Formlabs’ New Form 4 3D Printers Are 2-5X Faster than Form 3+


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Formlabs has announced a new addition to its line of stereolithography (SLA) printers for additive manufacturing (AM): the Form 4 and Form 4B. Coming several years after the firm’s previous releases, these fourth-generation machines arrive with the promise of improved speed, a refined workflow and a smooth user-experience. Like Formlabs’ previous release, the Form 4 and 4B are respectively engineered for general manufacturing and design and medical and dental applications in mind. Joining these units is a slate of new materials for faster production at a reduced price point. Powered by Formlabs’ new Low Force Display print engine, a proprietary technology that facilitates print speeds two to five times faster than the last generation of Formlabs printers.

Other hardware upgrades includes a high-powered backlight, a new Light Processing Unit, and a new flexible resin tank. These improved parts are all designed to last longer and, when combined with the company’s new slate of lower-priced resins, will lead to an almost 40% reduction in cost per print. Formlabs heavily emphasized this cost reduction and print reliability in its announcement.

New Engine, New Speed

Key to this speed is that the new light engine is powered by masked SLA, a series of LED lights combined with an LCD screen capable of curing an entire later of photopolymer material at a time. This marks a stark contrast to the company’s prior laser technology, which included a proprietary advancement of traditional laser-based SLA. The company describes the technology in this way:

“At the core of the LFD print engine is the Backlight Unit. This ultra-high power light source uses 60 LEDs, integrated cooling, and collimating lenses, with industry-leading optical power intensity of 16 mw/cm2, to deliver blazing fast print speeds with excellent print quality and accuracy anywhere on the Build Platform.

“The Backlight Unit emits a uniform area projection of light, which passes through the lens array, making the light more collimated, or parallel, and more uniform, eliminating dark or bright spots. The custom lens array is made of plano-convex lenses for highly collimated and uniform light even at high power.

“From here, the light passes through the Light Processing Unit (LPU) 4, where it is formed into the shape of the printed layer using a series of polarizers, optical coatings, and a custom liquid crystal display. The 50 μm pixel size of the high-resolution LCD and pre-tuned anti-aliasing delivers sharp details, smooth surface finishes, and accurate tolerances. The custom LCD also features high light transmission, delivering maximum optical power to the resin and achieving blazing fast print speed.”

By changing to LEDs and an LCD screen, the company signals a sea change for SLA overall in order to compete with lower-priced, faster competitors, Formlabs has had to switch its base technology. After Carbon unveiled its own evolution of digital light processing (DLP) SLA in 2015, 3D Systems and EnvisionTEC had to develop their own continuous DLP techniques. Lasers are still used by 3D Systems’ larger systems, but lasers are now clearly less relevant to SLA overall. The company discusses how its method is different from competitors, saying:

“Unlike existing LCD-based printers, the LPU 4 is long-lasting, engineered and manufactured to deliver 600,000 – 1,900,000 layers of consistent print performance before replacement, depending on the material and layer height printed. It is also robust to accidental damage, featuring a strong metal frame, scratch-resistant surface coating, and smart software (debris detection and force limits).  When replacement is necessary, anyone can easily and quickly replace the LPU 4 at a low cost.

Once the light reaches the liquid resin inside the resin tank, the full liquid layer immediately cures into a solid layer. The Build Platform then rises out of the resin and a precision Z-axis peels away the layer from the bottom of the resin tank.

In the past, peel forces have been a major hurdle for resin 3D printing, forcing users to sacrifice either part quality, reliability, or printing speed when selecting a printer. With Form 4, peel forces are minimized using a new Release Texture and redesigned Flexible Film Resin Tank.

The Release Texture is a proprietary, microtextured optical film that introduces airflow to prevent the resin tank from suctioning to the LPU.”


Vegetable Peeler by OXO printed on the Form 4

Compatible and Productive

The Form 4 and 4B are compatible with more than 23 of Formlab’s currently available resins, as well as several new resins designed for increased speed and an eye towards dental applications.The product reveal included the promise that anyone can learn to use the Form 4/B in about 15 minutes. Given Formlabs’ track record of producing truly plug-and-play devices, this should make it an even more tantalizing potential acquisition for dental and medical professionals.

Max Lobovsky, CEO and co-founder of Formlabs, calls the Form 4 “a huge leap not only for Formlabs and our customers, but also for the entire 3D printing world.” While we await the broader reaction from the 3D printing industry, the Form 4 and 4B have already earned glowing praise from Ford, kitchen-goods manufacturer OXO and German Dental laboratory, Kreimer Dentallabor GmbH & Co. KG.

“Form 4’s speed and materials versatility enable us to create multiple prototypes and manufacturing aids every day,” said Bruno Alves, Development Engineer AM/IM, Ford Motor Company. “The printer has already changed the way we design and produce parts, helping us drive efficiency in our product development.”

“…you just pull the printer out of the box, put it on the table, and within five to 10 minutes it’s up and running. The entire ecosystem, including PreForm and Fleet Control, along with the hardware improvements, is amazing” said Stephen Kreimer,  master dental technician at Kreimer Dentallabor.

“Form 4 has transformed our workflow,” said Jesse Emanuel, who runs the rapid prototyping lab at consumer product company OXO. “In the past, our queue has often been an issue based on time. With Form 4, it throws that out the window — we’re no longer constrained by time.”

Parts printed on the Form 4

Both the Form 4 and Form 4B are available to order today.

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