At its Digital Factory conference today, Formlabs, the Massachusetts based designer and manufacturer of powerful, accessible 3D printing systems, officially presented Fuse 1, the company’s first selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printer. Formlabs also presented the new Form Cell automated production solution for additive manufacturing, which is based on its best selling Form 2 professional SLA 3D printer.
“When we launched the world’s first desktop stereolithography 3D printer in 2012, Formlabs created new possibilities for designers and engineers to create physical products by giving them access to professional 3D printing technology that had hitherto been unavailable,” said Max Lobovsky, CEO of Formlabs. “With Fuse 1, we have taken the same approach to making powerful SLS technology available to a huge range of customers. And with Form Cell, we are making an efficient, scalable production solution by leveraging the Form 2, an SLA print engine that’s already stood the test of printing more than 10 million parts.”
Numerous companies, including global brands like Google, are already testing the new systems. Sports brand New Balance also announced a strategic collaboration with Formlabs to make high-performance footwear.
“SLS technology enables designers and engineers to accelerate their prototyping process by combining realistic material properties with the minimization of 3D printing design constraints,” said David Beardsley manager of Google ATAP Skunkworks. “With the Fuse 1, a combination of high precision parts, reduced cycle time and robust materials allow teams to easily iterate throughout the design process and accelerate from whiteboard to final parts.”
“By enabling teams to easily iterate and also to directly manufacture final products, Fuse 1 and Form Cell open up a wealth of innovation flexibility within the product development cycle, from early prototyping to manufacturing,” said Dávid Lakatos, chief product officer of Formlabs.
With today’s new developments, Formlabs is powering next-generation digital manufacturing and enabling mass customization through industrial 3D printing.
Fuse 1 and Form Cell Highlights
The Fuse 1 brings the industrial power of SLS 3D printing to the benchtop, with the intuitiveness and reliability that users of the Form 2 have come to love.
It is 20 times less expensive than the cheapest industrial SLS machines, the Fuse 1 printer starts at €9,999, available for reservation on June 5 with a deposit of €1,000; shipping estimated mid-2018. The complete package is priced at €19,999, which along with the printer will include a post-processing station with material recovery, an extra build piston for continuous usage, and initial material load.
Available materials include Nylon PA 12 and PA 11 materials, the industry standards for strong and durable functional prototyping and end-use parts. Fuse 1-sintered parts meet or exceed the material properties published by their industrial counterparts. SLS produces the least expensive per-part cost in 3D printing and enables the production of large, geometrically complex prints without any supports.
Form Cell is Formlabs’ solution for 3D printing automation, focused on achieving the lowest cost per part. Form Cell parallelizes and automates repetitive 3D printing processes with a complete automation work cell from file to finished part.
A row of Form 2 3D printers, Form Wash, a curing unit and an industrial robotic gantry system automates the manual parts of 3D printing. Optimized for the lowest cost per part, businesses can prove ROI for Form Cell in months instead of years. Form Cell eliminates repetitive manual processes to finally bring 3D printing into the lights-out, 24-hour digital factory.
What This Means for Manufacturing
Formlabs is clearly establishing itself as a global leader in the AM market. The company is still small but it has a global reach and has very likely sold more systems (units wise) than any other 3D printing company and – quite possibly – more than all other 3D printing companies combined. Its main weakness, until today, was the availability of only one technology and only two products but by entering the SLS market at such a competitive price point, that is also destined to change.
The $10-20K price point has been proven to be within reach if sufficient scale economies come into play. Swiss company Sintratec sells its SLS kit for just $5K, while Sinterit and Sharebot were able to target the $30K price point. If reliable and capable of guaranteeing adequate production repeatability (something which still remains to be seen), a low cost SLS system can truly and drastically alter manufacturing market dynamics, once again, but that is something we’ve come to take for granted in the 3D printing world.