7 Things You Didn't Know About Resin 3D Printing and How It Works
If you're new to 3D printing, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about with resin printers. After all, they seem like a lot more work than ordinary Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers - but there's a good reason for that! Resin printers are some of the most versatile and high-quality machines on the market today. If you're new to this technology, resin printing might be confusing. What is resin printing? How does it work? And is it safe? In this article, we're going to take a look at seven things you didn't know about resin printing and how it works. Find out what all the hype is about!
What is 3D Resin Printing, and how does it work?
A resin 3D printer is a device that deposits thin layers of photosensitive liquid resin on each previous layer. Each layer of liquid resin stacks onto one another, and then UV LED light beams are used to solidify the resin into a physical 3D form. The process is known as Stereolithography (SLA), and it can create extremely fine detail in 3D prints with a 0.01mm layer height. This is great, because layer lines that are typically present with traditional FDM printing can ruin the look of your print. This type of printing also can be combined with FDM printing to achieve more, highly detailed pieces.
The Stereolithography process is an excellent option for anyone who wants to create premium-quality prints with high precision and smooth surfaces. Technology has advanced in recent years, and it's now possible to create highly detailed models at surprisingly low costs.
Resin (SLA) vs. Filament (FDM) 3D Printing-Which is Right For You?
There are two methods of 3D printing that professionals and amateurs both utilize. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Stereolithography (SLA) are the industry standard 3D printing techniques for design flexibility, prototyping, medium-scale production, and short-run manufacturing. The print process for these two methods is quite different because of differences in mechanical properties and light source. Both can generate various components with comparable part results, but it's essential to weigh the specific benefits and drawbacks when selecting the most acceptable 3D process and technology for your needs.
Filament printers use a melted thermoplastic filament deposited layer-by-layer in a heated nozzle. The nozzle highly impacts FDM printing because the larger nozzle size prevents fine details in your prints. This technology is best for lower-cost prints and producing multiple objects at once. A filament printer is also cheaper than their SLA counterparts, making them the preferred choice for high volume manufacturers who don't need the highest print quality and prefer build volume.
SLA printers use a UV-sensitive liquid resin that hardens by exposing it to UV light, one single layer at a time. Unlike an FDM printer, this process occurs from the bottom up using the SLA's transparent bottom build platform. Since SLA printers use an ultraviolet laser beam, this technology provides more accurate prints with smoother surfaces. These prints are less likely to warp or deform over time. SLA printing can be much slower than FDM printing, and the initial setup costs are much higher.
There are many reasons someone might want to use a resin printer over an FDM printer - here are just a few!
- Resin printers can produce a high resolution hardened material far more detailed than FDM printers could ever replicate. SLA printers make them perfect for complex models, prototypes, and small parts.
- The smooth surfaces of resin prints are also a significant advantage over FDM prints. In particular, they're ideal for printing figurines, miniatures, and other decorative items.
- Resin printers can create objects with much more intricate geometries than FDM printers. This makes them a better choice for printing objects with excellent detail.
- Resin printers can also print in multiple colors, whereas FDM printers can only print in one color at a time. If you want to create multicolored prints, resin is the way to go!
Now that you know some of the benefits of resin 3D printing, let's look at the printing process and how this technology works!
What Kinds of Resin 3D Printing are Available?
3D printing has come a long way since its inception. Currently, there are three main types of resin 3D printers: SLA, MSLA, and DLP, which all use a different printing process to create models from your files with varying results depending on what you're trying to achieve.
SLA is the oldest type of resin 3D printing technology, and it uses a UV laser to cure the resin layer by layer. This results in high-quality prints with very smooth textures. The main downside to SLA printers is that they can be slower than other printers, and the initial setup costs are higher.
MSLA is similar to SLA, but the key difference is that it uses an LCD screen to cure the resin instead of a UV laser. This results in slightly lower quality prints but makes the process much faster.
DLP-(Digital Light Processing)
Digital Light Processing is the newest type of resin 3D printing technology and has several advanced features. Instead of ultraviolet light, it uses a projector to cure the resin layer by layer. The projected light used in DLP is manipulated by a digital micromirror device built with microscopic mirrors. This process can cure an entire layer before moving on to the next layer. This results in even faster print speeds than an MSLA but slightly lower quality prints.
What is the Difference Between SLA and DLP?
DLP printers are cheaper than stereolithography (SLA) machines, but they can typically print a slightly lower-quality model. If you're not too concerned with detail or smoothness, a DLP printer might be your best choice! However, if you need very detailed prints or a smooth exterior, you should probably get an SLA machine.
Is resin safe & what are the risks from using it?
Resin safety is a big concern for 3D printing, and it's essential to be well informed. The main risks from using resin are that most resins contain strong chemicals and fumes, which can cause skin irritations, lung problems, and even cancer if you're exposed to them for long periods. Now don't freak out when you think about it. A lot of everyday materials have the same risks associated with them. Some people are more prone to the fumes and smells of resins than others, so not everyone is as sensitive as others. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't take adequate safety precautions.
One of the first things to consider is where your resin printer is located. Make sure that you have a dedicated space used strictly for printing. Furthermore, make sure that the area is well ventilated. It's also essential to always wear safety gear when handling resin, and you should always use a respirator designed for working with resins.
Properly disposing of and storing uncured resin is also very important. Unlike other materials, you cannot just throw resin away. The resin must be exposed to UV light to be cured and anything else the resin may have come in contact with. It's also important to note that resin must be disposed of and stored in a safe place away from children and animals.
What's makes each liquid resin different?
The type of resin you choose to use with your resin 3D printer is based on what you are trying to create. It's also a very complex answer that could be answered in a separate full-length blog post.
Here is a list of all the factors that may differ between different resins:
- Toughness (Impact Resistance)
- Temperature Resistance
- Exposure Time to UV Light
Each of these characteristics can get you different results. For example, a resin with high heat deflection temperature will work best if you make molds or inserts. An exciting thing that you can try with certain resins is combing them to mix and match specific characteristics of multiple resins. Mixing resins may allow you to come up with unique and creative prints that you may not be able to replicate with a single resin.
What are the best resin 3D printer brands?
Resin 3D printers aren't cheap, and just like any other investment, it's important to make sure that you get the most bang for your buck. There are a few 3D printer manufacturers that have made a name for themselves in the industry by creating high-quality products:
What do I need to improve my 3D printing?
You're probably thinking, "I have to buy a new printer, get it set up, and learn how to use it before I can even print anything!" When you buy a printer, you have to invest time in getting familiar with its quirks and limitations before you can produce highly detailed models. Fortunately, some things will help speed up your workflow and the quality of prints right away! These are the things that I wish I knew when I got started.
Pre Processing & Post Processing Tools/Accessories
The hardest part about 3D printing isn't about getting started. It's more important to know what to do after your print is complete. Dealing with uncured resin is the most unpleasant part of 3D printing because it's pretty messy. Whether you accidentally overfill your resin tank or get excess resin on your print bed, you need to know how to clean it up fast and correctly.
The trick to dealing with resin is having the proper tools and accessories accessible to clean up your workstation in no time.
The first accessory that you should use for your pre-processing toolbelt is vinyl sheeting. Vinyl sheeting can be used to cover your desk, table, or workstation and is a good first measure to prevent resin from dripping or splashing on unwanted areas. It may seem like common sense, but it makes a huge difference and can make a huge difference when your printing for 100+ hours.
A metal scraper is a great tool to use on your printer screen because when unwanted resin gets cured, it can be tough to remove. If the resin isn't adequately removed from your printer screen, it will negatively impact your future prints. Light needs to be able to pass through your LCD screen, and if it can't, it's pretty obvious you will run into issues.
One of the most important accessories to have on your printer is an LCD screen protector. It can literally save you the cost of a new LCD screen. When you use a screen saver, you can relax after a print and free up your time cleaning up your resin 3D printer. If you are a beginner or even a seasoned veteran, mistakes happen, and you want to ensure that your expensive printer is taken care of.
Lastly, isopropyl alcohol is another great tool as well as nitrile gloves because both will help prevent unwanted resin. Funnels also are a super simple tool to utilize in post-processing because they help prevent spills, allow you to pour resin back into its container quickly, and ultimately make your post-processing as efficient as possible.
Replacing LCD Panels
The LCD panels on your 3D printers will have to be replaced because the UV light that passes through them breaks them down. So you may be asking yourself, "How long will the panel last?". The primary factor determining the length of life you get out of your LCD panel is how many printing hours you have used it. Typically an average LCD panel will last about 1000 hours. Many avid 3D printer users are starting to use another type of panel called a monochrome LCD panel. A monochrome LCD panel combines the three layers a standard LCD panel uses into one layer. This allows for a few things to happen. Since the monochrome panel only has a single panel for light to pass through, it can travel three times faster. The light traveling through the panel is also much brighter, meaning it will cure resin quicker than a traditional LCD panel. These monochrome panels are more expensive, but they do last longer, so in the long run, it's probably worth making the switch if you can afford it.