Up till very just lately, consumer-level stereolithography printers have been primarily the unicorns of the 3D-printing world. For years, there have been just a few of them on the market to shoppers, they usually have been sometimes far too costly for many 3D-printing lovers to afford.
Fortunately, that’s beginning to change. Over the course of the previous yr or so, resin-based printers have begun to trickle into the buyer market with growing frequency — and that features a few extremely reasonably priced choices.
Working example? The Anycubic Photon, one of many first SLA/DLP printers to hit the market with a price ticket underneath $500. However can an affordable printer actually examine to business standouts like Ultimaker, Lulzbot, and Formlabs? We took one for a spin to seek out out.
The Anycubic Photon gained our award for the most effective merchandise of the yr. Be sure that and take a look at all our different alternatives for Greatest Merchandise of 2018.
Standout options and specs
There are some things that make this printer stand out from the remainder of the pack. Initially, it’s a DLP printer. Because of this as an alternative of squirting plastic filament via a scorching nozzle to create objects, it shines UV mild right into a vat filled with photoreactive resin to remedy every layer. It’s a basically totally different machine than the Makerbots and Ultimakers of the world.
Dan Baker/Digital Tendencies
Second, it’s tiny. In contrast to most shopper 3D printers, the Photon is roughly the dimensions of two shoeboxes sandwiched collectively, and may subsequently match comfortably in your desktop. Sadly, this tiny footprint additionally means the printer has a correspondingly tiny construct space, so that you gained’t be printing something greater than four.5 x 2.5 x 6.1 inches (115 x 65 x 155 millimeters) with this machine.
It’s much more detailed than even probably the most high-end FDM printers we’ve ever examined.
Fortunately, the Photon makes up for its minuscule construct space with some unimaginable decision/accuracy stats. It’s able to printing layers thinner than 10 microns, making it much more detailed than even probably the most high-end FDM printers we’ve ever examined.
To prime all of it off, the Photon additionally comes outfitted with a 2.Eight-inch touchscreen interface, which makes it far simpler to regulate settings and provoke prints.
Setup and configuration
Establishing an SLA/DLP printer is notably totally different from establishing an FDM printer, however the excellent news is that, within the case of the Photon, it’s additionally simpler.
The printer comes all however absolutely assembled, so getting it prepared in your first print is a breeze. It’s primarily two steps: Set up and manually degree the construct plate, then connect the resin vat.
Dan Baker/Digital Developments
Sadly, the construct plate leveling course of isn’t automated in any means, however it’s nonetheless comparatively easy to finish. To be sure to set the Z-axis residence level on the right peak, Anycubic prompts you to put a bit of printer paper on the LCD display, then decrease the construct plate till you are feeling resistance if you transfer the paper. It’s not probably the most polished system, nevertheless it works, and might be accomplished in just some minutes.
When you’ve completed the leveling process, all that’s left is to put in the resin vat and fill it up with the included resin. This solely requires loosening and tightening a pair of knob screws, so that you don’t even want instruments to make it occur.
Design and construct high quality
Don’t let the truth that this printer solely prices $500 idiot you. It’s astonishingly well-built for a printer that’s so budget-friendly. The construct plate and resin tub, for instance, are made out of machined aluminum, whereas the machine’s body is comprised of stamped sheet metallic. Nothing about it feels low cost.
The printer lacks most of the considerate design parts which might be widespread on higher-end machines.
The design, nevertheless, is pretty primary. Except for the touchscreen interface, the printer lacks most of the considerate design parts which might be widespread on higher-end machines. For starters, there’s no automated resin filler, so in case your goo begins to run low, you’ll need to pause the print and add extra your self. The Photon additionally doesn’t have any kind of peel or wipe mechanism, which will increase the probability of print errors.
It’s additionally value mentioning that this machine is designed to make use of a DLP course of as an alternative of true SLA. Which means as an alternative of flashing a laser dot into the resin and shifting it round to hint the form of every layer, the printer makes use of an LCD display to remedy a whole layer directly. This interprets into some minor (however notable) variations with regards to print high quality, which we’ll talk about later.
Dan Baker/Digital Tendencies
All issues thought-about, this printer could be very well-built, however missing barely when it comes to design — at the very least from an engineering and efficiency perspective. Based mostly on appear and feel alone, it’s almost inconceivable to inform that the Photon solely prices $500, however in case you scrutinize a few of the technical parts, you’ll be able to start to see the place Anycubic minimize corners. Nonetheless, this can be a helluva lot of printer for the worth.
Consumer Interface and software program
The Photon’s onboard UI is about as easy and easy as they arrive. The menu listing is extraordinarily bare-bones, so that you’d be hard-pressed to get misplaced or confused. Plus, it’s all touchscreen, so navigating between menus is very intuitive. If you need to use a smartphone, you need to use this printer.
Anycubic Photon 3D Printer In contrast To
Anycubic’s proprietary slicing program, referred to as Photon Slicer, can also be fairly easy — if not somewhat bit on the primitive and utilitarian aspect. It’s not very fairly to take a look at, and feels a bit like utilizing a CAD program from 1997, however the upside is that it’s additionally fairly minimalist. There aren’t a ton of choices so that you can get misplaced in, which makes it very straightforward and approachable for novice customers. Even with none prior expertise with this system, we managed to fireside it up and get our first 3D mannequin prepped inside just some minutes.
The Photon has been getting a great deal of hype over the previous few months, and after testing it out for a pair weeks, we’re right here to inform you that the hype is totally and completely warranted. This printer punches approach above its weight class.
For our first print, we skipped the standard 3DBenchy benchmark and tossed the Photon straight into the deep finish with a ridiculously high-detail “Bearded Yell” statue. This print eats FDM printers for breakfast, and sometimes comes out with all method of aberrations, over-extrusion artifacts, and appreciable lack of element, so we have been excited to see if this little SLA printer might do any higher.
Dan Baker/Digital Developments
A lot to our delight, the Photon made printing the mannequin appear to be a cakewalk. There have been a pair spots the place printing errors occurred, however the remaining 95 % of the mannequin was virtually flawless. Wonderful particulars — just like the wrinkles on his brow, particular person hairs in his eyebrows, and the shallow depressions in his molars — have been all reproduced with astonishing accuracy. The floor end was so good that it was almost inconceivable to differentiate one layer from the subsequent. In some instances, individuals we confirmed it to within the workplace didn’t understand the mannequin was 3D printed.
Our second check mannequin (a super-high-detail fort) got here out even higher. With no magnifying glass, we couldn’t even make out particular person layers. Tiny parts, just like the merlons and crenels of the citadel’s battlements (which have been so small that they might’ve legitimately been inconceivable to breed on an FDM printer) got here out completely. The one different machine we’ve examined that’s able to such unimaginable element is the Type 2, which prices $three,200.
This printer offers an unimaginable quantity of bang on your buck on the subject of decision and floor end.
There have been, nevertheless, a number of minor points. In each of our first two check prints, sure sections got here out wanting squished, like somebody had flattened them with a scorching iron or hit them with a belt sander. These errors have been brought on by an incomplete peel — when the resin solidifies after being struck by UV mild, however sticks to the underside of the resin vat extra firmly than it does to the printed half, so it doesn’t peel off utterly when the printer strikes on to the subsequent layer.
As a result of the Photon doesn’t have a peel mechanism (some printers will tilt one finish of the resin vat so the half peels progressively from left to proper, somewhat than pulling straight up and peeling all elements directly), it’s extra susceptible to those sorts of errors. Nonetheless, even if the Photon doesn’t peel as nicely, we solely skilled these errors to a really small diploma.
Dan Baker/Digital Developments
The opposite factor to notice is that, as a consequence of the truth that this can be a DLP printer, it’s additionally vulnerable to voxelization. Merely put, that is principally the 3D model of pixelation. The UV mild on this machine is emitted from a pixel-based LCD display, so on a microscopic degree, it may possibly’t truly make clean curves. Think about making an attempt to construct a sphere out of Legos. It’s like that, simply on a very small scale.
Fortunately, within the case of the Photon, this voxelization is so small that you simply don’t actually discover it until you’re in search of it. It’s like watching films on an enormous TV. When you get actually shut, you possibly can see the pixels, however at a traditional distance, they’re virtually nonexistent.
The Photon is, with out query, among the best printers you will get for 500 bucks.
It’s undoubtedly not on the identical degree as high-end printers just like the Formlabs Type 2 on the subject of options and reliability, however when it comes to sheer print high quality, it’s solely a pair steps behind. In case you printed the identical object on each machines and put them aspect by aspect, most individuals wouldn’t have the ability to see a distinction. That’s fairly rattling spectacular.
Is there a greater various?
If what you’re after is probably the most detailed, high-resolution prints for the least sum of money, then look no additional. This printer supplies an unimaginable quantity of bang in your buck with regards to decision and floor end.
Nevertheless, it’s additionally value noting that resin printers aren’t for everybody. Resin is sticky, messy, and a ache within the ass to wash up. It’s a must to soak completed elements in isopropyl alcohol to take away uncured resin, and put on nitrile gloves to keep away from touching it instantly. In different phrases, SLA printers are comparatively excessive upkeep, so in case you’re averse to post-processing or plan on printing in excessive volumes, we advise sticking with FDM.
The Photon additionally isn’t the only option if it’s essential to print massive, and even medium-sized objects. For that, we advocate spending your cash on an FDM printer just like the Monoprice Maker Choose Plus, which boasts a far bigger construct envelope, however nonetheless prices lower than $500.
How lengthy will it final?
For probably the most half, there aren’t very many elements on this machine which might be possible to wear down — except for the nonstick FEP sheets on the underside of the resin vat, which you’ll have to exchange often anyway. The Photon doesn’t have a variety of shifting elements, so so long as you retain the threaded rod oiled up and are diligent about sustaining the resin vat, it’ll doubtless final for years to return.
Do you have to purchase it?
Hell yeah, it is best to. There are loads of methods to spend $500, and this is likely one of the greatest ones we will consider.