Ultimaker and Formlabs, two major players on the desktop 3D printing scene, have launched new machines that promise to significantly boost the throughput of industrial users. 

The big news with Formlabs’ Form 4, is that it has ditched lasers for LCD 3D printing. This means the company’s flagship desktop system can now cure entire layers of material at once, in a way that makes it 2-5 times faster than before. 

At 50 microns, its horizontal pixel size is down slightly on the 25 microns of the Form 3 Plus, but the Form 4 can still meet the same applications as its predecessor, only faster. For example, it’s said that most prints now take less than two hours, with dental arches ready in minutes. 

According to Jesse Emmanuel, a test engineer at one of the machine’s earlier users, OXO, the system’s sheer speed allows for previously impossible “on-the-fly daytime iterations.” 

For its part, Ultimaker has gone even more industrial, with the Factor 4. While the company has previously marketed machines heavily towards education users, its latest machine is clearly built for light manufacturing applications – think tooling or small product batches. 

With direct drive extrusion, print quality monitoring, and a temperature-controlled build volume, the Form 4 has many of the right features to drive the print predictability needed for this. 

In fact, Ultimaker CEO Michiel Alting von Geusau says it’s so efficient and versatile, it can offer “a quick return on investment” to industrial adopters. But initial feedback, as illustrated in a recent contentious LinkedIn post, has been mixed at best – especially around pricepoint. 

Only time will tell whether customers will warm to the Factory 4 or Form 4, but they certainly represent a step up in terms of performance, which can only be a good thing for pro users.

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