Formlabs promises faster, more reliable 3D printing for prototyping and production

New Form 4 resin 3D printer offers expanded material selection for additive manufacturing applications.

The stereolithography (SLA) and selective laser sintering (SLS) company Formlabs has released its first new 3D printer in five years along with a counterpart specifically designed for dental and healthcare applications: the Form 4 and Form 4B, respectively.

According to the company, its fourth-generation 3D printer is significantly faster than the previous Form 3+ — two to five times faster, depending on the material.

“Form 4 is a huge leap not only for Formlabs and our customers, but also for the entire 3D printing world,” said Formlabs CEO and co-founder Max Lobovsky in a press release. “We’ve built on the strength and insights gathered from more than 130,000 printers on the market and over 300 million parts printed to deliver the Form 4, our best SLA printer ever. Its reliability and new level of speed will transform how our customers develop new products.”

The key to the Form 4’s speed is a process called masked stereolithography (mSLA), in which the laser beam that’s traditionally used to cure resins is replaced with a large, ultraviolet light source, filtered by a selectively transparent LCD screen. This is the core of Formlabs’ Low Force Display (LFD) print engine, which features an ultra-high-power backlight (16 mW/cm3), a proprietary release texture. Ligh Processing Unit 4 (LPU 4) and a dual-layer, flexible film resin tank.

According to Formlabs, the Form 4 and Form 4B can complete most prints within the 20.0 × 12.5 × 21.0 cm build chamber capacity in under two hours, with maximum vertical printing speeds of 100 mm per hour. In addition, Formlabs claims the new design reduces cost-per-part by 40%, thanks to longer-lasting resin tanks and LPUs (estimated at 75,000 and 1M+ layers, respectively), as well as lower resin prices, a 30% larger print volume and a 3.5x increase in throughput.

The Form 4 already has testimonials from early adopters, including engineers at major industry players: “Form 4 is our go-to choice for projects needing tight tolerances and engineering-grade materials,” said Mark Honschke, additive prototyping lead at Microsoft in a Formlabs press release. “It produces high-performance parts with amazingly fast print times and makes it possible for our model makers to produce multiple iterations in a 24-hour period.”

“Form 4’s speed and materials versatility enable us to create multiple prototypes and manufacturing aids every day,” said Bruno Alves, development engineer AM/IM at Ford in the same release. “The printer has already changed the way we design and produce parts, helping us drive efficiency in our product development.”

In addition to the new printers, Formlabs has also announced six new resins, including four newly reformulated general purpose resins that have been redesigned for the Form 4, a fast model resin for high-speed prototypes and orthodontic models and a precision model resign for high-accuracy dental applications.

The Form 4 starts at $4,499 and the Form 4B starts at $6,299. Both are available via the Formlabs website.