Resin vs. Filament 3D Printing: Exploring the Differences and Applications

In the realm of 3D printing, the choice between resin and filament-based techniques can significantly impact your project outcomes. Filament 3D printing utilizes plastic filament melted and extruded through a hot nozzle, while resin printing employs liquid resin cured by UV light to fabricate objects. While filament printing offers speed and high tensile strength, resin printing excels in producing intricate, detailed prints with smooth finishes, albeit at a slower pace.

However, factors such as project requirements, desired results, cost, and printing speed play pivotal roles in determining the most suitable method. In this article, we delve into the nuances of resin versus filament 3D printing, exploring their differences and applications to assist you in making an informed decision tailored to your specific needs.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing

What Is Resin 3D Printing?

Resin 3D printing stands as an innovative method within additive manufacturing, employing liquid photopolymer resin materials to fabricate intricate and precise objects. Utilizing a layer-by-layer approach, the liquid resin undergoes selective curing initiated by a light source, typically a laser or projector integrated into a specialized resin 3D printer. This process transforms the liquid resin into solid shapes, allowing for the creation of highly detailed and complex items, including jewelry, dental models, prototypes, and small-scale production items.

How Does Resin 3D Printing Work?

Resin 3D printing, known as stereolithography (SLA) or digital light processing (DLP), operates through the layer-by-layer curing of a liquid photopolymer resin using UV light. In DLP, a UV light pattern is projected onto the entire resin layer, causing rapid curing of the entire layer at once. Conversely, in SLA, the resin is selectively solidified as the shape of the object is traced onto the resin’s surface. Following each layer’s curing, the build platform descends, allowing for the addition of subsequent layers until the entire object is fully formed. Post-processing involves the removal of excess resin and the hardening of the material through washing and curing processes, ensuring the final product’s quality and integrity.

Advantages of Resin 3D Printing

Resin 3D printing offers several advantages, including:

Exceptional Resolution: Resin printers excel in producing parts with intricate details, smooth surfaces, and high accuracy, making them ideal for applications requiring fine features.

Diverse Material Options: Resin printers support a wide range of materials, including engineering-grade resins, flexible resins, and dental composite resins, providing versatility to meet various printing needs.

Water-Resistant Prints: Prints created with resin are inherently resistant to water, as photopolymers solidify upon application and maintain their water-resistant properties. This makes them suitable for applications requiring waterproofing without moisture absorption concerns.

Minimal Surface Disruption: Resin prints experience minimal surface disruption from support structures, as any slight overhangs seamlessly integrate with the main object during the curing process, thanks to the continuous presence of resin in the tank.

Disadvantages of Resin 3D Printing

Despite its advantages, resin 3D printing also has its drawbacks, including:

Limited Printing Size: Compared to FDM printers, resin printers typically have a smaller maximum printing size, limiting the size of objects that can be produced.

Toxic Fumes: Resin printing emits toxic fumes during the printing process, posing health risks if not adequately ventilated.

Time-Consuming Post-Processing: Resin prints require extensive post-processing, including washing, curing, and sanding, which can be messy and time-consuming, adding to the overall production time.

Limited Shelf-Life: Resin has a limited shelf life and may degrade over time, potentially leading to unexpected print failures and resource wastage.

Software for Resin 3D Printing

The choice of software for resin 3D printing varies depending on the specific printer model and manufacturer. Popular options include Chitubox, PrusaSlicer, Formlabs PreForm, and Autodesk® Meshmixer. These software programs enable users to prepare, slice, and send 3D models to their printers. Additionally, they offer advanced features for adjusting print-quality settings such as layer height, exposure time, and support structures, enhancing the printing process and overall output quality.

For more detailed insights into the best software options for resin 3D printing and their functionalities, refer to our comprehensive guide on top-rated 3D printing software.

Is Resin 3D Printing Better Than Filament 3D Printing?

Determining whether resin 3D printing is better than filament 3D printing depends on various factors, including the specific requirements of your project and your preferences regarding print quality, speed, and material properties.

Resin 3D printing offers advantages such as high resolution, allowing for intricate and detailed prints with smooth surfaces. It also provides a wider range of material options, including engineering-grade resins and flexible resins. Resin prints are typically water-resistant and experience minimal surface disruption from support structures.

On the other hand, filament 3D printing offers benefits like larger printing sizes, lower cost per print, and a broader range of available materials, including PLA, ABS, and PETG. Filament printing is also generally faster than resin printing and may be more suitable for large-scale projects or rapid prototyping.

Ultimately, the choice between resin and filament 3D printing depends on your specific needs and priorities. If you require high-resolution prints with intricate details and smooth surfaces, resin printing may be preferable. However, if you prioritize larger printing sizes, faster printing speeds, and lower costs, filament printing may be the better option. Consider evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of each method in relation to your project requirements to make an informed decision.

Are Resin 3D Prints Brittle?

Resin 3D prints can exhibit varying degrees of brittleness depending on factors such as the specific type of resin used, the printing parameters, and the post-processing techniques employed. Some resins may indeed result in prints that are relatively brittle, particularly those designed for applications requiring high levels of detail and precision. However, other resin formulations may offer improved flexibility and durability, making the prints less prone to brittleness.

Additionally, post-processing steps such as proper curing and post-curing methods can help enhance the mechanical properties of resin prints and reduce brittleness. By carefully selecting the appropriate resin and optimizing printing parameters and post-processing techniques, it is possible to mitigate brittleness and ensure that resin 3D prints meet the desired mechanical requirements for specific applications.

What Is Filament 3D Printing?

Filament 3D printing, also referred to as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), is an additive manufacturing technique utilized to produce three-dimensional objects layer by layer. In this process, a continuous filament made of thermoplastic material is utilized as the primary printing material. The filament is fed through a heated extruder, where it undergoes melting before being deposited onto a build plate in a predetermined pattern. FDM is widely recognized for its accessibility and versatility, making it a popular choice among 3D printing enthusiasts and professionals alike. See Figure 1 for an illustration of filament 3D printing.

How Filament 3D Printing Works

Filament 3D printing, also known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), operates by feeding a continuous strand of plastic filament from a spool to a heated nozzle. At the nozzle, the filament undergoes liquefaction, allowing it to be deposited onto a build platform in a precise pattern. As the material is extruded layer by layer, it solidifies to form the desired object. The printer’s nozzle moves with precision to accurately place the material, while the build platform descends incrementally after each layer is deposited, enabling the printing of complex three-dimensional shapes.

Advantages of Filament 3D Printing

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) offers several advantages, including versatility in material selection. FDM printers can utilize a variety of thermoplastic materials such as ABS, PLA, PETG, and nylon, providing flexibility for different applications. Additionally, FDM printers are widely accessible and user-friendly, making them suitable for both professionals and hobbyists. Furthermore, FDM printers boast large build volumes, allowing for the creation of sizable objects, and produce durable prints that exhibit resilience to mechanical stress.

Disadvantages of Filament 3D Printing:

Despite its benefits, filament 3D printing also has its drawbacks. Visible layer lines may detract from the aesthetic appeal of printed objects. Additionally, filament 3D printing can be relatively slow, especially when producing intricate designs or larger objects, which may require extended print times. Warping, a common issue in filament printing, can occur, particularly with certain materials or printing conditions, leading to distortion of the printed object. Moreover, the necessity for support structures in filament printing, depending on the design, can increase printing time and necessitate additional post-processing efforts for their removal.

Software for Filament 3D Printing

Filament 3D printers utilize slicer software to generate toolpaths based on 3D models, allowing the printer to create objects layer by layer. Popular slicer software options include Simplify3D, PrusaSlicer, and Cura. These software programs enable users to customize settings such as layer height, infill density, and print speed to achieve desired outcomes, providing flexibility and control over the printing process.

Cost Comparison Between Filament and Resin 3D Printing

In general, filament 3D printing is more cost-effective than resin 3D printing due to the lower cost of filament compared to resin. While resin can range from $15 to $80 for 500 ml to 1 liter, a 1 kg spool of PLA, ABS, or PETG filament typically costs around $20. Additionally, resin printing involves additional expenses such as replacing the resin tank, purchasing isopropyl alcohol, safety gear, and UV curing lamps, which can accumulate and contribute to higher overall costs over time.

Strength of Filament vs. Resin 3D Prints

Filament used for FDM 3D printing generally results in stronger prints compared to regular resins used in resin 3D printing. Materials such as ABS, PLA, PETG, nylon, and polycarbonate commonly used in FDM printing exhibit higher tensile strengths and impact resistance. However, it’s worth noting that tough resin, a specialized type of resin, can be stronger than materials like PETG, ABS, and nylon. For detailed insights into the strongest 3D printer filament, refer to our comprehensive guide on the topic.

Speed Comparison Between Resin and Filament 3D Printers

Determining which type of 3D printer—resin or filament—is faster is complex, as it depends on various factors such as printer settings, materials used, and print heights. Generally, SLA resin printing tends to be slower than FDM due to the small surface area of lasers used. However, projector and LCD-based resin printing methods can be faster than FDM, as they can cure entire layers at once. Ultimately, the choice between resin and FDM should be guided by the specific use case rather than speed alone.

Surface Smoothness of Resin and Filament 3D Printers

Resin 3D printers typically produce smoother surfaces compared to filament 3D printers. This is attributed to the high level of detail and resolution achievable with resin printing, where a liquid photopolymer is cured with light to create fine details and smooth surfaces. In contrast, filament printers construct models layer by layer by extruding melted plastic, which can result in a slightly rougher surface finish.

Cost Effectiveness of Resin and Filament 3D Printers

In most scenarios, filament 3D printers are more cost-effective than resin 3D printers due to their ability to utilize a wider range of filaments and lower material costs. Resin printing requires specialized liquid photopolymers, and post-processing often involves additional tools and materials. Additionally, resin printers generally have a higher initial investment compared to filament printers. Therefore, while resin printing may offer superior surface finish, filament printing tends to be more economical overall.

Strength of Prints from Resin and Filament 3D Printers

Filament 3D printers are typically associated with producing stronger prints compared to resin 3D printers. This is because filament printers can utilize a variety of thermoplastics like ABS and PETG, known for their excellent strength characteristics. In contrast, resin printers commonly use photopolymer resins, which may be more delicate and have lower impact resistance. However, resin printing excels in creating intricate and highly detailed models that may be challenging to achieve with filament printers.

Best Starter 3D Printer

Determining the best entry-level 3D printer depends on user preferences and intended use. For those starting out, a filament 3D printer is often recommended due to its lower cost and ease of use. The Original Prusa MK3S+ offers a premium experience for users willing to invest more, while budget-friendly options like the Creality Ender-3 V2 and Voxelab Aquila provide accessible entry points. Alternatively, the Elegoo Mars 3 is a reliable choice for resin printing, offering high-resolution capabilities and user-friendly features.

Successful Use of Resin 3D Printers

Resin 3D printers can be used successfully without encountering failures midway through the printing process by following proper procedures and safety precautions. This includes handling resin carefully, ensuring printer calibration and maintenance are up to standard, and using appropriate safety equipment. Additionally, using high-quality resins that are compatible with the printer and avoiding excessive UV exposure can help prevent failures and ensure smooth printing operations.

Reusing Filaments for 3D Printing

Certainly, reusing filaments for 3D printing offers an eco-friendly solution to reduce plastic waste. Recycled filaments are not only environmentally beneficial but also maintain or even enhance print quality. They are widely available and often more affordable than regular filaments. Moreover, recycled filaments come in various materials like PETG, PLA, and ABS, along with unique colors and compositions. Some companies even offer recycling services where customers can send in their 3D printing scraps and receive credits toward new filament purchases. Overall, opting for recycled filaments is both sustainable and cost-effective for 3D printing projects.

Compatibility of Filament with Resin 3D Printers

No, filament cannot be used with a resin 3D printer. Unlike filament printers, which use melted plastic filament to build objects layer by layer, resin 3D printers utilize liquid photopolymer resin that solidifies under UV light exposure. These two types of printers are fundamentally different and incompatible with each other.

Conclusion

In this article, we explored the differences between resin and filament 3D printing, delved into their respective functionalities, and outlined their diverse applications along with guidance on selecting the optimal process for individual needs. For further insights into 3D printing methods, reach out to a Modo Rapid representative.

Modo Rapid offers a comprehensive array of manufacturing solutions, including 3D printing, and additional value-added services tailored to meet your prototyping and production requirements. Visit our website to discover more or to request a complimentary quote without any obligations.