Choosing between printing in resin or filament? We’ll tell you exactly which 3D printing material to use for your projects in this guidepost.
Should I get a resin or filament 3D printer?
Here’s the short answer you’re looking for.
If you’re just starting out in 3D printing, go FDM. Top benefits?
- Easy to use and maintain
- Less hazardous
- Ease of scaling
- May need surface finishing
But if you want to step up the ladder to make finer, high-quality prints, then go SLA/DLP printing (resin). What you’ll expect:
- More detailed printing for figurines/miniatures
- Stronger than PLA
- No need for surface finishing as it already has a smooth surface
Resin vs Filament – A Comprehensive 3D Printing Material Comparison
To help you understand the difference between resin and filament materials here is a complete and comprehensive comparison:
|PLA, ABS, PETG, and special filaments like Nylon, TPU, PVA, and PLA with modifiers (Wood, Ceramics, Carbon fiber, Metal, etc.)
|Limited choices of materials and are usually proprietary to the brand of the printer
|More durable than filaments
|Less durable than resin prints
|$40 to $150 per liter; more expensive than filaments
|$17 to $26 per KG for standard PLA/ABS; greatly cheaper than resin
|Resin tank film at the bottom may need to be replaced for every 2 to 3 liters of resin used. Tank replacement may range from $25 to $86
|Nozzles may deteriorate over time, but not too quickly. They cost cheap to replace. Some manufacturers even offer space nozzles.
3D printer technology
|3D printed objects are sticky which need to be submerged in an isopropyl alcohol bath.
|Need for stripping overhangs and sanding to get a uniform and smoother surface.
|Strong adhesion to bed makes it more difficult to remove than FDM prints
|Less effort in removing prints
|More accurate/precise results
|May have visible layers, shifted layers, or warped parts depending on filament quality and printer settings
Keep on reading if you want to know the pros and cons of going FDM or SLA printing.
What to Know About Filaments for FDM 3D printing
Filaments are the “3D printer ink” for the FDM printers. In a nutshell, filaments are:
- Highly affordable
- Easily accessible
- Easy to use
- A wide variety of material options
- Suitable for early stages of prototyping
- Suitable for enthusiasts, hobbyists and beginners
The most common ones in the field are PLA and ABS. These 3D printing materials are available in:
- A variety of colors (black, white, red, orange, blue, violet, etc)
- Filament diameters (1.75mm, 2.85mm)
- Spool sizes (0.5kg, 1kg, 2kg, 4.5kg, 5kg, 10kg, 15kg)
- Dimensional accuracy (+/- 0.05, +/-0.03mm or +/-0.02mm)
PLA and ABS filament spools are affordable and are readily available. These can range from $22 to $26, but some manufacturers can offer up to the best deal of $17 per kg spool.
What are FDM 3D Printers?
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers use filaments, strands of plastic extruded per layer for 3D printing. The FDM 3D printer heats and melts the filament and extrudes it in the nozzle as the 3D object is formed layer by layer. According to your settings, each layer can range from 0.1mm to 0.5mm.
Like filaments, FDM printers are also offered in a wide variety of choices fit for every price range. One of the best FDM printers used by hobbyists and small businesses is the Prusa MK3, which is both affordable and with satisfactory features.
How Do I Choose a Filament?
Let’s take a look at the important factors you need to consider the next time you set out to buy a 3D printing filament.
The diameter is often 1.75mm, but there are also 2.85mm diameters.
This depends on the type of printer you are using. 1.75mm filaments are more common and are used for most 3D printers such as Prusa, Anet, Creality. 2.85mm filaments, on the other hand, are used like Lulzbot and Ultimaker.
This refers to the tolerance of the filament diameter and is usually marketed +/-0.03 or +/-0.05mm.
The smaller the tolerance, the better the resolution so this means the +/-0.03mm has a better quality than +/-0.05mm filament, given that it costs a little more.
0.05mm is already the industry standard and can already produce good resolution prints. If you’re into 3D printing as a hobby or as a small business, we don’t see any reason to buy the 0.03mm filaments.
What you’d likely have to look at is the uniformity of the brand you’re using. While you can easily adjust the flowrate of your 3D printer depending on the dimensional tolerance, there’s not much control over the dimensional uniformity.
Some poor quality filaments may not have the same diameter over the entire spool. Hence, it is better to test filaments to know which brands are reliable.
While you may not entirely agree with this, the spool dimension is one of the things you should also look at when choosing filaments. The spool diameter is important in maintaining a uniform
3D prints and stable mounting.
It also optimizes the process and relieves extruder strains. Most manufacturers produce spools with mounting diameter ranging from 53 to 56mm for a 1kg filament, which is good enough as a basis.
Only buy filaments that are packed with sealed plastic and with desiccants inside. This is not just to make it look nice, but the vacuumed bag keeps the filament fresh, moisture-free and away from the light which can degrade it easily.
What to Know About Resin for SLA/DLP Printing
Now for resins. If you ought this path, you have the following benefits:
- Better resolution
- Extremely precise details
- May require a water or isopropyl alcohol bath for post-processing
- Wide variety of colors and sizes
What is a Resin 3D Printer?
There are two main types of resin printers: SLA and DLP.
Like the FDM printer, SLA/DLP also prints layer by layer, but it uses radiation to solidify the liquid resin in a process called curing. These layers can range from 10 microns up to 100 microns.
Both resin printers have UV light technologies that shine onto a vat/tank of resin to create the models based on the object loaded in the slicer.
Basically, an SLA/DLP printer performs the following processes:
- A User Interface (UI) which allows a seamless control mechanism for the SLA printer
- You fill the resin tank with liquid resin, a photopolymer.
- The build platform lowers down to extract the part out of the resin tank. The build platform is
- attached to a ball screw which raises and lowers it from the resin tank.
- At the bottom of the printer is a UV laser which projects the image of the object into the bottom of the resin tank.
- A resin printer builds the object from top to bottom as the platform lifts out from each layer.
- Ultraviolet laser creating the model.
SLA vs DLP: Which to Choose?
Although DLP is quite similar to the SLA, there are a few differences.
The main difference between the two resin printers is the working of their light source. DLP uses UV from a projector to execute the printing process. SLA uses a UV laser beam to take on the details of your print on each point.
While DLP printers are usually faster than SLA, solidifying quicker, laser printers create higher quality prints.
It depends on which one you need for your project. SLA offers more precision and smoothness, as well as larger build volume. On the other end, DLP has a wider range of colors and usually comes with a cheaper price.
What kind of Resin are Used for SLA 3D Printing?
There are several kinds of resins you can use depending on the application.
- Standard resins are utilized for general purpose prototyping
- Castable resins, usually acrylate photopolymers, used for jewelry 3D printing
- Engineering resins, having strong and developed thermal properties, used for engineering applications
- Dental and medical resins, having biocompatibility certifications, used in dentistry, prosthetics and medical applications
Are Resins Safe?
Resin is not safe. Keep in mind that liquid resin used in SLA and DLP 3D printing is harmful, toxic and is not environmentally-friendly. You may even need to wear a respirator mask or face mask and gloves before using it.
Resin printing itself releases harmful fumes, pollutants and irritants which may harm your skin and respiratory system. The fumes can get in your nose and lungs and cause irritation.
This means you need a well-ventilated working area when working with resin.
Why is SLA resin toxic?
SLA resin may release VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, during curing. VOCs can cause cancer or serious damage.
Do Resin 3D printers Smell?
Resin also produces a strong odor, which a lot of people find unpleasant.
Ultimate Selection Guide: Resin vs Filament
So, weighing all the considerations above between resin and filament, which one do you choose? To further help you conclude, we answer the toughest consumer questions below.
Are Resin 3D Printers Faster than FDM Printers?
Yes, SLA printers print resin faster than FDM printing with filaments. DLP printers print even faster. Because of this, industries and large businesses usually prefer resin printers when it comes to speed considerations.
Verdict: Resin 3D printers
Is Resin Stronger than PLA?
Yes, resin prints have stronger mechanical properties than PLA prints, but that doesn’t mean they are rendered useless. PLA is used in a lot of 3D printing applications ranging from replacement parts, tooling accessories and architectural models. However, PLA’s major weakness is that it doesn’t have an equal mechanical property between its three axes. This means they are weak when it comes to shear forces.
On the other hand, the resin curing permits stronger adhesion between layers, which gives stronger products in all axes.
Due to this, resin prints are often used for printing engineering parts and medical-related components.
Is Resin Stronger than ABS?
Parts created with resin have a tensile strength of 55.7 MPa and a modulus of elasticity of 2.7 GPa, which ABS plastic can compete with. While there’s no clear winner in terms of strength, ABS does cost cheaper than resin. ABS can be used to print durable parts at a very low cost, which include enclosures, snap-fit joints and engineering parts.
Verdict: ABS Filament
Is Resin Printing More Expensive?
Yes, resin printing is naturally more expensive than FDM printing. Resin costs $40 to $150 per liter. Not only are you considering the expensive material cost, but also the maintenance cost.
In resin printing, you need to consider tank replacement every 2 to 3L of consumption which costs $25 to $86. You may also need to buy a wash and cure machine.
However, as time went by, manufacturers started releasing more budget options, one being the Elegoo Mars offered at only $250.
On the other hand, filaments only cost between $17 to $27 per kilogram. The most commonly used FDM printers by hobbyists only range from $200 to $500.
Verdict: Filament Printing
So, have you chosen the right 3D printing material and technology for you? Users have long debated on which is better to print with, resin or filaments. We hope this guide helps you choose which to use for your intended application.
In a nutshell, if you want to create 3D prints that are both durable and budget-friendly, choose filament FDM printing. Superior quality prints or castings need more precision and intricacy but come with a higher price. In this case, you can opt for resin printing.