Houston Education

What printers does Formlabs offer and how are they different?

Let’s talk about Formlabs. There’s a lot of innovation happening in the whole additive manufacturing space, and Formlabs has some tangible differences in what they’re doing. The most noticeable difference is they print the parts upside down, and this is stereolithography, so they are using a resin. They lower the print plate down into the bath and shoot a laser from the bottom. Where the laser hits is where you get solidified material, and the material moves up over time.

The first advantage of the bottom-up approach is it provides control over the resin thickness up against the plate. This gives a very fine control over how the part is printed and can print a very fine surface finish.

Another advantage is you are printing the part progressively as you move the print plate up and your reservoir of resin is much thinner and smaller. Why is that a big deal? Well, because with other SLA printers, you have a deep reservoir, and the depth of that reservoir determines how big of a part you can print. With traditional printers, if you want to switch resins to use different materials, it is painstaking to move all of that resin out and get a new resin in. With Formlabs, because you have such a small reservoir, you can switch materials out very quickly and easily.

Also, with the fine-tune control and bottom-up approach, the part stresses are lower as the part is printed, allowing very fine structural supports. The fine structural supports require less post-processing in terms of structural removal. You still have to cure the part, and Formlabs has that capability. They print faster, have finer control, and provide a wide variety of materials and range properties.

If you need some parts where you need fine control; Formlabs is a good fit. It’s a very viable alternative to plastics and plastic injection molding. There are also some production capabilities where you can place multiple printers alongside their curing stations and use that in an automated production type of environment. So that’s it. Formlabs has some unique capabilities that differentiate them and, they’re getting a lot of traction right now.

That’s it. Take care and talk soon.

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