Resin 3D Printing vs. Filament 3D Printing—Which Is Best for You?
Filament 3D printing uses plastic filament that has been melted and extruded through a hot nozzle. Resin 3D printing, on the other hand, uses a liquid resin material that is cured by UV light to create objects. While filament printing is quicker and produces prints with higher tensile strength, resin printing typically takes longer but produces higher quality, detailed prints with smoother finishes.
The kind of project you are working on and the desired result ultimately determine which is best for you. However, there are additional aspects to take into account in addition to the printing procedure itself, such as the price, and the printing speed of each technique. This article will examine these elements in more detail in the following sections to help you decide which kind of 3D printing might be the most appropriate for your requirements.
Resin 3D printing is a type of additive manufacturing process that uses liquid photopolymer resin materials to create highly detailed, precise, and intricate objects. Layer by layer, a liquid resin is selectively cured into a solid shape by a light source like a laser or projector in a resin 3D printer. Jewelry, dental models, intricate models for prototyping, and small-scale production items are often created using resin 3D printing.
The process of resin 3D printing, also referred to as stereolithography (SLA) or digital light processing (DLP), involves layer-by-layer curing of a liquid photopolymer resin using UV light. While a projector in DLP projects a UV light pattern onto the entire layer of resin, curing it all at once, SLA selectively solidifies the resin by tracing the shape of the object onto the resin's surface. The build platform is lowered after each layer has dried and the process is repeated until the entire object is finished. The final product is then post-processed to remove extra resin and harden the material, which involves washing and curing.
A few benefits of 3D printing with resin include:
- High Resolution: Resin printers are capable of producing parts with incredibly fine details and smooth surfaces, as well as parts with complex features and high accuracy.
- Wide Range of Materials: Engineering-grade resins, flexible resins, and dental composite resins are just a few of the materials that resin printers can use.
- Water-Resistant Prints: Prints possess the quality of being resistant to water. Unlike plastics or powdered materials, photopolymers solidify when applied and continue to be water-resistant. Most photopolymers are suitable for applications requiring water tightness because they do not absorb moisture from their surroundings.
- Unaffected Surface Quality: Supports barely affect the quality of the surface. Any slight overhangs can simply join to the main structure of the object during the curing process because the resin tank has resin along the entire boundary.
There are some drawbacks to resin 3D printing, including:
- Limited Printing Size: The maximum size of an object that can be printed using a resin 3D printer is normally less than with an FDM (fused deposition modeling) printer.
- Toxic Fumes: When printing, the resin used releases poisonous fumes that, if not properly ventilated, could be dangerous.
- Messy and Time-Consuming Post-Processing: Resin prints require extensive post-processing, including washing, curing, and sanding, which can be messy and time-consuming.
- Limited Shelf-Life: Due to the limited shelf life of the resin and the potential for deterioration over time, prints may not turn out as expected, wasting resources.
The software used for a resin 3D printer varies depending on the manufacturer and model. Chitubox, PrusaSlicer, Formlabs PreForm, and Autodesk® Meshmixer are a few examples of popular software choices. Users of these software programs can prepare, slice, and send 3D models to printers. Additionally, they offer features for modifying print-quality settings like layer height, exposure time, and support structures. For more information, see our guide on Best 3D Printing Software.
No, 3D printing with resin is not inherently superior to 3D printing with filament. Depending on the specific use case, both technologies have benefits and drawbacks. While filament 3D printing offers a wider variety of materials, a larger build volume, and a lower entry cost, resin 3D printing offers a higher resolution and a smoother surface finish. The choice ultimately comes down to the application in mind and the resources that are accessible.
Yes, 3D prints made of resin can be fragile. This is because resin prints use a particular kind of polymer that may be more brittle than materials like ABS or PLA. In addition, the resin curing procedure can occasionally cause stress fractures or other types of damage that increase the likelihood of the print breaking.
Filament 3D printing, also known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), is a type of 3D printing process that uses a continuous filament of thermoplastic material to create a three-dimensional object layer by layer. To create the object, the filament is fed through a heated extruder, which melts the material and deposits it in a predetermined pattern onto a build plate. Due to its availability and adaptability, FDM is a popular and widely used 3D printing technology. Figure 1 is an example of filament 3D printing:
Example of filament 3D printing.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Reflexpixel
To be able to print with FDM, a long piece of plastic filament must be fed from a spool to a nozzle. The plastic is liquefied here, dropped onto the platform, and then solidifies once more. One layer at a time, the nozzle moves precisely to place the material where it needs to be to build the model. The printer can start the next layer and continue building the model by lowering the platform by one layer's thickness after each layer is deposited.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), another name for filament 3D printing, has several benefits, including:
- Versatility: A variety of materials, such as ABS, PLA, PETG, nylon, and others, can be used with FDM printers.
- Accessibility: FDM printers are user-friendly and appropriate for both professionals and hobbyists.
- Build Volume: Depending on the printer's size, FDM printers are capable of producing large objects.
- Durability: Objects created using FDM printing are strong and resistant to mechanical stress.
Some disadvantages of filament 3D printing include:
- Layer Lines: The layer lines that are present on objects printed with filament 3D printing can be visible. This can detract from the overall appearance of the product.
- Slow Printing Speed: Compared to other 3D printing methods, filament 3D printing can be slower, especially when printing intricate designs or larger objects.
- Warping: Filament 3D printing can be susceptible to warping, particularly when printing with certain types of materials or in certain conditions.
- Support Structures: Depending on the design, filament 3D printing may require support structures to be printed alongside the object, which can add to the overall printing time and require additional post-processing to remove.
A filament 3D printer uses slicer software. Using a 3D model as a starting point, slicer software generates a toolpath that the printer can follow layer by layer. Simplify3D, PrusaSlicer, and Cura are a few examples of slicer software. Users of these software programs can alter settings like layer height, infill density, and print speed to get the outcomes they want.
Yes, filament 3D printing is generally cheaper than resin 3D printing due to the lower cost of purchasing filament compared to resin. Resin can cost between $15 and $80 for 500 ml to 1 liter, while a 1 kg spool of PLA, ABS, or PETG filament typically costs around $20. Resin printing also entails extra expenses, such as replacing the resin tank, buying isopropyl alcohol, safety gear, and a UV curing lamp, which can add up and make resin printing more expensive over time.
Yes, generally speaking, filaments used for FDM 3D printing are more durable than regular resins used for resin 3D printing. This is because materials like ABS, PLA, PETG, nylon, and polycarbonate—which are often employed in FDM printing—have higher tensile strengths and impact resistance. The exception to this is tough resin, which is stronger than PETG, ABS, and nylon. For more information, see our guide on What is the Strongest 3D Printer Filament?
SLA resin printing usually runs slower than FDM due to the small surface area of the lasers used. Projector and LCD-based printing, on the other hand, can be quicker than FDM because they can cure entire layers at once. Giving a clear-cut answer as to which method is faster is challenging because the speed of each method depends on some variables, including the settings, materials, and build heights used. The intended use case should ultimately guide the decision rather than speed alone when deciding between resin and FDM.
Compared to filament 3D printers, resin 3D printers are known for their smoother surfaces. This is because resin printing can produce images with a high degree of detail and resolution. Resin printers produce incredibly fine details and smooth surfaces by curing a liquid photopolymer with light. In contrast, filament printers construct the model layer by layer by extruding melted plastic, which can lead to a slightly rougher surface finish.
In most cases, filament 3D printers are more economical than resin 3D printers because they can use a wider variety of filaments and have less expensive materials. Specialized liquid photopolymers are necessary for resin printing, and the post-processing procedures usually call for additional tools and materials. Additionally, compared to filament printers, resin printers typically have a higher upfront cost.
The prints made by filament 3D printers are typically thought to be more durable than those made by resin 3D printers. This is because a variety of thermoplastics, including ABS and PETG, which have excellent strength characteristics, can be used with filament printers. On the other hand, photopolymer resins, which can be delicate and have low impact resistance, are typically used in resin printers. Despite this, resin printing is preferred for creating intricate and highly detailed models that might be difficult to create using filament printers.
The user's preferences and the printer's intended use will determine which 3D printer is the best entry-level model. The recommendation is to start with a filament 3D printer due to its lower cost and simplicity of use if deciding between a resin 3D printer and a filament 3D printer. The Original Prusa MK3S+ offers a more luxurious experience for those willing to spend more money, while the Creality Ender-3 V2 and Voxelab Aquila are both great low-cost options. The Elegoo Mars 3 is a reliable option with high-resolution and user-friendly features for resin printing. For more information, see our guide on Best Cheap 3D Printer.
Yes, you can use a resin 3D printer without failing halfway if you follow the proper procedures and safety measures. Proper resin handling, calibration, and maintenance are required for resin 3D printing, as well as the appropriate safety equipment. Failures during the printing process can also be avoided by employing high-quality resins, ensuring that they are compatible with your printer, and avoiding excessive UV exposure.
Yes, it is possible to reuse filaments for 3D printing, and doing so is a fantastic way to cut down on plastic waste. Recycled filaments are equally as good as or even better than regular filaments in terms of quality. They are also more readily available and less expensive. Additionally, recycled filaments are available in a wide range of substances, such as recycled PETG, PLA, and ABS, as well as in unusual hues and novel substances. Some businesses even provide a recycling service whereby clients can send their 3D printing scraps and receive credits for new filament purchases. In all, using recycled filaments for 3D printing is a sustainable and economical option.
No, a resin 3D printer cannot use filament. Contrary to filament 3D printers, which build objects layer by layer using melted plastic filament, resin 3D printers use liquid photopolymer resin that solidifies when exposed to UV light. There is no compatibility between the two categories of printers.
This article presented resin vs. filament 3D printing, explained each of them, and discussed their various applications and how to pick the best process for you. To learn more about 3D printing processes, contact a Xometry representative.
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