Formlabs, a startup that kickstarted the boom of one of the most popular types of desktop 3D printers, is up to something. The company recently sent out invitations for events in Boston, Detroit and London next week, and my guess is that the “special announcement” is an update to the Form 1 3D printer.
Formlabs began shipping the $3,299 Form 1 in May of 2013, meaning it is overdue for a new printer. Since the Cambridge, Massachusetts–based startup first advertised the machine on Kickstarter in 2012, it has gone from being the first reputable low-cost stereolithographic printer to one of many.
SLA printers print objects by curing liquid resin layer by layer. Most desktop printers rely on fused deposition modeling technology, which melts strands of plastic and then prints the gooey plastic in layers before it hardens. SLA printers have been slower to develop than FDM machines and remain more expensive, but prices are dropping quickly as more companies enter the market.
XYZprinting, which is aggressively debuting a large lineup of printers, announced this week that it will debut an SLA machine priced at less than $2,500 next year. Software giant Autodesk is also getting into the market with an open-source SLA printer, a move that could further slash prices dramatically.
So it is becoming a crowded space, and Formlabs will have to deal with both dropping costs and improving technology to compete. Any printer it might release next week would have benefited from the $19 million Series A round it raised last year, which should give it a big boost over the smaller companies that debuted a first SLA machine this year.
Formlabs has been hinting at the big Tuesday reveal on its Instagram all week, so keep an eye on it for further clues.