Introduction: Autodesk Workshop Guide: Form 2 3D Printer

About: Autodesk Technology Center San Francisco is a hub for research, development, and demonstration of new manufacturing technologies and workflows relating to configurable microfactories.

This Instructable is for Workshop Users at the Autodesk Technology Center in San Francisco

This Instructable explains how to use the Formlabs Form 2 professional desktop 3D Printer. The Form 2 is a stereolithography printer that cures liquid plastic resin using a laser; it is able to produce parts with excellent dimensional accuracy, surface finish, and mechanical characteristics in a wide variety of materials, and features a fast, accessible, and efficient workflow.

Requirements for using the Form 2 3D printer at Pier 9:

  • Take General Workshop Safety Class
  • Read through all the pages of this Instructable
  • Find Shop Staff to go through Safety Check-off

Step 1: Safety Checklist

The Form 2 printer uses photoreactive resins and isopropyl alcohol (IPA). You should avoid allowing your skin to come into contact with these materials.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Nitrile Gloves
  • Safety Glasses

Proper PPE should be warn at all times when you enter the area around the Form 2 printing station. This area is marked by blue tape on the floor and includes everything on the Form 2's workspace table and the hazardous waste garbage can located to the left of the table.


Uncured Liquid Resin

  • Formlabs resins are considered hazardous when in their liquid, uncured form. Repeated skin exposure can lead to the development of acrylic allergies, and exposure to your eyes can be very damaging.
  • Safety Glasses should protect your eyes, however if you get resin in your eyes, please call for help and flush your eyes for 15 minutes.

Laser Light

  • The Form 2 uses a 405nm laser. Interlocks and the printer's orange hood will protect you from the laser light.

Step 2: Material Choices

Formlabs offers 17 different materials, and provides guidance on which material to choose for your project. The following materials are available at Pier 9:

Standard (Clear, Black, White, Grey)

All-purpose materials for general prototyping and modeling. These materials exhibit excellent dimensional accuracy and surface finish.


  • Tough: formulated to perform similarly to ABS plastic. Well-suited to high-stress components like snap-fits, and living hinges. Tough resin is bright blue-green, which makes it striking in contrast to other components.
  • Durable: resembles polypropylene (PP) or high density polyethylene (HDPE). Ideal for applications that require high impact strength; its elongation and impact strength are both higher than Tough resin, though it's able to withstand somewhat less strain.
  • Flexible: a bendable, compressible material for functional assemblies, soft-touch models, and ergonomic simulation. It is flexible, as the name suggests, though it cannot be elongated as much as familiar rubbers.
  • Grey Pro: a highly-accurate, somewhat rigid material that is excellent for functional prototyping

Step 3: Installing Materials : Cartridge Change

Changing the material in the machine involves two steps: switching the cartridge and switching the resin tank.

Check that the ventilation valve on the cartridge is closed. Gently lift it out of the machine, and check the rubber valve on the bottom of the cartridge for any drips. If the cartridge is dripping, you can gently wipe it with a paper towel.

Slide the new cartridge into the machine and look for the "Cartridge inserted" confirmation message on the Form 2's display.

Now you will need to remove the resin tank, detailed on the next step.

Step 4: Installing Materials : Tank Change

Before removing the resin tank, remove the build platform. This will ensure that any leftover resin on the platform won't drip onto the glass window below the tank.

Disconnect the wiper by gently pulling it toward you. Carefully slide the tank toward you until it stops, then lift it upward to remove it from its mounting holes.

Do not touch the window on the bottom of the tank or the glass window on the printer.

Cover the tank with the correctly-labeled tank cover and store it in its box.

Align the feet on the bottom of your new tank with the mounting holes in the printer, then push forward firmly and gently until the tank is fully seated in the printer. Line up the foot on the tank's wiper with the hole in the wiper arm, then push forward until the wiper is secure.

Step 5: Printer Setup: Build Platform

If you're changing materials from the previous print, give the build platform an extra cleaning. Lift the build platform's handle and slide it off its carrier. Flip the handle back down and close the printer's hood while you clean the platform.

Apply some IPA to a paper towel and wipe off the main surface of the build platform as well as its sides. This will ensure that the previous user's material doesn't contaminate your print.

Slide the build platform back onto its carrier as far as it will go, and close its handle.

Step 6: Software: Preform

Download PreForm, Formlabs' free print-preparation software, and load your model.

Printer/Material Setup

When you open PreForm you will need to choose your printer, material and layer thickness.


  • If you are connected directly to the Form 2, select your printer from the drop down list. The Pier 9 printer is called BrainyWhale.
  • If you are not connected to the Form 2 with a USB cable, select Form 2 VIRTUAL PRINTER.


  • Look on the top of the material cartridge loaded into the back of the machine for the material type and version. Select both in the printer setup window.

Layer Thickness

  • Choose your layer thickness. Higher resolutions require more time. Keep in mind that the lowest resolution is acceptable for many jobs; at 0.1mm, each layer will be roughly the thickness of a sheet of paper.

Open your Model

Go to File>Open to import your .STL, .OBJ or .FORM. file.

PreForm UI

The PreForm UI places the View, Zoom and Layer inspection tools on the right side of the screen. The left side tools are the essential print prep tools. The bar at the bottom of the screen will show general print settings, print time and printability of your part.

Essential Tools

  • Size - The first icon allows you to scale your part to your desired dimensions.
  • One Click Print (Magic Wand Icon) - This will prepare the file for printing with standard settings recommended by Formlabs. In general, the default settings in PreForm are safe to use if you aren't sure how to set your printing parameters.
  • Manual Settings (Orientation, Supports and Layout) - the following Instructable steps will explain these steps in more detail.

Step 7: Software: Orient Your Part


  • Use the Size tool to scale your part to your desired dimensions.


  • Orient your part, either using the automatic "Orient All" button, or manually.
  • Try to avoid orientations in which individual layers have very large surface areas. You'll achieve better print quality and more reliable outcomes by angling your prints from the build platform. PreForm's "Orient All" button will help you find an orientation that's well-angled.

Tip: If your model has one face in particular that you want to have the highest-possible surface quality, keep it oriented away from the build platform so that the support structure won't need to contact it.

Step 8: Software: Adding Supports

Add supports.

  1. Start by clicking "Generate All" to generate the default support structure.
  2. You can edit the locations of individual supports by clicking "Edit All" and then clicking existing support touchpoints to remove them, or clicking on the model to add supports.
  3. Use the slider found on the right side of the screen to inspect your layers and see where the supports are intersecting with the model.

Step 9: Software: Layout

The layout tool will set your part's position on the build platform.

  • Select "Layout All" to do this automatically.
  • Or manually drag your part into position.

Tip: In general your print will run slightly faster if your part is close to the wiper, because the wiper will need to travel a shorter distance on each layer. However, if you notice any wear on the resin tank, you might want to move your model to a less-used area.

Step 10: Software: Sending to the Printer

Connecting the Printer

Physically connect your computer to the Form 2 using the printer's USB cable. Remember to wear gloves and safety glasses when handling the USB Cable or interacting with the printer.

Sending to the printer

Select the orange Printer icon on the left side of the UI to send the job to the printer.

  • You'll be prompted again to check your printer serial name (the Form 2 at Autodesk Research Center San Francisco is "BrainyWhale"), the material in the cartridge, and the material in the resin tank.
  • Use the naming convention: FirstName_LastName_ProjectName
  • Add an email for contact
  • Click Upload Job

Step 11: Printing

Put on Gloves and Glasses.

You should now see your job in the queue of the Form 2's touch screen. Press Print Now to begin the print process.

The Screen will ask you to check:

  • That the vent valve on top of the resin cartridge is open
  • That the build platform is properly attached.

After checking both, press the main button to begin the print.

The printer will begin filling the tank (if necessary) and heating the resin. The filling/heating process may take up to 15 minutes. Once the tank is full and up to temperature, the Form 2 will begin printing.

You can leave the machine during printing but take note of the finish time.

You need to be at the machine when the job is finished to remove your part, clean the build platform and prepare the printer for the next user.

Step 12: Post Processing

Now that your part has finished printing, we recommend that you follow this order:

  1. Use the Form Wash machine to rinse your part and the build platform in IPA
  2. Remove your part from the build platform
  3. Use the Form Cure machine to post-cure your part
  4. Remove the supports from your part and perform any finishing steps

Form Wash - The Form Wash is a system that uses an IPA bath to remove any remaining uncured resin from the print.

Form Cure - The Form Cure uses powerful near-ultraviolet lamps and a heater to quickly finish your part's curing process.

Step 13: Post Processing: Form Wash

Remove the build platform from the printer, taking care to avoid resin drips. You may remove your parts from the build platform before washing them in IPA, but it's much easier to simply place the entire build platform into the Form Wash, which will clean your part, make your part easier to remove, and clean the build platform.

Refer to Formlabs' documentation, included on printouts next to the Form Wash, for the right settings that correspond to your material.

At the end of your wash cycle, the Form Wash will automatically open and lift your parts out of the bath. Gently remove your parts from the build platform using the provided prying tool. Wait for your parts to dry, then place them in the Form Cure and post-cure them at the time and temperature settings recommended by Formlabs' documentation.

Step 14: Post Processing: Form Cure

Refer to Formlabs' documentation, included on printouts next to the Form Cure, for the appropriate post-cure settings for your material.

Allow the IPA to dry from the surface of your print, then place your print on the bed of the Form Cure. Enter your temperature and time settings and select "Start."

Depending on the ambient temperature in the print shop and your post-cure settings, it may take 10 minutes for the Form Cure to reach target temperature. You can start the cure cycle early if you'd like the machine to pre-heat. Once the Form Cure reaches its target temperature, it will enter the post-curing cycle, and will switch itself off when your time target is reached.

Step 15: Post Processing: Removing Supports

After post-curing, remove your parts from their support structures. Depending on the geometry of your part and the surface finish you require, it might be possible to simply snap your part off of its supports. If your part is fragile, use the included flush cutters to gently snip the supports off your part.

Step 16: Finishing

Many parts come out of the Form 2 with excellent surface finish and detail and require no finishing steps. You can sand parts to remove rough edges and polish surfaces, paint them, or apply a variety of coatings. You can even electro-plate them!