The Kind three from Formlabs is a high-end Stereolithographic (SLA) printer that makes use of a laser to zap liquid resin into stable type. It is a refined printer that may produce glorious high quality prints with little upkeep or tweaking, making it an amazing decide for many who wish to do numerous printing with out trouble.
These high quality prints do not come cheaply, although — the Kind three begins at $three,499. Which may be a tough value to swallow, particularly as rival 3D printer makers developer cheaper SLA fashions, such because the Peopoly Moai. However price range SLA printers typically require numerous experimentation and upkeep to supply high quality prints. The Kind three requires little of both: It simply works. And that is why we embody the Kind three on our checklist of the greatest 3D printers you will get proper now.
For this assessment, we examined the $four,999 full package that features the Kind three printer and the Kind Wash and Kind Remedy units used for cleansing and ending prints.
Kind three 3D printer assessment: Value and availability
Your greatest guess to purchase a Kind three 3D printer is to move on to FormLabs. There, you may discover the printer obtainable for $three,499 nowadays, with service plans including to the price of your 3D printer.
Since we first reviewed the Kind three a couple of years in the past, inexpensive SLA printers led by the Peopoly Phenom have come out. And whereas these units price a fraction of what you may pay for the Kind three, the Formlabs printer stays the usual bearer for SLA fashions.
Kind three 3D printer assessment: Design
The Kind three appears very like earlier printers from Formlabs, with an orange plastic hood over the printing space and a black plastic base. That is about extra than simply aesthetics: the UV-blocking orange plastic allows you to see what’s going on whereas printing is underway, however with out outdoors lights interfering with the method. This hood folds again to disclose the necessary components of the Kind three — the resin tank and the print platform. Each are a bit of bigger than the earlier Kind printers, providing a print space of 5.7 x 5.7 x 7.three inches, or simply over 237 cubic inches. A bigger mannequin, the Kind 3L, ups this to 11.eight x 13.2 x 7.9 inches, a complete of 1,230 cubic inches. The Kind 3L, which is because of begin transport later this 12 months, will price you a cool $9,999, although.
The detachable resin tank is the place the liquid resin sits throughout printing. The tank’s base includes a skinny, clear plastic layer that the printing laser shines by way of. To create every layer of the print, the construct platform is lowered down to simply over this base layer, trapping a skinny layer of liquid resin. The UV laser then zaps the liquid, turning it into stable resin, which sticks to the construct platform. The printer then lifts the platform, taking the hardened resin with it. The platform lowers once more, trapping one other layer of liquid resin, and the method repeats. Thus, the Kind three creates the print layer by layer with layer heights starting from zero.1mm all the way down to zero.zero25mm.
One of many improvements right here is the versatile plastic on the underside of the layer, which implies that the Kind three can use much less power in pulling the hardened layers up. Formlabs calls this Low Pressure Stereolithography, and claims that it makes printing extra dependable. Formlabs is not the primary printer maker to make use of this method (it is obtainable as an improve characteristic for printers just like the Peopoly Moai), nevertheless it positively appears to be efficient. We had no failed prints in our Kind three checks, which is a primary for a 3D printer.
The Kind three’s laser and optics are discovered below the resin tank, situated in a sealed bundle referred to as the Mild Processing Unit (LPU). This, Formlabs claims, makes the printer extra dependable as mud cannot get in to dam the trail of the laser. It additionally makes the LPU simpler to interchange, as the entire unit will be simply eliminated and changed by the consumer.
The Resin cartridge within the rear of the Kind three holds the liquid resin. The printer mechanically fills the resin tank: You by no means want to the touch the resin or fill the tank your self, which is a plus as a result of it’s nasty, pungent stuff. The resin tank and cartridge are detachable so you’ll be able to swap out completely different printing resins with out having to filter out the entire printer. The tanks will be cleaned out and reused, however the resin cartridges cannot be reused. It’s doable to fill a cartridge with a third-party resin, however Formlabs stresses that this may void the guarantee of its printer. In case you aren’t utilizing the printer for a couple of days, Formlabs recommends that you simply take away the print tank and retailer it within the hermetic transport container it got here in to stop it hardening in place.
Kind three 3D printer assessment: Controls
The Kind three contains a wonderful contact display screen that permits you to management the printer straight, accessing all the options and stopping or beginning prints. Most customers will flip to the PreForm software program and the net printing dashboard to function the Kind three, although.
PreForm is the software program that prepares your print, loading a 3D mannequin (commonplace .stl and Wavefront .obj codecs are supported) and slicing the mannequin for printing. Obtainable as a free obtain for Mac and Home windows, PreForm is simple to make use of, with a useful one-touch printing characteristic that mechanically prepares the print, creating the helps that maintain it in place whereas printing and sending the file to the printer. If you wish to tweak the method your self, PreForm permits you to scale, transfer, spin and in any other case mess with 3D fashions, in addition to prepare a number of fashions for printing at one time (a course of referred to as plating).
The printing dashboard is a web-based service that manages the Kind three. It is aimed extra at customers who function a number of Kind printers or those that share a single printer between a number of customers. This dashboard permits you to queue and schedule prints, monitor print progress and pause or cancel printing. The dashboard may also notify you thru your cellphone when a print is full or when a printer has an issue or requires upkeep.
Since there isn’t any digicam contained in the Kind three to watch the prints, you typically do not know if a print has failed till it’s full, until you have a look throughout the printing course of. The Kind three is not distinctive on this, although: The best way that 3D printers like this work, with a big print platform obscuring the printing space, makes it tougher to see how the print is progressing.
Kind three 3D printer assessment: Efficiency
In our checks, the Kind three produced glorious high quality prints, with wonderful particulars and clean, natural curves and surfaces, even after we used the quickest print settings. Our take a look at fashions had clean, even element with barely detectable layers.
Our first take a look at mannequin is a 3D scan of Rodin’s The Thinker sculpture. The ensuing prints seemed glorious. We appreciated the curves on the sculpture’s shoulders and arms and glorious element on its face.
The layers of the print have been barely seen, even on the quickest 25-micron printing setting.
With the layer peak on the minimal zero.zero25mm setting, the layers are barely seen on the shoulders of The Thinker.
Our second take a look at creates advanced set of planetary gears, to see how nicely the printer can produce interlocking components. The Kind three produced glorious high quality prints right here, too, dealing with advanced particulars just like the screw thread and kit tooth. The components match collectively with none trouble, with screws becoming tightly into different components and gears meshing collectively cleanly.
Lastly, we use a geometrical sculpture as a take a look at of how nicely the printer can reproduce sharp edges and factors. Once more, we discovered glorious outcomes right here, with the numerous angled surfaces of the sculpture popping out with clear, clean edges and sharp factors that nearly appear to be they may draw blood.
Kind three 3D printer assessment: Pace
The Kind three will not be a very quick printer, taking between 10 hours and 17 hours and 21 minutes to finish our commonplace four.5-inch Thinker take a look at print, relying on the place we set the layer peak. SLA printers should not typically very quick, and the Kind three does not buck the pattern. These occasions are similar to different SLA printers just like the Peopoly Moai, which took between 7 hours and 20 minutes and 18 hours to supply an identical print.
One factor to notice, although: whereas our checks have been accomplished with the usual grey and clear resins from Kind, the corporate gives a particular resin referred to as Draft Resin, which will be printed in layers zero.3mm thick. That might make printing considerably faster, however much less detailed. That resin wasn’t obtainable for us to check.
Kind three 3D printer assessment: Print supplies
The Kind three is designed to work with components and supplies solely from Formlabs. You need to purchase the resin tanks and cartridges from the printer maker. A brand new resin tank will price you $149, whereas a cartridge that incorporates a liter of resin prices $149 for the usual resin, $175 for the powerful resin and $299 for the castable wax resin that jewelers and artists use to create molds.
It’s doable to make use of third-party resin with the Kind three by filling one of many printer’s cartridges with one other provider’s, however Formlabs claims that this might void the Kind three guarantee. For reference, we bought seven pretty giant prints out of a single cartridge of the grey resin, so every print price about $21.
Kind three 3D printer assessment: Verdict
The Kind three is an actual plug-and-play 3D printer. We did not should do any tweaking or fiddling round to get printing — we simply plugged within the Kind three loaded it up and began printing. The entire course of was clear and customarily trouble free, which is lots completely different from typical SLA printers that require numerous tweaking, calibration and different fiddling to get good outcomes. The Kind three simply works.
At $three,499 and up, although, the Kind three can be one of the costly 3D printers now we have examined, and it’s costly to run. For professionals and anybody else who depends on 3D printing, that will not be a difficulty. The Kind three will price lots up entrance, however shall be price it for the simpler printing it gives. For fans and amateurs, it is trickier, as you will get equally good outcomes from a less expensive printer just like the $1,999 Peopoly Phenom in case you are ready to take the time to tweak the printer and develop a workflow for cleansing and hardening prints afterward.
Nonetheless, if 3D printing is a important a part of your workflow, you may be happy with the convenience of use and high quality outcomes you may get by the Kind three.