Today we are talking about a new bestseller of the 3d resin printing at home and affordable for everyone, the Anycubic Photon DLP.
The Photon is a relatively new printer, which prints resin with the DLP system, with projected light. It was created with the intention of competing with another best seller, the Wanhao Duplicator 7, which I have already mentioned in this article. This car is very attractive because it is offered for less than 500€ – Gearbest -, and this figure also includes some improvements over the D7. Anycubic seems to have learned from Wanhao’s mistakes and proposes this very interesting machine.
Anycubic Photon: First Overview
The printer looks very sturdy at first glance. Like the D7, the construction platform is made of a solid, anodised aluminium sheet. This platform is fixed very firmly by tightening a roller manually. But despite this, a high degree of fastening is achieved. As usual, each time you reboot, you will have to redo the platform home. The operation of the machine is quite simple, even if the menus on the display are not easy to understand. Even the very thin characters make it difficult to read the words on some particular occasion.
Any resin-based 3D printer is not ideal for beginners. Post-production of the prints involves washing the pieces with ethanol. A highly volatile, flammable and explosive alchol. After that, the prints need to be passed through the UV oven (like this one) to polymerise. Cleaning the plate is a complicated process, with degreasers, but to be carried out gently. Also, the smell of the resin is anything but pleasant, even if the Anycubic Photon 3D printer has a carbon filter with a fan inside, this will not exempt you from the stench.
The specifications of the Anycubic Photon DLP 3D printer are very similar to most 3D DLP printers.
- Technology: DLP (Digital Light Processing)
- Construction volume: 115 x 65 x 155 mm
- Level resolution: 25-100 micron
- Connectivity: USB, SD card
- Touchscreen: 2.8-inch color screen
- Input Grade: 110V / 220V AC.
- Working voltage: 12V DC
- Printer dimensions: 220 x 220 x 400 mm
The print volume of the Photon 3D is 115 x 65 x 155 mm. It’s not exactly big. But comparable to other printers in its segment. It’s slightly smaller than the D7, it only loses two inches in height.
Assembling and configuring the Anycubic Photon printer is all in all very easy, and it takes less than half an hour to do so. The only operations to do are:
- Attaches the knob to the front door of the 3D printer.
- Make sure the LCD screen is dust-free, and maybe vacuum or clean it with a sponge soaked in isopropanol alcohol
After that, we have to set “home Z”.
Since the Photon is equipped with an optical endstop, to calibrate the printer, the plate must be lowered slowly, with a sheet of paper in the middle. Just like the FDM. Then you slide the sheet until it starts to struggle. Of course you have to be very careful, the optical endstop does not block the manual controls! So if the plate is not properly adjusted, crash it into the projector for a moment! Just to prevent the plate from crashing the Photon has an emergency stop button, to press if we see the imminent crash.
At this point the block is lifted, the bathtub is inserted. After adding the tray, tighten the screws, load the resin (half tray) and start!
The printer should be used with a proprietary slicer, Anycubic Photon Slicer. Some people prefer it to Creator Workshop (the one used by D7) because it says it’s faster. I didn’t notice any difference. In fact, I preferred Creator Workshop for automatic media management. In most cases you need to add some support manually. And with this in mind, the media is an essential part of resin printing.
If you come from the world of FDM printing, there are a number of new things to learn. Media has a different purpose in SLA printing than FDM printing and is even more important when used wisely to achieve excellent prints. With SLA printing you don’t have to support some parts, but make sure that the print doesn’t flake. So even the correct orientation of the models is completely different when it comes to SLA printing. New users from the FDM world may find this arrangement of counterintuitive prints. In fact it is advisable to place any object at 45 degrees, and create a good support structure.
Anycubic seems to have understood that they have some software criticalities and is making a new version of the slicer. It’s probably already out by the time you read this review: downloadable from Anycubic website.
What’s in the box?
- Power cord
- Manual (available in English, German, French and Japanese)
- Resin tank
- Some tools
- A bottle of resin
- Resin filters. These have a mesh structure for parts left unintentionally in the tank.
- One USB stick (8 GB)
What you need to buy for Anycubic Photon DLP printing
When it comes to DLP printing, a lot of things are taken for granted. So as soon as we receive the machine our initial enthusiasm is beaten by the fact that we are not completely ready to use it right away! This happened to me, and given the disappointment I leave you a small vademecum of purchase. All these items are the things you will need to have (and thank you for having) to work with resin safely.
Essential items for Anycubic Photon
- mask – so as not to breathe the odor directly
- nitrile gloves – Never touch the resin or residue directly with your hands, it is irritating
- protective glasses – if the resin ends up too close to the eyes it can irritate even with vapours, I recommend glasses!
- Back-up FEP – FEP is the thin transparent sheet that forms the bottom of the resin tank, is a consumable material and must be changed regularly.
- Used resin filter – small pieces of resin may harden and remain in the tank. This can seriously compromise future prints. It’s best to get rid of them now! You can use a flour filter. Metal so you can wash it easily.
- Alcohol Isopropanol – The alcohol with which to clean the resin and in which to dip the prints to clean them once finished. They also sell wipes
- UV oven – this is where the last post processing takes place. You have to spend a few hours in the oven to make the prints hard. The timing changes depending on the size.
Someone has added the complete projector to this list as a consumable item. It should last thousands of hours so I don’t want to add it, although you should know that you may need to change it after a few years.
The things I liked of this Anycubic Photon
As far as print quality is concerned, it’s just as you expect it to be, equal to the D7, but shocking if you’re used to using FDM printers.
The slicer, once used is simple to use. It’s fast in creating the model and generates a single file (a “photon file”), instead an entire folder full of single .png files for each section as Creation Workshop does. Which is not bad.
Another aspect not to be underestimated is a very active social community. If we face a practice like resin printing as total newbies it can be frustrating. An active community like the one that has been created around Photon can help us solve the problems we encounter, even trivially.
Now let’s move on to improvement. The Photon has a built-in screen, with a USB port. The 8 GB USB stick comes with some ready made models, which allows us to test our machine right away.
This allows it to print without being connected to the computer or without having to purchase a separate control box, as with the Wanhao D7. The convenient touch screen display works just like any other printer we are used to. We pertmette some adjustment and also to follow the development of the work.
Another great improvement is the fact that you have put windows, from which you can follow the progress of printing. Although it is true that for the first 2 hours the platform is still immersed in the tray and we can not see anything is equally true that if we are printing something high, around 10 cm, see the failure after 2 hours is much better than just noticing it after printing. Maybe after 16 hours. With the price of resin it is not only a matter of time, but also of money! But here’s a but, which I’m talking about in the next chapter.
Possible problems and improvements
Okay, I’m fussy but…
I don’t understand the choice of color for Photon’s openings. Blue as the colour allows UV rays to filter through. If it is true that they do not polymerize the resin in the short term, they could do so since we left the printer to “rest” with the tank full for a few weeks. With the D7 I happened to forget to clean it of the leftover resin, and not use it for 3 weeks. On the way back, the resin was completely dissolved, without lumps. Leaving it in the blackest darkness inside the tank was like leaving it in a barrel.
With the Photon with blue glasses probably, due to the fact that they transmit light at short wavelengths, I would have found a brick!
I see… they are subtleties, but it would have been enough to put the amber windows, which would have completely blocked the UV of the ambient light.
I anticipated another big flaw, but I want to explain it better. The optical endstop that equips the Photon is a signal but does not physically block the platform. Probably due to a software error we find that if you give too many descent commands, these are added and are not canceled by the endstop. The platform will continue to run until it is rubbed against the projector screen and will also cause serious damage if the stop signal is not used promptly.
So be careful when you’re leveling the planes, just one move at a time and wait until it runs out before clicking the next one!
Anycubic Photon: conclusion
In summary, I think that Photon is a very good machine in relation to the price at which it is proposed. It looks professional, solid and well designed from a mechanical point of view. It uses a design of the FEP that is still a little experimental, but is spreading widely very quickly.
Let’s say that all resin printers are bad-smelling, and require a cleaning job that an FDM maker is not used to. But once you’re used to wearing the odour mask (much worse than the ABS mask in FDM printing) and the latex gloves for the general sticker, you’ll get little masterpieces.
In addition to all the unhealthy issues described above, the price factor must also be taken into account. The materials (resins) that are used are generally very expensive, and you should not want to save money. Buying a poor quality resin can lead to a waste of time and money not indifferent.
Where to buy Anycubic’s Photon?
The price of Anycubic Photon is really competitive. This printer is currently one of the cheapest DLP printers you can buy.
As usual we propose 2 ways: Amazon offers it with delivery in a few days at 400€. By the time I write this review this resin printer is in super offer at 299!!! Take advantage if you can get it in time!
While Gearbest as usual has the best price! Less than 400€ per printer and also some additional resin for the first tests! If you decide to buy from Gearbest choose delivery by the railway method, the machine will arrive in about 20 days without import charges – if your country have it.