Filament-based 3D printers were long at the forefront of hobbyist development, but resin-based printers have caught up, as have the resins they use. It used to be generally true that resin prints looked great but were brittle, but that’s not the case anymore.
A greater variety of resins and properties is available to hobbyists than ever before, so if that’s what’s been keeping you away, maybe it’s time to take another look. There are resistant resins, rigid resins, heat resistant resins and more. Some make launching easy and some are even flexible. If your part or application needs a particular property, there is probably a resin for it.
What is available?
Resins can be purchased directly from printer manufacturers (such as Elegoo, Anycubic, Phrozen 3D, Prusa, Peopoly and more) and some manufacturers (such as Siraya Tech or Monocure 3D) do not make printers but specialize in resins that work with them .
Resins generally come in a few broad categories, and I’ll briefly discuss each one.
Strong / Durable
Hard resins tend to be durable in the sense that they offer some resistance to impact and wear, and do not shatter when broken. “ABS-like” is a term commonly used by manufacturers for resins seeking these properties, but it is not exclusive. There are others that fit the bill as well.
People who print miniatures for board games are one of the communities that get a lot of value out of resin printing, and those people really value detail and durability because tabletop miniatures get a lot of handling and often have little protruding parts. . resins as siraya tech tenaciousY Aqua Gray Frozen 4K/8K they are excellent choices as they provide great detail and durability even on small parts.
Some enthusiasts even indulge in a kind of resin alchemy and playfully experiment with mixing resins (such as adding 10% flexible resin in other formulations) to get the right results. In fact, Monocure 3D’s Flex100 resin is specifically geared towards that sort of thing.
Some resins are specifically formulated to bend or elongate under stress and usually have “flex” in the name. However, how much a particular resin flexes (or does not flex) is not always clear from the images.
To get a better idea of what a flexible resin print will look like, look for a Shore number accompanied by a scale designation: 00, A, or D. The number is a measure of the hardness of the material; higher numbers are more difficult. A handy scale with references to everyday objects makes Shore hardness easy to interpret.
Resins that can withstand high heat without softening, warping, or otherwise degrading are specifically marked as heat resistant, and “high temperature” is often part of the name.
Prints made with these resins are hard, but also brittle and glassy compared to others. However, their heat resistance and dimensional stability means they make great molds for things like thermoforming or injection molding.
Aimed primarily at jewelry applications, these resins are formulated to burn cleanly when used in casting, leaving no ash or residue in the process. They come in some slightly different formulations, depending on the manufacturer, but their purpose is the same.
When not to mix and match
Most of the resins and manufacturers mentioned above are, generally speaking, all in the same ballpark. The printers that use them are masked SLA printers that cure the resin by shining a UV backlight through an LCD screen located at the bottom of the build tank. So using one manufacturer’s resin in another’s printer is mostly a matter of calibrating exposure times. (There are also resources that try to centralize these settings.)
However, there are different types of resin printers and their resins are not interchangeable. Formlabs is a manufacturer of professional and semi-professional printers and resins, and their printers use a UV laser to cure the resin instead of a UV backlight and LCD screen. They have a fantastic variety of resins for various purposes, but their resins are formulated specifically for their printers. Formlabs resins will not work correctly in masked SLA printers, and resins designed for masked SLA printers will not work correctly in a Formlabs printer.
There are many options today
Resin printing is very accessible and there are now quite a few options for different resins with different properties, so whatever your needs, there’s probably a resin to suit them. Just remember to wear the proper protective gear and follow reasonable safety precautions when working with resin. Wear gloves, clean up spills right away, and don’t pour anything related to printing down the house drain.
Did resin printing solve a problem you had? Perhaps you have a favorite resin or mix of resins for a specific purpose? Tell us all about it in the comments.