When you think about it, 3D printing is one of the most futuristic inventions of the last few years. 10 years ago if you said you could print a guitar, most people would tell you to stop reading so much sci-fi.
Now 3D printers are not only a familiar concept, but they are also becoming much more affordable.
Most people are familiar with printers that use a special plastic filament to create solid objects, and while these devices do work as intended they have some significant drawbacks. One of these is that filament-fed printers can’t be reliably used to create highly detailed items.
This means if you are interested in making figurines or pieces of jewelry, you may struggle to do so with a printer that uses filaments. This is why many hobbyists interested in making their own finely detailed models choose resin printers instead.
These devices use UV light to cure and harden the liquid resin in layers to build up a solid object, much in the same way that a filament-fed printer works.
The main difference is that the liquid resin cures to form a much smoother surface and can be solidified in layers as small as 0.001mm thick. What this means is that you can use a resin printer to produce items with a much finer level of detail such as jewelry and figurines.
On a filament printer, you would still be able to see each individual layer that the model was made from, but with resin, you can make items that are smooth to touch and intricately detailed.
Below, you will find five of the best 3D resin printers on the market. The first thing you may notice is that many of these devices are considerably cheaper than filament printers, although they often have less available space for making large objects.
At the end, we will go through some of the core components of a resin printer and what to look out for when shopping for one.
OUR TOP PICK
This printer made by ANYCUBIC is advertised as 2.5x faster than most of its competition. With a 2K LCD monochrome screen, this device takes only 1.5 seconds to cure each layer of resin.
This makes it a great tool for those who want to create their own models, offering an accuracy of 0.01mm which practically eliminates all layering lines on the finished product.
The cover is there to protect your model from external sources of UV light. This stops the resin from curing prematurely and creating unwanted protrusions on your finished item.
You can set your printer to automatically stop printing whenever the cover is removed which is convenient for those who want to monitor the printing process without ruining their item.
The transparent yellow cover on the Photon blocks up to 99.95% of UV rays which will help you save a lot on wasted resin.
The z-axis stepper motor is used to slowly raise the build platform out of the vat of resin, with your printed item emerging layer by layer with it. On the photon, this motor is extremely stable to allow for greater precision during the printing process.
Other printers use a single standard UV light at the bottom of the machine which shines through unblocked areas of the screen to cure your resin in the right places.
Meanwhile, ANYCUBIC has designed this printer with a parallel matrix UV light source made of 15 separate smaller beams. Both of these attributes combine to give the Photon incredible accuracy and the ability to create items with extremely fine details on them.
Dimensions (in): 8.74(l) x 8.94(w) x 15.08(h)
Printing space (in): 5.11(l) x 3.14(w) x 6.49(h)
Screen type: Mono
Printing speed (mm/h): 50
- Z-axis accuracy of 0.01mm
- Parallel matrix UV light offers complete coverage and creates finer details.
- The Photon Workshop app included with this printer is easy to use.
- Very fast printing speed.
- The FEP film used in this printer is more expensive than the standard films used by the competition.
Elegoo is one of the leading brands when it comes to affordable 3D resin printers. The Mars Pro 2 comes with a 6in 2K LCD screen that offers great accuracy and fast printing speeds.
The build platform has been sandblasted to make it better at sticking to the cured resin, which means you are less likely to have an item fall back into the vat mid-print.
It isn’t just the build platform that is well made, the body of the machine is built from aluminum to make it both sturdy and light.
There is a vent in the platform behind the vat of resin that leads to an active carbon box, and this feature is intended to filter out harmful resin fumes.
To ensure that no fumes are leaking into your room at all, the transparent red cover has a silicone rubber seal at the bottom to make sure nothing escapes.
The Mars 2 pro can be used almost anywhere in the world with a computer that caters to 12 different languages including Japanese, Korean, German, Russian, and Turkish.
The COB UV LED in the bottom is a new feature that provides more even light coverage with better heat dissipation. This means your printer is less likely to overheat and can produce more finely detailed objects with a Z-axis accuracy of 0.001mm.
Dimensions (in): 7.87(l) x 7.87(w) x 16.14(h)
Printing space (in): 5.08(l) x 3.15(w) x 6.3(h)
Screen type: Mono
Printing speed (mm/h): 30-50
Warranty: 1-year warranty on the printer and a 6-month warranty on the LCD screen.
- Sturdy and durable construction.
- Rubber seal on the cover and active carbon filter to remove harmful resin fumes
- 12 available languages for the control panel.
- Limited build volume
This next printer doesn’t have the largest available build volume but it makes up for it with super high-quality prints that are perfect for intricate jewelry or highly detailed models.
In fact, if you want to use your 3D printer to create miniatures for tabletop wargaming, then the Sonic mini 4K may be the perfect choice for you.
The monochrome LCD screen is guaranteed by the company to last up to 2000 uses before it needs replacing which will help to cut back on maintenance costs for this unit.
The company strongly recommends using their own brand of water-washable resin in this printer. However, it is also compatible with lots of third-party resins as well. Once again this printer achieves its incredible accuracy with a parallel matrix of UV LEDs.
These provide very even light coverage which will help to build your models much faster as well as make them more detailed.
Inside the box, as well as your printer, you will receive all the tools you need to get started. This includes spare screws, metal and plastic scrapers, a pair of gloves, and a USB stick for transferring STL files from your computer to your printer.
The Sonic mini 4K is a compact yet powerful 3D printer that is perfect for anyone who wants to make highly detailed models or pieces of jewelry.
Dimensions (in): 9.8(l) x 9.8(w) x 12.9(h)
Printing space (in): 5.2(l) x 2.9(w) x 5.1(h)
Screen type: Mono
Printing speed (mm/h): 80
- Offers an extremely high level of detail.
- Compatible with third-party resins.
- LCD screen guaranteed to last up to 2000 uses.
- Compatible with Chitubox slicer app.
- Small build volume.
- The build platform can be tricky to calibrate.
The Elegoo Saturn isn’t as fast as the Mars 2 pro, but it offers a more spacious build volume for creating larger items. It achieves 4K resolution on the things it prints by having the sandblasted build platform attached to two rails instead of one.
This makes the platform extremely stable as it rises out of the vat of resin, allowing for better accuracy along the z-axis.
As well as the stable build platform, the Saturn uses a parallel matrix of UV LEDs to further improve its accuracy and provide incredible levels of detail on the items it produces.
Because of the even light exposure provided by this matrix, each layer of resin takes only 2.5 seconds to cure. With the LCD screen guaranteed to function for 2000 hours of use before it needs to be replaced, this is a machine that is certainly built to last.
The Elegoo Saturn comes with a free copy of CHITUbox slicing software, which is a great program for creating your own 3D sculpts to print.
When setting up your machine for the first time it is essential to not peel off the black tape around the edges of the LCD screen. Doing so may cause damage to your screen which may ruin your new printer.
Dimensions (in): 11(l) x 9.44(w) x 17.6(h)
Printing space (in): 7.55(l) x 4.72(w) x 7.87(h)
Screen type: Mono
Printing speed (mm/h): 30-40
Warranty: 1-year warranty on the printer and 6-month warranty on the LCD screen.
- The build platform is attached to two rails for extra stability.
- Compatible with CHITUbox slicer app.
- Parallel matrix of UV LEDs offers better accuracy
- FEP film covering the screen is expensive to replace.
Creality has put a formidable processor in this 3D printer to provide better accuracy. It even has in-built wifi, so you can connect to the device through the Creality app to control your device from a smartphone or tablet.
The ARMCortex-M4 processor also helps to reduce the printer’s power consumption so you can save money on your electricity bills for buying more resin.
Speaking of resin, this model is compatible with most third-party resins on the market as long as they are within the 405nm wavelength range.
The control panel on the front is easy to read and makes this printer very accessible for first-time users. While the Halot One doesn’t have the biggest build volume, it makes up for it with a 6-inch LCD screen that takes 1-4 seconds to cure each layer of resin.
Rather than the parallel matrix light system we’ve seen in other models, this printer uses mirrors to spread the UV light evenly across the screen. There is a cooling fan as well as a heat sink to ensure the Halot One never overheats.
The fan is linked to an active carbon filter which is used to remove toxic resin fumes.
Dimensions (in): 8.7(l) x 8.7(w) x 15.9(h)
Printing space (in): 5(l) x 3.14(w) x 6.3(h)
Screen type: Mono
Printing speed: 1-4 seconds per layer
Warranty: 1-year limited (only if bought from Creality’s online store)
- Dual cooling system to prevent overheating.
- Active carbon filter removes toxic resin fumes.
- Mirrors in the bottom compartment provide even light coverage for smoother prints.
- The control panel is easy to read and use.
Buying a 3D resin printer is quite an investment so you will want to pick your machine carefully to make sure it can do everything you want it to.
As well as the printer itself, you will also need to buy resin, isopropyl alcohol for cleaning your items once they are done and plenty of rubber gloves to avoid touching the liquid resin. With this in mind, here are the most important things to look out for when buying a 3D resin printer.
The LCD Screen
One of the most essential components of a resin printer is the LCD screen. This is very similar to the touchscreens on mobile phones and its primary function is to control where the UV light hits the resin.
There are two types of screens used for 3D printers including RGB (red-green-blue) color screens and monochrome or mono(black and white) ones.
All the printers on this list use mono screens and there is a reason why this variety is slowly taking over the industry. Not only are these screens better at blocking UV light and cheaper to make but they also allow the resin to cure much faster, which speeds up printing times.
If you are looking for a decent 3D resin printer it is always better to choose one with a mono screen if possible.
The UV LED
The second most important part is the UV light itself, which is responsible for curing and hardening the resin. There are several different arrangements of UV LEDs used in 3D printers and there is no general consensus on which one is best.
Some of them use a single light source, although this can lead to unwanted bumps on your item due to uneven light coverage.
To solve this problem, some printers make use of up to 15 smaller LEDs arranged in a matrix of parallel beams. Others use mirrors to spread the light out evenly through the principles of reflection and refraction.
Both of these variations provide more even light coverage, and which one you pick will largely come down to personal preference and the other features offered by a particular printer.
Before you buy a 3D printer, consider what type of items you want to make first. If you want to make large figurines over 5in tall, then you will need to look for a slightly larger printer with a bigger build volume.
For smaller more intricate prints, such as jewelry, you may want a slightly smaller printer that can offer more detail.
There are many different types of software for creating STL files to use on your 3D printer, as well as several varieties of liquid resin to bring your creations to life.
Check to see if the printer you are looking at is compatible with third-party resins, as well as different types of slicing app, to save on money and time.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Slicer App?
A slicer app is a program that takes a digital 3D model and makes it ready to be created by a 3D printer.
It does this by cutting the model up into very thin slices so the printer knows how to construct the item in question layer by layer along the z-axis. Popular slicer apps include CHITUbox, IdeaMaker, and Cura.
Is Liquid Resin Toxic?
Before it has cured it is highly recommended to avoid touching liquid resin with your bare skin. As well as a set of rubber gloves it is also advisable to wear a ventilator mask while 3D printing to avoid inhaling toxic resin fumes.
While it may not have any effect the first time you touch it, over time repeated exposure to UV resin can make you develop a sensitivity to it. This sensitivity is permanent and will cause you to experience adverse reactions to touching or even smelling the resin.
Once cured and dried, the resin is perfectly safe and even capable of touching food with no adverse effects.
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