Anycubic Photon Review – DLP Resin Printer
(3 Month Update at the end of this review) Claiming the Anycubic Photon the best resin based 3D printer is a bold move, but after printing with it for some time, I think it is a no brainer comment. Anycubic sent this 3D Printer for me to review. This is my opinion, and I was not paid for this review. I am reviewing this with an eye towards Miniatures and terrain for wargames. The Anycubic Photon Facebook Group features tons of great posts from people using them for custom jewelry and dental purposes. Less than two years ago, the Peopoly Maoi was revolutionary. It was an SLA printer for around $1000. A few months later, Wanhao introduced the D7, for less than $1000 bringing us the era of affordable Resin 3D Printers. (Though, resins are still on the expensive side, they too are coming down). Fast forward about a year from the Wanhao introduction, and we there were a number of contenders vying for the best, low-cost DLP resin printer. Including the Micromake L2, FLSUN -S Complete, Tevo Firefly (this project has been canceled as far as I can tell), Creality 3D LD-001, and the Anycubic Photon. Wanhao has gone through a number of iterations making it a better 3D Printer, and Anycubic was able to take those lessons and create an outstanding 3D Printer in their own right, the Photon. Click here for my live unboxing and preview page.
*This is based on price to performance, there are better resin based 3D Printers that cost much more
The Specs for the Anycubic Photon:
Price: Around $500. It’s about $520 from China (AliExpress/Gearbest) and closer to $540 from Amazon/U.S.
Build Area: 115 mm x 65 mm x 155 mm
Technology: 405 nm UV LCD masking screen (2560×1440 resolution), Built in touch screen controller. Unlike the Wanhao D7, this 3D Printer comes with a built in computer to control the printer.
Using the Printer
For this Anycubic Photon Review, I come from the FDM world, and have found Resin based printers very different. Many similar concepts, but very different. The first difference, is the slicer. I’m used to running Cura and Simplify 3D. This printer uses its own slicer, that works well, if a bit slow. The touch screen is pretty simple, starting with 3 menu items. Moving the vat and zeroing it, printing, and other setup items. It works really well. The printer ships with a spare FEP sheet when yours runs out as well as gloves, resin filters, tools and other items. It also comes with 250ml of gree resin. As a safety precaution I also wear safety glasses to protect my eyes from an inadvertent splash.
It’s actually pretty straight forward to print. You slice your model (a .photon file), put it on the USB stick, and then put it in the printer. You then level the printer (I use the Flint Reed method) though Anycubic has their way as well. From there, follow the directions and fill up the resin vat to 1/3 full. Click on the display and choose print, and then click the print job you want, and then the arrow to start it. Come back in a few hours to a completed print. It really is that simple. It’s getting the print ready to print, that is more difficult.
When working with resin and Isopropyl alcohol I highly recommend protecting yourself and do your best to limit direct exposure. I wear Nitrile gloves and safety glasses when I am working on the printer, whether it is pre-print or post print. After that, I scrub really well. If I get any on me, I clean it with IPA and then go back and wash that area thoroughly with soap and water. I don’t want to scare anyone away, but I want everyone to be very aware that this resin is toxic. Limit your exposure to it as much as possible.
When running the printer, I tracked power usage. I saw a fluctuation between 17 watts and 41 watts, with an average watts used being 34. You can use this to calculate power consumption and costs. These are inexpensive when it comes to power.
Prepping prints – Slicing, Hollowing, and more.
Where you will have the most difficult time making the switch from FDM to SLA is learning the additional tools. While many times, you can do what you have always done, with the cost of filaments being $70 or more per liter, the first thing you will want to do is learn to hollow your models. Last year, Maker’s Muse released a terrific tutorial on this subject. This is honestly pretty simple, and Maker’s Muse breaks it down really well as to what to do. This is a bit of an update to the review, ChiTuBox is the company that makes the Photon slicer. It’s recently come out with many nice additions to their native slicer and it is worth picking up over the native Photon slicer for slicing models. It does a better job adding supports AND now hollows models. Many still use some of the other recommendations below too.
From there, you move on to supports. I am still a neophyte with this, and use auto-generated supports in the Photon slicer. It works, well enough, but it could be better. I have read that several people use the B9 Creator Software to generate supports. Another great reference, is the videos from Turenkarn’s 3D Tanks. He’s got some great videos on prepping models to print on the Anycubic Photon. Between these two sources you should be able to print well and begin to understand how to print better. Facebook Moderator, Artur Fuste has also created an amazing spreadsheet that lists all the variables needed for a large number of printing resins, with more being added regularly by the community. Speaking of community, I’m the admin on the Anycubic Facebook Group. We have some very helpful and dedicated individuals that help with printer problems, and show off great new prints they have done. Check out the sticky at the top that features many of the links mentioned here, and others like a 10% discount on Monocure Filament.
Cleaning up the prints / post-processing
My early 3D Prints, I printed directly onto the build plate. Now, I tend to use supports. While I know this sadly uses more resin, it has the added bonus of being a LOT easier to remove from the build plate. So, I honestly recommend starting there. When you are done printing, I use a palette knife (for painting) to slide under the print. It is very thin, and seems to work exceedingly well for this process. Using larger tools, I have had more problems, and have knocked my bed out of alignment on several occasions. If I don’t do that, the level on the bed remains for quite a few print jobs.
After I pull off the print, I use my snips to remove all of the supports. I find it is much easier to do before curing, and keeps the vat from filling up with as much resin. Once I have cleared the supports (and some models are much worse than others), I transfer the print to an Isopropyl alcohol bath. (Use at least 90% IPA, 99% is better). After that, swish the print around. I know some people use a toothbrush to remove all uncured resin. From there, you can do a second IPA bath to make sure you get all of the resin off, and then transfer it to a water/soap bath to clean the model. From there, I either put the model outside in the sun, or under a UV light. I generally find around 10 minutes is needed, longer under the lamp. But, you can feel the model with your fingernail. If it is a little springy/tacky, it needs cured more. If not, you are done. I also use a disposable baking dish to do my work in, to contain the resin. My Photon is in another disposable dish, JUST in case the FEP sheet leaks.
After that final cure, you can prime and paint, or just admire the print jobs. And if you come from the FDM world, realize these are beautiful prints. After owning this for a month and a half and doing dozens of prints, I am still blown away with how good these prints look.
The costs – Resin / Post processing
With the Monocure Rapid from Australia, costs can be down to about $150, shipped, for 3 liters. So far, I have really liked this resin. Another less expensive resin, is Fun to Do, though getting it in the U.S. is a little more difficult than many places in the EU. Finally, Harz Labs has been supportive of the group as well. The resin prints well, and looks really good. Please realize, these are the resins I have had exposure to. If it is not on the list that does not mean it is bad. It means I have not tried it, or seen several others try it.
For post processing, you are better off buying Isopropyl alcohol by the gallon, and paper towels by the case. Plus the Nitrile gloves. It is a more complex version of 3D Printing, but at the end of the day, the prints are worth it. I put together this list to help you get started on the stuff you need to get started with resin printer. I’d say down to the UV Nail dryer are must-haves. And the UV nail dryer could be subbed with a DIY solution as well.
Anycubic Photon Modifications
Like anything popular in the 3D Printing world, there are a number of mods for this printer. Some people hook up major filters to the back of the Anycubic Photon to help clean the airstream to even vent it out doors. If you check out the Facebook group, and you can search for ways people have done this.
Finally, I have put together a Thingiverse Collection of Anycubic Photon upgrades. The Resin Filtering Funnel (two pieces) is really nice.
Anycubic Photon Review : Terrific Printer / Terrific Price
As you can see, this is a terrific printer at the price. It can do a level of detail that is impossible for an FDM printer to do. The Anycubic Photon is also able to do it for a low cost. As more people get into 3D Printing with resin based 3D Printers, I can see their costs going down, and more importantly, I can see the resin costs going down as demand increases and economies of scale kick in. When I say this is the best DLP printer around, I do mean that for the price, you can’t beat it. There are other Resin based 3D Printers out there, but for ease of use (check out how you level others, with multiple screws, it’s nowhere near as simple), cost, and quality, this is the best resin based 3D Printer available. I would not hesitate to recommend this 3D Printer if you are looking to print fine details in the jewelry industry, dentistry, or just for fun.
UPDATE: 3 Months on
I’ve had this for another 3 months since I did this review. I still love this 3D Printer. Prints look so amazingly good. I’ve printed awesome looking cars with guns built on (using Meshmixer) for Gaslands. I’ve printed a Tau Kill Team while waiting for the official miniature box to arrive. I’ve printed miniatures for myself and friends. This thing is just awesome. I see zero lines (except sometimes internally, in transparent resin. You put a layer of primer on, and you will never see them. The community and Anycubic are 100% behind this 3D Printer as well.
UPDATE: 6 Months on (1/7/2019)
This printer still rocks. I’ve had to replace the power supply on it. They are not the best power supplies, but they do work. Mine had been hanging on the rack my printer resides in, but the brick had slid down to the floor and the weight was resting on the wires coming out of the power brick. I know that is not optimum, but I don’t think it should have destroyed the power brick, either. I could get it to work work by moving the cables a bit, so I think it is a bad connection. But, for $12 I figured it was worth buying a new one. The printer is still going strong. I still love it. I love the prints it produces. I’m including some Christmas Horrors that Dragon Workshop / Chris Hunt released. to show off its printing. 🙂 (Use code MYMAKERFUN3D for 5% discount on My Mini Factory). This printer continues to produce miniatures that are out of this world in terms of quality. For the recent Last Dragon’s Kickstarter, I printed the shadow dragon at 200% size. I printed the head on the Photon to get that higher quality where it counts. Being able to mix the strengths of FDM printing and resin printing has been great as well.
Where to Buy – Support this site
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Anycubic Photon at Gearbest