Formlabs Gets Some Tank Competition

By on February 8th, 2018 in Hardware

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 The z-vat resin tank, for Formlabs equipment 
The z-vat resin tank, for Formlabs equipment 

One sign of corporate success is the appearance of compatible parts and materials, and that’s what’s happened to Formlabs. 

Most successful companies eventually generate an ecosystem of third party suppliers that provide parts, supplies and services to complement or extend the original manufacturers offerings. Sometimes these are at lower costs than the original equivalents, or perhaps they’re available in regions not serviced by the original company. 

It’s Formlabs’ turn for this, as a company has emerged to provide an alternative resin vat for the company’s Form 1, 1+ and 2 desktop 3D printers. 

The resin vat is a critical element of Formlabs’ equipment, as it is on any resin-based 3d printer. The vat holds the liquid resin during 3D printing operations, but more importantly provides a way for the laser to solidify the resin by shining through the transparent bottom of the tank. 

However, this is the weak point in the design: the vat will eventually wear out. New layers of solidified resin must be forcefully pulled off the inner tank bottom as they will adhere very slightly. Over time this tends to erode and cloud the transparency of the tank bottom. It slowly takes an irregular shape at a micro level, and thus can slightly distort the laser as it passes through the transparent tank. This can compromise quality eventually. 

For this reason you should randomize the location of prints on the Formlabs equipment – and most other machines as well – to keep the tank going as long as possible. 

However, eventually you’ll have to replace it; tanks are considered a consumable element of the system. Formlabs sells replacement tanks for USD$59, and they work just like the original tank. 

Until now you would have to buy your replacement tanks from Formlabs, but there is now an alternate source: Z-Vat Industries. This company is now selling plug-compatible resin tanks for Formlabs equipment. 

The “z-vat” is slightly different from Formlabs in that it includes a borosilicate glass bottom window, rather than an acrylic window. This should be more long-lasting, and easier to clean as the resin should not damage the surface. Z-Vat Industries believes their tank is superior to the original tanks from Formlabs. 

However, if they perform better, it’s at a big cost: the z-vat 2 (for the Form 2 machine, for example) costs a whopping USD$220, almost four times as much as the original tank replacement. This would make sense, financially, if it lasts at least four times as long. Does it? I don’t know, but it’s possible. 

Has anyone tried these replacement tanks? 

Via Z-Vat Industries

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!