This Anycubic Photon Mono review will prepare you for all the steps that are involved with resin MSLA 3D printing.
Table of Contents
Another Resin 3D printer review/test!? I know, the internet is full of 3D printer tests and reviews. So why should you continue reading this Anycubic Photon Mono review? Why not just read some customer reviews on Amazon? I will go through all the steps from starting a print to getting it finished for painting. You will not only learn about the Anycubic Photon Mono resin 3D printer. You will be prepared and will not make all the mistakes I made! And me being a long time FDM 3D printer user, but resin novice, I made plenty. So let’s start!
So what is the Anycubic Photon mono?
Let’s start with some boring facts before getting into all the juicy stuff. It is good to know what you have/will get, right? When you see the Anycubic 3D printer portfolio, you would almost not believe the company just started in 2015! It started with the Anycubic I3 Mega FDM machine. But luckily for us, they took the plunge and launched their first resin printer in 2018: the Photon.
A new line up has arrived with the Photon mono, Photon mono SE and of course the Photon Mono X. For those that like datasheets and comparisons to be sure they are buying the best one, here it is a simple overview:
Photon mono Specifications
|Photon Mono||Photon Mono SE||Photon Mono X|
|Min. layer height (Microns)||10||10||10|
|XY Resolution (microns)||51||51||50|
|Layer Cure time (sec)||1-2||1-1.5||1-2|
|Max printing speed (mm/h)||50||80||60|
|Materials||405nm UV resin||405nm UV resin||405nm UV resin|
|Recommended Slicer||Anycubic Photon Workshop||Anycubic Photon Workshop||Anycubic Photon Workshop|
So the main difference among these three printers is speed and size against a price tag. The big difference between these machines compared to their previous generation is the use of a monochrome display. This allows for a lot faster printing, and the screen will last longer than the color screens.
Some other pleasant features from the Photon Mono are the quick FEP replacement, top cover detection, and a high-quality z-axis rail. But wait ONLY a 2K screen? Yes, we are getting spoiled. As this printer is not a large format printer, I guess we will be fine.
In this Anycubic Photon Mono review article, I’ll be talking about the Mono, but the work in progress will be mostly the same for every resin 3D printer.
Unboxing the Anycubic Photon Mono and first print
Funny enough, this was a pretty disappointing experience as part of this Anycubic Photon Mono Review. Sure, there is the “OOOHHH” moment when it comes out the well-made box, but well, it’s small. And there is not much in the box, really. No assembly, no installation, just some tools and safety equipment. I needed some time to realize it was a good thing. It is also the moment you realize this is really something else then FDM printing.
You can have the printer setup and in action in about 5 minutes! And because I’m a very impatient person I did, I had even prepared a print file. So I followed the short manual and calibrated the base plate. Another moment you will notice this is something different from FDM printing. You literally only need to loosen 4 screws and let the printer home Z on a piece of paper. When its done, fasten the 4 screws and let the base raise a bit. Place the tank and fasten it with the thumbscrews and pour in some resin.
I used the Anycubic basic grey resin for this test just to be sure it would work. It started nicely without making all kinds of weird noises, so I went off only to come back and find this! WHAT is this?
Well, this is how it looks when your first layers didn’t stick to the base plate but on the FEP of the Anycubic Photon Mono. The good thing is that after this (first couple) base layer, the light can’t get to the liquid polymer. So you will not waste a lot of material like with an FDM machine. We all have found our printer at some time with a bunch of filaments spaghetti inside, don’t we? But don’t worry, this can be easily removed with some IPA (not the beer!) and a gentle push from the bottom (check this YouTube movie for an example). DO NOT GO IN WITH YOUR METAL SPATULA! You will damage the FEP and there is no replacement in the box. If it is really needed, you could use the plastic one.
It turned out you need to have a cosy warm temperature in the room that you are printing in. It is winter and about 17°C in the room and not the ideal temperature of 28°C. I didn’t want to heat the room, so I increased the curing time for the base layers. I re-sliced and started a new print. This time the printer made some weird “popping” sound, which turned out to be normal. It is the layer letting go of the FEP.
But look at this from the Anycubic Photon Mono! Now, this was an “OOOOHHH” moment for me. The details are so sharp, especially comparing to FDM. Surfaces are smooth. The print was done with 0.05mm layer height, and you can go all the way down to just 0.01mm.
Ow, and yes your prints will be upside down, which is really great because you do not have the problem of trapping uncured resin. Printing hollow parts really help to get the most out of your resin.
Before telling you more about getting from a finished print to an actual finished part (which involves a lot!) I want to tell you a bit more about slicing for resin printing. This is also a bit different from FDM printing. Resin prints do need supports too, or I would call it anchors. You don’t want to start printing in the air because this will float around. Instead of the magic 45 degrees, resin prints can be pushed harder. Already from 20 (or 80 degrees in FDM language) degrees, you’re in the clear.
It also makes sense to fill your build plate to the max, as it doesn’t influence the printing time (I’m loving resin printing more and more!). Something that’s it pretty important with resin printing is the resin usage. Resin isn’t really cheap. So how to keep your money in your wallet? Hollow your prints! Most parts don’t really need a fully solid print.
Luckily the Anycubic Photon Mono comes with their own slicer called Photon Workshop, and it works really easy. There are just two main windows: one for standard part placement, and one for adding support and resin curing settings. That’s it!
It also allows you to make holes in models during slicing. This can reduce the amount of resin used. But for hollows objects, it can also help against something else. When printing a hollow part, it can form a vacuum at the FEP. This will could reduce the lifetime of the FEP or cause a print failure. Cool, right?
Post-processing a resin 3D print
So what to do with that just finished gorgeous print? Is it done like with an FDM print? No, now the work is just getting started.
First of all, you need to know to understand liquid polymers are not harmless. When having it exposed, you should wear a mask (buying them should not be a problem nowadays). You also don’t want to get it on your skin often, so wear gloves when filling the tank, but also when removing your print, cleaning it, etc. Just get a big box of them and use them all the time.
Dang it! Your parts are still not finished. The cured resin is not really cured enough, so it needs to be cured some more. At this point, you need to decide to remove the support before or after curing. I personally have no clue what is the best option having done both but did not really notice a big difference. I did notice the Anycubic Photon Workshop does a good job in making removable supports. The only thing to watch out for are supports that have a large contact area in the vertical direction.
There are several options for curing your parts. First of all, you can use the sunlight, if you are not in a hurry. Putting your print in a cup with water seems to help. Great low budget option. Second, you can make a simple box with some UV lights (bulb or strip). Just make sure they are on the correct wavelength (for the Anycubic photon mono that’s 405nm). And the last option is a fancy Anycubic wash and cure station. They even aren’t really that expensive, to be honest, so even I might go for it, eventually. The big advantage is that you can use timers.
And now you are finally at the point you can start with other post-processing like assembly, sanding and painting.
Where To Buy The Anycubic Photon Mono
Conclusion: good affordable 3D printer
I know that almost half this Anycubic Photon Mono review article is about things other than the Anycubic Photon Mono itself. But that’s kind of the conclusion. The printer just works and is so simple. No tweaking or modding, no difficult maintenance. The slicer works great, and sometimes you even might wonder if there shouldn’t be more support.
But I haven’t had many prints fail or even artefacts and I did some challenging prints. When using other resin brands, you might need to change some curing times, etc. But there are so many fewer things that can go wrong compared to FDM printing. The prints look flawless. Crisp details, smooth surfaces. I can’t complain about anything, really. The only thing I think I need to say is that I noticed in other reviews the Anycubic support isn’t really satisfactory.
Because all the above and the very attractive price point, the Anycubic Photon Mono is a perfect resin printer for who wants to get into resin printing. For me, this printer definitely should belong in a top budget 3D printer list.