Print Cell UI

January 2018


The Form Cell is an automated 3D Print Cell, and contains up to ten Form 2 3D printers, post-processing hardware, and an automated robotic gantry which moves build platforms in and out of the printers. It is used for small scale production in medical, engineering and manufacturing applications. The Cell needed a simple print management interface that would facilitate printing, scheduling, and material management. We were installing five units for beta customers, and working closely with them to craft the machines to their needs.

- Design Strategy
- User Experience
- User Research
- User Interface

Print Workflow

The basic workflow involves a combination of software and hardware steps. The user sets up the file in the Formlabs pre-print software, and queues the print on the Form Cell interface. The machine then automatically assigns the print to a specific printer, and the robotic gantry facilitates the movement of the build platform between slots.

Required Interface Functionality
  • Upload files from pre-print software to Form Cell
  • Assign and send files to printer
  • Cancel prints on any printer
  • Reorder prints within a queue
  • Schedule prints for future times
  • Automatically assign finished prints to a wash unit

This was one option for the upload experience, where we added an 'upload' button above the prints page. This led to a multi-step modal which allowed you to add a print to the queue. The steps would also allow the prints to be scheduled.

Another version simply allowed you to move prints from a left-hand column to the right, and would automatically start the print.

Printer Status

Each slot is represented as a card on the touchscreen, and shows key updates on printer status, print progress, material level, and other slot details.

Slot Status
The slot can be configured to hold a printer or wash unit. Clicking on a card opens a modal with slot-specific settings and additional information. 

The machine is largely automated, which allows us to keep the overview page read-only and minimize any immediate interaction on it.

Some more design options for the status cards in their various states

Gantry StatusApart from the actual slots, we also had to reveal the status of the automated gantry system which was used to move build platforms from the infeed to the printers, from the printers to the wash unit, and from the wash unit to the outfeed, where it would get picked up for finishing.

Error Management & User Testing

Identifying key user flows revealed that the most complex set of decisions revolve around errors. We were torn between communicating all errors in high detail, or generalizing them to a few simplified, more user-friendly error states. We spoke to potential users and conducted quick tests within the office. 

Since these machines were being operated by a small group of specialized users with prior training, we could afford a level of complexity in the design. Upon testing and research, we learned that more transparency about error states was the better long-run option, as this armed the users with a deeper understanding of the machine and its failure modes. 

We created a catalogue of all possible error states, and wrote accompanying language to describe and resolve all errors.


The Cell is currently in use by several customers, including Gillette and Northwell Health, for short-run production of end-use 3D printed parts. We continue to work closely with the beta users as we begin to map out a list of priority features for future releases.

Here’s a video of the Form Cell in action, with a few instances of the UI in use: 

Wash & Cure

UI for post-processing machines on an 8-bit LCD display

Site Navigation

Redesigning the navigation for a rapidly growing website

Form Cell

Designing a print management system for a fleet of 3D printers

Sample Request

Increasing conversions by redesigning a key webpage

The Digital Factory

Web design and branding for an annual 3D printing conference

Other Work

A brief overview of other projects