Resin vs. Filament 3D Printing: How to Select The Right One?

SLA and DLP are two different types of resin 3D printing technologies, while FDM is filament 3D printing technology. This article introduced their difference and discussed how to choose the right one for you.


What is Resin 3D Printing?


Resin 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that utilizes liquid photopolymer resins to create three-dimensional objects layer by layer. The process uses short wavelength light to solidify liquid resin into 3D pieces.


Some of the common types of resin 3D printing technology include:


Stereolithography (SLA)


SLA is one of the earliest forms of 3D printing. It uses a UV laser to selectively solidify layers of liquid resin in a vat. The build platform gradually moves upward as each layer solidifies. They’re ideal for detailed and intricate designs that require a high level of accuracy, as well as very large parts.


Digital Light Processing (DLP)


DLP is similar to SLA but uses a digital light projector to project an entire layer of the 3D model at once. This can lead to faster print times compared to SLA. However, the trade-off is that the resolution may be slightly lower. It is challenging for this technology to produce objects with complex geometries and accurate build quality. 


Masked Stereolithography (MSLA)


MSLA is a variation of SLA that uses an LCD screen with a masked pattern to selectively cure the resin. It combines the speed of DLP with the precision of SLA. This 3D printing technology strikes a balance between speed and resolution, making it suitable for hobbyists, educators, and individuals seeking a budget-friendly introduction to resin 3D printing.


Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP)


CLIP is a technology developed by Carbon that uses a continuous liquid interface to grow objects rather than building them layer by layer. It employs a combination of oxygen-permeable membranes and UV light to cure the resin continuously. CLIP can produce parts at speeds that rival traditional manufacturing methods.


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Common Materials Used in Resin 3D Printing


Resin 3D printing utilizes photopolymers, a type of plastic infused with photoinitiators, typically starting in liquid form and curing into a solid state when exposed to light.


The common resins used in 3D printing are standard resins, flexible resins, tough resins, castable resins and biocompatible resins.


Advantages of Resin 3D Printing


High Resolution: Resin 3D printing provides exceptional detail and surface finish, making it ideal for intricate and detailed models.


Smooth Surface Finish: Objects printed with resin typically have a smoother finish compared to filament prints, reducing the need for post-processing.


Accuracy: Resin printers offer high precision and accuracy, making them suitable for applications where dimensional accuracy is critical.

Diverse Materials: There are various types of resins available, including flexible, tough, and castable options, providing versatility for different applications.


Disadvantages of Resin 3D Printing


Material Limitations: Resin materials are often more limited compared to the wide range of filaments available for filament 3D printing.


Post-Processing Requirements: Resin prints usually require post-processing steps like washing and curing.


Toxicity: Some resins emit fumes and may contain toxic substances, requiring proper ventilation and safety measures.


What is Filament 3D Printing?


Filament 3D printing is a type of additive manufacturing technology that builds three-dimensional objects layer by layer using filament as the printing material. In this process, a filament, typically a spool of thermoplastic material, is fed into a 3D printer. The filament is then heated to its melting point and extruded through a nozzle onto a build platform. The melted filament is deposited layer by layer, with each layer bonding to the previous one as it cools and solidifies. This process repeats until the entire object is created.


Common thermoplastic materials used as filaments in 3D printing include PLA (polylactic acid), ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol), and more. Each filament material has its own set of properties, such as strength, flexibility, and heat resistance, making it suitable for different applications.


Advantages of Filament 3D Printing


Material Variety: Filament 3D printing supports a wide range of materials, including PLA, ABS, PETG, and more, each with distinct properties.


Cost: Filament printers are generally more affordable both in terms of the printer and the materials.


Large Build Volumes: Filament printers often have larger build volumes, making them suitable for larger projects.


Disadvantages of Filament 3D Printing


Lower Resolution: Filament prints may have a coarser resolution compared to resin prints, affecting the level of detail.


Layer Visibility: The layer lines in filament prints may be more noticeable, requiring additional post-processing for a smoother appearance.


Support Structures: Creating and removing support structures in filament printing can be more challenging for complex geometries.


Which is The Better One?


There is no absolute superiority between them. Choosing 3D printing technology that is the most suitable for you depends on what your projects need. For hobbyists who build low-cost materials, when strength and durability are important, or in other words, precision and surface finish aren’t crucial, filament 3D printing or FDM is the ideal choice. Resin 3D printing is the ideal choice when high precision and smooth appearance are of importance and the cost is not an issue.


FAQs


Which technology is better for high-resolution prints?


Resin 3D printing is generally better for high-resolution prints due to its ability to produce intricate details and smoother surfaces compared to the layer-by-layer approach of filament 3D printing.


Which is more cost-effective, resin, or filament 3D printing?


Filament 3D printing is often considered more cost-effective, with lower initial printer costs and a wider range of affordable thermoplastic filaments. However, resin printing costs can vary based on the type of resin used.


Which technology is better for functional parts and prototypes?


Both technologies can be used for functional parts and prototypes, but the choice depends on specific requirements. Resin printing is suitable for high-detail prototypes, while filament printing may be preferred for larger or mechanically robust parts.


Do they require different post-processing steps?


Yes, the post-processing steps differ. Resin prints typically require washing and curing steps, while filament prints might need additional finishing processes to smooth layer lines, especially for visible or functional parts.


Are there safety considerations when choosing between resin and filament printing?


Yes, safety considerations vary. Resin printing may involve handling liquid resins and exposure to UV light, while filament printing involves heated plastic, which could emit fumes. Both processes should be conducted in well-ventilated areas.


Which technology is better for beginners?


Filament 3D printing is often considered more beginner-friendly due to its simplicity, affordability, and ease of use. Resin printing may have a steeper learning curve and require additional safety precautions.


Can both technologies produce multi-material or multi-color prints?


Both technologies can achieve multi-material or multi-color prints, but the implementation differs. Some filament printers have multiple extruders for different materials/colors, while resin printers may use different resin tanks for different colors or materials in a single print.


What considerations should be made for printing large objects?


Filament printing, with its larger build volumes in many cases, may be more suitable for printing large objects. Resin printing, especially in consumer-grade printers, is often limited in build volume, making it less ideal for larger prints.

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