AnyCubic Photon Mono X 3D Printer – Review.
AnyCubic recently sent us their awesome Photon Mono X 3D Printer and Wash and Cure Station for testing. This was our first, ahem, exposure to resin 3D printing, although we * have a lot of experience with fiber / FDM 3D printers. Rest assured this review is independent and has not been submitted by AnyCubic prior to publication.
We spent a few weeks on the AnyCubic Photon Mono X and overall found it to be a great product with a few notable drawbacks, mostly related to inherent problems with resin printing rather than the printer itself.
The Upshot: This Printer Is Amazing
It’s big. It’s fine. This is an MSLA printer. What does this mean? MSLA stands for Cloaked Stereolithography. As we noted in our article on How 3D Printing Works, â€œMSLA printers use lasers to turn liquid resin into hard plastic. Typically, the object is pulled out of the resin vat, forming layer by layer as it rises out of the material. ”
In other words, it’s magic.
The Caveat: Youâ€™ve Got Some Learning (and Cleaning) to Do
It will take some time to achieve perfection with the Photon Mono X or any resin printer. Once you know what you are doing, this printer is easy to use, but it can be frustrating to get to.
The experts have assured us that this experience is universal. This is a rite of passage, similar to getting the first layer directly on an FDM printer. The only difference is that if your first layer doesn’t stick to the build plate on a resin printer, there is a lot of messy cleaning to do.
This is because every time the resin printer fails, you have to clear everything . Since resin is a toxic material, you will need to use a lot of gloves, masks, paper towels, Windex, and rubbing alcohol. (Note: We used Everclear because it is cheaper than isopropyl, although we’re not sure if the liquor store cashier believed us.) However, as you get better, there is less and less cleaning required.
Resin vs. Filament: Whatâ€™s the Difference?
Resin printer allows you to print objects with incredible fine detail. If you come from the world of filament fibers, the resolution will amaze you. As good as you think it will probably be better.
Build Volume & Printing Speed
The Photon Mono X has a larger build volume than virtually any other consumer-grade MSLA printer on the market today. Moreover, print time is entirely dependent on exposure time and number of coats, not on how much material hardens per coat.
You can squeeze as much into the build plate as you want without affecting print times.
Product Quality & Safety
The Z-axis guides on the Photon Mono X are no joke. They outperform linear guides on any printer we’ve seen. Linear guides prevent your print from wobbling during printing, and the Photon Mono X has no noticeable backlash. The Z screw is strong, without visible vibration.
In addition, the touchscreen is responsive and easy to read, and the menus are intuitive. The overall look is clean and sleek.
The additional safety features are more than enough to protect your eyes from ultraviolet radiation and protect the resin from sunlight. In fact, we left the resin in the printer for three days next to the window, and none of the resin hardened from the sunlight.
Washing & Curing Your Print
The AnyCubic washer and cure station is the perfect complement to the resin printer. They look great together. The wash station has a built-in magnetic stirrer that agitates the cleaning solution, allowing you to clean your print in less than five minutes. It takes almost no effort.
After printing, you can remove the print from the bed or put the bed itself in the wash station, which will save you from the cleaning that we mentioned above.
Note. You really need a LOT of cleaning liquid, whether it’s alcohol or a cleaning solution of your choice. The cleaning solution is placed in a large plastic container with a snap-on lid.
For washing, you set the wash timer, press “Go” and you’re done. Be careful when handling uncured print. It will be soft and not completely solidify, so it can be easily deformed if you’re not careful.
To secure your print, place it on the carousel that comes with the Wash & Cure Station. If you want, you can adjust the tilt angle of the topmost LEDs so that light hits the print.
It is as easy to cure as it is to wash. Set the timer, press the Start button, and after a few minutes, the print will be locked. Enjoy the strange, eerie glow of the print as it freezes.
AnyCubic’s slicing software isn’t quite as flawless as Cura or Slic3r, but it does have a lot of cool features that, admittedly, we haven’t fully explored yet. You can add manual or automatic props, rafts and drainage holes.
PhotonWorkshop is a little awkward to navigate and it takes a bit of trial and error to learn how to place the supports correctly. If you don’t support your print properly, it will fail and you will have to clean out the resin container before trying again, so it is imperative that you learn how the supports work.
Transferring files to Mono X is a snap. Download the file to a USB stick and insert it into the printer. Bam. During printing, you will see images on the LCD screen of each exposed layer. It’s pretty fun to look at. And AnyCubic has a phone app that you can use to track your prints and run them remotely.
Maintaining the Photon Mono X
In terms of maintenance, we would like the resin tank drain spout to be better designed. The resin does not pour out cleanly, making it difficult to clean. What’s more, when printing, resin covers the top of the build plate, not just the bottom of the build plate, so when it’s time to clean, you’ll have to remove the resin from both sides. This is unfortunate, but we do not know how to avoid it.
Another complaint: It is difficult to remove the build plate so that no resin gets on the machine. When you remove the build plate, you need to dance. It is difficult to hold it over the vat so that the resin does not drip all over the place. Once you get consistently good prints, this shouldn’t be a big deal.
At some point, you will have to pour the resin back into the container it was in and scrub the build plate. This process is not as convenient as it could be. Ideally, you will only need to clean the bottom and sides of the build plate. Be that as it may, there are many nooks and crannies that are filling with resin, and they all need cleaning. This is similar to drying dishes that are removed from the dishwasher.
We suspect this is a design tradeoff to maximize print area while still leaving enough resin for large print sizes. Plus, the printer doesn’t have the funnels or filters you need.
We also tried to change the FEP sheet. The FEP sheet is the film on the bottom of the resin container. If it gets dirty, scratched, or punctured, it must be replaced. As complete newbies to resin printing, we have found that installing a new FEP sheet is fairly straightforward. There are many screws to tighten, but the instructions were easy to follow. It was like changing and tweaking the head of a snare drum, and the sound was similar too!
If you want everything to just work out of the box with minimal effort, then resin printing may not be for you. This is not a criticism of Photon Mono X.
If, on the other hand, you are someone who will take the time to really learn the ins and outs of new technologies, then yes, we highly recommend the AnyCubic Photon Mono X 3D Printer. You will love it (after all). It can print things that cannot be printed on a filament printer. Plus it just looks awesome.
* Special thanks to FormerLurker for help in reviewing the AnyCubic Photon Mono X 3D printer.
AnyCubic Photon Mono X 3D Printer – Review
AnyCubic Photon Mono X 3D Printer – Review