the form2 for?

@JDragon - haha, I know. In a way its what I wanted because the forum I got the initial picture was a forum dedicated to the solus, so I waned form2 bias to counteract the solus bias. :slight_smile:

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I also evaluated the Form 2 and the Solus, as well as other DLP systems. My final decision came down to flexibility and build platform size. I am printing and directly casting from Formlabs Castable V2 resin in sterling silver, using ZBrush for more organic modeling. I’m also using it to make pendants for enameling.

I had also seen prints from the Solus, and even got a sample sent. Yes, it is very smooth, and yes, it looks good. The main issues for me were that the Solus requires a dedicated computer to drive the system and the software was not native on a Mac and that the DLP projector had to be purchased separately. I used to teach tech support for Apple and I know that anytime you have technology from multiple sources, finger-pointing becomes a big problem with anything goes wrong. I was not comfortable with such new technology and having to navigate a support mess that comes along with that type of situation.

My other issue with the Solus and other DLP printers was the build platform is VERY small due to the nature of the technology. The Solus has two different print resolutions, a 25XY and 41XY, and the print size is different for each. At the lower resolution, the print size is only about 3.15 inches x 1.77 inches (80x45mm). At the higher 25XY resolution, the print size is smaller, at 1.89 inches by 1.06 inches (48x27mm). Both of those modes can produce models 80mm tall.

This is the same for the AutoCAD Ember (about $8,000), and other printers that cater to jewelry designers. I think the Ember’s build capability is only 1.5" by 2.5". Sure, they are supposed to print a little faster, but with my Form I can print 20 pendants or rings in three to four hours or so. If you look at the B9 site, they claim that the Formlabs Form 2 takes 8 hours to print 5 models. It’s simply not true. Sure, if you print with the 25 micron setting, it could, but the castable version 2 resin is fine-tuned to print well at 50 microns, which is much faster.

And yeah, I was skeptical…“I’m buying this printer because it CAN print 25 microns so by-golly I’m going to use that feature!!” But the engineers have done a great job of fine-tuning the settings, and 50 micron prints on a Form 2 are MUCH better in most cases with the type of jewelry I make. I am impressed that Formlabs has the resources to continually make improvements, and each update seems to bring better functionality. When I started back in July, the supports in Preform had 0.40 mm contacts as the minimum. I had done some experimentation and was able to print with 0.23 mm contacts, and had given that feedback on the forum. In one of the next updates, they changed the setting in Preform, and it is now much smaller. I am making my own supports now so I have much more control for cleanup, but I like that the option is there for me to bypass the PreForm supports feature if I want to.

I’ve gotten good results, but can tell you it can depend on the layout. If I printed the ring in the photo standing straight up, it might give that result. But if I’ve run into that kind of issue, angling the ring usually addresses the issue. I have also slightly altered designs to accommodate the technology…for example, in a pendant I made, not leaving the background with raised lettering smooth, instead adding a “pebbly” background. The “i love you so much” pendant was printed vertically (the right side of the pendant opposite of the jump ring was down and attached to the sprue), which makes the text nice and clean. It also uses minimal supports. But nice to have that immediate feedback and understand what works best (on that pendant, the text is supposed to look hand-drawn…it’s graffiti on a wall).

I have also figured out that when I photograph my castable models, blown up they don’t look as smooth as they do in real life. I would suggest looking at a sample of the Castable V2 resin (opaque blue instead of transparent) in person to make that call.

I did have a little learning curve in the beginning but the technology was solid. I’ve also found the forum to be a helpful and supportive place that really saves me time because if I have questions, others are ready to help. I’m casting my own pieces, and even had questions about casting to which others generously offered their expertise.

I also use my Form for creating other things…for example, last week I created frames with sprues for making ICE RTV molds. They were about five inches by three inches. Just switch out cartridges, and I like having that flexibility to make other things. I’ve also made some resin prints for sandcasting, and will be making some forming dies for my hydraulic press here shortly. I’ll print them as a shell and fill with standard resin to save printing costs.

I think that the person on the Solus forum cherry-picked a design and orientation that they might have a slight advantage on. I would like to see both printed at the same orientation for a true comparison.

So in conclusion, I think for overall value, the Form 2 is a well thought out, complete hardware and software solution, and I would recommend it.

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Oh, and one other thing…when researching, I noticed that a particular artist’s work was featured on Solus’ Facebook page, and I mistakenly thought that all of his work was printed on a Solus, which almost sold me on their system. However, I learned his work is usually printed on a $45,000 3D printer that he has access to, so the print quality of his body of work is not necessarily because of exclusive use of a Solus printer. I would love to see one of his prints from both the Solus and Form 2 with Castable v2 side-by-side.

And the other thought is that prints need to be cured correctly with the castable resins. Formlabs recommends a couple of hours, but I will cure mine overnight or just leave them in the UV chamber until I get enough to cast. I’ve also started putting them in the oven at 200°F for a half-hour based on another user’s recommendation. I’m having no problems with expansion of the models and flashing on my casts. I’m also using the castable resin models to make rubber molds for wax injection because the castable resin seems to be smoother than clear. I know others who are using the gray resin for rubber molds and say that it is smoother.

Oh, and my Form 2 was portable enough to take on vacation. Doesn’t everyone do that? :blush:

I did find a photo of a recent cast made with scrap silver and an anti-firescale casting grain…there was absolutely nothing done to the models but really good curing. The casts were very clean, with minimal cleanup. I gave it a quick sanding with the sandpaper rolls recommended by @rick_Lai on another forum topic. (And I did learn that this is not an ideal layout for casting, thanks to the forum…I need to make a tree!).

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I have to confess I hadn’t looked at the system dependencies - I had a Win laptop that I’d been using with a LittleRP, so didn’t need to consider cross-platform or VM issues (in which case I’d have run a mile too). That one aside, it sounds like the same issues as swayed me. Even with 4k projectors (which are getting to a more sensible price point) the build area is still going to be quite small.

I had wondered about getting hold of the ring file & running it myself, but in the end couldn’t be bothered. There’s a number of people want to bash the Form2 on inaccurate assumptions (like the laser size & minimum features) and I know I’m not going to change anyone’s mind there. The behaviour of the castable resin could be better in printing IMO; the surface of the castings I get back I can’t really comment on as it’s in the hands of my casters.

Got to say - I really like the RTV frames; hadn’t occurred to me to do that and I might pinch the idea if that’s ok with you. How resilient are they - do you coat them with a release prior to printing to avoid the peeling?

Hey @ESpy, I haven’t used them yet, but was going to use a release spray that I use for making polyurethane models for glass casting. I may sand them a little and use a clear spray to protect…printed four so I’ve got plenty to experiment with. You’re more than welcome to the file…when I get home it’s on my larger computer. I used MOI (Moment of Inspiration) to make them and not ZBrush. I like the 1 cm marks on the sides so I can quit wasting expensive RTV mold material! I designed sides over the weekend. I printed them with no supports, directly on the build platform.

On the dedicated machine issue, I have both a laptop and desktop. But I like that I can upload to the Form 2 wirelessly, although you still have to press the button (I would love to bypass that function).

Yes, even if you look at B9’s site it LOVES to tout the 140 micron XY resolution. But in practice, I know that the prints come out smoothly and the detail is there. Kinda reminds me of working for Apple as a Systems Engineer…user group people liked to ask questions about “wait states on processors.” The computer was fast and it worked, and the question was just a red herring. Why would I possibly care about wait states?

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@ESpy - you’re first post actually helped me a lot in deciding which way to gol

@katkramer - wow! thank you so much for the write-up and examples. You’ve sealed the deal and I’ll be looking to put in an order soon for Form Labs. I might try to find a used one first though.

Honestly, I’m just starting learning the casting process and want to do it all myself (from the desing/print to the casting in silver). Would you mind if I threw you a question on the process every now and then? I’m in the stage of making a few simple designs and working on getting the funds to buy the tools.

I’m planning on vacuum investing and casting, and using a torch to melt the metal (oxygen/propane?). So if you have any pointers or suggestions, I’d love to hear it.

Thank you everyone for the great responses. You’ve helped me decide and now I’m so excited to get started!

I also suggest signing up for this forum http://3dcadjewelry.com/forum/forum.php where there is no bias towards any printer (maybe) and ask your questions there.

Here is the link for the frame only. I added numbers so you can tell the level easily.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B93EMno7ERzwY2FaSl9PR3hSMnM/view?usp=sharing

Here is a spreadsheet…you can enter the weight of the model in grams, and then use the chart to estimate the amount of RTV. This size works well with Rio Grande’s 1-7/8" quick clamp #701112.

I have NOT tested the chart in a real-life setting, so use at your own risk!

I’ve had prints done on a form2 and solus.

You can definetly see a huge difference between the surface quality and details of the solus prints to the form. If I needed another printer (but I don’t), I would use the Form2 for quick prototyping, showing the concepts to customers, and the Solus for printing the production pieces.

But anyway, congrats on your decision @nrbelk Did you even get a sample print from both printers?

I almost got a Form2 but I need better prints than this one here https://formlabs.com/media/upload/_thumbs/side_by_side_printed_and_casted_ring.png.1354x0_q80.png

I’m already a member there and they are pretty helpful. I just like trying to get information from as many sources as possible.

From what I’ve read on that site though, they prefer the more expensive printers. Solus is starting to gain traction there and there are a few posts that show a similar comparison between the solus and the form2.

The people that post on there about the form2 really seem to love it though.

Yup. It’s a very helpful site and not biased at all.

This guys really loves his form2’s reliability. But after seeing those prints, I questioned if the form2 will be usable for me for production. I ordered samples from both machines. Who knows maybe one day the form2 will improve the print quality especially with the casting resin (software update, etc.).

A few more helpful photos for people who can’t access that forum.


He is using the older Castable v1 resin. The new version has smoother results at 50 micron. The newer version is a lighter, more opaque blue. These results are fairly typical of the first generation resin.

I see one other difference. The two models were printed at two different orientations. You can see the “tree rings” on the side of the Solus print, and the Form one looks like it was printed standing straight up. That can make a difference, in my experience. That said, the Solus print is nice, but looks like on the sides it would require as much cleanup as the comparable Form print.

pretty sure it’s the new one.