A resin 3D printer is a printer based on resin 3D printing (also known as vat polymerization), it uses a photosensitive resin cured by a light source to create solid layers and, eventually, whole parts.
There are three main technologies of stereolithography (SLA), digital light processing (DLP) and liquid crystal display (LCD) or masked stereolithography (MSLA) for printing miniatures with smooth surface finish and high-quality details.
An SLA 3D printer is the most well known and oldest resin-based 3D printer.
Stereolithography printing uses an ultraviolet (UV) laser that is guided by a galvanometer to draw a pre-programmed design onto the surface of the photopolymer resin vat, and the UV-sensitive resin is photochemically solidified and forms a single layer of the desired 3D object.
Then, the build platform lowers one layer to submerge the cured layer into the liquid resin vat, and a blade recoats the top of the resin vat. This process is repeated for each layer of the design until the desired 3D object is completely built.
A DLP 3D printer as one descendant of SLA printing is also used in the additive manufacturing process. DLP 3D printing is different from SLA printing with a digital light projector as the light source rather than a UV laser for curing photo-reactive polymers. It flashes images of whole layers onto the bottom of the resin vat with a light selectively directed by a digital micromirror device (DMD).
|Light source||UV laser beam||Projector||Display|
As SLA uses a UV laser to manually trace the dimensions of each layer, SLA 3D printing is slower in print speed, whereas DLP and LCD are faster with a projector or display to create entire layers at once.
|Pros||① Higher precision: up to 0.1mm; |
② Fine details;
③ Supports 0.1-0.15mm layer scanning
|① Faster print speed; Good details; |
② High original contrast;
③ Miniaturized machine;
④ Dust-proof closed optical path
|① Lowest cost;|
② Faster print speed;
③ Good details;
④ Simple components for easy assemble and maintenance
Limited choice for materials and colors; Slow print speed;
Complex architecture for difficult maintenance
|A bit expensive;|
Some suffered from minor voxel distortion
|Some suffered from minor pixel distortion|
In sum, all these three resin-based printers feature smooth surface finish and good details. When compared to SLA, both DLP and LCD has a faster build speed and a lower cost.
Besides, LCD 3D printers use cheaper and simpler components than SLA and DLP 3D printers, which makes LCD printer a cheaper resin 3D printing solution. It means that resin 3D printing is getting more common, within-reach, and much more affordable for a wider audience of makers.
If you’re looking for a resin 3D printer with accuracy and resolution above everything else, an SLA 3D printer should be your first choice. If you are a professional who prefers fast print speed and smooth details but has a limited budget, you won’t go wrong with a DLP 3D printer. However, if you are a beginner moving to resin 3D printing, LCD printers would be the best affordable investment.
|Materials||Exclusive materials and design make it only fit on its printer, hard to find the replacement parts.||Print on a variety of materials such as PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, nylon, ceramics, wood, and so on. The universal diameter of filament makes it widely compatible.|
|Colors||Limited colors||Various colors|
|Print quality||High accuracy print, smooth surface finish||Low resolution, limited in the complexity of the details|
|Print speed||Faster printing speed||Fast built speed|
|Ease of use||Complex and toxic to use, not recommended for 3D printing beginners||Easy to operate, best entry-level 3D printing choice|
|Maintenance cost||High cost for the replacement of resin material, resin tank, and build platform||Low cost for replacing the nozzles, filaments, and extruders|
|Users||Best for professionals and makers||Best for beginners, hobbyists, and makers|
|Application||Best for miniatures such as jewelry, dental or other objects in need of intricate details and smooth surface finish||Best for batch production and larger construction volumes of rapid prototyping|
From the above chart, we could see the advantages and disadvantages of SLA 3D printing and FDM 3D printing clearly as follow:
|Pros||①Best for highly detailed and complex miniatures;|
②Smooth surface finish, no sanding is required;
④Plug and play
|①Best for batch production and larger construction volumes;|
③Inexpensive and widely available materials;
④Wide compatibility with durable filaments;
⑤Easy to operate
|Cons||①High cost; |
②Fragile resin material, easily damaged by exposure to the sun;
③Highly toxic liquid resin is not recommended for inexperienced users
|①Low resolution, required to sand or polish the surfaces; |
②Required to calibrate the printer properly, or it will lead to printing problems like warping, misalignment, and shifting layers, threading and nozzle clogging
To sum up, if you need to print 3D objects of precise details and smooth finish, buy a resin-based 3D printer (high precision for SLA 3D printer, fast speed for DLP 3D printer, friendly budget for LCD/MSLA 3D printer. As for batch production in large build-volume objects, an FDM filament 3D printer would be the best budget choice.
That’s why the FDM 3D printer took the first place in the market all the time, but the arrival of an LCD 3D printer re-changed the trend to offer a cheaper solution to resin 3D printing. Only if you invest the same or maybe lower price as an FDM printer in a resin 3D printer, you will get a better 3D model with faster speed and better details.
The price of LCD or MSLA resin 3D printers starts at less than $300 on Gearbest, it’s absolutely a big deal on resin 3D printing.
However, if precise details and smooth finish is your top priority, you won’t go wrong with a budget-friendly LCD/MSLA 3D printer, whether you are a hobbyist or budget creator. Believe or not, what you are investing would pay off someday.
But this toxic material didn’t stop 3D printing professionals and hobbyists, resin 3D printing is getting more and more popular, so don’t worry, you will know how to keep your resin 3D printing safer when you have learned what way resin is toxic.
Here is how the resin is toxic as follow:
①Harmful to the skin and respiratory system;
②Harmful when exposed to eyes or ingested;
③Toxic to the environment;
④Unstable curing process.
① Use in good ventilation to prevent the resin fumes from entering your throat or lungs.
② Wear safety nitrile gloves to keep your skin from exposing to the liquid resin. If liquid resin gets on skin, wash it off promptly with soap and water.
③ Wear safety goggles to avoid exposing your eyes to the irritating resin (if possible, wear a face mask like you are doing a chemical experiment).
④ Read all safety instructions and user manual beforehand for fully prepared to safely print.
⑤ Rinse the finished prints with isopropyl alcohol to be free of uncured resin and allow it to air dry. And if possible, expose the prints to UV for additional curing.
⑥ Cure the liquid resin that you’re planning to throw out. Because curing the liquid resin with UV light could transform it from toxic to harmless, you could expose the unwanted liquid resin to the sun or any other UV light source until the liquid resin is completely cured. The cured, dry plastic is harmless to touch.