Formlabs vs. EnvisionTEC vs. Robo 3D: 3D Printers Comparison

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3D printing is a fascinating and relatively new technology that has lowered in price enough that it is available for small businesses and hobbyists to be able to afford. 3D printers can be used to make jewelry, replacement parts, dental implants and even

What is 3D Printing?

Amazingly, 3D printers reminds us of Star Trek replicators. Not quite to the point where you can make a chicken salad sandwich, but you can make many items with a 3D printer. With a 3D printer, you can input a design made with a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file and the 3D printer will then make the product.

A 3D printer makes a product by layering a material, usually a plastic or resin. Nozzles deposit melted plastic and other materials in layers until the product is complete.  There are different types of 3D printer technology. A selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printer uses a scanning laser that fuses powdered material to layer and build the final product. The materials that can be used include plastics, glass and metals even including gold and silver. A Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) deposits the melted material forming the layers of the product. Stereolithography (SA or SLA) creates an object by passing or tracing a beam of UV light over a photosensitive pool of resin and is known for its high precision.

The two popular types of plastic used in most 3D printers are ABS and PLA. ABS plastic is preferred for professional applications because it is flexible, has more strength, and better for machinability and higher temperature resistance. Some do not like ABS because it can have a petroleum smell to the finished product.

PLA plastic is made from biodegradable products or plant based products, has a better smell, comes in a wide range of colors and the finished product has a glossy feel to it. 

Possibilities of 3D Printers

There are many great possibilities for 3D printers such as creating replacement parts, dental implants and even life saving body parts. A recent story in the New England Journal of Medicine report that doctors used a 3D printer to make a tracheal splint made of a bioresorbable plastic using a 3D printer for a baby who had the medical condition, tracheobronchomalacia that saved this baby’s life.

Formlabs

Formlabs was spun off from the MIT Media Labs in 2011 by founders David Cranor, Maxim Lobovsky, and Natan Linder. Formlabs sells the Form 1 3D printer. The Form 1 is a Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer, which is known for high precision. Formlabs raised money for their 3D printer through the Kickstarter program. You can currently pre-order the Formlabs Form 1 printer for $3,299. 

Formlabs CAD Preform software

The Form 1 has the following specifications.

  • The 3D printing technology is Stereolithography (SLA).
  • The build volume or the size of the final products is 4.9” x 4.9” 6.5” (125mm x 125mm x 165mm).
  • The minimum feature size is 300 microns (0.012”).
  • The minimum layer thickness is 25 microns (0.001”).
  • The Formlabs Form 1 will work with Windows XP and up with 2GB of RAM.
  • With the Form 1, you get the 3D printer, software and post processing kit.
  • You can buy their clear resin for their Form 1 printer for $149.

Formlabs Customer Comments

Many of the comments on Formlabs blog are from customers that are waiting a long time for delivery of their Form 1 printer. You can find comments, pictures and some great videos from users on their Twitter page @formlabs.

A few comments from Twitter include:

  •  “It is a super accurate machine!”
  • “Truly loving my Form 1 3D printer.”
  • “New Formlabs Form1 in the office! Already printing after
  • “Awesome detail on the builds.

Most user comments that have actually used the Formlabs Form 1 3D printer are impressed with the detail and accuracy of the final product.

Formlabs Finished Product Photos

Here are a few photos of finished products that have been made using the Formlabs Form 1 3D printer.

EnvisionTEC

EnvisionTEC started in 2002 in Marl, Germany by Chairman of the Board, Mr. Siblani. EnvisionTEC sells 26 models of 3D printers. Many models are for the dental and medical industry. They have offices in Dearborn, Michigan and Germany. EnvisionTEC makes 3D printers that can be used in the following industries:

  • Automotive
  • Consumer packaged goods
  • Dental
  • Education
  • Electronics
  • Hearing aids
  • Manufacturing
  • Medical and biofabrication
  • Sporting goods
  • Toys

EnvisionTEC uses a version of the SLA or Stereolithography technology. EnvisionTEC 3D printer models include.

Perfactory Desktop Family

  • The Perfactory Micro is the smallest 3D printer with the highest resolution. The technology uses Direct Light Projection technology from Texas Instruments. The build envelope is 1.58” x 1.18” x 3.94” (40 x 30 x 100 mm).
  • Micro DDP is a small desktop 3D printer that is designed to make crowns and copings for casting and temporaries. The build envelope is 40mm x 30mm x 100mm.
  • Micro EDU is another small desktop 3D printer that also uses Digital Light Projection technology and is great for teachers and students to create prototypes. The build envelope is 3.39" x 2.54" x 3.94" (86 x 64.5 x 100 mm). The build envelope depends on the material used.
  • AUREUS is a 3D printer that is for making jewelry and can make 8-12 pieces every 5 hours. The build envelope is 2.36” x 1.71” x 3.94” (60 x 45 x 100 mm).
  • PIXCERA can make 20 copings, crowns and 7 unit bridges in less than 3 hours.
  • DDSP is their decentralized Rapid Manufacturing System for hearing aid applications. The DDSP can make 15 shells/earmolds in 2-3 hours. They also sell the DDSP Mini model.

Perfactory Mini Family

  • Perfactory DDP4 can make crowns, caps, bridges and partials in wax based materials or glass filled composites.
  • The Perfactory Mini Family also includes the P3 Mini Multi Lens, DDP3, 4 Mini XL with ERM.

Perfactory Standard Family

  • P3 Digital Shell Printer (DSP) can build 40 shells in 2-3 hours (1-2 hours with the high speed module) with a resolution of 25 microns in the X and Y.
  • Perfactory® Xtreme and Perfactory® Xede allows the creation of large parts in a short amount of time. The build envelope for the Xede is 7.5” x 14” x 20” (444.5 x 355.6 x 500 mm) or 13” x 10.5” x 20” (330 x 266 x 500 mm).
  • The Perfactory Family also includes the 4 Digital Shell Printer XL, 4 Standard with ERM and more.

Ultra Family

  • 3DENT is a 3D printer that can print as fast as 10mm per hour making highly accurate dental models.
  • Ultra 3SP Ortho 3D printer is used for making highly accurate and high quality orthodontic appliances.
  • EnvisionTEC also makes several other models for dental work.

Otoflash

  • The Otoflash model uses a light polymerization chamber for the hardening/curing of light curing resins for jewelry, dental and otoplastic applications. This process is known for better hardening and good physical values.

3D Bioplotter

  • The EnvisionTEC 3D Bioplotter is a Rapid Prototyping tool for 3D printing that can process many biomaterials.

As you can see, EnvisionTEC makes many high end models of 3D printers for the medical industry with uses in other industries as well. EnvisionTEC does not give prices for their 3D printers; you have to contact the company for each product to get a price quote.

EnvisionTEC Customer Comments

There are not many customer comments on the internet about EnvisionTEC products, most likely because they sell to medical companies and not home users. A few comments include.

  • The Perfactory® 3D printer from EnvisionTEC has transformed the product development process at spray nozzle equipment manufacturer Hypro EU with its performance capabilities and cost saving results.”
  • "Layerless" technology is completely plausible in a technology like this. All it requires is a constantly changing cross-section projection, and a constantly moving z-axis. It will still have a z-resolution, but this is limited only by the minimum step of the z-motors (you could avoid this by making them DC w/ encoders to avoid this), and it will still have a slice resolution, but this is virtually infinite (only dependent on computing power).”

Robo 3D

Robo 3D was founded by three 3D printer entrepreneurs.  Coby Kabili who has a BS in Bioengineering from San Diego State, Braydon Moreno who has a BS in Management specializing in Entrepreneurship and Mike Pilkington who is a college graduate and a San Diego firefighter and is used to building things with his hands and is Robo3D’s shop guru. The company started in 2010 and makes two fully assembled 3D printer models

Robo 3D PLA model

  • Has a build volume of 10 x 9 x 8 inches (254 x 228.6 x 203.2mm) or 720 cubic inches.
  • Black acrylic print bed.
  • A layer resolution of 100 microns.
  • A hot end nozzle diameter of 0.4mm diameter.
  • The Robo 3D PLA model uses PLA plastic only and costs $599.

Robo 3D ABS + PLA model

  • The Robo 3D ABS + PLA model can use both PLA and ABS plastic material.
  • The build volume is 10 x 9 x 8 inches (254 x 228.6 x 203.2mm), 720 cubic inches.
  •  0.4mm heated end nozzle diameter.
  • The Robo 3D ABS + PLA model uses 1.75mm diameter filament.
  • The heated bed is an 8.4” x 8.4” heated surface on 10” x 10” bed for printing in ABS plastic as well as PLA.
  • The cost for the Robo 3D ABS + PLA model is $699.

Robo 3D Customer Comments

There are not many customer comments since they are rather new. You can find some comments on the internet including.

  • There’s only two things that stand in the way of everyone having a 3D printer - price, and knowing how to use one. But RoBo 3D has solved both!”
  • This is awesome and I can't wait to get one! I will use it for building patterns, etc.”

Robo 3D Finished Product Photos

3D Printing Conclusion

As you can see, there are many applications for 3D printers. They can be used for personal and hobby use and they can also be used for serious medical work. These three companies are different in the fact that EnvisionTEC mainly sells 3D printers for the medical and dental profession, but can also be used for other industries.

Formlabs and Robo 3D are more for the home, hobbyists and small business uses. The difference between Formlabs and Robo 3D is that Formlabs uses resin and laser or SLA technology and Robo 3D uses the PLA and ABS plastic materials. These three companies offer something for anyone interested in 3D printing.

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