We learned that Formlabs may have delayed the release of their highly anticipated Fuse 1 SLS 3D printer.
The Fuse 1 was announced to great surprise by the rest of the 3D printing industry in June 2017. Up until that moment, Formlabs had produced only desktop SLA-style 3D printers, and a powder-based SLS system was the last thing anyone would have thought they may have been developing.
The company was one of the initial ventures into desktop 3D printing in 2013, when they launched their first SLA-style machine, the Form 1, on a massively successful Kickstarter campaign. That near-US$3M in funding allowed the company to survive and grow significantly.
Since then, the company has obtained several rounds of investment financing, some quite significant. Today they’re one of the largest desktop 3D printer companies in the world, and one of the great startup-to-success stories ever told.
We’re now told the Fuse 1 won’t be available until some time “in 2019.” That could mean almost a year away, technically. While I don’t think the company ever officially announced a release date, we had thought the machine would have been available earlier, but apparently that’s now not the case.
I’m wondering why this delay took place, but suspect it may have something to do with ensuring the machine provides excellent customer experiences. This is something the company focused tightly on during development of their Form 2 SLA-style 3D printer, which I believe went a long way to ensuring the huge popularity of that machine.
SLS machines like the Fuse 1 are not being purchased by DIY hobbyists able to tweak and fix the machine as required, like the Form 1; instead it is targeted at industry and professionals, who will expect the machine to work exceptionally well.
Indeed, Formlabs has set a very high standard of expectation with their Form 2 offering. Companies that already use the Form 2 will expect the same or better experiences with the Fuse 1 simply because it’s coming from Formlabs.
3D printing using the SLS process is not as simple as pointing a laser at a flat bed of powder. It requires considerable calibration of laser power, beam movement, precise temperature management and matching of the optical and chemical properties of the material. It’s not easy in any way to do this in a reliable and consistent manner, and that’s exactly what the users of the Fuse 1 will expect.
There’s also the matter of pre- and post-processing of materials and prints from the Fuse 1, which are just as much a part of the end-to-end process as the printing segment. They have to be made easy, safe, efficient and tidy, not an easy feat to achieve.
There are not very many competitors in the low-cost SLS 3D printer market at this time, so perhaps Formlabs is not at a big disadvantage here.
I’m actually pleased that Formlabs is taking whatever time they require to make this machine “right”. Today’s 3D printing world is not about getting machines quickly; it’s about getting machines that actually work.