3D printers have evolved greatly. Whereas once 3D printers were fringe devices relegated to hardcore makers and industrial applications, a smorgasbord of budget 3D printers now mean that it's increasingly affordable to own a 3D printer. When comparing filament vs. resin 3D printers, filament or FDM printers tend to be a bit less expensive. But resin, or SLA/DLP printers generally boast higher-quality prints than their filament-based counterparts. Check out the best resin 3D printers you can buy!
What is a Resin-based 3D Printer and Why Should You Buy One?
Unlike filament 3D printers, resin 3D printers use a liquid resin that's then cured by a light source, either LCD or DLP. Since it's a liquid rather than filament, you'll fill a resin reservoir. Then, your build plate lowers into the liquid, and builds your print with the build platform rising out of a resin bath. Accordingly, the print will appear upside down.
Once a resin 3D print completes, it needs to be rinsed off with isopropyl alcohol and water or, in the case of water washable resin, simply water. Then, you'll need to cure it either in the sun or with a dedicated curing machine.
SLA vs FDM Printers
Generally, SLA printers benefit from higher quality than FDM printers. I tend to prefer resin printers because the quality is greatly improved, and it's a bit easier getting started, particularly when comparing budget FDM vs. SLA printers. Thus, resin-based 3D printers are actually wonderful for beginners. There's little hassle with leveling the print bed. Instead, SLA is pretty plug-and-print. Most SLA printers come with a smaller form factor, so they're more compact. And with the use of resin, it's easy to make models with varying properties. Not only is print quality more precise, but it's also usually tougher than filament printing.
However, resin printers largely feature smaller build platforms than the average filament printer. Additionally, clean up and use is pretty messy. Gloves and a mask must be worn when handling resin, and you'll need to properly dispose of 3D printing resin. Even paper towels used must be correctly trashed. Post-processing is more involved than filament printing. Plus, it's best to print in a well-ventilated area. Cost of resin printers is ofter much higher, but there are tons of budget models available.
Resin 3D Printer Pros:
- High-quality print jobs
- Small footprint
- Easy to use
- Flexible print creation
Resin 3D Printer Cons:
- Complicated cleanup
- Small build platform
- Involved post-processing
Elegoo features affordable, high-quality 3D printers. Its Elegoo Mars 2 Pro ranks as not only my favorite resin 3D printer I've used, but my go-to for all 3D printing needs. The Mars 2 Pro makes a number of small yet significant improvements over the previous generation Elegoo Mars Pro. as well as the first-generation Mars SLA 3D printer. While on the surface the Mars Pro might appear unchanged from the vanilla Mars Pro, you'll find some quality of life improvements. The carbon filter for reducing VoCs, front-located USB port, and rubber seal on the acrylic hood all remain. While there's a slightly lower 2K LCD screen resolution of 1620 x 2560 hcn compared to the Mars Pro, the XY resolution is 50 microns to the Mars Pro's 47. The difference is pretty small and shouldn't be noticeable.
An acrylic hood lifts off easily. The touchscreen is responsive, and it's simple enough sending print jobs to the Elegoo Mars Pro. The new UV matrix light source increases curing time for faster printing while improving light uniformity. Print quality is absolutely outstanding. What's more, its affoardable price tag makes the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro a compelling option. My only minor complaint is that moving the power switch to the side or front could be helpful. Punching well above its weight class, the Elegoo Mars is hands-down the best resin 3D printer you can buy, and 3D printer overall, SLA/DLP or FDM.
- Easy to use
- USB port on the front for easy access
- Excellent print quality
- Great build quality
- Carbon air filter for reducing VoCs in the air
- Matrix UV light source for faster curing time and better light uniformity
- Better build plate adhesion, easier to remove prints when finished
- Quiet, stable linear rail
- Power switch still on the back
- No 4K screen, only 2K
- Lower resolution than the Mars Pro, but higher XY resolution
Although Monoprice is best known for its budget-oriented HDMI cables and headphones, the popular electronics company dabbles in 3D printers as well. Its MonoPrice MP Mini Delta is one of our favorite filament printers. Likewise, the MonoPrice MP Mini SLA LCD 3D printer is a top-notch resin 3D printer. At around $200, the MonoPrice MP Mini SLA printer is a fantastic printer. Onboard, there's an auto-leveled build plate. Its 2K LCD curing screen allows for top-notch printing quality with lush detail. Its magnetic build plate removes easily. There's a web user interface (web UI) for printing, but you can also use the Monoprice MP Mini SLA resin 3D printer with a variety of other slicers.
Some users have noted issues with guide rails becoming loose, resulting in some Z banding. However, typically print quality is gorgeous. With a low price tag, the Monoprice MP Mini is an incredibly impressive resin 3D printer that won't break the bank.
- Cheap as chips
- Magnetic build plate
- 2K LCD curing screen
- Auto-leveled build plate
- Web UI
- Parallel LED array for light uniformity
- Some users reported Z banding because of loose guide rails
The AnyCubic Photon S has become the gold standard for resin-based 3D printers. With its affordability, simple start-up and everyday use, as well as print quality, the AnyCubic Photon rocks. AnyCubic outfitted its Photon SLA printer with a slew of neat features such as a resin vat boasting adjustable, replaceable FEP film. There's an auto warning if resin runs out, and offline printing with its built-in operating system. Using the onboard touchscreen, you can check out real-time previews of prints. A high-quality 2K LCD curing screen provides gorgeous prints. The AnyCubic Photon S offers a matrix LCD and a double Z-axis for added stability. Alternatively, to save a bit of money you might instead pick up the Photon which utilizes a diffusion LCD rather than matrix, and a single Z-axis.
Print quality is top-notch and it's user-friendly to get set up. However, bed leveling is a little more fiddly than it needs to be. And the build quality is disappointingly cheap. Still, it's a really solid device that's great for miniatures and 3D printing in general.
- Double Z-axis
- 2K matrix LCD curing screen
- Excellent print quality
- Easy to use
- Quiet printing because of dual Z-axis
- Off-line printing
- Fiddly bed leveling
- Somewhat cheap build quality
At just over $200, the Longer3D Orange 10 is a superb 3D printer. There's a low price point without sacrificing quality. It works pretty much out of the box, and is comparable to the Elegoo Mars or AnyCubic Photon. Unfortunately, the build platform is sort of small. Sure, most resin 3D printers feature a small build platform, but the Orange 10 from Longer3D offers an even smaller built plate than most other resin printers. Nevertheless, it's a resin 3D printer that provides excellent bang for your buck.
- Cheap as chips
- Great print quality
- Small build plate
North Carolina-based company EPAX makes some of the best high-end UV LCD 3D printers on the market. Its EPAX X10 is a stunning printer that produces ridiculously superb prints. It rocks a 2K color 2560 x 1600 HD masking LCD screen with an 85 µm XY resolution and 10 µm Z resolution. Alternatively, you can opt for a 4K 8.9-inch mono screen. You'll find edge-to-edge lighting for even distribution, anti-aliasing support, and a flat build platform. There's 405nm wavelength resin support and a 250mm build height for six times as much volume as its X1 printer.
However, this is no 3D printer for beginners. Rather, the X10 is best suited for power users with experience using resin 3D printers. Its price tag might induce sticker shock if you're used to the cost of budget-oriented 3D printers. But the EPAX X10 justifies its high cost with out-of-this-world quality.
- 2K (10.1-inch) color LCD masking screen
- Optional 4K (8.9-inch) mono screen upgrade
- Even edge-to-edge light distribution
- Anti-aliasing support
- Flat build platform
- Large 216mm (L) *135mm (W) *250mm (H) build volume
- Not for beginners
- Expensive but worth it
Although Prusa is best-known for its i3 MK3S FDM printer, its SL1 SLA printer is an excellent resin printer. Rather than a filament-based platform, the Original Prusa SL1 flaunts a high-resolution LCD panel and UV LED for curing. With its 5.5-inch LCD display and 2560 x 1440p resolution, the SL1 boasts an impressive 0.047mm per pixel. And with Trinamic drivers plus a durable frame, a 0.01mm layer height is possible. A motorized tilt function on the resin tank helps to stir the resin, ease separation of large layers, and results in faster printing. A six-second curing time per layer means a fast printing speed. The removable resin tank sports a flexible transparent FEP film that's easily replaced.
Unlike many cheap SLA resin 3D printers, the Prusa SL1 comes with automatic calibration. Whereas the majority of resin printers come pre-assembled, the SL1 is available as a do-it-yourself (DIY) kit or a pre-built unit. The main downside of the SL1 is its cost. You can expect to shell out around $1,400 for the kit, and $1,700 for the completely assembled and tested printer. For the cost, the print bed is a bit small, compared to the price-per-plate real estate on the EPAX X10. Still, it's an overall solid printer that delivers a premium feature set at a premium price.
- 5.5-inch high-resolution 2560 x 1440p LCD display, 0.047mm per pixel
- Trinamic drivers allow for 0.01mm layer height
- Motorized resin tank with tilt functionality
- Flexible, replaceable FEP film
- High-speed printing, six-second curing time
- Automatic calibration
- Resin level sensor
- Vapor extractor
- Built-in Wi-Fi and LAN for networked printing
- Pre-built and DIY kits available
One of the few drawbacks to SLA printers is their small build area. However, the Elegoo Saturn (our review) bucks that trend. A seriously large printer, the Elegoo Saturn features an 18.8cm(L) x 11.5cm(W) x 20cm(H) or 7.4in x 4.52in x 7.87in build volume, and weighs a whopping 22 pounds. It's taller, wider, and heavier than Elegoo's ultra-popular Mars Pro. Elegoo outfitted the Saturn with Internet access, a nine-inch 2K LCD, and dual linear rails. There's a 3.5-inch color touchscreen and front-facing USB port.
Oddly, the Saturn, unlike the Mars Pro, lacks an air filtration system. The power switch is still on the back of the unit, and particularly for its size, the 2K resolution may be a bit low for some users. As of yet, there's no word on pricing, but considering the cost of the Mars Pro, chances are the Elegoo Saturn is poised to remain competitively priced, well below the typical premium pricetag of mid-size and large resin printers like the EPAX X10 and Prusa SL1.
- 18.8cm(L) x 11.5cm(W) x 20cm(H) or 7.4in x 4.52in x 7.87in build volume
- 2K LCD UV screen
- Dual linear rail
- Ethernet port
- Front-facing USB port
- Responsive 3.5-inch color touchscreen
- Only a 2K LCD screen
- No air filtration system, an inclusion on the smaller Mars Pro
The Best Resin 3D Printers You can Buy - Top SLA Printers
Although resin printers still can run in the thousands, an increasing number of budget SLA printers populate the 3D printing space. Additionally, the ease of use coupled with the high-quality of resin prints makes SLA printing arguably better than filament printing. Nevertheless, there are tons of FDM printers which rock. The Anet ET4 is an awesome, affordable filament printer, as is the Creality Ender 3 Pro.
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