Formlabs has unexpectedly announced a new 3D printer, the Form 3BL.
The company had previously introduced the Form 3L, a “stretch” version of their very popular Form 3 flagship device, last year. The Form 3L’s build volume is massive for an SLA device, at 200 x 335 x 300 mm, much larger than the standard Form 3, whose build volume is “only” 145 x 145 x 185 mm.
By the way, Formlabs also announced they are now shipping the huge Form 3L devices as of today.
Form 3BL 3D Printer
But what is the Form 3BL all about? As you might guess, its build volume is identical to the Form 3L, at 200 x 335 x 300 mm, so it is clearly an adapted version of the Form 3L.
The difference is in the details. Formlabs explains:
“The Form 3BL, similar to the Form 3B, is optimized for biocompatible materials for use in the dental and healthcare industries. The Form 3BL balances throughput, quality, and reliability, and is thoroughly validated by Formlabs’ dental team to meet the accuracy requirements for dental aligner production, with consistent part quality and accuracy across the entire build plane.”
The precise differences between the Form 3L and the Form 3BL are not stated, but the biocompatibility aspect suggests that any materials on the machine coming in contact with the resin must themselves be biocompatible to avoid toxic transfers. It’s also likely the firmware has tuned the laser and other operational aspects to ensure optimal use with biocompatible resins that will be used in the Form 3BL.
Formlabs Medical Markets
It seems that Formlabs’ foray into the dental market could have driven the development of this machine. They specifically mentioned dental aligners, which is one of the biggest applications of 3D printing worldwide. They may be moving their market target from dental labs to mass production of dental aligners with this announcement. That also aligns (pun intended) with their discovery that Formlabs equipment can be used for production purposes during the pandemic, and their recent announcement of a “Factory Solutions” service.
There’s another key statement within the Formlabs announcement. They say:
“In medical settings, the Form 3BL is capable of printing human-scale anatomical models, in-house, on a single build platform. With the Form 3BL, healthcare providers can meet the tight deliverable windows needed to produce the customized surgical guides that are used to improve care and reduce the time spent in the operating room.”
This suggests that the company is branching out into yet more markets, as I hadn’t heard of this application being significantly used by Formlabs equipment operators. If they are as successful there as they have been in the dental market, it could be good news for Formlabs.
Form 3L Finishing
One more thing: with all these huge Formlabs 3D printers now set to flood the market, there’s a “big” problem. The Form workflow involves placing fresh prints in their Wash and Cure stations to complete the build process. However, the volume of those products is too small to accommodate larger items produced on the Form 3L platforms.
Because of this Formlabs has also announced new stations: the Wash L and Cure L, which will be available some time next year.