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FormLabs unveils the Form 2: A bigger, badder, smarter SLA 3D printer

Back in 2013, a little-known startup by the name of Formlabs made a huge splash on Kickstarter with the release of a groundbreaking new 3D printer. The Form 1, as it was called, was one of the first consumer-oriented stereolithography printers the world had ever seen back then, and ended up being a massive success on Kickstarter, gathering up nearly $3 million before the campaign concluded.

Since then, the company has grown to over 100 employees and raised nearly $20 million in venture capital — and now, just over two years later, it’s back with a new and improved printer that’s poised to take the 3D printing scene by storm yet again. Say hello to the Form 2.

Formlabs was kind enough to give Digital Trends a demo via Skype a few days ago, and based on what we saw, it’s clear that this new printer isn’t just a minor upgrade as the Form 1+ was — it’s a complete and total overhaul. Formlabs has basically taken all the flaws and shortcomings of the first-gen printer and addressed them with smart design changes. Here’s what’s new in the Form 2:

Bigger print volume

One of the biggest issues we had with the Form 1+ was that, despite its outstanding print quality, it could only be used to make small objects. The form 2 changes this, and boasts a build area that’s 40 percent larger than that of its predecessor. It’s still not huge, but it should be big enough to satisfy most users.

More powerful laser

Stereolithography (SLA) printers create object by flashing a laser into a bed of photopolymer resin, which causes a hardened layer to form. The more powerful the laser, the faster the layer forms, and the faster your object is finished. The Form 2’s laser is 50 percent more powerful than the beam in the Form 1+, and Formlabs expects it to be anywhere from 30 to 40 percent faster at producing prints.

New print process

The reason that the 50 percent laser power increase only translates to a 30-40 percent faster printing is because Formlabs has made some changes to the printing process. After each new layer is created, the Form 2 performs a “slide peel” to detach the newly-formed layer from the print bed, and then runs a wiper blade through the resin tray to remove any hardened particulate that may have been left behind. While this makes the printer a bit slower than it would be otherwise, it also makes it dramatically more reliable and far less prone to printing errors.

Automated resin system

Without a doubt, the most annoying part about SLA printing is dealing with the photopolymer resin that it uses to print. It’s incredibly sticky, and tends to get all over the place if you’re not careful. To address this, Formlabs equipped the Form 2 with a new cartridge-based system that automatically refills the resin tank when it gets low, and reduces the likelihood of spills.

More Connectivity

Whereas the Form 1 and Form 1+ required a direct USB connection to your computer, the Form 2 is outfitted with Wi-Fi, so you can send and initiate prints over your home network. Furthermore, software updates allow the printer to shoot you an alert message when your print starts, finishes, or requires attention.

Onboard touchscreen controls

It used to be that all the printer’s settings and functions were controlled on your laptop through Formlabs’ PreForm software, but with the Form 2, everything can be controlled right from the printer’s big, beautiful touchscreen. In addition to settings, you can now also initiate prints directly from the machine.

Reasonably priced

Despite being bigger and better in just about every way imaginable, Formlabs plans to sell the Form 2 for just $200 more than what the Form 1 originally sold for, resulting in a $3,500 price tag. And the best part? This time you don’t have to wait around for a crowdfunding campaign to wrap up — the printer is already available on Formlabs’ website.