Low Cost, Professional 3D Printer (FormLabs) Breaks $1 Million On Kickstarter

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The Form 1 3D printer from FormLabs joins the Kickstarter “$1 million raised” club.

The 3D printer space is getting crowded, but like many things, devices that are currently available fall into two camps: the high-end professional machines and the low-end DIY printers. Fortunately, this bimodal distribution of consumers couldn’t last and a company has launched a professional yet affordable 3D  printer on Kickstarter to fit in the gap. The goal of $100,000 in funding was aimed at bringing the product into full production.

The response? The Form 1 3D Printer from FormLabs smashed funding goal in 3 hours and crossed $1 million in funding in two days!

Form 1 is “a high resolution 3D printer at low cost” as the promotional video states. The first 25 backers gobbled up the device for $2,299, the next 100 claimed one for $2,499, and the current price of $2,699 is still available. It’s important to note that this price does not include shipping, which could be significant for the international community that already paid $2,999 to get theirs. Still, compared to the recently announced new Replicator 2 printer from popular MakerBot available for $2,199, the Form 1 is definitely within the budget of many in the market for a 3D printer.

Co-founder Maxim Lobovsky told Techcrunch that Form 1 is the “first 3D printer that takes affordability to the high-end, professional level.”

The campaign page from FormLabs takes the time to explain the technological improvements made in this printer by comparing the extrusion process of low-end printers versus the stereolithographic method of professional printers, which provides high accuracy. The team found a way to pull off stereolithography cheaply, allowing for 25-micro layers to be printed with the printer. FormLabs also aimed to make the user interface of its software more intuitive than typical CAD software and imports models from various CAD programs.

It is one of only a handful of Kickstarter projects to break  the million dollar threshold and notably, the only one that is not in the world of gaming or smartphone-related tech.

Here’s the Kickstarter pitch:

With over 3 weeks to go, hundred of backers enthusiastic about the product, and a ton of financial support, Form 1 is off to a great start.

Talk about being at the right place at the right time. The demand for 3D printers is on the rise with a growing online community sharing designs, numerous physical hackerspaces providing access to 3d printers to hobbyists, and a slew of printers offered by new startups entering the fray routinely. Numerous futurists and tech experts have predicted that 3D printing is the future of manufacturing, and while some focus on the technical capabilities of the printers, others are using 3D printers to produce phenomenal artistic creations.

Additionally, 3D printers have had a good run on Kickstarter. Last year, PrintrBot raised over $830,000 and B9Creator pulled in $513,000. With lower hauls but nonetheless successful campaigns, Bukobot grabbed $167,000 and the Vision 3D Printer raised $65,000 or about 2.5 times its funding goal. Yet, not all 3D printer projects have been successful. Two printers, the TangiBot and 3D DLP, never reached their target even though they were running around the same time.

In the case of Form 1, it’s success is likely due to its clean design and low-cost tech combined with arriving at just the right price point to meet consumer demand.

The printer seems to hit that perfect middle ground between professionals and enthusiasts. For professional designers and manufacturers, this is a potential money saving device and for businesses who have been on the fence about 3D printers because of their high cost, the printer is an ideal entry-level device to pilot designs. When it comes to enthusiasts who have been hacking together printers or are used to ones made out of plywood, the ability to use a professional grade printer for about the same amount that previous devices costs is a testament to how quickly the costs of technology fall.

Form 1 appears to be a dream come true providing a powerful device much sooner than one might have expected.

It’s worth keeping an eye on whether the project can have another burst of funding or whether it has simply plateaued as many breakout crowdfunded projects appear to. Regardless, FormLabs has been given a strong vote of confidence that they are the right team to bring 3D printing a big step closer to the mainstream.

Discussion — 11 Responses

  • GeneroMachina September 30, 2012 on 12:31 pm

    This is actually a really awesome step, going from the plastic strips to hardening a resin. Now the question is just what is the most cost-effective in terms of production in the long run. For someone like me, I would probably pick this model over the Replicator 2, as this one has a layer resolution on 25 microns while the Replicator 2 uses a 100 micron layer resolution. However, one liter of resin is estimated to be around 149 dollars per liter. I don’t know how the pricing is with the plastic strips though, but that could be a little bit expensive if you want to print a ton of parts. For that, the Replicator 2 is also larger, so this model seems to be a little more specialized. Still awesome though.

  • why06 September 30, 2012 on 2:05 pm

    I welcome the day when…

    A an incredibly knowledgeable guy in his basement, with an internet connection, a few machines, and a lot of free time can develop a product as quickly, with the detail and quality of a large corporation designing a product to be mass produced.

    • David J. Hill why06 October 15, 2012 on 11:16 am

      Thankfully, that day is arriving quickly!

  • gt5772b September 30, 2012 on 10:27 pm

    The materials in this process are not something that you want in everyone’s household. They cannot be poured down the drain and require special waste control. If they find their way into the water system, they will cause all kinds of problems. I want desktop 3D printing as much as the next engineer, but I think this concept will not get us a safe result.

    • GeneroMachina gt5772b October 1, 2012 on 1:04 am

      That’s a pretty good point. Plastic strips are easier to manage in that regard. There are some downsides to utilizing a liquid for this.

      • gt5772b GeneroMachina October 2, 2012 on 7:51 pm

        Yes, and not just any liquid…. a photopolymer – this not your run-of-the-mill plastic. And the chemicals used to clean the photopolymer are not great either. Unused photopolymer can be made mostly inert by curing it in a UV oven, but unused photopolymer that has been dissolves in solvent is a different story. Either way, the disposal of any of these chemicals will not be regulated and people will do what they want with it – which usually means whatever is easier for them like pouring it down the drain.

  • chris winnan October 6, 2012 on 10:28 pm

    What is the market for the products the 3D printers can make?? What can they make? Plastic parts?

    These were the questions that most fascinated me, so after plenty of detailed research, I wrote a short ebook entitled, “How To Make $250 Per Day With A 3D Printer”
    I am currently in Shenzhen doing even more research for a second edition, but you can still get the original here:
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00971ETPU