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Why should I get a Form 3 over an mSLA 4k printer?

I’m looking to get into resin printing - I’ve been doing fdm for a year so it’s time to explore the dark side :slight_smile:

At least for now it’s a hobby and I’ll mostly print stuff that will be used, not so much minis and such things but more keyboard related parts like artisan keys and internal switch parts. The switch parts are tiny and need to have tight tolerances to work, I’m also rather sure they will not work so well with standard resins as those probably are too hard and brittle.
Of corse I’ll print other stuff too but I won’t be doing and large scale production.

I don’t mind some fiddling but not like it’s been with the fdm where most of my time has been tuning and upgrading the printer, not actually printing real stuff. Hence my interest in the Form 3.

Given my use case would I notice any difference in the end result with a Form 3 compared to let’s say an Elegoo Saturn? I sure would expect so give the price difference, but before making any decision I would like to hear from people with first hand experience.

Also the Form 3 was released two years ago so I’m guessing a Form 4 shouldn’t be too far way?

I value Quality > Ease of Use > Cost > Speed.

Coming from an FDM background (Raise3D Pro 2 and Raise3D E2) I only printed one thing using FDM after I got my first Form 3 so I believe that resumes it all for the Form 3: Print quality, hardly any failure and almost no fiddling.
Arte the first Form 3 I got another one and then a 3L.

The only major downsides from FDM to SLA:

  • Post production (time, work and costs)
  • Cost if consumables (resin and tanks)

I find myself printing large parts that could just as well work on FDM at a fraction of the cost but not having to deal with all the boring and random FDM things (print bed adhesion, warping, stringing, lower quality, etc) is absolutely wonderful and a must for me.

Can’t speak about other SLA printers but I chose Form 3 mostly for its (almost) zero maintenance and quality. You’ll get a lot of great reviews for other printers simply because. 500€ one is “always better” for those that can’t spend 3000€.

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SLA is lot messier than FDM. SLA prints tend to have less impact resistance than you can achieve with an FDM print. But SLA prints have much better surface finish and higher resolution for details, and they are mechanically isotropic.

As for whether you should choose a FormLabs printer over something cheaper like the Elegoo, the answer is “it depends”. When you buy in to FormLabs, you’re getting their entire FormLabs ecosystem. That means resins that are tuned for the printer and an “enterprise” level of customer support (since FL isn’t really targeting hobbyists with any of the printers since the Form2). If you have problems with your Elegoo, you have to solve them yourself. If you have problems with a Form3, FormLabs will directly engaged to help you solve it.

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Hi @Reine,

We never want to sell people products that they won’t use. As such, please feel free to describe your specific use case further to our sales team. They’ll be happy to take a closer look at your situation and find out if the Form 3 is right for you!

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If you’re getting into SLA and it’s just a hobby, I wouldn’t suggest going with Form3. It’s an expensive machine to begin with and you’ll get good results just by going with a less expensive brand. In our case, we’ve had 6 replacements machines in the past 4 years not even with heavy usage. Looking back, I should’ve looked at different options sooner, but I was loyal to Formlabs until our Form3 did not want to work on day 1. Their support team just gave me the run arounds and just don’t even read what I wrote them. Pretty much just pushing me around to different people responding. Formlabs used to be good, but they’re just looking out for their own interests at this point. By the way, with the Form3, you can’t even use anyone else’s expensive resins anymore and you can’t try to clean and reuse their resin tank with another Formlabs color or material either. You’re stuck paying their expensive prices which others are more than half their prices.


Thank you all for your replies, I really appreciate it.

After extensive research I really like the most parts of what I perceive Formlabs offer and I’m almost ok with the price tag – but I just recently understood you need one tank per resin and those tanks have in some cases a time limited lifespan.
For someone not using the printer in a production environment that’s a big downside. I want to be able to test different resins without having to use up the entire cartridge.

The alternative too go with something like an Elegoo Saturn seams intriguing due to the significantly lower price tag, but I’m afraid the end result will not be very pleasing. But then again, I have zero experience. I can only go to my previous fdm experience and what I read online.

It really disturbs me FL offers a “basic package” online without Pro Support but when calling them they refuse selling without it. From my understanding me and a hobbyist have near zero use for it?

I’ll only reply to the part about the results from the Elegoo “not being very pleasant”

I don’t know what type of prints you plan on making, but I can tell you this, as a previous user of Form printers that the current crop of mSLA (LCD) printers can produce prints that are as good as, if not sometimes better than those from my Form printers. I currently own an Anycubic Mono, as well as the Anycubic Mono X (the larger model), and both have preformed excellently for me. I print primarily miniatures, and occasionally mechanical prototype parts.

The only advice I would offer, is that if you decide to go the mSLA printer route, you should not even bother looking at models with color LCD. The new monochrome models are where the industry is going. Faster exposure time resulting in print speeds as much as 6 times faster than a Form printer, and extended LCD life of 4000 to 5000 hours or more.

The LCD life is something that must be factored into the cost of printing as a “consumable”, because they do degrade with use. However, considering the overall cost savings (printer, tanks, resin, etc), and the relatively low cost of replacing the LCD, the total cost of ownership (TCO) is still 1/10 that of a Formlabs printer, which for a hobbyist should be a major concern.

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part of what you pay for with formlabs is the easy change system. it cost more up front but its easy to change tank and vat. all resin have a lifespan but with formlabs the system knows the lifespan as far as i know so it will tell you when you need to change it. no matter what sla printer you have i would recommend getting a vat for each resin you want to use…

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Hi there @Jackson,

Thank you for reaching out and talking with your sales team.
I’m in Europe so I’ve been in contact with the sales team, but honestly I gave up after a while. I imagine you can understand why.
I’m still interested in a Form 3 but I’m not sure I’m up for more rounds with the sales rep… Feel free to pm me for further discussions.

One other thing that could be of general interest - I’ve read numerous of posts on basically every social media/forum site I’ve looked for Formlabs content on, people having one, two and even three Form 3 machine replacements during the first year of ownership. To me as a potential customer that is a bit alarming and raises some questions.

  1. These must be known hardware issues, have you fixed and made newer revisions to resolve them?
  2. Omitting the Pro-service, how would such issues be handled? I presume under warranty but please explain a bit further.

Hey Reine,

Thanks so much for the clarification. I’m so sorry your purchasing process felt frustrating. That’s absolutely not what we want to hear.

While some folks certainly experience issues that require getting a printer swapped out, that’s an extremely small percentage of total Form 3’s out there in the world. It’s worth remembering that people with perfectly functioning printers typically don’t go on the internet to talk about it! This is not to say anyone experiencing issues isn’t totally within their rights to talk about it publicly, just worth keeping in mind that we sell many thousands of printers and you’d only hear about a small slice.

To answer your specific questions:

  1. It’s difficult to say if “the issues” have been fixed specifically. We’re always working to improve our printers at both a hardware and a software level, and if we see multiple customers running into an issue, we will absolutely allocate resources internally to try and resolve that issue as efficiently as we possibly can. This is an always ongoing process.
  2. Without the pro-service plan you’ll still get support via chat, or via email with replies coming in typically less than 1 business day. Your printer will come with a 1-year warranty and any issues with that timeframe will be resolved by our support staff, whether that’s a component issue, or if the entire machine needs to be replaced.

I hope that clarified things a little bit for you, but please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any further questions.

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I’m using the Form3 to print models to use for lost wax casting in metal.

I needed a printer to do very specific, detailed work. I’m a cloisonne’ enamel artist and used to working with fine silver wires that are 0.10 to 0.15 mm wide and 1.25mm tall. I wanted to cast metal pieces with wires of that dimension already included in the cast.

I designed a small test piece and sent it out to everyone I knew with a 3D printer, be it FDM or Resin. The Form 3 printed my designs spot on correctly. The other printers? Not a one of them could even print a test piece that was recognizable as an attempt at what I wanted. That’s how bad the difference was.

Obviously I wasn’t able to test every printer out there. There were a couple out there whose stats were approaching that of the Form 3 and maybe they would have worked - or maybe not.

I looked at a video of the other leading candidate printer in use and compared it to the Form 3 and the Form 3 won hands down in ease of use. I’ve tried quite a few slicers and none of the ones I’ve tried even come close to the ease of use and precision of support structure placement that the Form 3 does.

I’m very happy with my purchase. I wanted a printer that could do a very detailed print job for me with a minimum of fuss and bother on my part. I didn’t want a hobby of being a printer administrator, I wanted a tool that would do the work I assigned to it reliably and easily.

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Today I received some test prints from a Form 3 of models I will be printing, or at least similar enough.

Honestly I had expected better results.

Those printed in Durable have small slots filled in and resin stuck between parts (pole in the middle of a box with maybe 0.3mm space) so those are not usable. Layer lines are visible in good light.

I’m not sure if this is what I can expect or if it can be improved?

Here is one of the printed parts next to an original. There were supports at the bottom as you can see, probably too thick so both supports and orientation can be improved, but still - it’s far from as crisp and clear as the original part.

(I’ve heard twice since Friday that someone from sales were to contact me, still nothing. ohh well…)

That part could definitely turn out way better. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the more knowledgeable you are with the technology and process, the better outcome you’ll get.

I’m certain I would be able to get much better results than that with durable on my machine.

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Here’s the stl if you would like to give it a shot. It would be much appreciated :slight_smile:

Would an mSLA listed at 35µm (possibly) print this part better?

nexus slider with wipers.stl (691.3 KB)

If there’s cured resin filling small gaps, the part wasn’t fully washed before final curing. I have this problem a lot with internal passages, I have to use the squirt bottle to push IPA through, repeatedly, until I think the passage is clear. With translucent resins it’s a fairly easy determination to make. But not so much with opaques like Tough 2000.

Also, with a print this size the support touch points can be a lot smaller. I’m guessing whoever printed these for you did so with all the defaults in Preform. I’d have oriented the part the other way around so the support touch points were on the “+” profile part, which would ensure the opposite face would have little or no distortion.

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The finest pixel size of currently available mSLA printers is 47microns. I don’t know of any that are 35 microns. That is on 5.5" monochrome printers with a 2560 x 1620 resolution. 4K resolution printers usually have larger size LCD panels, like my Anycubic Mono X, which has a 9" 4K+ (3840 x 2400) panel and a pixel size of 52 microns.

Anyway, I’m in the process of printing the part you posted, and as soon as it’s done and cleaned, I’ll post some photos here.

…about 24 minutes from now.

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Here is what I got. The part is very clean. I printed 2 of them in an upright position on my Photon Mono using standard Grey resin.

Please excuse the poor photography, but that’s the best I can do with my phone.

Straight from the printer, cleaned by spraying IPA on it

The part was removed from the support, just pulled it off, not clean up. The support contact spot is .4mm

A photo of the inside of the part. I think it came out quite well.

BTW, the total time to print these 2 parts was 48 minutes, but I can fill the build surface with 52 of them and they will print in the same amount of time.

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Sounds like an ultrasonic cleaner would be a great choice for that task. Have you tried that?

I really appreciate you printing and photographing my model.

They look great, very crisp details. Clearly my Form 3 test was incorrectly angled, makes me wonder how much better they would be printer like you printed yours.

In one of your pictures I noticed some strange lines, do you know what those are and what caused them?

Regarding xy resolution on mSLA printers - there are a few that are advertised at 35µm. The most interesting (I know of) is the Phrozen Sonic 4k as it comes with dual linear rails and a ball screw (not lead screw).

Other examples are Phrozen Sonic Mini 4k and Elegoo Mars 3, though their reviews aren’t that great. Their build quality and QC seam sub pair even by Chinese standards.

Now I’ve skimmed through the (very) long Form 3 quality issues thread and I’m glad to see that FL has been listening and improving quality/firmware since launch, but I’m not blown away with what I see. But it’s difficult to judge quality though images.

I did find someone who printed the AmeraLabs Town test print on a Form 3 back in 2019 and that wasn’t very impressive. Though as improvements has been made since I’m wondering if anyone in here has printed it lately?

Here is the result from the Form 3 back in 2019.

And here you can download the stl-file if you would like to print it yourself, if you do - please post your result :slight_smile:

There is an updated version of the model, but you need to give up your email address - if you want that one you find it here.

And last is how to interpret the result.