Resin 3D Printers – A very entry level primer (Part One)

Over the Christmas holidays I convinced my wife to let me buy a resin 3D printer. I wanted a 3D printer because I’ve been ordering aftermarket resin parts for my Warhammer figures (custom torsos, helmets, etc.) and naturally I figured I could do better than what I could find on eBay. Here’s what’s happened, and what I’ve learned, since then:

I ended up purchasing an Elegoo Mars 1 Pro. The decision for this had to do with the UV matrix design, front USB port, and cost. The Mars 2 is already available, but I decided that I was already pushing my luck in the pricing department. Others that I considered were the Crealty LD-002R and the Anycubic Photon. In the end, I stuck with the Mars 1 Pro as it got the best reviews and was within my pricepoint.
Early on, I decided to go with water washable resin. This was for two reasons: Water is readily available, and I was concerned about the toxicity of the resins that require IPA for washing. Turns out water washable is every bit as toxic, and you have to be really careful with the water (like not dumping it straight down the drain). I don’t regret my decision as I like the quality of the prints I’ve produced so far, however there are a lot more resin options if you’re not concerned about washing them with water.
For curing, I went with the Elegoo Mercury curing station. There’s the much nicer Mercury Plus 2-in-1 curing+washing station, however I read that this only works for IPA washable resins, and it was a lot more money than the original Mercury. I could’ve built one using UV light strips and a box (there’s no shortage of tutorials on this), but I liked the looks and functionality if the Mercury, so what’s where I landed.
That’s what got me started and I would consider the “bare minimum” to 3D print using resin, regardless of manufacturer. A printer, resin, and a way to finish cure the resin.

Almost immediately, I started buying more accessories, specifically:

More resin – I realized I had no idea how much resin an average print would use, and I suspected I’d run out at a terrible time and then have to wait for new resin to arrive. As it turns out, my first 500ml container is still going strong. Thankfully, resin is very shelf stable as long as you keep it sealed and do not expose it to sunlight.

Elegoo charcoal air filters – Resin stinks, badly. Since we have 3ft of snow on the ground, putting the printer in my garage was out of the question. I ended up taking over our basement bathroom and have the exhaust fan running 24×7, however the resin stink still seeps out. To combat that, I added an Elegoo charcoal power filter to the printer which seems to be helping a bit.

Respirator, Gloves – I actually had these already from airbrushing, but they’ve now been moved to the makeshift 3D Printer lab. The majority of people online recommend both as the resin is also pretty toxic. I don’t know enough either way so I’m not taking chances.

FEP Film – For the uninitiated, FEP film is the clear sheet of plastic that goes between the resin “tank”, and the UV screen below it. Over time, it gets a bit dinged up. I knew as an amateur, I’d likely mess mine up fairly quickly and wanted to have some on standby. Something to note; I’m actually going to buy a second resin tank as well so I can have a fresh one ready to go. I wanted to print yesterday but also needed to change the FEP first (I’d messed mine up trying to remove a failed print). As it turns out, changing the FEP involves removing 32 screws using an hex key and some arts and crafts. This isn’t a very quick process.

And finally: Large glass jars – I didn’t think of cleanup when I ordered the resin, and to be honest I assumed “water washable” meant “safe for the environment”. I think this warrants its own paragraph:

This seems really obvious now, but in case you’re where I was and aren’t sure; dumping raw uncured resin down the drain means it’ll end up in a pipe and eventually exposed to sunlight, where each droplet will cure into a tiny microplastic. Which means it’s now in the environment and doing damage to basically everything in nature. The preferred method is to put the excess resin from washing a print into a clear glass jar and when it’s full, exposing it to sunlight to allow the resin to cure. Then the excess water is filtered and dumped, and the leftover now-cured resin is thrown into the garbage. To be honest, the entire environmental part of resin 3D printing scares me a bit. I think I’ll start donating to more environmental charities as a result. I know I’m being extremely cautious, but I have visions of people who don’t know (or care), happily dumping resin straight down the drain.

So here I am now – I’ve got a few prints under my belt, and I’ll talk about them in a future post. I’ve also invested way more money than I promised my wife it would cost, so that’s something to keep in mind as well. My $300 printer (on sale), quickly spiraled up to about $575 when you include all of the extras I threw at it.

Author: Greg

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