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Inexpensive 3-D printing has changed how engineers and designers work, but creatives always find ways to complain. Common gripes include low resolution, expensive consumables—the 3-D printer equivalent to ink cartridges can cost up to $150 per liter—and painfully slow print times.
Formlabs already improved resolution by using lasers to print high-fidelity models. Today, the company is announcing a software update that will allow its printers to produce parts using 60 percent less material, and do so at a faster rate with improved print quality.
It does this by making leaner, yet stronger, scaffolds.
Formlabs 3-D printers are capable of printing shapes with dramatic overhangs or hollow sections, a rare capability at the lower end of the market. These overhangs and hollow spaces are filled with support structures—a scaffold, if you will—of evenly spaced columns meant to be removed and discarded once the part is printed. This approach leads to fantastic models, but wastes time and money. In some cases, the auto-generated scaffolding takes longer to print than the remainder of the part. And the scaffold leaves small “pox marks,” or nubs, where the plastic breaks away. ….