What would you choose as a printer for private use?

With the experience of having use a Form1/1+/2 machine, considering the price and ecosystem associated with it, would you buy a Formlabs machine for personnal/hobby use ? Would you buy another SLA/resin machine or an FDM one ?

I would love to know the views of this amazing little community we have here, before looking for answers from a broader audience :slight_smile:

A little unnecessary background : I am contemplating the idea of buying a printer for myself. Use-cases would be numerous… I’ve been tinkering with RC planes/gliders since I was a child and would love to get back into it seriously, with the added power of 3D printing which I didn’t have at the time. Home improvement/repairs would be a thing. There are interesting projects/ideas having to do with 3D printed parts in aquariums (saltwater). I have a few friends who are into tabletop roleplaying so obviously I could lend a hand there.
I would also like to start experimenting with polymer and aluminium casting, and eventually plastics injection moulding, out of pure personal interest at first but also to build up experience in industrial prototyping processes (I’m a mechanical engineer, product designer by force of circumstances). In that regard a printer would be usefull to print masters or molds.

It all depends on what your intended use is. If it’s to be basic “around the house” type stuff then a filament printer will work OK. But if you’re trying to do quality finished pieces possibly in scale then an SLA printer like the Form 2 is called for.

I use it for hobby stuff, but my main target is high detail, so if you want something for things that don’t need much detail and need to be more functional then it’s an expensive printer for that purpose and an FDM printer would be better.

I agree with that, which is why I’m considering other resin offering, like Peopoly’s Moai (Laser SLA, 130x130x180 with FEP vats and open source design, ~1300 bucks) or Anicubic Photon (LCD, 115x65x155, 500 bucks) or the upcoming LCD resin printer from Prusa, the SL1 (120×68×150, sensors and auto calibration à la Form 2, about 1000€ for the printer or 1600€ for printer + washing/curing machine).

I’m reluctant to buy an FDM machine, I consider SLA resin to be pretty functional if chosen and used wisely (speaking about Tough, Durable and Rigid offerings from Formlabs, but there are other equivalents) and value the isotropic mechanical properties way more than being able to use “real” plastics to create laminated, highly anisotropic parts.

I imagine none of these printers were available when you bought Formlabs hardware, given that you have been active here since 2015… still, have you kept up to date with the latest releases ? I’m pretty impressed by the community over on Peopoly’s forums (Moai maker) and the openness of the printer hardware and software-wise is tempting for experimenting with exotic stuff…

@Walter_Gillespie thanks for the input ! This does confirm my thoughts, and at this point I would only consider an FDM machine if I had no other choice price-wise I think.

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One of the things with SLA though is that the resin is much more expensive than FDM machines, so if you’re making large stuff that’s not detailed, it’s not very economical. The parts can be pretty durable too. You can certainly do that kind of thing with the Form2, but it’s more than necessary.

As far as other SLA printers go, I haven’t seen any as good as Form2, the laser is a big advantage since that effectively eliminates any jagged edges on the x/y axis. It can also print a fairly good sized object without sacrificing detail. Another main thing for me was how easy it is to use, other printers don’t go through enough testing to get their material settings right and I don’t want to be spending a bunch of time experimenting. Form2 is designed to be usable out of the box without building anything or experimenting.

You might want to look at the Phrozen Transform- due to come out in summer this year.

Its an LCD projector type- but uses a better optics system than most that results in faster printing,
And has an 18" Z height and 13" long bed- tho only 6" front to back.

Its not a daylight printer as I understand it- so it can use most UV resins.
Though it does not have any of the automatic features like resin dispensing and sensing that the Form 2 has.

If large print volume is not a requirement- at present i would not even consider any Printer other than the Form 2- the form 1 you could get cheap- but it is obsolete and only going to become more problematic in consumables availability.
If going for a filament printer- do NOT go cheap- buy something like the Raise3D with a temperature controlled enclosure and dual heads that Retract so that you can print both support materials and hard in the same print- print really large items that take more than one standard spool- or mix different filaments in a single print.
the enclosure nets better results and the ability to get good prints using ABS and other filaments that need to stay hot as the part gets built.

Well I would never go back to FDM, well almost never. Might try DLP since the newer 4K projectors are out.

The Phrozen is a 4K machine.

However- be aware that you need a 4K graphics card to run DLPs at 4K.

@spiderx1 have you had your eyes on a DLP 4K printer ?

I have just made a lengthy commend on the subject of a Form 2 alternative here :

Commenting more on the Moai stuff and also my small take on the Phrozen machines which @Sculptingman talked about.

For home use, especially if you do not have lots of extra space for a “print lab” where you can keep things clean and away from other stuff, I’d always choose a FDM printer. It is just so much cleaner and hassle-free, and you have access to a lot of nice, tough AND high-temp resistant materials like the standard to-go material PETG, or, if you take some extra effort, even carbon-fiber reinforced nylon. (I’d avoid PLA for anything except non-functional/one time use stuff and getting to know the FDM printing basics). With the “ultrabase” I’m using on my cheap Anycubic printer, I don’t even have to worry about getting the parts off the build plate, because they just pop off as soon as the plate has cooled…

SLA/DLP/LCD printers do have a real advantage when it comes to fine detail and thin structures, but as you all know very well, there are a lot of trade-offs like all the resin/IPA handling, and the material properties, which are all too often “Wanna have tough parts? Here you go. Oh, you also want them stiff or temperature-resistant? Bad luck…”

I would highly recommend getting a cheap FDM printer, even if you already have a SLA one. Just play around a bit, you will find that for many functional parts, FDM really is the better option, and complements SLA quite well.

I am slowly convincing myself of that, but that doesn’t really help budget-wise ! Thing is for making casting masters SLA is really the better choice from a surface finish standpoint, so I’m currently considering two scenarios :

  • Pledging for the Phrozen Transform and buying a cheap-ish FDM printer like the Prusa i3 MK3 to have a printer while I wait for the Transform to arrive
  • Buying a Moai 130 NOW and buy an FDM machine later, maybe wait for a used one or something… It might turn out that 90% of my resin use goes to making casting masters and so the 10% of resin used to make parts I could have made with an FDM machine don’t mandate the acquisition of one.

Of course, it depends very much on the usage scenario, for what you mentioned (making casting models) SLA is the obvious choice because of the surface quality.

For general home use (replacements for broken plastic parts, random projects where you need custom holders etc. for things) FDM is the way to go for me, also because of the robustness and durability required for most of the little projects I do. Even Tough resin cracks way too easily under load, and Durable deforms quite easily, especially with elevated temperatures.

The Prusa you mention is already a kind of high-end FDM printer as far as “hobbyist” printers are concerned. If budget is an issue you can get the Anycubic i3 Mega for less than half (just make sure you get the version with the upgrade-able stepper drivers). But if you have the money, absolutely go for the Prusa, it has quality components from the start, and a huge, helpful community.

Yeah that’s the gist of it. I’m not really interested in tinkering and tweaking an FDM printer so a Prusa sounds about the right choice without spending 4000 bucks on a low-end “pro” FDM machine.

Currently my heart is between the Moai and the Phrozen Transform… Moai because it’s readily available, Transforn because for the price it’s a better buy than the Shuffle XL or the Moai 200 (let alone the Form 3/3L) and for what I plan on doing I don’t think the resolution will be much of an issue. But the more I get user information on the Moai the more I am discouraged to buy anything from Peopoly, which is sad because the openness to user input and mods is great… but I’m looking for Prusa for SLA and they’re not it unfortunately.

Still open to point of view from other users !

@Sculptingman have you kept yourself informed of what Phrozen was doing with the Transform ? Seems like they’re doing pretty great with their Shuffle and Shuffle XL machines.

Yeah- that’s why I mentioned the Phrozen.
But I have yet to see a DLP printer that is affordable and faster than the Form 2-
The issue in DLP is that light intensity falls off as the inverse square- and its nearly impossible to attain an even exposure across the whole print bed at once.
This is why affordable DLPs still have to take their sweet time with long exposures for each layer. But it also affects the strength and uniformity of the parts.

What everyone complains about Formlabs is the reason I like their printer- the closed ecosystem where Formlabs does all the tinkering and fiddling to try and get each of their wide array of resins to print as reliably as possible. That’s worth the extra cost to me. I literally haven’t got time to experiment with cheaper 3rd party resins.

I don’t really need another, small, slow printer. If I opt for an FDM- I will spring for a pro-quality machine with a Large build envelop and that can attain the high temps needed for PEEK and Ultem materials.

And my plan is to spend the next two years getting to the point where i can Afford the Form 3L
( after I’ve seen some ling term reviews on its durability and performance )

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Depends on the types of models you intend to print and the features they have on them. Robust mechanically strong parts with little detail an FDM will work good. Sculptures, jewelry and fine detailed objects you need a polyjet, dlp or sla printer and not to break the bank the Peopoly machines look good and have an open architecture allowing 3rd party resins. Models with medium detail and need to be mechanically sound a SLS will work well but they can be very costly and not worth the money if they can only do nylon or just one material type. SLS are great machines for metal prototypes but their costs usually far exceed a good 4 axis cnc with auto tool changer. Roland and Tormach for instance offer some nice machines for that and you can mill a much wider range of materials than most printers can print.
Really depends on what you plant to make.

I wouldn’t touch resin at home unless you had a dedicated workshop. Resin is just a mess and cleaning by hand is a joke. Semi-automated cleaning systems, whether it’s formlabs or otherwise, can get expensive quickly. Also how are home users disposing of the used IPA, that’s a major issue.

FL suggest curing the IPA in the sun to ditch it after. Trouble is you have a toxic sludge. I assume many just dump it down the drain.
I had moved to a water based system and with the suggestion of JD came across Yellow Magic that works well and allows you cure the resin and filter it out. YM is environmentally safe and cured resin is safe. With the help of Bradley Systems those findings were passed on to FL but they pushed on with the IPA method.
I guess if FL sold the IPA they would be responsible for the toxic waste and any harm done by it so they pass that liability onto the consumer.

Getting rid of the IPA definitely is an issue but fortunately I have way of disposing of it safely. But as @KenCitron said there are other cleaning products that are safer. As for using the IPA I have lived for a year at work with the bucket cleaning stuff and it worked fine for us, you just have to be careful and clean after yourself. Obviously now that we have the Wash it’s wayyyy easier.

Really I have no issues with the post-treatment requirements of a resin printer, the pros far outweigh the cons for me. Currently it’s more a question of which resin printer to choose :stuck_out_tongue:

There are more alternatives now and it is interesting to see some other manufacturers are starting to offer alternatives to IPA to their customers. We use Dipropylene Glycol Methyl Ether. 12.50 euro per liter, but it lasts very long and it is so much less aggressive on our parts! Safer stuff to handle as well. Especially if you would need a huge bucket for the Form 3L prints. You don’t want to use IPA with it.

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