Here at Design Interface, we have recently acquired a Formlabs Form 3+ resin printer for use in creating prototypes and parts for our clients. We are excited about all the potential creations we can make with the device and the Formlabs Form Wash and Form Cure that accompanied it. After setting up the printer and creating our first few test prints, we were quite happy with the results, though there was a learning process involving in the preparation of 3D modeling for printing, as the location of support materials and orientation parts plays a great deal in the success of the finished product. An issue that persisted during use was the chemical smell from the resin that filled any room the printer was placed in. To prevent any discomfort to our designers, we ordered a rolling cabinet large enough to fit all the Formlabs devices and connected it to the fume hood in our workshop to assist in ventilation and storage.

Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM 3D printing is the most common type of 3D printing technology in use today, and the one that most people think of when they hear the term. Utilizing a spool of filament that is deposited in layers, an FDM printer can be used to great effect for a tremendous number of projects, from creating figurines to professional prototyping. However, the limitations of printer resolution and materials selection have still limited the options of designers looking to create elastic materials, translucent parts, and ones with a great amount of detail. The recent innovation of Resin 3D printing, also known as Stereolithography or SLA printing has finally given designers and hobbyists the ability to create as never before.

Where resin printers excel is in their ability to produce smooth finishes free of layer-lines and blemishes that often occur with filament printers, and in the greater accuracy of the resulting part thanks to laser light that solidifies the resin into a desired shape with much greater accuracy. SLA printing is not without its downsides, however. Resin is overall more expensive than filament, and requires an alcohol wash, sometimes followed by exposure to a UV chamber to shed excess material and reach its desired toughness. In addition, resin printing is more challenging to prepare. The use of resin printing software is required to mark support locations on the part where structures can connect to a part to stabilize it as the laser creates each layer. For most FDM printing, one simply orients their part in a certain way, support materials are created automatically beneath under hangs, and the part is created. Though dissimilar in many ways, having both options available for different projects is an invaluable part of the workflow of a modern designer.

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