Formlabs Breaks New Ground with Alumina and Silicone 3D Printing

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Formlabs announced a suite of major innovations at the 2023 Digital Factory Conference in Boston’s SoWa Power Station, with implications set to transform industries from automotive to healthcare. The company is adding two cutting-edge materials to its arsenal—Silicone 40A and Alumina 4N Resins—expanding its materials portfolio to an impressive 45 high-performance, proprietary options. The company is also launching its innovative Open Platform, which allows for greater user customization by supporting third-party materials and customizable print settings.

Perhaps one of the most impactful changes comes in the form of affordability. Formlabs’ Fuse 1+30W is now among the most budget-friendly industrial selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printer available on the market. With a Starter Package priced at just $24,999, Formlabs claims it’s making high-level 3D printing more accessible to professionals and businesses. This package also includes the Fuse Depowdering Kit (an all-in-one depowdering solution for low-volume production and multiple materials), facilitating a more efficient transition between different materials and optimizing the entire 3D printing process.

Formlabs SLS 3D Printing with Fuse 1+ 30W. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

Now, let’s look into the new materials. First up is Silicone 40A Resin, considered to be the world’s first fully accessible 100% silicone 3D printing material. Traditionally, silicone parts have been time-consuming and labor-intensive to produce, often demanding specialized molding and casting processes. Instead, this new resin combines the durability of silicone with the flexibility and speed of 3D printing, allowing for the creation of complex parts that could not have been easily manufactured using conventional methods. The material is particularly suited for use in automotive, industrial applications, and even consumer products like wearables and medical devices.

The other addition is Alumina 4N Resin, which opens up the exciting world of ceramic 3D printing to everyone. Formlabs claims that with this new resin, Form 3+ printers will become the most affordable ceramic 3D printers on the planet. Designed to withstand extreme conditions, Alumina 4N is thermally resistant, abrasion-resistant, mechanically strong, and chemically inert. These properties make it an ideal choice for high-stress environments in industries such as manufacturing, defense, and automotive. It promises not just performance but also affordability, offering a much more cost-effective solution for ceramic engineering than currently available alternatives.

“Alumina 4N Resin is remarkably easy to work with and plugs into our workflow seamlessly,” refers Benjamin Lam, a materials research engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory. “It fits a need in the market, with a low barrier of entry that allows us to rapidly iterate on designs and produce parts at a comparably low cost.”

Formlabs’ new Alumina 4N material. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

Formlabs’ Open Platform is another step towards a more flexible and customizable 3D printing experience. This feature consists of three leading solutions: Certified Materials, which offers users a curated selection of third-party resins; a new PreForm feature called Print Settings Editor, enabling advanced users to modify print settings; and Open Material License, an optional software license that allows for the use of any 405 nm photopolymer resin. These additions collectively make Formlabs’ SLA printers among the most versatile and performance-oriented in the industry, states Formlabs.

“So much attention in the additive industry is focused on hardware, but materials are just as essential for delivering on our mission to create user-friendly, cost-effective 3D printing solutions so that anyone can make anything. That’s why we continue to innovate relentlessly in the material space, creating high-performance materials that unlock new possibilities in manufacturing, healthcare, and other industries,” said Formlabs Co-founder and CEO Max Lobovsky. “With Silicone 40A and Alumina 4N, we’re combining the flexibility and efficiency of 3D printing and the performance of silicones and ceramics at a price point that anyone can afford. We’re thrilled to both expand our ecosystem and make our Fuse 3D printers more accessible so our customers and new users can truly create anything at an affordable price.”

Formlabs announced that Silicone 40A, Alumina 4N, and the Fuse Starter Package are now available. At the same time, the PreForm feature Print Settings Editor will be released in early October, and the Open Material License will be available in the first quarter of 2024.

Formlabs Alumina-4N material. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

As the 3D printing industry continues to evolve, various companies are making strides in specialized materials and open platforms. Stratasys, 3D Systems, and others have made noteworthy contributions in this space. Still, it may not offer the same customization options or affordability level that Formlabs aims for with its latest announcement. What sets Formlabs apart is the strategic combination of its innovations: materials like Silicone 40A and Alumina 4N Resins, coupled with an Open Platform that offers unprecedented customization options. This places Formlabs at a unique intersection of innovation, flexibility, and affordability, reinforcing its role as a leader in the AM landscape.

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