The 3-D printing boom of the past few years brought with it a big promise: You can manufacture anything, anywhere. But for designers and engineers, whose work often revolves around rapid prototyping, a satisfactory 3-D printing technology has yet to surface. Consumer-oriented models such as the MakerBot's Replicator, or the kid-friendly Cube, work well for at-home tinkerers and hobbyists, while professional-grade machines carry a price tag north of $10,000. Formlabs seeks to fill the void with the Form 1 ($3,000), which Formlabs cofounder Natan Linder says was created explicitly "for designers and engineers, by designers and engineers. If you're in a design studio, this should be a no-brainer." The magic formula is a process called stereolithography, which uses lasers to sculpt liquid plastic resin. The technique yields layers of plastic 75% thinner than possible with other printers (the Replicator, by contrast, builds models with a small nozzle that squeezes out plastic like cake icing, layer by layer). The difference means Form 1 models can skip the finishing and sanding stage and go straight to presentation. (formlabs.com)
[Photo by Joel Stans; Prop Styling: Janine Iversen]
A version of this article appeared in the May 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.