The brilliant, ever-curious Andrew “bunnie” Huang has posted an exhaustive tear down of the Formlabs Form 3 SLA 3D printer, released last year. In the nearly 7,000-word article, bunnie offers up his first impressions, does some test printing, and then gets to work deconstructing the machine. He identifies some of the machine’s strengths and weaknesses, speculates on the reasoning behind various design decisions, and attempts to identify parts sources. He even includes a sound clip of what the LPU (light processing unit) sounds like as it scans.
One problem that became immediately evident to me, however, was a lack of a way to put the Form 3 into standby. I searched through the UI for a soft-standby option, but couldn’t find it. Perhaps it’s there, but it’s just very well hidden. However, the lack of a “hard” button to turn the system on from standby is possibly indicative of a deliberate choice to eliminate standby as an option. For good print quality, it seems the resin must be pre-heated to 30C, a process that could take quite some time in facilities that are kept cold or not heated. By maintaining the resin temperature even when the printer is not in use, Formlabs can reduce the “first print of the day” time substantially. Fortunately, Formlabs came up with a clever way to recycle waste heat from the electronics to heat the resin; we’ll go into that in more detail later.
The other thing that set the Form 3 apart from its predecessors is that when I looked inside, there were no optics in sight. Where I had expected to be staring at a galvanometer or mirror assembly, there was nothing but an empty metal pan, a lead screw, and a rather-serious looking metal box on the right hand side. I knew at this point the Form 3 was no incremental improvement over the Form 2: it was a clean-sheet redesign of their printing architecture.
Thoughtful tear downs like this do the maker community a great service — bunnie field-strips it so you don’t have to. It’s also wonderful that Formlabs themselves offered up this unit to the slaughter.
If you’re interested in seeing and comparing his tear downs of the Form 1 and Form 2, he has links to these articles in the first paragraph of the piece.