Formlabs, who recently received more than $2,9 mln by crowd funding, received a patent lawsuit for possibly infringing a 3D Systems patent relating to stereolithography. This is a method for making solid objects by successively “printing” thin layers of an ultraviolet curable material one on top of the other. 3D Systems claims it invented and pioneered the stereolithography 3D printing technology and also has many active patents covering various aspects of the stereolithography process. While 3D Systems admits that Formlabs may have been correct in publicly stating certain patents it uses have expired, it believes that at least 1 is still valid today and 3D Systems intends to enforce their patent rights.
The 3D stereolithography printing process discussed here is considerably different than the process used by most other 3D printers available today. They use a technique called extrustion, where the 3D printer melts plastic and places the molten plastic in layers on top of each other to create the 3D object.
The stereolithography process, in contrast, uses a laser to turn liquid resin into microscopic layers. Consequently the Formlabs Form 1 printer allows it to make much more precise constructions than classic extrustion based 3D printers.