What is a Resin 3D Printer & How Does it Work?


Resin 3D printers have been growing in popularity for a while now, mainly due to how easy they are to use, as well as the significant price decrease. That has led to many people wondering what exactly a resin 3D printer is, and how it works.

That’s why I decided to write an article about this, giving people simply to understand information about what the process is like, what to expect, and some great resin 3D printers you can look towards getting for yourself or as a gift.

Keep on reading through this article for more in-depth information about those awesome resin 3D printers.

What is a Resin 3D Printer?

A resin 3D printer is a machine that holds a vat of photosensitive liquid resin and exposes it to UV LED light beams layer-by-layer to harden the resin into a plastic 3D model. The technology is called SLA or Stereolithography and can provide 3D prints with extremely fine detail at a 0.01mm layer height.

You mainly have two major options while picking up a 3D printer, first is the filament 3D printer which is widely known as FDM or FFF 3D printer and the second is resin 3D printer also known as SLA or MSLA 3D printer.

If you look at the resultant models printed with these two different technologies, you are likely to notice a great difference in quality. Resin 3D printers have the ability to print 3D models that will have super smooth surfaces with fine details.

FDM 3D printers may not be able to print models of such high quality because of the positioning accuracy, nozzle size and large layer height capabilities.

Here are the main components of a resin 3D printer:

  • Resin vat
  • FEP film
  • Build plate
  • UV LCD screen
  • UV acrylic lid to retain and block light
  • Linear rails for Z movement
  • Display – Touchscreen
  • USB & USB Drive
  • Thumb screws to secure build plate and resin vat

You can get a clear idea that an FDM 3D printer of excellent quality can usually print at a minimum of a 0.05-0.1mm (50-100 microns) layer height while a resin printer can print at as low as 0.01-0.25mm (10-25 microns) which ensures much better details and smoothness.

It does also translate into taking longer to print overall, but another key difference is how resin 3D printers can cure a whole layer at a time, rather than needing to outline the model like filament printers do.

A model printed with a resin 3D printer is going to have layers better fused with each other in a way that brings those high quality models that people love.

They are known to be more brittle than filament 3D prints, but there are now some great high-strength and flexible resins that you can make use of.

A resin 3D printer has fewer moving components than a filament printer which means that you don’t have to worry about dealing with too much maintenance.

In terms of replacements, the FEP film is the main part that is consumable, though you can get several 3D prints without changing it, as long as you take the right precautions.

In the early days, you are likely to damage your FEP film since it is prone to punctures – mainly due to residue not being cleaned out before the next 3D print. They aren’t too expensive to replace, with a pack of 5 going for around $15.

Another consumable is the LCD screen within the 3D printer. With the more modern monochrome screens, these can last 2,000+ hours of 3D printing. The RGB types of screens run out of steam quicker and could last you maybe 700-1,000 hours of printing.

The LCD screens can be fairly pricey depending on what 3D printer you have, the larger being the more expensive ones. A large one for say the Anycubic Photon Mono X could set you back around $150.

Manufacturers have gotten better at prolonging the lifespan of these screens and have started to design their resin 3D printers to have improved cooling systems that help the LED lights go on for longer.

Over time, they will get dimmer but you can also extend the life even further by having a longer “Light Delay” time between each layer cure.

The video below is a great illustration on how resin 3D printing works, as well as an overall guide on how beginners can get started.

What Types of Resin 3D Printing Are There – How Does it Work?

Resin 3D printing is the technology in which liquid resin is stored in a container instead of being injected through a nozzle. The major terms or types of resin 3D printing include Stereolithography (SLA), Digital Light Processing, and Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) or Masked Stereolithography (MSLA).

SLA

SLA stands for Stereolithography and the SLA resin 3D printer works with the help of a UV laser light that is applied on the surface of a photopolymer container which is mainly known as resin VAT.

The light is applied in a specific pattern so that desired shape can be formed.

SLA 3D printers includes various components such as a building platform, a resin VAT, a light source, an elevator, and a pair of galvanometers.

The main purpose of an elevator is to increase or decrease the height of the building platform so that layers can be formed during the printing process. The galvanometers are the pair of movable mirrors which are used to align the laser beam.

As the resin vat contains uncured resin, it hardens in layers due to the effect of UV light and begins to form a 3D model. Resin 3D printers keep on printing one layer after the other and this process is repeated until a fully 3D printed model of an object is completed.

DLP

Digital Light Processing is a technology that is almost like the SLA but instead of using lasers, it uses a digital projection surface as a light source.

Where you can only print one point at a time using SLA technology, DLP resin 3D printing works by printing a complete layer at a time. This is the reason that DLP resin 3D printing is much faster as compared to SLA.

They are also known to be very reliable since it isn’t a complex system and doesn’t have moving parts.

DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) is a device that is used to control where exactly the projection will be applied in resin 3D printers.

A DMD consists of micromirrors ranging from hundreds to millions which allow it to project light at various spots and print layered patterns in a much better way while consolidating an entire layer at once.

The image of a layer consists primarily of pixels, as a digital display is the initiation point of any layer that is formed by the DLP 3D printer. In 3D printing, the points are in the form of prisms that you can see on all three angles.

Once a layer is printed completely, the platform is lifted at a specific height so that the next layer of the model can be printed.

The major advantage of using DLP resin 3D printing is that it brings much smoother and fast prints. One thing to note here is that the increase in the print area significantly decreases the quality of processing.

MSLA/LCD

DLP and SLA can be distinguished from each other but you may get confused while finding the difference between DLP and MSLA or LCD (Liquid Crystal Display).

As we know that DLP 3D printing requires an additional micromirror device to transmit light from the projector but there is no need for such a device while printing with LCD 3D printers.

The UV beams or light come directly from the LEDs that glow through the LCD screen. As this LCD screen works as a mask, LCD technology is also widely known as MSLA (masked SLA).

Since the invention of this MSLA/LCD technology, resin 3D printing has become more popular and accessible to the average person.

This is because the individual or additional components for LCD 3D printing are relatively inexpensive. Do keep this fact in mind that the lifespan of an LCD 3D printer is a bit shorter than the DLP chipset and it often requires more maintenance as well.

Even with this drawback, LCD/MSLA 3D printing is quite popular because it offers the advantages of smoother surfaces and prints relatively fast. Pixel distortion is an important factor in resin 3D printing which is far less than with DLP resin 3D printing.

The actual light that is emitted from LCD screens is known to be harmful to the organic compounds within, meaning you have to change them according to how many hours you have used them and its performance.

How Much Are Resin 3D Printers?

The lowest price resin 3D printer goes for around $250 like the Elegoo Mars Pro. You can get a good medium range resin 3D printer for $350-$800 like the Anycubic Photon Mono X, while a top quality professional resin 3D printer can set you back $3,000+ like the Formlabs 3. They are getting a lot cheaper.

Resin 3D printers can be considered simple machines as they don’t include a lot of moving parts. This is the reason that resin 3D printers can be purchased at relatively low prices. Most of its components are used by us in our daily life such as LCD screens.

Elegoo Mars Pro

If you are looking for a low-budget resin 3D printer that offers good quality prints, the Elegoo Mars Pro can be a great option. This 3D printer is one of the top 5 resin 3D printers that have Amazon’s best-seller rankings at time of writing.

It includes amazing features and powerful specifications that allow the users to print high-quality prints with much ease and convenience.

This 3D printer is the best option in low price range as it can be availed at a price around $250 and has some great features such as:

  • Higher Precision
  • Excellent Protection
  • 115 x 65 x 150mm Build Volume
  • Safer and Refreshing 3D Printing Experience
  • 5 Inches New user Interface
  • Light Weight
  • Comfortable and Convenient
  • Silicon Rubber Seal that Prevents Resin Leaking
  • Consistent Quality Prints
  • 12 Months Warranty on Printer
  • 6-Month Warranty on the 2K LCD

You can get your Elegoo Mars Pro Resin 3D Printer with a low budget on Amazon today.

Anycubic Photon Mono X

The Anycubic Photon Mono X is a medium price range resin 3D printer that includes some advanced features to have a better resin printing experience.

This 3D printer has some of the best benefits to offer in terms of good print quality, comfort, consistency, and convenience.

The most loved feature with this 3D printer is how large its build volume is, allowing you to 3D print big models or several miniatures in one print.

The Anycubic Photon Mono X was actually my first 3D printer, so I can personally say, it’s a brilliant 3D printer for beginners to get started with. Setup is very straightforward, the print quality is excellent, and it looks very professional wherever you place it.

Some of the key features of the Anycubic Photon Mono X are:

  • 9 Inches 4K Monochrome LCD Display
  • Upgraded LED Array
  • UV Cooling Mechanism
  • Sanded Aluminum Build Plate
  • High-Quality 3D Prints
  • App Remote Control
  • Fast Printing Speed
  • Sturdy Resin Vat
  • Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • Dual Linear Z-Axis for Extra Stability
  • 8x Anti-Aliasing
  • High-Quality Power Supply

You can get the Anycubic Photon Mono X 3D printer for around $700 from the Anycubic’s Official Store or Amazon.

Formlabs Form 3

The Formlabs Form 3 printer has the ability to print high-quality models with a wide range of 3D printing materials but it is quite expensive.

For the people who do resin 3D printing professionally or need highly advanced 3D printing features, this 3D printer can be a great choice.

The consistency and quality of this machine is said to be higher than other resin 3D printers, but they still do pretty well!

This one is more recommended for small businesses, professionals or serious hobbyists that have experience in the resin 3D printing game.

I wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner since it is expensive and has a little more of a learning curve.

This 3D printer contains many advanced resin 3D printing features.

Some of the best things offered by the Formlabs Form 3 include:

  • Incredible Print Quality
  • Supports a Wide Range of Printing Materials
  • Support Multiple Users and 3D Printers
  • Closed-Loop Calibration
  • Hassle-Free Materials Management
  • Consistent Printing
  • Improved Part Clarity
  • Pinpoint Precision
  • Easy to Replace Components
  • Industrial Grade Quality Prints
    • Wi-Fi Functionality
  • Reprint Previous 3D Prints

You can buy the Formlabs Form 3 Printer from their official website right now.

There are a few other accessories that you should purchase when it comes to resin 3D printing such as:

Most of these items are one time purchases, or will last you a long time so it doesn’t get too expensive. The most expensive thing about resin 3D printing has to be the resin itself which we’ll discuss in the next section.

How Much is 3D Printing Resin Materials?

The lowest price for 3D printing resin that I have seen is around $30 for 1KG like the Elegoo Rapid Resin. A popular mid-range resin is the Anycubic Plant-Based Resin or the Siraya Tech Tenacious Resin for around $50-$65 per KG. Premium resins can easily go for $200+ per KG for dental or mechanical resin.

Elegoo Rapid Resin

Elegoo resin is very popular in the 3D printing industry, with their most used resin having over 3,000 Amazon reviews at a rating of 4.7/5.0 at time of writing.

Users love how it doesn’t have a strong odor like other resins, and how prints come out detailed.

It’s a go-to resin for many 3D printer users even after trying many other cheaper resins out there, so if you want a reliable resin, you can’t go wrong with the Elegoo Rapid Resin.

Some of the features include:

  • Light Odor
  • Consistent Success
  • Low Shrinkage
  • High Precision
  • Safe and Secure Compact Package

Thousands of high quality miniatures and 3D prints have been created with this awesome resin, so try a bottle of Elegoo Rapid Resin from Amazon for your resin 3D printing today.

Anycubic Eco Plant-Based Resin

This is a medium price range resin that is loved by thousands of 3D printer users and has Amazon’s Choice tag. Many users say that they love this 3D printing resin because of its flexibility and durability.

The Anycubic Eco Plant-Based Resin contains no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) or any other harmful chemicals. This is the reason that most people choose this resin even if it is more expensive than some other 3D printing resins available in the market.

Some features of this resin:

  • Ultra-Low Odor
  • Safe 3D Printing Resin
  • Stunning Colors
  • Easy to Use
  • Fast Curing and Exposure Time
  • Wide Compatibility

You can find a bottle of the Anycubic Eco Plant-Based Resin from Amazon.

Siraya Tech Tenacious Resin

If you are looking for a 3D printing resin that offers high flexibility, strong prints, and high impact resistance, the Siraya Tech Tenacious Resin is a great option for you.

Although it is a little on the premium side, users mention how it is worth every penny when it comes to providing high quality.

  • High Impact Resistance
  • Easy to Print
  • Flexibility
  • Best for Strong Prints
  • Best for LCD and DLP Resin 3D Printers

You can find the Siraya Tech Tenacious Resin from Amazon for your resin 3D printer.

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