Formlabs (In house)
The Form 1 desktop 3D printer marries print quality, usability, and affordability. The printer’s inverted stereolithography (SL) technology achieves a print resolution previously limited to complex, high-end machines. Parts can be printed with layers as thin as 25 microns and details as small as 300 microns in a build volume of 125 x 125 x 165mm. The intuitive software interface allows users to easily prepare 3D models to print with the complex geometries, fine details, and smooth surface finish necessary for professional quality output. The post-process tray completes the end-to-end user experience with a streamlined set of finishing tools.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
In the 1980s digital print technology ushered the desktop publishing revolution, transforming industries and enabling the innovation and creativity for future generations of designers. More than twenty years later, 3D printing technology is poised to unleash a second industrial revolution. Many new application domains that span rapid prototyping, medical procedures, prosthetics, a plethora of design disciplines, education and more are adopting 3D printing at an ever increasing pace. Unfortunately, the cost of professional-grade machines reaches well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Worldwide, a mere ~30,000 high-end SL printers are in use, compared to the more than 10 million users of 3D CAD software. While the explosion of low-cost FDM machines is an exciting development, they fail to meet the quality requirements of the professional designer and engineer. Finally, the sheer complexity of operating most 3D printers limits widespread access. This problem of democratizing 3D printing is one of cost, quality, and ease of use.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
Our team brought a holistic, user-centered design approach to create a seamless experience unprecedented in 3D printing. The design challenge was to take sophisticated industrial technology and remake it for the studio, workshop and office environments. From the beginning, the whole project focused efforts to simplify the 3D print process while creating a fresh, iconic image that would be recognized for its striking minimalist design language.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Developing such a complex product required an integrated team of designers, material scientists, and mechanical, electrical and software engineers. The union of these diverse disciplines made us continuously approach each problem free of the bias of our respective trades, inspiring greater innovation. Simultaneous development of print resin, desktop software, hardware, and post-processing tools was no small challenge. Our process of maturing the design was highly collaborative studio-like work. Each advancement, whether material, mechanical, or user interface called for successive iterations across all disciplines. As a team of design and engineering professionals, we stayed focused on what we saw as the core user needs through quick integrations cycles. We sought to satisfy the engineer who wants precision, the designer who perhaps wants an aesthetic tool for his studio, and the novice user who just wants simplicity. These needs and more were explored in various models, mock-ups, simulations and functional prototypes. At the same time, we had to deliver on the promise of an accessible product capable of incredible prints despite a low cost. To achieve such a fundamentally new experience in 3D printing, we conducted multiple user studies spanning a range of disciplines, styles, and applications. These informed our process design and workflow to design our printer to be intuitive with optimized tactical and mechanical solutions. The end result is a safe, ergonomic, and reliable package that streamlines the entire printing experience, from digital content to post-processing. The Form 1 design celebrates the simple delivery of an advanced fabrication technology. A single large button and an OLED display provide feedback and guidance during print and set up, and the ergonomic build platform and resin tank allow for easy operation. With a clean line and radii flow, the lower aluminum enclosure protects the precision components mounted on the internal steel frame. The top acrylic cover provides a unique 360° transparent view to observe the print process, and serves practical needs of laser safety and sunlight blocking. Together, the printer’s aluminum and orange acrylic composition provide a fresh and modern iconic look. It elegantly balances accessibility and aesthetics without compromising engineering quality. The whole package offers a minimalist design and seamless user experience appropriate for both the home studio and professional workshop environment.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The Form 1 represents a leap in 3D printing. The quality matches prints of high-end SL machines. The user interface makes a complex process pleasantly simple and accessible. The price matches the cost of low-end FDM printers. With these three achievements, tens if not hundreds of thousands of creative individuals will finally have access to the true power of 3D printing, empowering them to accelerate their innovation in design, engineering, architecture, medicine, education, and other numerous fields. Our printer thus has the potential to impact every aspect of society.