FormLabs Form 1+ Resin Printer in Unknown Condition

This FormLabs Form 1+ resin printer was purchased as part of a company’s R&D project. Presumably sometime between June 2014 when Form 1+ was released, and September 2015 when Form 2 launched. It printed a few things and sat neglected since. Recently it came into my possession in “AS-IS” condition delivered by someone several steps removed from that R&D project. The people in that project has since departed, and all he knew was that “something was wrong with it”. If I could produce satisfactory results from this printer, they may subcontract me to print some parts for them and earn an operator’s fee to run this machine that used to be theirs. If I fail, they’ll still be happy because it’s no longer uselessly taking up space gathering dust at their facility.

When this agreement was reached, the machine still had a resin vat that held resin left from its last print. Neither vat nor resin would be any use after several years of neglect. That plus the high probability of making a sticky resin mess meant they were disposed instead of shipped. I was not given the power adapter, either. During the years it sat unused, it had been moved from one workbench to another and became separated from its original AC power adapter.

Fortunately, FormLabs had the foresight to clearly specify power requirements right next to the power socket. I have several 24V DC adapters on hand, but none as high as 2.5A. The best on hand is a 1.5A unit, which I bought for the Neato vacuum charging experiment. I put the correct size barrel connector (5.5mm OD, 2.1mm ID) on the wire and plugged it in.

That was enough for the printer to go through its startup sequence. Now assured the printer at least powers up, I will order a 24V power supply that can supply more than 2.5A. (*) What else would I need to run this printer? The Form 1 and Form 1+ have fallen out of official FormLabs support since March 2017, so now the best reference material I have is the “Retro Form 1 Guide” compiled by a user and posted to FormLabs user forums.

Another consequence of being out-of-support is that FormLabs no longer sells replacement resin vats for the 1 and 1+. These are considered consumables due to something called “PDMS layer” at the bottom of the vat. PDMS in this context may or may not mean polydimethylsiloxane, but I understand it is something that gradually degrades during printing so it (and the resin vat it is attached to) needs to be replaced periodically. With FormLabs no longer supplying this consumable, I looked for aftermarket solutions and found Z-Vat Industries. They would sell me a replacement resin vat.

FormLabs also no longer sells their specifically formulated resin in bottles we manually pour into a Form 1 resin vat, only in cartridges for installation into Form 2 and 3 which dispenses resin automatically as needed. From this FormLabs forum thread, I learned that resins for DLP resin printers are very different formulation from resins designed for laser resin printers like this Form 1+. (Quick summary: laser resin is designed to be sensitive to a quick flash of intense laser beam, DLP resin is tuned for longer exposure to less-intense light.) This fact drastically limited my options of aftermarket resins, leaving a few vendors like ApplyLabWork. Looking over their catalog, I will avoid the brittle precision resins and order one of their resilient “Robust” resin.

Resin printing is expensive, and FormLabs resin printing more so! I’ve spent nearly $300.00 just so I can find out if the printer even works. And the answer was… it doesn’t.

(*) Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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