FormLabs' high-def 3D printer makes microscopic layers with lasers
Over the past few years, we’ve seen 3D printers rise in popularity and become way more affordable. But like all things technology, at some point there has to be a generation-leaping change.
A new company called FormLabs, led by MIT Media Lab researchers, believes that the next step for 3D printers is for them to become high-definition, just as televisions eventually evolved from CRTs to LCD-based HDTVs. To the end, FormLabs have developed a radically different 3D printer that forms shapes using lasers and liquid resin rather than extruded plastic.
The Form 1 3D printer uses a process known as stereolithography (SLA), which uses a laser to cure liquid resin into microscopic layers. The resolution of a 3D print is measured in the thickness of the shapes layers, and the SLA process allows the Form 1 printer to create layers as thin as 25 microns (0.001 inches), where as the MakerBot Replicator 2 can only make layers as thin as 100 microns.
The Form 1 printer can also create objects as large as 4.9 by 4.9 by 6.5 inches (125 by 125 by 165 millimeters).
FormLabs says that its Form 1 printer will be the first affordable professional-quality printer that can produce the same high-resolution prints as a machine that normally cost tens-of-thousands of dollars.
FormLabs already has raised almost $1.5 million on Kickstarter so far, but if you want to get into this high-definition printing game, you can get you own Form 1 printer for $2700.