3D Printer Hardware

Up close and personal with Formlabs’ new Form 4

The system was presented at an an event in Milan, with a live demonstration of its greatly improved productivity

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Formlabs officially presented its latest masterpiece, the Form 4, during an event at a private location in Milan, Italy, allowing the media and local resellers present to see the new machine up close. The event was hosted Marco Zappia Channel Sales Manager Italy, Valeria Macis, Country Marketing Manager Italy, Benelux & Nordics per Formlabs, and Luca Colmi, Sales Engineering Support, who – along with a few selected resellers, service providers and adopters – offered some additional insights on the new machines’ capabilities and its applications.

The new flagship resin 3D printers (Form 4 and Form 4B) set a new standard for additive manufacturing with Formlabs’ proprietary new Low Force Display (LFD) print engine. The Formlabs team also disclosed updates to the company’s library of industry-leading resins (including a price reduction to below €100 per liter on several products), new automated post-processing, and an overall significantly improved user experience.

In addition, the Form 4 is up to five times faster, which enabled the team to create a set of gadgets printed on location and distributed to the audience right after the presentation. These kinds of speeds unlock new levels of productivity for product designers, engineers, manufacturers, healthcare professionals, and innovators to take design risks and accelerate time to market.

Up close and personal with Formlabs' new Form 4 in Milan, with a live demonstration of its greatly improved productivity
Formlabs’ Luca Colmi showed the entire end-to-end production workflow of the Form 4 ecosystem – in just a few minutes.

Luca Colmi, who provides all Formlabs resellers and dealers with engineering support, gave a live demonstration of the new system’s capabilities, by 3D printing a set of gadgets (A replica of Michelangelo’s David statue) to be handed out to the event’s participants at the end of the presentation.

The Form 4 prints two to five times faster than Form 3+ depending on the material, enabling same-hour iteration or batch production with masked stereolithography (MSLA) technology. Colmi explained in detail how the LFD Print Engine world to enable complete prints in under two hours and small parts in minutes of cycle time, achieving maximum vertical print speeds of 100 mm per hour. LFD marks a departure from laser and galvanometer technology, as the Form 4 features an ultra-high power backlight (16 mw/cm2), proprietary release texture, Light Processing Unit 4 (LPU 4), and dual-layer, flexible film resin tank.

Up close and personal with Formlabs' new Form 4 in Milan, with a live demonstration of its greatly improved productivity
A marine electric motor propeller from Velettrica that was extensively prototyped using multiple Formlabs systems (both SLA and SLS).

The new machine has 50-micron pixel capabilities, with highly collimated light, advanced pixel smoothing (kind of like the aliasing effect in virtual 3D pixels), and light touch supports. In addition, Colmi clearly showed how anyone can learn to print in 15 minutes. The resin handling is completely automated to eliminate messy cleanups and allow instant material changes. Even the post-processing is fairly automated with a dedicated hardware and quick-release build platform technology (basically a platform that bends to detach the parts.

According to Marco Zappia, Channel Sales Manager Italy at Formlabs, the Form 4 ensures a 40% lower cost per part, delivering affordability with long-lasting resin tanks that can be used for over 75,000 layers and the powerful Light Processing Unit that can be used for over one million layers. In addition, the Form 4 comes along with lower resin pricing, a 30% larger print volume, and 3.5 times higher throughput.

Up close and personal with Formlabs' new Form 4 in Milan, with a live demonstration of its greatly improved productivity

Formlabs also introduced six new resins to its resin library. These include four newly reformulated General Purpose Resins that take advantage of the Form 4 ecosystem to print two to five times faster than Form 3, with improved toughness and color. Other products include a Fast Model Resin for high-speed prototypes and production of orthodontic models and a Precision Model Resin developed specifically for highly accurate dental models. Additionally, Formlabs’ Form 4 is validated to use 17+ other performance materials from Formlabs’ materials library, with new materials to be added regularly. Form 4B, designed for innovative healthcare professionals in the dental and medical industries, is compatible with 15 additional biocompatible materials.

Among the user applications cases presented, one of the most impressive showed how Unilever and the Italian company Serioplast were able to 90% on costs with 3D printed packaging molds, using the Formlabs’ system. Other relevant application cases were presented by Formlabs’ Italian reseller 3DItaly. Gianpiero Romano, one of the founders of 3DItaly, presented an interesting case for a maritime eclectic motor from Italian company Velettrica. The electric motor for sailboats has a propeller that is biomimetically inspired by the whale shark and was extensively prototyped via various Formlabs’ systems (both SLA and SLS) before going into production. We also had the opportunity to talk with Romano about several interesting applications for the jewelry industry, which we recently discussed on this website, and that are further detailed by Romano, in terms of the use of Formlab printers and materials, in this article.

Marco Zappia closed the event revealing that customers in Italy are now building printer farms with as many as 20 Formlabs systems to directly produce large batches of end-use parts, even beyond production tools and supports. While Zappia conceded that full production is still some years away, the number of companies expressing interest has been growing. The Form 4’s increased productivity should further drive this growth.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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