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Formlabs FORM 1 high-resolution 3D printer spotted in the wild, we go eyes on (video)

James Trew , @itstrew

Last time we checked in with the 3D printing upstarts over at Formlabs, their Kickstarter was doing splendidly, having over doubled its initial funding target. Well, less than a month later, and with the money still rolling in, the current total stands (at time of writing) at a somewhat impressive $2,182,031 -- over 20 times its initial goal. When we heard that the team behind it, along with some all important working printers, rolled into town, how could we resist taking the opportunity to catch up? The venue? London's 3D print show. Where, amongst all the printed bracelets and figurines, the FORM 1 stood out like a sore thumb. A wonderfully orange, and geometrically formed one at that. We elbowed our way through the permanent four-deep crowd at their booth to take a closer look, and as the show is running for another two days, you can too if you're in town. Or you could just click past the break for more.

As we've alluded to already, one of the more striking features of the FORM 1, is its striking features. Most of the machines we've seen before look like they were imagined by, well, engineers rather than designers. Fit for purpose, and not much else. The FORM 1, however, is different. The orange print cabin, perched on top of the minimal-looking brushed metal base let you visualize it sat in the corner of any design studio, or creative environment perfectly. But the FORM 1 isn't just razzle-dazzle, underneath that outer shell is that self-developed technique for bringing stereolithography to the masses, and seeing it in action is as hypnotic as it is innovative. For those unfamiliar with the method, stereolithography uses a special resin that solidifies under laser light. This means it's more interesting to watch than the regular FDM printing, as every few moments a laser "show" hits the pool of resin, and another small part of the product emerges.

And about the products... the difference in resolution is more than just mildly noticeable. Many of the conventional, yet affordable, machines turned out great models, but often with the tell-tale lines of the incremental plastic layering. The models from the FORM 1 are much smoother, more detailed, and go beyond the realm of simple prototypes and into potentially complete products. One of the items on display was a full chess set (including the board). Albeit made of plastic, the smoothness and detail were good enough that you could not only get your Kasparov on, but you might even leave it out on display afterwards. For us, this represents an exciting page turned in the the 3D-printing story. You can still secure one from the Kickstarter page, too. The lowest pledge that will earn you one is $2,699, which comes with a liter of the resin to get you going. Be sure to check the video below to see it printing the Eiffel tower, as well as a glimpse at the software and finishing kit.

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