Every year I get surprised by a new innovation in 3D printing. We are truly living in the golden age. This year, Form1 amazed with a revolutionary new approach to 3D printing. Like many new innovations in the industry, it’s not without its flaws. But it oozes potential. For me this was enough to pull the trigger to purchase the Form1 as a test case.
If you’ve landed on this page, you are probably worried about the high cost and relatively unproven new ground this printer treads. No worries. In this review you will get the full picture to make an informed decisions. There are “Pros” and “Cons” to consider. I would definitely stress that this printer is “not for everyone”, yet it still might radically improve your 3D printing experience depending on your project.
Without further delay, I’ll jump into the key features that initially attracted me to the Form1….
Key Features of the Form1+ 3D Printer
- Unique Printing Method: Unlike most 3D printers we’ve tried, the Form1 uses a unique SLA (steriolithography) method for printing objects using “Methacrylate Photopolymer Resin”. This is in stark contrast to the ABS or PLA materials I’ve used in the past. How it works is the printer employs stereolithography via a violet laser, projecting onto the polymer resin in the print bed. As the beam strikes the resin, it hardens and raises the object layer-by-layer. This is radically different than then typical Fused Filament Fabrication method of most 3D printers to date. What’s the big deal you might ask? This allows for incredibly smooth and intricate objects to be created.
- Unique High Grade Resin Print Material: As mentioned above, the resin is unique to the Form1. The high quality resin allows for precise prints and “finished” looking final products. The drawback is that you do not have the ability to print in a wide variety of filaments (ABS, PLA, or others), but Form1 is not catering to this user anyway.
- Powerful Custom Software: Unlike many 3D printers which rely on open source software (or can use a variety of software), the Form1 relies on their unique “PreForm” software for the design phase. It promises to provide both individual customization and base support structures to ensure a smooth printing.
- Works Out of the Box: This is very much a “finished” product. It might still take a bit of getting used to, but there is no calibration needed out of the box. Many 3D printers these days are still very much “beta” even in so-called commercial release, so it’s nice to have a smooth functioning device right now of the box.
Form1 Specifications – Quick Look
The following is a table with the key features and specifications of the Form1 3D printer. This is helpful to get a quick sense of the key metrics.
|Build Area||4.9” x 4.9” x 6.5”|
|Filament Types||Methacrylate photopolymer resin|
|Layer Resolution||25-100 Microns|
|Extruders||None (uses SLA)|
|Nozzle Diameter||None (uses SLA)|
|Open/Closed System||Closed Architecture|
|Warranty||Yes (1 Year)|
|Price||$3,499 (see here for latest)|
Pros of the Form1 3D Printer
There were some things that I really liked about this printer and I’ve listed them below…
- Perfect for Precision Projects: The SLA printing process unique to this printer really lends itself to projects where the details are important. Engineers and Designers will appreciate the level of finished detail on printed objects. For those used to ABS/PLA type machines, the difference might be night and day.
- Excellent Customer Support: Form1 goes out of their way to provide top notch support. You’ll probably need to email them once or twice (like I did), so this is a good thing! They are only available M-F 9-5PM EST, but you can fill out their handy web form at any time.
- Strong Software Package: I was initially suspicious of the native software package as I’ve become accustomed to certain open source packages for my other 3D printers. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how professional the PreForm software actually was. It still has a learning curve (like everything else in 3D printing), but it’s not so unfamiliar from other CAD tools to make it too difficult to manage.
- Minimal Setup Required: No complicated calibration or DIY frustration to deal with here. I love my DIY printers too, but it’s nice to get something that works right away (like an ACTUAL finished product).
- Looks the Part: This 3D printer is a futurist’s dream. It looks and feels the part. The attention to design detail is apparent. If you want to let your inner geek flag fly, this printer is for you!
- Fills a Void in the Market: 3D printing is taken the world by storm, but progress has been uneven. For every printer that takes a step forward, another is a dud. Form1 has done an excellent job identifying the need for a highly precise, reliable, and professional grade printer. It’s not for everyone, but that’s the point!
- 1-Year Warranty: Any 3D printer worth it’s price tag should offer a full 1-year warranty (or at least 6 months). It’s comforting to know that an investment of this kind is backed by 12 full months.
Cons of the Form1 3D Printer
So, here are some of the things I wasn’t crazy about…
- Not for Everyone: While the fine level detail is industry leading, it might not be critical to casual or even mid-level experimentation. Precision is a premium concern so keep in mind the scope of your project. It may not be worth it, depending on your situation.
- Smaller Build Area: This printer is not for large scale or even moderate size print projects. What you have is a highly accurate professional grade printer with a limited build area and build volume. Precision has it’s costs and one of them is being limited in the size and scope of your projects. Not a deal breaker, just keep this in mind before you purchase.
- Print Material is Pricey: Any 3D printer that limits the print material to its own brand tends to run on the pricey side. This may be part of the business model (selling the ink to printers) or it may just be high grade print material, but the print and prototyping resins aren’t cheap! It’s about $150 for most resins.
- Expensive: Almost all 3D printers are expensive relative to other investments. That’s no secret. But the Form1 really takes it to a whole new level. At $3,499 per unit, this will make a quick and significant dent in your wallet. Is it worth it? We’ll get to that, but suffice it to say that it really depends on whether you truly need the level of intricate detail and smooth refinement for your particular project.
- Hard to Evaluate Print in Real Time: The small prints combined with the unique SLA printing method means that there is no easy way to identify problems and potentially stop the print in progress. This – combined with the expensive print material – only enhances the overall cost of ownership. Again, this isn’t a “tinkerers” printer. You need to have a good design and ensure the print bed is clean prior to printing.
- Need to Clean Excess Resin Between Prints: Another issue is that you will frequently find small amounts of built up resin caked onto the print bed. You need to clean/scrape the resin off to avoid print errors (even a small amount can cause problems and waste more print materials). The clear resin is also particularly hard to see on the print bed which means that you could start a new print. This is yet another issue which adds to the overall cost of operating the Form1.
Form1+ 3D Printer Video Review
Here’s a good video overview of the Form1 in action:
Final Thoughts: Is the Form1 Worth the Sticker Price?
Yes, it’s expensive to invest this much up front, even for a 3D printer. The filaments are more costly than most as well. Even with the “Cons” mentioned previously, don’t be scared off by the Form1.
The Form1 is hard to compare to other 3D printers precisely because it is so different than most of the ones competing for market share. I really, really, love the SLA printing method, the sleek appearance, and the professional precision of the final printed products. Form1 has – on it’s own – moved the industry forward as a whole by raising the bar. They took an innovative gamble and it HAS paid off. It’s not perfect, but it is a superior printer.
Despite the limitations, I wholeheartedly endorse the Form1. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, it’s not for everyone. So long as you have a clear need for what the Form1 offers, it’s a great purchase, even at this price. You can check out this listing for the latest deals and discounts.
Form1+ 3D Printer
- Professional grade prints
- Unique SLA printing method
- Effective in-house software
- Excellent customer support
- Expensive up front cost
- Limited to internally sold filaments
- Expensive filaments
- Small build area