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Formlabs: High Resolution 3D Printer (formlabs.com)
191 points by samwillis on Sept 26, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 111 comments



The call to action link says: "Pre-Order on Kickstarter"

They must have not gotten the "Kickstarter is not a store" memo. They appear to be ready to pull the trigger on their manufacturing partners, so this is sort of a "how big should we make the first run?" type of kickstarter rather than a "let's create something awesome".

Details…

• Stereolithography printer (laser, not extruder)

• Much nicer than extruder style printers

• $2300-2700 for the machine depending on your precedence

• $140/liter for liquid resin


This might be a kind of dumb idea, but I would love it if somebody created a Kickstarter project to create a manufacturing and distribution plant for Kickstarter projects...(obviously, would require a huge investment for all of the machining equipment).


I don't think it would work in exactly the same way you are describing but there may be alternatives. Manufacturing equipment is very expensive and the only way to justify the cost is to keep it running daily, sometimes 24/7/365. The change parts for each unique product are also quite expensive (easily $10k+). If I want to open a KickManufacturing plant, I have to buy/maintain/service hundreds of different kinds of equipment which includes the cost of the hardware, software, and technicians. On top of that, each new product will barely have 10k - 100k units ordered if I'm lucky. After that the change parts are useless. The other problem with this is the manufacturing equipment that can do lots of different configurations is slower, error-prone, and more expensive than specialized equipment that does just one thing. So if one of the Kickstarter products does become a success and they want 100m units, you need to buy new equipment or source a better large-scale manufacturer. And worst of all, most of the equipment will be collecting dust 95% of the time unless someone has just the right Kickstarter project for them.

What most entrepreneurs spend their time between getting funded and beginning shipment is finding the right manufacturer who can allocate runtime on their lines. The manufacturers lose money when the lines aren't running. The entrepreneurs get delayed when the lines are busy. This is a very complex B2B market that has no current solution. If someone solves this problem, we can have significantly better fulfillment of Kickstarter orders.

Such a site would have manufacturers periodically uploading capacities and capabilities of their equipment, warehouse/distribution resources, and costs associated with each line/product-type by time/quality. The entrepreneurs would be able to book the best-fit manufacturer (be it in US, China, or Norway) and pay a reservation-fee to the manufacturer which sits in escrow pending successful contract. The reservation-fee would be high enough to deter fake orders and be credited towards the actual product order. The site could fund itself by collecting interest on the escrow or charging per new B2B relation.


All of the stuff this guy says. My dad's been running a robotics engineering company - http://www.primeengineering.net - for nearly as long as I can remember (well, he worked for a company that was bought out by Siemens prior to that). I've been inundated with the knowledge of what it takes to produce doohickeys at scale, whatever those doohickeys may be, since I was like 5. It's fascinating, and I wish more people were cognizant of all that goes into our modern society's niceties.

When he installs new equipment, there's a sub-day shutdown usually, to install massive lines of equipment into a warehouse. He's always busy on, say, Christmas, because a warehouse can typically just barely manage to afford to shut down for 16 hours on that day (or other holidays) since the warehouse employees want to be at home with their families. If there are problems with the installation (and there always are, because tolerances on everything are so tight) then they have to be resolved right there in a crazy short timeframe.

I wrote some PLC software for him back right out of high school, to manage a heat element for a shrink wrapping portion of a particular line. We got a certain input from the other components in the line (so the spec said) to specify how long we needed to run before cutting, in milliseconds. Their specs lied, and they weren't sending us anything remotely like a serial data stream specifying the time before cutting, so while everyone was installing the hardware I had to derive from the data stream we could see what the timing needed to be and 'test' it (more 'run some plastic and cut it and measure it' tests than unit tests, yes?). It was super stressful, but it was also insanely fun. Once the install was done (16 hours on the dot, loaded the code as the timer ran out) the machinery started and has run uninterrupted for on the order of 12 years now. Most people aren't aware that this is the sort of thing that goes into modern manufacturing :)


> And worst of all, most of the equipment will be collecting dust 95% of the time unless someone has just the right Kickstarter project for them.

Cloud manufacturing?


If Kickstarter crowdsources funding, why not crowdsource manufacturing, too? Especially considering the increasing proliferation of 3D printing and the like.

I'm sure that many DIYers, hackerspaces, etc., have the ability to manufacture small batches of a wide variety of products; QA and final assembly could be done further up the chain, as a component of distribution.


Ponoko [1] has been trying to do this for a little while now but they're still a long ways away from being mass production.

[1] http://www.ponoko.com/about/the-big-idea


I think a first step would be a service (maybe even just run by Kickstarter) that would handle the printing and shipping of T-Shirts.

In every post-mortem of a Kickstarter project I hear the project owners lamenting how much more time and effort it took to handle sending rewards out than they had anticipated.


Actually, I'm waiting for someone to create the Kickstarter that people seem to think Kickstarter is: a way to get pre orders for a new product.

I mean seriously, there are a lot of people using Kickstarter for this and now they've explicitly said that's not what it's for. So, Entrepreneurial Opportunity. There's obviously a lot of people who need this kind of "pre-order aggregator" service. So when will a motivated HN'er build it and rake in the bucks :-)


I don't think you are right. There are a lot of consumers that use kickstarter for this, but they are not the customers, the startups are. I think you will find it a lot harder to find businesses creating innovative products based on preorders. Note the significant difference in expectations between investments and sales, preorders are sales not investments.


I guess this is something along those lines: http://outgrow.me/


There was a really great project called Maker Factory that was geared towards this http://makerfactory.com seemed to never quite get the community it needed to take off


Related, but a different aspect of product design: http://www.quirky.com/


Yes first thing I noticed too.. How long will the cognitive dissonance last? Until toda when I backed a documentary I had only 'backed' things that I expected to receive goods from (including $120 on a product running 6 months late)

Saying one thing and acting another way can only last for so long... It would be a different thing if you could purchase an actual 'stake' in the company for your fee, however unfortunately US law doesnt allow this at the moment (or so I am told)- however it seems like the only way to make this fantastic concept (crowd sourced funding) a viable long term solution to a glaring problem is by making it more accountable and transparent in that sort of manner


I've got no beef against the people using Kickstarter as a store to handle their initial production sizing. I think the branding and curation are valuable to me for locating these sorts of projects.

There is always a risk of unforeseen delays or even failure of the project, but that isn't unique to Kickstarter. Any tiny company that funds purchasing with pre-orders is offering the same dynamic, except they will go bankrupt instead of just sort of dissolve.

Eventually someone may have a large fraudulent project and flee with the money, but again, that isn't special. It happens in traditional companies too.

Perhaps eventually Kickstarter will need to have graduated oversight. If your project goes over six figures you must convince someone at Kickstarter that you aren't blowing smoke. If it goes over seven figures you have to pay for a Kickstarter supplied auditor to whom you must show progress for incremental payment releases.


I think it was a smart way to do it... they are using Kickstarter to take pre-orders and to encourage small contributions from those who want to support the effort but don’t necessarily need to buy a printer (by buying a t-shirt, a part printed from their machine, etc.)


It might be a good idea, but Kickstarter have recently made it very clear that per-orders aren't why they exist. By accepting these per-order style Kickstarters they risk having people think of it as a store, which is bound to cause frustration when projects are delayed or cancelled and money is lost.


I don't think that Kickstarter has a problem with pre-orders in general; in fact, that's how they make most of their money. Almost all of their projects involve at some level "pay this much and you will get the final product." What they have a problem with is projects that make it look like they are further along than they are, by using photorealistic mockups and selling multiple quantities of items, as if you're just adding them to a shopping cart.

The new rule is: "Offering multiple quantities of a reward is prohibited. Hardware and Product Design projects can only offer rewards in single quantities or a sensible set (some items only make sense as a pair or as a kit of several items, for instance). The development of new products can be especially complex for creators and offering multiple quantities feels premature, and can imply that products are shrink-wrapped and ready to ship."

It explicitly says that you can offer a reward of one of the item in question (or whatever the most useful set of them is). You cannot, however, have all of your reward levels be different quantities of the item.


"Pre-Order on Kickstarter"

While this may not be within the stated KS rules, as an idea this sounds useful.

The main obstacle with many overseas factory-made cheap electronics projects is indeed "how big should we make the first run?"

Is this not a problem we need to solve? Look at the Raspberry Pi.

For the entrepreneur, maybe "let's manufacture something awesome" requires pre-orders. Maybe it requires committments.

We need some better way to connect consumers, entrepreneurs and factories.

Maybe KS is not it, but isn't it something we should look toward?


However, the build volume (5"x5") is significantly smaller than most FDM printers, and it's significantly slower, as I understand.


It is much faster to position a laser spot than it is to move an extruder head. As you would expect though there is a trade-off between resolution and layer thickness vs. print speed since more layers/raster lines need to be used.


The layers seem to be 25 micron vs 100 micron for the Replicator 2, although I'm not sure what they mean by the 300 micron resolution:

http://formlabs.com/pages/our-printer

http://store.makerbot.com/replicator2.html


I operate an Objet Connex260 that also has separate resolutions for the X/Y Axis, and the Z-axis 'layer thickness'. Objet specs it at '600 dpi' in the X/Y axes, and '1600 dpi' in the Z axis. http://objet.com/sites/default/files/C260_A4_il_en_lowres.pd...

As it was explained to me by objet, the X/Y resolution is the size of the individual droplets of resin that can be laid down by the Connex's digital print heads. They are larger than the thickness of each layer, therefore the resolution is better in the Z-axis than in the X & Y.

In Formlabs case, I would imagine this is the 'width' or diameter of their laser. The way I read it, the smallest cured point they can produce in a layer is 300 microns, or 0.3mm.

The Formlabs printer does look well polished, but I don't think it is 'disrupting 3D printing'. the B9 Creator* is in the same price range with higher resolution, and may have the ability to include multi-material printing eventually. I believe resin may be cheaper for the B9, too. *http://shop.b9creator.com/?pn=B9Creator+-+KIT&p=621&...

[EDIT] include link to B9


Defining the output quality and resolution of a 3D printer is a subtle thing. Sticking to DPI, laser spot sizes, and layer thicknesses is somewhat akin to comparing clock speeds of modern processors. The question is a lot more subtle than that.

When we talk about minimum feature size, we are giving a rough guide for the finest pillars or walls that you can print (see the fingers of the Neptune figurine in our photos). By this metric, the Form 1 is comparable to the best high end SLA and inkjet machines, and well beyond any FDM machine.

-Max Co-founder, Formlabs


First thing I noticed as well. "pre-Order on kickstarter" screams out "This is a scam!!!! You'll never get anything".

I've never understood why anyone would give anything via kickstarter. A "donate now" paypal button would probably be less scammy.


Fully funded in under 12 hours. 708 hours to go.

For something that is ready to enter manufacturing I think a pre-order model is appropriate. I'd be alarmed if someone used those words on an idea or something in the middle of the prototyping process.

A "donate now" button for a commercial venture is an instant and permanent red flag for me.


> For something that is ready to enter manufacturing I think a pre-order model is appropriate.

Do you have proof this is the case?


The video of it fully operational & functioning, perhaps?


No, perhaps not. There is no visual difference between a well made prototype and a zero-batch machine or even a production item. But there is a huge difference in the amount of work that needs to be done to get from the one to the other. Sometimes years.

The last 10% takes 90% of the time is true in hardware manufacturing just as much or more as it is in software.


I think you actually pre-order one, so you are getting something for your investment.


It will be interesting to watch 3D Systems share price today. JP Morgan issued a statement yesterday that they thought Formlabs might pose a significant risk to them.

https://www.google.com/finance?client=ob&q=NYSE:DDD

Down 2% already in just 5 min!


DDD is in a great position in a exploding market. They spend a lot of money on R&D...they could acquire this company in a heartbeat as they did Z-Corp and Huntsman in the past. Innovative companies like this help the overall Rapid Prototyping market move forward....DDD and SSYS are the big fish with distribution, service, infrastructure and the the capital ready to make sensible acquisitions. It would be a different story if this was a mature market with slowing growth and new uses were not being found for the technology everyday. It is conceivable that the way this technology is moving forward, we will be printing Clothing, Houses, Body Parts, etc. So there is a lot of room in this market....this is just the very beginning (OR I should say, the "end of the beginning" as the tech has been around for 20 years and now finally hitting the mainstream).


Everything's down >1% this morning. Stocks that are less proven will be more volatile. I'm not sure you can put any credence to that price change and blame it on Formlabs' new announcement.


I don't think you get how the stock market works - short term linear news announcements do not indicate market translations. The stock market is the instantaneous auction price of ~100 market participants at any point in time - it can go in any direction for any reason.

For the vast majority of the time the stock market is stable until such a time as a whale moves markets and the feedback loop begins.


While I understand the gist your comment, you probably didn't read the link. This is exactly how the market works: traders don't have time to follow closely all the markets of all companies they are trading, so they will eat whatever canned news they get -- provided it came from a reputable source.

So when JP Morgan issues a memo saying "Formlabs ... could be a threat to incumbent 3D printer solutions at the low-end of the market in the near-term... First take: potential negative for DDD" - and in the exact same week that Wired published a cover page with Bre Pettis and his good-looking MakerBot Replicator 2... well, maybe it's time to lock in the 110% gains you had this year with DDD and move on...


Traders really don't trade that many companies a year - they specialise - and if they did so many that they followed canned news - well lets just say they wouldn't be in business very long.


maybe DDD will just buy them out.


Sad prediction: the future of 3D printing will be cheap printers [that require/are subsidized by] proprietary resins.


I actually think it could be more extreme. The printer industry is the way it is because most people don't really need one, so customers skimp instead of optimizing for long-term usage. I predict even fewer people will need devoted 3D printers in their homes - especially if there are local versions at a place like staples/kinkos.


that is, until we're printing food. The French Culinary Institute has been working on 3D food printers for years.



There are people working on machines that recycle plastics that you find around the house into filament you can use in an FDM printer.


That would be amazing. The amount of non-recyclable plastic that I throw away every day is insane. I feel horrible for the environment.


You might like this, then, a 'Lyman Extruder':

Instructions and Pictures: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:30642

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JebhbxgjBgA

Pellets, 3$ a pound on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p3984.m570.l1313&...

and to be sold commercially by LulzBot.

Plastic, not resin based, but people are still looking into doing cool stuff to solve the challenge you mention.


There are still some of us who remember HP :)


I found this about 2 months ago: http://www.instructables.com/id/Build-a-Laser-3D-Printer-Ste...

It looks to be the same technology without the refinements.

I got pretty excited and bought several of the components, but have yet to assemble them.


Can an expert in 3D printing compare this with, say, the MakerBot Replicator 2? How does the extruder technology compare with SL on resolution, hardness, speed of printing, etc?


Lithography printing from what I've seen so far is significantly better than extruder tech. We have a Projet 1500 and an original Makerbot at my hackerspace (Columbus Idea Foundry). The Projet absolutely kills the makerbot for resolution and jitter. If you made a sphere on the projet, it will be pretty damn smooth. On the Makerbot (original) it will have a strong texture to it. No experience with Replicator 2.

Yet, its also around 10x as expensive to run (ABS is cheap, whereas the liquid stuff is expensive). It also takes a lot more room (there's separate machines for a drying/curing thing). The resolution on the Projet 1500 (which isnt the best one in the world, just what we have) is pretty limited at like 1024x768 since it uses a projector instead of a laser. I'm thinking the laser might allow for finer resolution, but I'm not sure.

Also, our Projet machine won't operate (like, at all) if its above 75F. Most of our hackerspace is un-airconditioned in a warehouse, so that just doesn't work. We had to get an AC and put it in an office. Extruder machines just don't care.

I haven't used the Replicator 2, but the replicator looks promising. At the same time, if the Formlabs ones does as it says, then its a HUGE move forward as its around 1/10th the price of something like our Projet 1500.

This looks pretty exciting initially. If I had the money- I'd consider buying one.


I've been putting off going to Columbus Idea Foundry, but with all the cool tech there I might just have to get my membership.


I'd highly encourage you to come by for a tour, and sign up for a class before jumping into membership. Not that membership just right away is bad, but doing this will give you a better idea of if the place is a good fit for you and your needs. Send me a PM if you'd like a tour or hit up our contact info on the main website.


I put together a small comparison chart in this post: http://www.wired.com/design/2012/09/formlabs-creates-a-low-c...


Looking at the Replicator2 specs vs Formlabs. I see that Makerbot lists layer height and XY resolution as 100 microns, while Formlabs has layer height as 25 microns, but XY as 300 microns. Does the improvement in layer height matter much when the XY resolution isn't as accurate? What I'm basically wondering is are you only as good your least accurate spec?


I think you are comparing apples to oranges. The replicator is reporting the positioning accuracy of the gantry system, while Form labs is reporting something like the voxel size of the print laser.

Ask a question like, what is the smallest diameter vertical column that can be printed to 1 inch in height. The answer for form labs is probably like 1000 microns, and Makerbox it like 3000 microns.


Good question - It probably comes down to the limitation of the parts - that said, no current FFF 3-D printer could match the detail of the Neptune figuring. That trident would basically be impossible. At some point the models do a better job explaining than the stats.


I've seen some answers to your questions with regards to resolution, etc., but none to the part that is of interest to me: how does the PLA/ABS plastic of the Replicator 2/2X compare to the SLA, once printed, in terms of durability?

I've had SLA models professionally made, and they came with a warning to handle them gently, because they were brittle and not very strong (and, they were expensive).

Does anyone know, if you were to use the Form 1 for something like hobby robotics (i.e., outside of just design prototyping, but as a printer for parts), would it hold up well?


There's an interesting discussion about the MakerBot 2 going on at Practical Machinist by people with considerably more manufacturing experience/knowledge than the average HN'er.

http://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/general/3d-printing-mak...


Inspiration? http://3dhomemade.blogspot.ca/

Open hardware kit for similar:

http://b9creator.com/


It looks like it fills up a tray to do the print. Does it reuse what it doesn't solidify for future prints? (It would seem like a waste otherwise)


The tray is large enough to contain enough resin for roughly 12 hours of printing and all of the uncured resin can be reused for the next print.


It looks to me like it fills up enough to do a few layers, then refills, so any wastage should be minimal.


It would be really nice if they laid out how far they are on the road to making this 3D printer into an actual product.

When you pre-order something the money that you spend should go to manufacturing, the bill of materials, shipping, handling, warranty and so on. It should definitely not go into product development and process development. The reason for that is that those are very long phases with plenty of opportunity for trouble which may cause delays, price increases, large changes to the product and even aborted runs.

Pre-ordering a device from a company without a history of shipping product is a risky business.


Does anyone know how a photopolymer works chemically/molecularly? What is it about the UV light that makes it solidify?


OK this literally is quantum physics and the discovery was Nobel-prize material but it's not that hard to grasp so here's how it works :)

If you have a chemical reaction that requires a certain energy level, shining lots of light on it won't help much if each individual photon is below that energy level. Even if you have a really bright reddish light, each photon still only has a relatively low energy. On the other hand each UV photon has more energy than a red one, so they can add enough energy to cause a chemical reaction.


So it just needs energy to solidify? Would heat also work?

So the molecules that it's made of up combine into new molecules that are solid? Do you know what the chemical reaction is?


Watch this movie for a brief introduction on quantum states. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJBcXFsFa7Y

I've also googled around and found this picture explaining what is called uv curing. http://www.signindustry.com/flatbed_UV/articles/images/2008-...

So basically the uv light is kicking the electrons up multiple levels in the "photoinitiators", the "photoinitiators" stabilize by dropping levels and giving off photons. These photons excite the "Monomers" and "Oligomers" between which electrons can freely flow (radicals) making it possible to form new bonds, creating longer chains of atoms (a polymer) /amateurexplenation


Not sure about the exact chemistry but I think there are actually two exposures, one to harden the shape after which the unused material is removed, and then another higher one to make it less sticky or "detackify" it.

Here's a paper from 1995 explaining the chemistry http://195.37.231.82/publications/pac/pdf/1995/pdf/6701x0025...


If "heat" is from a low-energy source, like an infrared lamp, then no it won't work. You need the individual photons to have enough energy.


Any chance the resin/polymer will come down in price if this catches on?


I'd say that's almost inevitable.


Why do programmers always assume every field is just like computing? Not everything gets cheaper.

Chemistry is a mature industry. Photopolymers are 50+ years old, and unpatented. There's no real reason to believe UV-cure resin will ever get much below $100/litre, which is a solid 10 times more expensive than ABS.


And what's their market size? Why are you assuming there will be no economies of scale?


Or are we facing into another printer ink situation?


Resins which harden under UV aren't that hard to make. There was a bit of a push a year or so ago when people started looking at DLP printers.


I'm not sure the cost of printer ink is due to the difficulty in manufacturing. I would hope that 3D printer resins do not follow the same business model


It's a different situation. Printer ink comes in proprietary cartridges - you can refill with lower-cost ink, but I think there's a different psychological barrier there than in the case of dumping resin out of a bottle into a tank.

There are perfectly good resins available for less than this one, and while there will surely be some difference in quality or properties, there's a good chance those differences will be slight. And their prices will all come down when they start being readily available by the liter bottle.

If not, then I see one thing I'll be getting into.


I work with UV-cure resins and I'll just comment that they are a bitch to work with. Remember, daylight is full of UV. Your interior lamps still emit some. So the moment you start working with this stuff in daylight, it starts curing. And once the process starts, you can't reverse it.

It's just not something that's consumer-friendly at this point.


About what I paid for my first inkjet printer (because I couldn't afford a LaserWriter). Or another way of thinking about it -- rather than upgrading to an FX digital camera this generation, I can skip a generation, live with my insanely-good-but-not-that-insanely-good DX camera and get one of these.

Obviously, the whole "giving $3000 to someone and trusting them to deliver" thing is a bit of an issue, but presumably this means something like this is viable at something like the price of a good printer in 1992.

Hmmm.


I wonder if calling it a 'Pre-order', on their site, gives customers a better case if they don't deliver.


Slightly off-topic, but does anyone know anything about the 3D printing tech used by http://www.shapeways.com/ ? Limited materials are the one thing holding me back from picking up a desktop 3D printer, so I'd like to learn more about their tech and what might be holding it back on the desktop. Their material selection is seriously impressive.

The Formlabs one looks promising and I love the design, but I just don't have any interest in printing PLA/resin.


The materials pages discuss the various processes they use:

http://www.shapeways.com/materials

A lot of the processes involve replacing a temporary binder.


http://3dhomemade.blogspot.com/

Any relation between the two projects? The design is quite similar.


UV resin printers have been a popular research area in the DIY 3D printing community for the last year or two. There are a few more too. Most are based on DLP projectors with some hackery to remove the color filters (e.g. carefully snap off a hundred little pieces of glass from a rotating wheel) as I understand it, which makes them expensive and fragile for a individual. This is a situation where volume assembly of a complete device makes more sense than garage experimentation, so Formlabs' work looks promising to me.


Great looking printer. I'm an owner of a B9, it seems the only disadvantage of the Formlabs if you can call it that is that the feature size can't be smaller than 300 microns. For any square, structural shapes the B9 has an advantage here as it can render x/y pixels down to 50 microns at the smaller build size and 100 micron pixels at the 4"x3"x8" envelope. In every other situation however, the laser of the Formlabs I'd think would have the ability to trace around any curved features with a higher level of precision as it's not limited by pixel density. SLA is a slower process as the laser has to fill in each layer until it can transfer to the next layer, whereas DLP projector-based tech cures an entire layer with each projection cycle. I think the B9 can do about an inch per hour depending on the properties of the resin formulation. Great to see you guys giving the monopolies some competition, don't sell out!


Similar price and technology of B9creator http://b9creator.com/ (also funded on kickstarter a few months ago), more info on the technology here https://code.google.com/p/lemoncurry/wiki/main


It seems the B9 is a tad more expensive and also requires self assembly. I'm not sure why but their site is also incredibly slow and a pain to use in some cases. With that said it does appear to have a higher resolution in the Z plane than the Form 1.


In the comparison photos, is the poor quality one from something like a MakerBot? Maybe I've never seen a close-up photo before, but I always thought they created higher quality than that.


Yes it is. Extruded pieces can be pretty gnarly. This is exacerbated at small feature sizes, which is what you see here, especially on the birdcage which is about 3cm tall. To be fair, most people would clean that birdcage up a bit before showing it to anyone.

Most of the objects you see on the page have been cleaned up. For instance, over the "Accessories - Form Finish kit:" heading you see a part that hasn't had its temporary supports removed. The bracelet is a little furry on the bottom. It looks much better near the top of the page where it shows in a montage after cleaning.


That birdcage was actually pre-cleaned to make it look as good as possible.


The "Coil Pot" look is the norm for any device using fused filament fabrication.


it's an issue of the size. makerbots can print nice looking things but not that small. the objects being compared are the size of a quarter.


So has the FDM process hit it's resolution limits in something like Makerbot or is there still room for improvement? (I'm curious which process to bet on)


With FDM, the fundamental limit (right now) is the viscosity and surface tension of the molten plastic. From memory, the Replicator 2 and the Ultimaker are hovering around that limit - you can make smaller motions with the print head, but the feature size you get won't really benefit.

With optical cure systems, in theory I think the limit is optical. In practice, there'll be unavoidable scattering at the focal point which will blur things a little, but I don't know exactly how much of a problem that is.


Anyone know the state of 3d printing tech in China?

Is it popular among hackers there? Any cheap clones at market? Are they up to speed with US consumer 3d printing tech?


I don't know about you but I'm extremely excited about this printer. I currently have a RepRap Prusa but it really is hard to match the quality of these kinds of printers. The only problem I see is that it sounds like they are also selling the resin for it and somehow figured out a way to make it cheaper than most. I'd worry about how long they'd be able to keep up with selling enough resin for everyone.


This makes the Dimension 768 SST we just bought look like a dinosaur. Can't wait to get one of these on my desk.


There is also this project: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/b9creations/b9creator-a-...

they also seem to make an optical 3d printer and seem to have actually shipped some of them already.


What types of small businesses can be created using portable 3D printers ?

few comes to mind: 1. Custom toys

2. 3D self sculptures

3. Invention classes for kids


I know of at least two groups doing custom sex toys with 3D printers.


What 'regulatory approval' does it take to ship a printer to e.g. Europe? Is this to do with CE marks, or shipping chemicals or something? $300 per customer extra seems rather a lot.


I'm guessing has to do with the laser. From their FAQ: "Unfortunately, it is not safe to run the laser without the enclosure." Presumably it's powerful enough to fall under differing regulation in each country.


I think it would be cool if future models included a FDM head too. That way you could build in circuits or use ABS as a cheap filler.


After watching the video that may not be feasible. It looks like it's building the model top down, so extruded plastic would just fall? I was picturing it building from the bottom up so extruded plastic could rest on the previous layer.

Is there a chance that conductive resin could be used in the future for circuits?


Would you guys say this is a game changer?


Yep - My company bought a $50K printer 6 years ago - this one is much better performance wise. The annual service contract for that one is $10K, so I could burn through a Form 1 per quarter and come out ahead.

This will change product development the way CMSs changed publishing.


You've been telling people to hold off buying a 3D printer from other manufacturers until this one was unveiled. But I don't get the impression this is in the product phase yet. There are some slick pictures and a nice presentation but nothing at all that indicates the thing actually exists in an about to ship state.

What exactly is the state of development of the formlabs product?


Estimated ship date is February. I've seen the devices in action, and dozens of pieces that were produced on the machines. Can't speak to the exact level of completion, but this is not just a pretty picture.

I've been advising people to hold off assuming that a 6 month wait is worth it on a purchase of $2,500ish dollars. Some people might prefer the larger size and bigger installed based of FFF/Makerbot machines, but I'm guessing many are happy they waited to hear about the Form 1 before clicking "Buy".


If it's not in the product phase, it's one hell of a prototype. Just from the video, they've got custom PCBs built, a custom case, and a whole shelf full of older prototypes.


From prototype to product is a (sometimes very) long road, I find it a bit strange that someone would say 'don't buy 'x' where 'x' is available today because there exists a prototype from a company that has not yet shipped in volume.

Maybe my expectations were not realistic but I expected something a lot closer to production. Tons of things that are prototyped never make it to production or end up costing substantially more than envisioned at the prototype stage and I'm pretty wary of pre-ordering things that are not yet in the production pipeline. Pre-ordering is great if you've ramped up to volume production and items are about to be shipped. Pre-order money should go the BOM of the device that will be shipped to you, to shipping, warranty issues and assembly, not to process/product development. See 'wakemate'.


This looks amazing. I have been waiting for this... the quality is top notch! What a deal too :)


Good job guys! The results look amazing and the device itself looks beautiful.


"Windows or Mac"

No thanks.




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