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Form 3B vs. Form 2: Comparing Formlabs Dental Desktop 3D Printers

You may be wondering how the Form 3B differs from the Form 2, which has become a staple in dental labs and practices across the world.

In this post, we’ll spell out the improvements you'll find in the Form 3B, why we re-engineered the stereolithography print process and optics engine, and what has changed to make the latest printers the most intuitive, reliable Formlabs printers yet.

Stephan Kreimer uses a Form 3B in his dental laboratory.

Introducing Low Force Stereolithography

In 2013, Formlabs was the first to bring high-resolution stereolithography 3D printing to the desktop, in a much smaller and more affordable setup than existing industrial SLA machines. Since its release in 2015, the Form 2 has become the industry-leading desktop 3D printer, with millions of dental models and appliances printed across the world.

The Form 3B and Form 3BL are built on new Low Force Stereolithography (LFS) 3D printing technology, an advanced form of stereolithography that leverages a flexible tank and linear illumination to offer a huge leap forward in print quality and printer reliability. 

Low Force Printing for Improved Quality

During printing, resin printers repeatedly separate the print in process from substrate of the tank. This is called the peel process. The Form 2 was heavily calibrated to account for the forces of the peel process and produce high quality parts, putting industrial quality in the hands of more businesses at an affordable price point. 

The Low Force Stereolithography technology that powers the Form 3B was developed specifically to drastically reduce peel forces for significant increases in print quality and printer reliability. One key improvement is the flexible film at the base of the tank, which allows for a softer peel between layers during printing.

“[With the Form 3B], the surface texture has improved significantly. Due to the LFS technology, the support structures are easier to remove and you need less [supports] than before. Splints and surgical guides have superior translucency and surface finish.”

Stephan Kreimer, MDT Kreimer Dentallabor

This decrease in peel forces brings several key benefits:

  • Improved surface quality, especially when it comes to smoothness and clarity
  • Light-touch supports easily tear away from the part for faster cleanup and finishing
  • Better print success across all materials

Decreased peel forces lead to incredible surface quality, easier support removal, and cutting-edge material possibilities.

Precision Optics for Repeatable Accuracy

The precision optics engine within the Form 2 has proven over time to meet the accuracy requirements of the most demanding applications. The Form 2 uses two galvanometers for X and Y positioning, directing laser light from the back of the printer to a large stationary mirror that delivers the beam to the print plane.

For the Form 3B, we focused on further refining accuracy and consistency, and making the system scalable. LFS 3D printing houses the optics inside a Light Processing Unit (LPU) that moves in the X direction. One galvanometer positions the laser beam in the Y direction, then directs it along across a fold mirror and parabolic mirror to deliver a beam that is always perpendicular to the build plane. 

The Light Processing Unit (LPU) inside the Form 3B contains a system of lenses and mirrors that ensures an accurate, consistent laser spot.

The LPU delivers more uniform, precise optics to the Form 3B than the Form 2, and is easier to replace in the rare case that optical issues arise.

New Features to Make Your Work Easier

Truly Nonstop Printing

With the Form 2, we set out to create the most reliable 3D printer on the market. The Form 3B has introduced even more features to push toward maximum uptime:

  • Integrated sensors across the printer can alert you when the printer needs your attention
  • Failure detection and handling gives you a safety net when pushing the boundaries of what your printer can do
  • Field-replaceable components like the Light Processing Unit, resin tank, rollers, and optics window mean you don't need to wait for a technician to come service your equipment in case something does go wrong

The Form 3 takes printer reliability to the next level with more features to help you spend less time checking on your printer so you can focus on designing and creating.

Print From Anywhere With Remote Print

For those who receive urgent or last minute print requests, the Form 3B introduces the ability to start prints from anywhere. Pre-prime the printer before you leave, then start the next print job from anywhere in the world (not just the local network).

[Remote Print] is useful since I work from home a lot and can start a print and know it will be done in the morning when I get to the office.

Rick Ferguson DMD, DABOI/ID, DICOI Implant Educators

Familiar Workflows, Easier Than Ever

If you’ve used a Form 2 before, the overall workflow for the Form 3 should feel quite familiar. Even if you have never used a Formlabs printer, it’s easy to get started with either machine. To further empower beginners and accelerate the workflows of advanced users, Formlabs offers similar service and training options for each machine.

The Form 3 has introduced a few new features to make interacting with the printer even easier:

  • Larger, higher resolution touchscreen with a redesigned UI that puts the most powerful tools at your fingertips
  • Status indicators and a speaker for ambient visual and audio alerts
  • Sleek, redesigned hardware with a printer cover that opens up flat against the wall and optics protected from resin exposure

With cross-compatible materials and accessories and the same intuitive software, it’s just as easy to manage several Form 2 and Form 3 printers side by side as it is to manage a uniform fleet.

Bring the Next Generation of 3D Printing to Your Dental or Orthodontic Business

Today, Formlabs Dental users are leading the way in digital dentistry. The Form 2, the 3D printer that changed the standard, is now available at an even more affordable price point to bring industrial-quality 3D printing in-house.

With the Low Force Stereolithography (LFS) print process behind the Form 3B (and its large format counterpart, the Form 3BL), Formlabs has re-engineered the print process to create an in-house fabrication platform that’s more reliable and versatile than ever.