Making things is difficult. It’s messy, labor intensive, and time consuming, requiring skill and experience with how a variety of specialized tools and materials work together. To make matters worse, things don’t scale. The techniques used in creating an initial prototype diverge widely from those used in mass production, forcing designers to rework their creations to accommodate new materials and manufacturing constraints. 3D printing promised to change this, but the initial hype was misguided—traditional, industrial 3D printers are not accessible to most people and the wave of low-cost machines that entered the market don’t meet the requirements of professional users.
The Formlabs 3D printing ecosystem addresses these problems with a holistic user experience that combines software, hardware, and materials, bridging the gap between CAD and physical object. Designed to support the needs of users across a variety of industries, this end-to-end 3D printing system is easy to learn and use, requires little human intervention, works both in person and remotely, and scales from a single user and one-off prototype to a large team and the volumes required in mass production.
The 3D printing process starts with PreForm, a free software tool that allows users to prepare their designs for printing with a single click. By analyzing a part’s geometry and material requirements, PreForm automatically orients the part, creates support structures, and sends a print to any number of Formlabs stereolithography (SLA) and selective laser sintering (SLS) printers.
A versatile cartridge and tank system allows users to easily change and refill printing materials without getting their hands dirty. This interaction is supplemented by onscreen guides which leads the user through every step of the process.
On the Form 3 and 3L 3D printers, a novel feedback system of lights, sound, and text messages allows users to be notified once a print is complete, whether they are sitting next to their 3D printer, working remotely, or managing a manufacturing line. Parts are then moved to Wash and Cure, machines which automatically clean any uncured resin and maximize material properties through additional heat and light exposure.