3d printers

Confused between filament and resin 3D printers? Here’s what you need to know

3D printers look like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, but recent advancements have made them truly accessible to the average hobbyist. Generally, budget 3D printers come in two types, Fused Deposit Modeling (FDM) and Stereolithography (SLA).

In this article, we are going to talk about resin printers (SLA/MSLA/DLP) and some of the pros and cons of the technology. Let’s start with a comparison.

Resin vs Filament 3D Printers

FDM 3D printer, Source Giphy

FDM 3D printers use a spool of plastic filament that is melted by a heated nozzle to recreate the 3D model layer by layer on a build platform. The nozzle should move in all axes as it applies the molten material layer by layer.

Resin 3D printer

SLA printers use a resin vat where the build platform is initially submerged. During printing, a very precise laser illuminates specific areas to harden the resin and the object is recreated layer by layer. There are fewer moving parts here as the build platform only needs to rise while printing, which is also why prints are created upside down.

Print quality and size

Resin printers are very precise because they use a laser to draw the layers onto the platform. Take for example the entry-level LCD Resin Creality Halot One which has a layer thickness of 0.01-0.2mm, while the similarly priced FDM Creality Ender 3 v2 has a layer thickness range of 0.1 to 0.4 mm.

When it comes to print size, FDM printers have an advantage here with the ability to print larger models. Again, taking the same example, the Creality Halot has a print size of 127*80*160mm while the Creality Ender 3 v2 has a much larger print size of 220x220x250mm.

Price and ease of use

Washing and curing station Creality UW-01

Over the years, the cost of resin printers has come down significantly, and nowadays entry-level MSLA and FDM printers are in the same price bracket. The story doesn’t end there, however, as there is a recurring cost in the form of consumables. SLA 3D printers use liquid resin which can cost you US$50 per liter (and more depending on the resin material). FDM printers use spools of filament and cost just US$15/kg on the low end.

FDM printers are also easier to use and there is little to no post-processing after printing. However, these prints will have a rough texture and will need to be buffed to a smooth finish.

Resin 3D printers require post-processing after printing. The finished print is sticky from the resin and should be washed with isopropyl alcohol. Depending on the type of resin and material, the finished print may also require post-curing.

Types of Resin 3D Printers

Resin Printing Technologies, Source Aniwaa

There are 3 common types of resin 3D printers, and although they share the same core technology, there are some subtle differences.

  • Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers

This has the distinction of being the oldest 3D printing technology and has been around for quite some time. These 3D printers use a laser point directed by several mirrors inside the machine. The laser individually cuts points from each layer, which is also why they are so precise. Although they are slower than the other 2 types of 3D printers.

  • 3D printers with digital light processing (DLP)

These are basically similar to SLA 3D printers, in that they both use a light source to sculpt the resin. The main difference here is that in DLP 3D printers a light projector is used which draws the entire layer at once. This method results in faster print times than SLA 3D printers.

  • Masked stereolithography (MSLA) 3D printers

These printers use an LCD panel to direct light onto the resin. Unlike the other two printers above, the MSLA printers do not have mirrors to direct the light, but the light is controlled by the LCD panel. This type of construction does not require specialized mirrors, which greatly reduces the cost of production. Therefore, almost all budget resin 3D printers are of this type.

Why your first 3D printer should be a resin printer (or maybe not?)

Recently, with the advent of Resin LCD printers in the market, the cost of these machines has dropped significantly, even reaching the US$250 mark. Resin printers can reproduce a very high level of detail in printed models, with even fewer print failures than FDM-based 3D printers. Resin 3D printer prints also have a smooth finish, unlike FDM printers where the outer surface has a rough texture.

One of the biggest drawbacks here has to be size, SLA 3D printers cannot match FDM printers here due to the nature of the technology. FDM 3D printers have a nozzle that can move in all three axes, which also means it’s easier to scale up for larger models. In resin 3D printers, the build plate only moves on the y axis and the size is limited to the resin tank. The production cost per unit is also higher than that of FDM 3D printers due to the higher prices of consumables (liquid resins). There is also post-print work to consider, and the prints need to be washed and dried, although one can buy a drying station to help with the process, again an additional cost to consider account.

FDM and SLA 3D prints, Source – Creality

If you’re looking to create miniature models or highly detailed production tools or anything that requires precision, resin printers might be a better choice for you. If you need to print larger models or prototypes that don’t require a lot of precision, FDM 3D printers might be a better bet. For someone new to 3D printing who doesn’t want to deal with the added nuances (and costs) of a resin 3D printer, FDM printers might be a better entry point into the world of 3D printing. 3D printing.