If you’re looking for the best resin 3D printers, the first thing to know is that 3D printers fall into two basic categories: filament or resin. Filament models are usually considered the best 3D printers for large pieces, but resin 3D printers undeniably have the edge when it comes to precision and detail. Even relatively low-cost resin 3D printers can build stunning pieces for gaming, prototyping, component manufacture, jewelry, etc.
Many of these fascinating machines now fall within the budget of keen hobbyists, and small businesses. However, while extensive choice is never a bad thing, the complex technology and associated jargon can make it difficult to know which is the option for particular needs. The following article explains the key fundamentals of the best 3D resin printers, and offers solutions to suit a variety of users.
— Best Overall: ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X Resin 3D Printer
— Best Budget: VOXELAB Proxima 6.08in 2K Resin 3D Printer
— Best 2K: ELEGOO Mars 2 Pro Resin 3D Printer
— Best Resolution: ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X 6K Resin 3D Printer
— Best Entry-Level Industrial: 3D SYSTEMS FabPro 1000 Resin 3D Printer
How We Picked the Best Resin 3D Printers
The Futurism team has been watching developments in the best 3D printers and the best 3D printing software for some time. While filament 3D printers have tended to grab the headlines, we recently focused on resin 3D printers. When making our top picks we looked for the following attributes:
Brand: Even relatively low-cost resin 3D printers represent a significant investment for many, so to ensure durability we looked for machines from established manufacturers. Although the names may not be familiar to everyone, there are a number of companies that have established reputations for quality and reliability. We also took into account feedback from actual users to assess how these machines perform on a day-to-day basis.
Set up and Use: The resin 3D printers we looked at for this article all fall into the entry-level/small production category so it is likely that many buyers will have little or no knowledge of how they function. Setting up the machine, monitoring, and completing the build are key factors. Each resin 3D printer has its own routine, but we selected those that were as straightforward as possible, as long as it had no adverse impact on performance.
Value: It isn’t difficult to spend several thousand dollars on a large resin 3D printer, and the performance of these machines is certainly impressive. However, in order to find machines that appealed to the widest possible group of users we looked for a range of machines across all budgets.
The Best Resin 3D Printers: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X Resin 3D Printer
Why It Made The Cut: Anycubic is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of resin 3D printers. The Photon Mono X is capable of producing large-scale models with tremendous detail, and at impressive speed.
— Dimensions: 7.87 inches L x 8.66 inches W x 15.75 inches H
— Print Volume: 7.55 inches L x 4.72 inches W x 9.84 inches H
— Resolution: 4K
— Speed: 60mm/hour (2.36 inches )
— Large print volume
— Faster than many rivals
— Renowned quality and reliability
— Platform not easy to clean
— Complicated WiFi
— A little pricey
Choosing a single best resin 3D printer to meet all demands is an almost impossible task, but the Anycubic Photon Mono X 4K Resin 3D printer is tough to beat. The comprehensive kit includes everything needed to get started, including rubber gloves, mask, cleaning scrapers, and enough resin for the first couple of prints. A set of printed instructions is included. These are thorough, and component quality is excellent.
Anycubic Photon Mono X offers an impressive print volume, and is surprisingly fast. While this makes it a great choice for large-sale single items, with a little ingenuity at the planning stage it can also produce a number of smaller items in a single print run. This is something other machines struggle with, and can make the Anycubic Photon Mono X a good choice for low volume production work. Resolution is rated as 4K. Anycubic’s interpretation of 3840 x 2400 pixels is slightly higher than standard, resulting in smoother and more detailed modeling.
That said, any movement during the printing process could spoil the finished item. The Anycubic Photon Mono X has rigid Z-axis (height) control to maximize precision. It also uses a brushed aluminum build platform with good adhesion for greater workpiece stability. Unfortunately the flip side is that the platform is a bit of a pain to clean afterwards.
A free cellphone app is included for remote control, and monitoring of the print process. However, installing the necessary WiFi on the printer can be frustrating, and the app offers no real advantage. Many users don’t feel it is worth the effort, and as it has no impact on performance it can safely be ignored.
Best Budget: VOXELAB Proxima 6.08in 2K Resin 3D Printer
Why It Made The Cut: The Voxelab Proxima comes from a highly respected manufacturer. It is a reliable introduction for those who are interested in resin 3D printing, but don’t want to spend a lot of money.
— Dimensions: 7.87 inches L x 9.05 inches W x 16.14 inches H
— Print Volume: 5.11 inches L x 3.22 inches W x 6.10 inches H
— Resolution: 2K
— Speed: 25mm/hour (1 inch)
— Great introduction to 3D printing
— Low price
— Modest print volume
— A little noisy
Voxelab is a subsidiary of Flashforge, a company well known for high-quality filament 3D printers, and professional-grade resin models. The Voxelab Proxima resin 3D printer forms part of their budget range, which is aimed very much at hobbyists. For many it is the best 3D printer for beginners because while fairly basic it is well-made, reliable, and easy to set up and use. It comes fully assembled, and just needs to be leveled before it is ready to print. Gloves and good quality scrapers are included, so they haven’t cut corners when it comes to accessories.
The Voxelab Proxima resin 3D printer does have a few minor drawbacks, though they are perhaps understandable for the price. The print volume is smaller than many, though still very reasonable. At 25mm per hour, it is one of the slowest resin 3D printers we looked at. The motor is a little noisy. If any of this matters, then potential buyers will need to look elsewhere, and invest more. However, for the money the Voxelab Proxima is a surprisingly good machine, and represents excellent value. For more options, explore the best budget 3D printers.
Best 2K: ELEGOO Mars 2 Pro Resin 3D Printer
Why It Made The Cut: There are two ways to look at the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro: As an affordable machine for the beginner, or a capable production platform for small items. In either case, it offers great value.
— Dimensions: 22.44 inches L x 11.42 inches W x 11.42 inches H
— Print Volume: 5.1 inches L x 3.1 inches W x 6.3 inches H
— Resolution: 2K
— Speed: 30 - 50mm/hour (1.18 inches - 1.97 inches)
— Sturdy metal construction
— Simple leveling for rapid setup
— Carbon filter reduces fumes
— Limited item size
— Poor test piece
— Some will want higher resolution
Budget-friendly 2K resin 3D printers like the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro are often seen as the inferior machine. However, while 4K versions do offer higher resolution, the difference may not be important in the finished piece. Although 2K models don’t portray the same level of detail, with a well-made machine like the Elegoo there needn’t be any loss in dimensional accuracy.
The body of the Elegoo is mostly aluminum, giving it a solid feel. The Z-axis is noted for its quality manufacture, and provides smooth motion. Setup is straightforward, with easy leveling. It comes with all necessary accessories, plus printed and digital instructions. A test print is included, but many experts recommend skipping this. The Elegoo has a substantial, flat base that makes it difficult to remove, so damage to either the piece or the print plate is possible. A model with less contact area is suggested instead, either of the user’s own design, or one of the many available online.
Apart from this minor inconsistency, the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro is difficult to criticize. A nice extra is the carbon filter that reduces unpleasant fumes. The lid has a silicon rubber seal which makes this particularly effective.
Best Resolution: ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X 6K Resin 3D Printer
Why It Made The Cut: The Anycubic Photon Mono X 6K uses a proven, high-quality platform, and upgrades it to provide fast, high-resolution resin 3D printing at a very competitive price.
— Dimensions: 18.7 inches H x 11.4 inches W x 10.6 inches D
— Print Volume: 7.8 inches L x 4.8 inches W' x 9.6 inches H
— Resolution: 6K
— Speed: 80mm/hour (3.15 inches )
— Capable of incredible detail
— Large print volume
— Very fast
— Can be hard to remove items from build plate
— WiFi overly complicated
— Expensive for hobbyists
Anycubic’s impressive 6K resin 3D printer is based on the popular Photon Mono X that we have as our top pick. It's another very well-made machine, and is just as easy to set up. There have also been a number of significant improvements. The headline feature is the 6K resolution that can produce extremely fine detail in all kinds of 3D models. This might be expected to come at the expense of production speed, but in fact the Photon Mono X 6K is faster. Print volume is also slightly larger.
The build plate on the standard Photon Mono X has been criticized for providing too much adherence, and therefore being difficult to clean. The 6K model has a checkered pattern, rather than brushed aluminum, but problems still exist if large, solid bases are built. The 6K machine also uses the same WiFi setup, which is fussy, and many independent testers feel it doesn’t add a great deal of value.
A big question for many will be whether the Anycubic Photon Mono X 6K is worth the cost, especially as the standard model is already very good. The 6K version offers tremendous detail, and can build larger models faster. It may not be enough of a difference for many hobbyists, but in a small production environment this could be a key issue. The Anycubic Photon Mono X 6K is also very competitively priced when compared with other 6K machines.
Best Entry-Level Industrial: 3D SYSTEMS FabPro 1000 Resin 3D Printer
Why It Made The Cut: The 3D Systems FabPro 1000 is designed for the commercial production of jewelry molds, production prototypes, functional components, and orthodontic models that, thanks to specialist resins, can survive real-world handling.
— Dimensions: 16.9 inches L x 16.9 inches W x 24.1 inches H
— Print Volume: 4.92 inches L x 2.75 inches W x 4.72 inches H
— Resolution: 65 x 65 x 30 microns (see below)
— Speed: 21mm/hour (0.83 inches)
— Superb value for money
— Impressive software
— Range of specialist resins
— Time-consuming setup
At first glance, the specifications for the 3D Systems FabPro 1000 does not look particularly impressive. Print volume is somewhat limited, and it isn’t particularly fast. However, this is not a resin 3D printer intended for hobbyists and plastic models. It is a commercial DLP machine aimed at jewelers, orthodontists, engineering companies, etc., that either need to produce high-quality working prototypes, or functional components with high durability.
Much of the FabPro 1000’s impressive production capability is due to the specialist resins available for it. FabPro Tough is strong enough for mechanical testing. FabPro JewelCast can create highly-detailed masters from which casts can be created. FabPro NextDent is used for dental applications.
Resolution is given in microns rather than pixels (a micron is 1/25,000 of an inch). Each build layer of a model is just 30 microns thick. For some comparison, the smallest particle the human eye can detect is about 25 microns. The FabPro 1000 can provide very high detail with great repeatability, and can run more or less continuously if required. It also costs a good deal less than similarly specified rivals.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Resin 3D Printer
Resin 3D printing is often seen as modern technology, but the use of resin and UV light for modeling has actually been around for 40 years. While many of the principles remain the same, the following elements should be investigated when making your choice.
Type and Speed
There are three common types of resin 3D printer (though confusingly 4 terms can be used). They are SLA (stereolithography), DLP (digital light processing), and MSLA (masked stereolithography), which is also called LCD.
In basic terms, a UV resin 3D printer works by projecting ultraviolet light onto liquid resin, which then hardens as a result. Objects are built in a number of layers — each one often thinner than a human hair.
SLA is the longest established technology, and still widely used. It uses a laser to form the layer in a number of passes. DLP flashes the whole layer all at once, so generally speaking it is faster. MSLA is similar to DLP, but also uses a mask to filter and shape the projected light. This can lead to greater precision, combined with the speed advantages of DLP. Most of our top picks fall into this category. Technically speaking the SLA laser creates smooth lines, whereas DLP and MSLA use pixels. However, resolution is the key feature here, which we talk about in a moment.
In a production environment the type of resin 3D printer can be significant. However, for the machines covered in this article the differences are often small. Knowing the print speed is probably sufficient.
While early resin 3D printer screens were RGB, the majority are now monochrome. The latter uses a shorter exposure, which speeds up printing, and also uses less power.
The screen also defines the detail possible. Resolution is usually either 2K (2560 x 1440 pixels), 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) or 6K (6144 x 3160 pixels), though the number of pixels can vary slightly from one machine to another. Each increase in resolution comes at greater cost. However, even the lowest 2K resolution is higher than most filament 3D printers are capable of, so for many that will be enough. That said, 4K has become something of a standard. The difference between 4K and 6K is only likely to be important for users with a need for highly detailed pieces.
A resin 3D printer’s print volume is the maximum size of object that can be created. This is often given in millimeters (25.4mm = 1 inch). Where quoted, the X and Y dimensions refer to width and depth (front to back) whereas Z refers to height.
Resins and Curing
Many of the best resin 3D printer makers also offer their own resins, which simplifies choice. However, there are all kinds of resins available, with different characteristics. Some offer increased strength. Some produce a surface that is better for painting. There are metal resins that can withstand temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Resin properties are beyond the scope of this article, but it is an area well worth investigating. Compatibility may impact choice.
Resin objects take time to cure fully. Some of this happens during the production process, but objects may not be entirely cured when completed. Some require additional UV exposure to reach full strength. For some resins, simply leaving the item on a sunny window ledge could be enough. UV lamps or dedicated machines (washing and curing stations) can be used. While this won’t directly affect the choice of resin 3D printer, it’s important to know whether post-processing is necessary in order to ensure component longevity.
Q: What is a resin 3D printer?
A resin 3D printer is a device that uses liquid resin and a UV light source to create 3D models. The variations in processes are discussed above.
Q: What are resin 3D printers good for?
Resin 3D printers are good for detailed models and prototypes, with a high-quality surface finish. For another option that's great for beginners, read a full review of the Anycubic Vyper 3D Printer.
Q: How much does a good resin 3D printer cost?
How much a good resin 3D printer costs really depends on the size of model and detail required. Entry-level machines can be found for around $200. High-end production equipment can be over $200,000. In our detailed report above we cover models from $200 to $2,000.
Q: What is the difference between resin and filament 3D printers?
The main difference between resin and filament 3D printers is that the former generally provides more detail. Filament 3D printers can be faster (though they have to sacrifice precision), and produce large pieces more economically. Our recent Creality 3D printer review may be of interest.
Q: Do resin 3D printers need ventilation?
Ventilation for resin 3D printers is recommended. 3D resin printers should not be used in unventilated living spaces. Some resins are toxic, and while non-toxic 3D resin is available the fumes can be irritating to eyes and airways.
The Anycubic Photon Mono X Resin 3D Printer has several very capable rivals, but none offer the combination of print volume, precision and speed. It will appeal to all kinds of model makers, and those looking for accurate prototypes or low volume production. The Voxelab Proxima is our best budget resin 3D printer. It is an excellent introduction for beginners, allowing them to learn and experiment without major expense.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.