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The Eiffel Tower
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Finishing with the Form 1
We’ve had some FDM-based machines in the office for some time, 3D printing with them on a fairly regular basis but the Form 1 is a different beast altogether. In the past you’d have needed a technician to print with a resin curing 3d printer with a highest resolution of 0.025mm. But this machine wants to be on desktops across the globe; the time had come to try it out.
Starting with the downloading and using the Formlabs software, PreForm, you know you’re in for a 3D printing treat. In the first week of this year, during International CES 2014 mayhem, Formlabs moved PreForm out of BETA and into 1.0 stage. Since then there’s been two updates and we’re now on version 1.2.1, showing how seriously Formlabs take their software.
Their dedication to making sure the user’s experience is as painless as possible shows the moment you import a file into their software. If you’re file has faults PreForm will ask you if you’d like to repair or ignore those faults and does the repair automatically, if you’re model is too large for the build platform the software will automatically scale it down to the biggest size the machine can print.
Once you have a model in the software, you can choose to automatically orient your model for optimum printing- an algorithm Formlabs strived to put into place – and automatically generate supports. Automatically doesn’t cut it for you? Want to edit the density or size of supports? Want to orient the model in your own format? The software lets you do that too.
All of this takes seconds to complete, Max Lobovsky was entirely correct when he said in a recent article that you could be printing with 15 minutes of unboxing. One of the first models we chose to print was the Eiffel Tower, we’re aware that you’ll have seen the model countless times but the intricate latticing and support-less structure meant it would be an ideal test for the Form 1.
After scaling down the four-part model by 35% to fit inside the 125 x 125 x 165mm build area, printing in Clear Resin on the lowest/fastest resolution setting (0.1mm) the 20cm high model printed perfectly in just shy of five hours. The Form 1 is comparatively silent to the FDM machines in the office making only an occasional clicking sound when the resin tray levels the resin out.
The post-printing process is most labour intensive part of any resin-based 3D printing experience; Formlabs have attempted to make this as painless as possible with the help of their cleaning kit and foolproof instructions. Models must be cleaned in 90% proof Isopropyl alcohol for, on average, 24 minutes; two minute shake, followed by ten minutes sitting in alcohol, then removal of the supports, sand down any marks left by supports and placed in alcohol for a further 12 minutes.
Though Formlabs’ first machine may be aimed at the prosumer; the designer, the engineer, the digital artist; it is perhaps the most consumer-esque experience you’re likely to have with a current desktop 3D printer. The post-processing aside, everything is as automatic as you want/need. Even at the lowest resolution point the Eiffel Tower print now takes pride of place in the reception of TCT Towers.