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  • Kathryn Born
  • Ese Osaghae
  • Aushra Abouzeid


Overview This vote proposes the purchase of a Formlabs Form 3 - an SLA 3D printer. Formlabs makes consumer desktop SLA printers that can do incredibly high-res prints, along with castable materials. This means that not only can we create a SLA printing user base, we can integrate 3D printing with the work done in Small Metals due to the castable wax resin capabilities this machine has.

The Basics The Form 3 printer will reside in the CNC area, and Area Hosts and Authorizers will partner frequently in co-programming initiatives with the Small Metal Area. The capacity to print miniature objects - 0.001 inch resolution and 0.001 – 0.012 inch layer thickness- extends far beyond a typical printer – small enough to print molds for pieces like intricate wedding rings, or circuit board components.

Announced: 8-6-19 Language locked: TBD Voted on: TBD

Background When Pumping Station: One started in 2009, filament 3D printers were considered cutting edge. People joined PS1 just to get access to this new technology. 10 years later, PLA and ABS printing is so commonplace, it is no longer a draw. From elementary schools to public libraries, they are everywhere. The new cutting edge 3D consumer desktop printing technology is SLA – Stereolithographic 3D prints that can reach incredibly high resolutions. They don’t have the “steps”/ridges that filaments create, and printed pieces can be very small. The technology is explained below, but the photos illustrate the potential. The writers of this vote, and the ad hoc working group that has been troubleshooting the old Form 1s believe that the combination of new 3D printing capabilities at the space, along with the partnership with Small Metals, will be such a strong attraction that members will join the organization to have access to this one machine, along with remaining a member due to the Lost Wax casting workshops that cannot be found anywhere else in the Midwest. We have also done a competitive analysis and believe that with reliability and ease of use being key factors, that the well-established FormLabs product is the best choice for our organization.

Background - SLA Technology SLA printers are very different from typical plastic filament 3D printers. Stereolithography is an additive manufacturing process that, in its most common form, works by focusing an ultraviolet (UV) laser on to a vat of photopolymer resin. With the help of CAM/CAD software, the UV laser is used to draw a pre-programmed design or shape on to the surface of the photopolymer vat. Photopolymers are sensitive to ultraviolet light, so the resin is photochemically solidified and forms a single layer of the desired 3D object. Then, the build platform lowers one layer and a blade recoats the top of the tank with resin. This process is repeated for each layer of the design until the 3D object is complete. Completed parts must be washed with a solvent to clean wet resin off their surfaces.[16] The Form 3 print objects "bottom up" by using a vat with a transparent bottom and focusing the UV through the bottom of the vat. An advantage of this bottom-up mode is that the build volume can be much bigger than the vat itself. (text based on Wikipedia)

History/Why a new SLA printer? Our Form 1 printers were discontinued before we received them and the print success rates have collapsed over the last two year. At this point, we are reduced to only one simple, flat model (with no support, all supports fail) that comes out with a bumpy texture that is worse in quality than a filament 3D printer. The working group unanimously agreed to no longer take time troubleshooting this printer any further. When compared with Form 2 prints from another makerspace, the next model (a miniature automata) was smooth and intricate, even in miniature, and came out perfectly on the first try. The ring below is from the Formlabs website and realistically portrays what is possible with this machine.

Why this brand? Formlabs is the industry standard. We researched other brands, and for the competitors, SLA printing is an afterthought. Formlabs does only this one type of printer, and they’ve come a long way from their kickstarter campaign 7 years ago (which produced the Form 1). We also have personally used Form 2 printer and don’t personally know of anyone who is using the other brands. None have the wide-scale adoption and plug and play simplicity of the Formlabs Preform software. For example, for one SLA company, they have no software available yet. The PS1 user base (see next section) for this tool also has no passion for hacking and tinkering with a machine, we just want a plug-and-play solution that churns out prints without a lot of expertise or hassle.

Ease of Support: The Value of Plug-and-Play and Warranties One major hassle for the 3D printer Area Host is repairs. This new unit would be covered by a 1-year warranty, so any problems could be resolved for 12 months by packing up the machine and sending it back to the vendor. “Authentic” home-spun, homemade machines have put an undue burden on the area host. There is little critical mass or support community for SLA printing beyond Formlabs. This is a “Do Not Hack” machine to an extreme degree, in that any repairs beyond maintenance will be done by the manufacturer, even beyond the 1-year warranty. You can send it back and pay to repair or replace bad components.

Will it get used? Although the Form 1+ printer has been a struggle for the last couple years, we have still managed to build a contingent of over 20 SLA printing enthusiasts who are dedicated to the potential of this machine and programming. This group will also expand dramatically as we have a machine that can successfully print, along with the creation of programming from Small Metals that will accompany this purchase. It will breathe excitement into 2 areas – Small Metals and 3D printing.

What about the consumable costs? When we commence the SLA printer program, PS1 will purchase a “starter kit” of materials (CNC will buy a $150 cartridge of clear resin, Small Metals will buy an additon $299 for castable resin). However, with the large contingent of users, “passing the hat” and sharing cartridges will keep costs down. Castable resin could also fall under Area purchases. This starter kit is included in the vote total.

Cost - Vote Purchase Basic Form 3 Package - $3,500

Costs from Other Areas Resin - $149 - Paid for by 3D Printer Area Budget Tax and Shipping $407 - Paid for by 3D Printer Area Budget

What is Included

3D printer 3D platform (with build platform), 1 resin tank Finishing kit

  • Vote Results:

Passed. Votes For = 72 (85%) Votes Against = 10 (11.9%) Abstain- 2 (2.3%)