New Form 3+ SLA Resin 3D Printer Review!
This was just announced earlier this month at ces and ive, been very lucky enough to be testing a production unit for the past month or so, and there is a lot to talk about, not just because there are a bunch of improvements and the way those improvements Have been implemented both in software and hardware and some of the new accessories, but also since the last time we reviewed the form 3. Almost over two years ago, now, back in 2019, the landscape of resin printing has really changed. You know the past year, ive really enjoyed testing and many of you out there embracing msla, resin printing has really exploded, and so that really means its good time to kind of check in on the state of sla printing, stereo lithography using laser curing of resins and How that workflow compares how that technology is still holding up and what makes this uh type of printer different than a hobbyist level printer with this one being definitely more of a professional grade. 3D printer well do a little bit of a recap of how this technology works. So fundamentally, the form 3 plus looks just like the form 3. In fact, its basically like the form three, its the form three with over the past two years, optimized manufacturing calibration uh the hardware benefits arent, because there are necessarily new components or new technologies in here its that its been more fine, so that they can push this.
A little more and for faster printing than the previous existing form 3., and in fact the form three plus actually replaces the form three, so its the same price, its thirty five hundred dollars for the printer. And if you order, if you try to order a form three now you will get just the form three plus, but from a fundamental standpoint, its still resin printing. So a lot of kind of what you see here under the hood will look kind of like the hobby, printers that you may have seen. You know theres a build plate up on top with a z axis, uh drive here, um and you theres, a vat or a tank uh that ill talk about uh but thats, where all the similarities end, because underneath here, as opposed to having like uv light, an Array of lights that then shine and cure the resin through a masking layer like an lcd or using a dlp projector here, its curing the the resin layer by layer using a laser system and in the old form 2. They had a two axis laser array, so it would be kind of housed right here, project up per layer and draw you know the outline and the entire area of the layer of the resin needs to speak here with the form 3 and the form 3 plus They moved over to what they called the lpu system. So if you look inside here, its actually like a big empty, cavity and thats, because the laser is tucked away in a this mechanical unit over to the side here and rather than using a two axis system where youre projecting uh the laser across the entire area.
All at once, uh the laser actually is projected along one dimension. One axis this y axis uh and the x axis uh, gets cured by the mechanical movement of the lpu as it moves along the build plate through uh. The build vat or resin tank, and some of the benefits of that is that it means that theres. No chance of dusk or resin falling into the lpu when its not in operation. It gets tucked away its a better sealed unit, its a little more reliable and that unit itself can be user serviceable, replace. So, if its for some reason, you need to replace the lpu, you can actually detach the ribbon cable and get a new one and then moving from up from how that resin is cured from that laser itself to the tank uh. Another big difference in the formlab system, from what you may have seen, is that their tank, their tank, their vat, is designed to be uh a consumable. So, rather than have one dedicated tank that you get, that you might have to pour the resin out clean it and put new resin in the system is designed that you have a dedicated tank for each type of resin that you might be using with this printer And so this is their, you know their their vat, their resin tank uh, the latest version uh, and just like your msle printers, it has a film that you know the curing laser go shoots through uh, but this film, as opposed to you, know your standard fep Film uh is much longer lasting because their tank – it actually has a little bit of give here.
You see these rollers on the side and the film uh mechanically loosens up after each layer is cured so that theres less stress on the prints and you basically have no marks on the film per layer. So you dont have cloudiness that happens over time, and this can last you for about a year of printing. There are also some other mechanical features that you see in here, so theres, a wiper that you install, which wipes not only the bottom of the tank, but also the top of the build plate, and so it does a nice job of mixing that resin as well. Maybe moving any debris that might be there, so you have a little more less chance of a print failure and theres. Also a little bit of a gauge here, theres a thing that floats on top of the resin. So it tells the system how full this tank is, because it does auto dispensing so youre, not opening bottles of resin pouring this in uh. You actually have a resin cartridge that sits in the back of the printer and that resin cartridge looks like this. Has a liter worth of resin and theres a bite valve on the bottom here. So as i plug this in, i actually pop that top uh, and you heard that sound. So it recognizes what type of resin actually recognizes the what cartridge it is: uh and theres a scale that tells the system how much resin is left.
Theoretically, although its not always perfectly accurate – and the idea is with that sensor in the tank, itll know how much resin is left in the tank, itll know how much resin is left in the cartridge. Itll automatically dispense into the tank, either before a print or throughout a print to make sure you never have to open up the hood and pour the resin in manually. The whole idea of the system is supposed to be automated and the build plate itself. Its a square build plate, its built area 5.7 inches by 5.87, inches same as with the form 2 and the form 3, of course, and with the build height of just over 7 inches. So i would consider this in that medium size, print category kind of the equivalent uh volume wise as what you get like in the led saturn or the any cubic model x. Although with a square area, i think you can print bigger objects on this than on those uh build volumes, but the whole idea with you know the sensors and the automatic dispensing, and even the wi fi built in is to make this process as streamlined as possible. The idea is, this is supposed to be for professionals who want who are maybe working in teams and want to get many many prints done and need the reliability and the consistency uh to be something they can trust. So the workflow is optimized in the sense that in the software youre importing your models, youre slicing them generating your supports.
Wirelessly then sending it over to the printer, creating a cue and, and then it knows what tray it knows. What resin you have you can pre. Prime, it and have prints automatically start and also monitor those prints, one of the best things one things i love most about using this printer is their web app dashboard, where i can keep an eye on um how many layers have been printed so far. How many prints left kind of look at my history of prints and all of those slices are stored, so i can very easily cue one up an old print up or look at my list of next prints and get the next print started. Basically right away. All of those very nice to haves when it comes to the prints, especially uh, the blower on the inside, is basically essentially a a blow dryer that heats the volume up to a little over 80 degrees, fahrenheit so optimally for the resin and one of the the Biggest cases or biggest reasons for print failures on the hobbyist printers is because you have resin thats too cold or ambient temperature in your garage thats. Just not warm enough to get that. Resin sticking to the build plates requiring longer exposure times so thats, fundamentally how the form system of 3d printing works. I love this lunchbox design of their resin tanks, so you know when im swapping between resins and im, taking one resin tank out. I can store in this uv protected lunch box and then along with my cartridges and have them on a shelf, but this is a consumable, its 150 for one of these that youll need to replace.
Basically, once a year, if youre, printing on the regular, the resin itself, those cartridges are also they start about 150. So compared to the hobbyist space, where today you can buy a liter of resin for somewhere between you know, 30 and 40 dollars. This is gon na be about four to five times as much uh and thats the price youre paying to move into the professional space where theyve tested, calibrated and validated all of the settings so that its as much plug and play and automated as possible um. So thats the form three kind of technology that weve all known for a couple years and with the form three plus uh. There are both hardware and software improvements. Their biggest selling point they say is a 20 to 40 percent improvement in print speeds and uh. Behind that, the fine print is that that actually mostly comes through the software. There are some hardware differences, like the form 3 and the form 3 plus are they will print at different speeds and thats because, like i said of the manufacturing and calibration improvements, theyve made over two years of making this printer uh that allows for a more parallel Print plane thats what they call it so the plane between the build plate that film, as well as the lpu, is better aligned so that the first couple layers, the important layers in that raft or the uh the adhesion layers to the build plate um require much Less time they dont do any kind of tilting on uh the build tank to get that so thats, something you get on the hardware side on the form three plus um, but the rest of it honestly is in the slicer software over time as theyve been validating.
More of their presets theyve found that they can push the laser closer to its max power of 250 milliwatts. So that decreases the exposure time necessary for the lpu to move across that build plate per layer and then fundamentally in the way theyre generating the support. So here is an example of two prints that i did the exact same model exact same size, exact, same density of supports, auto generated in their system, one with their legacy, setting and one with the new default and beta settings. And you can see the truss design in the supports is much less dense in the new one. Another way the truss has been optimized isnt, just that they use less resin, but the way the support trusts are actually designed where, in the old legacy method, theyre kind of all over the place wherever they need to be kind of diagonally here and there in the New system, you can actually see uh. There are a lot more of these parallel lines which are aligned to that that y axis, which makes sense because the lpu as its moving along its you, can see in the the b roll its creating these laser lines. And if the resin supports are along these lines, then the lpu need to needs to turn on less frequently which speeds up the prints. But one of the best benefits of the new software is the way they generate. The touch support tips themselves. So one of the things im always tweaking on my resin printers is the size and the shape of the touch supports.
Like i hate when a print comes out and im, either damaging the model or im using nippers. For you know half an hour to free the model from uh the supports. I want to be able to tear them off as quickly as possible and uh. One of the ways you do that is, you can kind of reduce the diameter of that touch point so on my msla printers, i typically have them at the touch point reduced to you know, point four point: three millimeters uh here you can adjust that as well. The default is point four uh, but you can take them down to point two point: one and its not just the size of that contact point that matters its also the shape thats different, its no longer a cone. You can see in the close up here in preform its actually more of this tapered pyramid that has this two stage: taper theres, the uh truss that goes up to the tip and then it tapers up and then theres this little. The nub thats. Also, this kind of rectangular nub at the end, as opposed to the cylindrical nub. That theoretically gives you a lot of uh stability and um. A lot of support um through for these vertical forces, as the prints are being pulled off of the uh, the vat. But when that comes out, it actually is very easily removed because torsional forces, these kind of twisting forces can shear forces can tear them off very easily, and i found that, with these new print supports on all my prints, it was so easy using like a 0.
2 Millimeter uh support size to tear them off literally twist them off of the supports, with only minor kind of bits and nubs left on that can easily sand or pick off with some tweezers, just really improving the quality of the the workflow and that experience the post Processing experience and in my test prints i dont have access to a form 3, so its all on the form 3 plus comparing doing a b tests between the default and the legacy settings. I never quite got a 20 increase um but uh, for example. This was one was a seven hour print versus with the old settings uh over seven and a half hours and so im getting between five and ten percent improvements. Just on the software side, on a resin like this and the most i got on a very complex print – was about an hour of savings on like a a 10 hour print. So about 10 improvements, which is definitely you, know impressive uh, but i was enabled to at least just on the software side, get that 20 to 40 improvement um, which they they cite compared to the original form 3. and the thing that actually did the most to Speed up that workflow is actually a new accessory. They also announced earlier this month and thats their build platform 2.. Now this is an accessory that doesnt come bundled with the form three plus uh, but it is compatible with the form three and the form ii um.
Its something i really wish was bundled with the form three plus. So this printer comes with their original build plate which again 5.7 inches by 5.7 inches. You can get a steel version as well, and you can see in the close ups ive done. My fair share of kind of scratching this up and unfortunately gouging a little bit by scraping off the prints, its my least favorite part of resin printing, is scraping a print off of the build plate like i can deal with fishing resin pieces out of a vat And having to you know clean, even an lcd on an amazon printer but like having stuck resin on a build plate. Just kills the momentum uh and one of the best things ive used on msla printers is a flexible, build plate. You know like the wamblam, wham bam systems, and this is very similar to that, although i think even better. This is the build platform ii. Ive left the print on. I did recently on there so its been in an alcohol bath, so its clean, but you can see it. Has this steel build plate here? It fits on right onto the printer, but it also has these two handles and thats, because when a print comes off of demo free lists in real time, you can actually literally take these two handles and im gon na press them. In and that will actually bend this plate and pop the print right off you guys ready for this boom.
It popped right off, no scraping required ill show you what happens. If i press it in here there it goes. You can see it bowing so prints on the center of the build platform too will get the most benefit, but in my test prints, ive layered, you know littered the entire build plate with objects, and it does, i think, even a better job than the flexible steel Plates ive used on msla printers, it does have, it does magnetically attach as well, so it snaps back right into place, and with this i was able to go from one print to the next finish, a print and literally start another print in under 30 seconds. Literally, i would be watching the dashboard on my phone seeing the last layer last couple layers get ready to cure head to the printer. I have another print queued up using the software, have it already in the system when its done take this out pop it out. You know scrape it and clean it, just a little bit, get it back in the printer and im starting. My next print, like i said in under a minute which is mind blowing. This is the best thing and like it works with form three. It works with form two, i think its an essential accessory going forward for anyone with the formlabs form three form two or four three plus, and i really wish this is something they bundle with future form.
Three pluses uh theres quite a bit of a backlog of orders for this because its in such high demand. You know it changes the way. I i even think about what can be printed on a resin printer. A print like this is a very popular articulated dragon designed for fdm printing, because its designed to be printed without supports right on the bed of an fdm printer. I would never print this on resin printer, because youd i dont need supports or id be destroying it by scraping it off. This came right off of the build platform 2 with a pop, simple pop, no problem same with some of these hex and hills tile pieces. You know theyre designed to be printed at an angle, but i could print them straight on and pop off. No problem – saving, not only you know, supports, but also again changing like what i think, my what my brain thinks i should be able to print and what i would go to a resin printer for um, highly highly recommended, of course, theres. One thing we should still talk about and thats the the quality of these prints, which hasnt changed from the form 3 to the form 3 plus. You know they have the exact same technical specifications, but its worth. Looking at how sla laser based printing compares with some of the high resolution lcd printers today when i recently reviewed the frozen ak mini, we talked a lot about.
You know the lcd escalation, where manufacturers are getting higher density panels and higher and higher resolutions. So that not only are you talking about layer height as one metric of how detail of a print you can have, but youre also talking about the the pixel size, the smallest pixel size, for each layer, for when you need those perfectly rounded corners uh and you Dont want to have any aliasing, and i talked about 50 microns kind of the sweet spot for both layer, height and also pixel size in msla printers, even though you have printers now that have 35 micron pixel sizes or 22 microns. In the case of the frozen ak, mini uh on the form 3 in the form 3 plus, it turns out its not an apples to apples, comparison now, layer height, you can absolutely compare those and the form 3 allows you to print. You know on the fast draft resins 100 microns 200 microns 300 microns, but on the detailed resins, 50 microns or even down to 25 microns, but not finer than that um, the msla printers you can configure them to print layer heights of 10 microns, although ive never Seen anyone actually really do that on a practical level other than stress testing and trying to see how accurate that that z, motor is uh. 25 microns really feels like the the thinnest layer height ive ive want to do, and this can absolutely do that. But in terms of the pixel size comparison well here its a laser, so there is no pixel and if you look at the form website the form website, they cite two specifications um.
I want to kind of explain what those mean one is the laser spot size which they cite is 85 microns and on paper, 85 microns thats, bigger than 50 microns bigger than 35 microns. Does that mean that your quality of your prints isnt going to be as fine um thats, not the case, because the laser its not like a grid of laser spots, not a grid of these 85 micron laser spots, its a dynamic laser thats moving across you know The lpu on the x and the y axis through this x axis motor, as well as the mirrors in the lpu on that y axis, and so the other spec they list is the x y precision uh for the lpu and thats 25 microns. And so, while the laser spot you can think of, as you know, you know maybe like a circle of 85 microns, the amount of precision they can per, they can place it on. A layer is up to this 25 micron accuracy, so it can generate really smooth corners and and curves and in my test prints, you know looking at the exact print here, um one on the form three at 25 micron thickness and the other on the frozen ak Mini also 25 micron thickness, but with the 8k panel i got ta say the details are better on the frozen 8k uh, most notably in the hair detail, as well as on this character model. The lips are just.
You can see a little more of that geometry. On the lips on the frozen print versus on the form print its just slightly softer now both of these look like production parts, theyre ready to to paint and and prime um. And if you look at you know the cheeks of this model, theres, not a single layer line thats detectable. So this still looks like it was a cast piece. I cant tell that you know this came out of a 3d printer if youre gon na take a magnifying glass to this, it does look like the 22 micron pixel size. Of that frozen. Ak mini will give you more detail in the finest and finest of spots, but if youre looking also at tests, you know calibration and test prints. This is that amir labs town printed on the form 3 at 25 microns. It achieves almost every single part of this print with no problem theres one bit here ill show in a close up where these tiny little posts get bent and warped, but other than that all the text. The relief detail, the overhangs, even the tiny text you see on the side here – thats engraved here with these – these tiny openings, its all readable and all resolved. And so, if you look at these tiny prints, you look at the 135th scale models, ive tested and some of the other test prints. The detail is still amazing and theres plenty of legs in sla technology.
Yet, at the end of the day, i dont think a lot of people are gon na, be making these direct comparisons between a form, three plus and a home msla printer when making a purchase incision for themselves. I think you kind of know what type of printer youre going to be in the market for based on just price standpoint. Mla printers are fantastic printers to get started in you know. Resin printing has never been more accessible, the barrier to entry and price, and software and experience has never been lower and you can do a you can print some amazing stuff with msla printers, even if youre doing some very small batch manufacturing for your own etsy store. Um, i would absolutely recommend going there uh what you get when you get move into the professional grade. Printers from like form labs is reliability and build quality and honestly peace of mind. Right, like you, get very sturdy machine that has these so many sensors on the inside. That knows how much resin is uh left knows. Life span of the resin tank um gives you that remote dashboard uh and just minimizes the the workflow so youre spending less time. Thinking about printing and more time in the design before the printing or in the finishing after the printing and for a lot of production environments where youre you know: hardware, companies making prototypes or companies that need these to make molds for effects, work or need parts that Go right into into production and dont want.
You know, parts to shrink, uh youre, going to get that certification and that validation of all that stuff. All that baked in so its as easy as possible and all those benefits do come at a cost. I mean this is a 3 500 machine and thats, not counting the consumables that 150 dollars per resin tank and 150 per liter of resin as an individual. That would be really tough to swallow if youre not making money off of your prints in some production capacity. So i would not recommend this unless you are using this to make money in your business and fits within that price point, and you can make take advantage of all of those benefits of the reliability. The support and the the certified uh system of products um and i still think there is room to improve in the software. I think that uh, for example, some some of my test prints, uh the res theres plenty of resin left in the resin tank. Yet the system thought my cartridge was empty, because i did some direct pouring uh and had to wait for the system to time out for allowing me to override it to continue to print which took an hour for that to time out. That could absolutely be reduced. I think they could do better estimates on the print times, which is usually not as conservative or accurate, as i would like. Usually the prints have taken about an hour longer than their initial estimates um.
I think the software, the preform software, could use some speed improvements and maybe open be opened up a little more for customization. I love the automated features, lets press and print, but i also want to be able to tinker a little more um and so over time. Hopefully, those are improvements, software improvements that will come and if the form 3 plus has shown anything its that that their team of software engineers can still find speed, optimizations and also usability improvements on whats, fundamentally, the same hardware uh as something that we saw two years Ago, so, for those of you again with a form, three no need to rush out and buy the form three plus, but absolutely do consider this new build platform too. This this thing alone makes this my favorite resin printing experience. Ive had so far ill be doing more close up comparisons of 3d prints across the printers. I have right now in future videos, so stay tuned for that. But if you have questions about resin, printing, sla, printing, msla printing feel free to post them in the comments below.