Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we share new technologies conceived! The stage was set for epic conflict when tensions between the innovators of open systems and the purveyors of rapid prototyping technology drove 3D printing's vanguard to split into sharply polarized camps: those who would have the evolving technology shared freely for continuous improvement in the Reprap tradition, and their nemeses, proprietary systems' advocates for protecting intellectual property (IP) rights for competitive advantage.
These tensions are compounded by 3D printing's overlapping processes and spheres of influence. As additive manufacturing moves into the mainstream, and more of the world's makers add rapid prototyping to their repertoires, an increasingly complex mélange of pending patent infringement lawsuits promises (or threatens?) to bring about the revolution that rapid prototyping enthusiasts have rapturously anticipated from the technology's inception. From Beijing-based manufacturer Tiertime's suit against Chinese distributors of Makerbot's Replicator line, to Makerbot's parent company Stratasys' suit against licensed Tiertime copycat Afinia, and the suit filed by Stratasys' fellow industry leader 3D Systems against Formlabs — battles to stake out territorial claims on potentially lucrative 3D printing technologies have the labyrinthine quality of a game of chase in a hall of mirrors.
To what extent the future of the industry as a whole actually depends on the outcome of these and similar court proceedings remains to be seen. But with the open-vs-closed systems debate as yet unresolved, the fate of companies at the nexus of these legal decisions certainly hangs in the balance. This is the uncomfortably privileged vantage point from which Formlabs launched the Form1+, an upgrade to the original Form1 that triggered 3D Systems' lawsuit.
At the heart of 3D Systems' claim against Formlabs is the use of a stereolithographic process reminiscent of technology originally patented by 3D Systems' founder Chuck Hull. Since stereolithography is the means by which Formlabs machines achieve the higher-precision builds that are Formlabs' claim to fame, a PI ruling in 3D Systems' favor could be devastating to the younger organization.
Another credible threat comes in the form of the B9 Creator, a competitively priced open system that relies on digital light processing (DLP) to build small objects with resolution approaching 25 microns. Ease of use and more intuitive software give the Form1+ some advantage over the B9 Creator, but until the courts can sort out the entanglements of 3D printing's underlying technologies, the forecast for machines that rely on processes that may or may not be patent-protected remains cloudy.
. . . Creates magnificent, high-resolution objects from liquid resin, but the printing process is more onerous than with 3D printers that use plastic filament.
I'm a 3D modeler, and most of the things I want to print are more organic sculptures . . . I've been extremely happy with the quality of the prints from this machine!
The resin tank is made of the same light-blocking orange acrylic as the Form 1+’s casing, and has a clear, silicone-coated base.
We are very unhappy with this device and we have a lot of stuff here we can trash.
Excellent printer, the quality is mind-blowing, and the software is unimaginably easy to use.
It also works very slowly — my little 6-centimeter figurine took over six hours to print at the highest resolution
Total cost of ownership is certainly considerable for this machine . . . A beginner who wants to explore 3D printing is likely better served with a mainstream FFF printer.
If you’re looking for showroom finish quality and you have a good-sized budget, then hands down the Formlabs Form 1+ is the best 3D printer on the market.
Can create very thin layers that result in extremely fine detail. The downsides are that it is complex and requires special resins. Oh, and it is expensive.