3D printers work with different technologies. Majority of 3D printer either use filament or resin to print models. But between resin 3D printer and filament, which one should you choose for your projects? read on.
FDM or SLA 3D printers are available in a wide range of prices. In this guide, we’ll show you the difference between the technologies that the printers use, as well as which would be a better choice for you.
The cheapest 3D printers work with the FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) process. In this process, plastic (which is the filament) wound up on a spool is melted and laid on top of one another layer by layer in a new form.
The price-performance ratio of FDM 3D printers is very good. However, cheap printers (e.g., 3D printers under $200) are often fiddly. With these units, if you want a decent print result, you have to set the printing parameters exactly. You also have to post-process the printer item for it to have the perfect surface.
In resin 3D printing, a viscous resin is exposed to UV light, which then hardens in layers. The technology has a higher resolution, enabling significantly more precise prints. Moreover, the technology is more reliable.
The costs of resin 3D printers and resin have fallen sharply. This is why most hobbyists are getting into resin 3D printing. Nevertheless, the printing costs are around three times higher than the FDM process.
Let’s now compare these two 3D printing materials to find out their uniqueness and best applications:
3D Printer Resin vs. Filament
Resin 3D Printer vs Filament 3D Printer Cost
FDM printers are cheaper than resin or SLA printers. You can find FDM 3D printers for under $100. On the other hand, resin 3D printers cost more, especially when we look at their consumables. The cheapest resin 3D printers start at around $300.
For example, the Elegoo Mars, which is a resin 3D printer cost us about $300. Despite the higher price than FDM 3D printers, this unit is well made and produces first-class results.
Coming to FDM printers, there is a whole range of interesting models for under $300. Check our guides below:
3D Printer Resin vs Filament Cost
Coming to printing costs, FDM printers are also cheaper overall. The consumable (filament) is significantly cheaper than the liquid resin for resin printers. There are also no other costs to incur, unlike with SLA printing process, which requires accessories like disposable gloves and isopropanol alcohol for post-processing.
While the accessories required are cheap, they are needed for every resin 3D printing process. Therefore, the cost will be higher in the long run. See all the resin 3D printer accessories that you require.
The costs of a typical PLA filament is about $15 per kilo. Branded filaments or those made of a different plastic (e.g. ABS, TPU, PTEG, etc.) cost about two to three times as much. We’ve previously covered the different types of PLA filaments. Another big advantage is that the filaments are compatible with most FDM printers.
Coming to resin, and things are different. Not every resin will work with every printer due to the different wavelength of light used to cure the resin. When buying resin from other brands, it’s important to keep this point in mind.
The Elegoo Mars we tested works with a wavelength of 405 nm. Therefore, it also works with the resin from Anycubic (also 405 nm).
The prices for resins start at about $30 for 500 ml. Brand manufacturers charge up to four times as much.
However, as resin 3D printing technology becomes more widespread, prices are bound to drop further.
Here is a small sample calculation using the well-known Benchy ship model:
The PLA print weighs just under 15 g. This results in material costs of 15 to 30 cents per boat. With the SLA printing process, the Benchy requires 16 ml of resin. The costs is therefore about 80 cents.
3D Printer Resin vs Filament Miniatures
In terms of print quality, resin is clearly ahead. Due to the much lower layer thicknesses of 0.01 to 0.2 mm, the prints look almost as if they were made of one piece. Surfaces are shiny smooth and corners are sharp. Even the smallest details are preserved.
With FDM 3D printing, the usual layer thickness is around 0.2 to 0.3 mm. This results in a clearly visible step formation.
FDM printers reach their limits, especially with very filigree printed objects. Details are lost and edges are more rounded than square. If you calibrate your FDM printer properly, you can still achieve very decent results with a little reworking (see our guide on how to post process FDM prints). However, for this, you need the print object to be quite big.
Resin vs Filament Durability & Choice of Materials
In terms of choice of material, FDM 3D printing wins. FDM 3D printers can use multiple special filaments, some of which make very stable prints. Objects made of nylon or carbon filament are more resistant than prints made of ABS.
The number of available filament types and colors is huge. For example, there are flexible, afterglow, electrically conductive, magnetic, temperature-sensitive or UV-reactive filaments. Plastic mixed with wood or stone is also available.
Although resin manufacturers advertise that the cured material has an ABS-like stability, the cured resin is actually brittle. After all, it is possible to mix the resin with flexible hardening resin for greater flexibility.
The color selection of resin is also smaller compared to that of filaments. If you want, you can color white and transparent resin yourself. With that said, transparent prints are only possible with resin.
Resin vs Filament Print speed
With both types of 3D printers, the 3D data must first be divided into individual layers using software. There is a wide range of 3D printing slicer choices for FDM printers. For example, the open source software Cura, has proven its worth .
The free counterpart for SLA printers is called Chitubox. The finished print file is then sent to the printer via USB stick or memory card.
With FDM printers, the print time depends on the total amount of filament to be processed. The speed at which the print head moves plays a minor role and is limited by physics. When printing a single small figure, the FDM printer is faster than a resin printer because it requires fewer layers.
With resin printers, the printing time depends on the exposure time of the resin and the number of individual layers. In contrast to the FDM printer, it does not matter whether only one figure or several are printed at once, as long as they fit into the print space at the same time.
In addition to the actual printing time, with resin 3D printers, you also have to take into consideration time for preparation and post-processing. The resin should only be in the printer when needed so that it does not harden. In practice, it is only filled in directly before the printing process.
After printing, the unused resin has to be put back into the bottle using a funnel and filter. The printing platform and print must then be cleaned of excess resin. For final curing, the print must then be exposed to UV light for 20 minutes.
This additional work is not necessary with the FDM printer. Once the print is complete, the printed product is ready and can be used immediately.
The chess pieces shown here took four hours with the resin printer with a layer thickness of 0.05 mm. If we had printed eight figures, this time would have remained the same.
If you print the two figures on an FDM printer, you only need half the time. With eight figures, however, it would take over eight hours with the melting technique.
Resin vs Filament Print Dimensions
The maximum print size for FDM printers is usually significantly larger than for the cheaper resin 3D printers. If you want to print large objects, with an edge length of up to 30 cm, you cannot avoid an FDM printer.
The maximum print size of the affordable resin models is simply too small for this. For example, the Elegoo Mars print dimensions are only 120 × 86 × 155 mm.
In terms of printer space resin 3D printer are smaller than their FDM counterparts. The resin also takes up much less space than the bulky filament rolls. However, don’t forget the additional space required for cleaning the printed product and printer.
Resin vs Filament Noise and Smell
There is no cheap 3D printer that works silently. However, due to the lower number of moving components, resin printers are significantly quieter. The fans of the UV light source are particularly noticeable here.
When it comes to smell, FDM printers have an edge, especially when used with PLA filament. With other materials such as ABS, the melting at high temperatures also produces harmful vapors and unpleasant chemical odors.
When using resin, there is always a significant formation of odors and harmful vapors . Anyone who works with resin should always use respiratory protection and ventilate well. This also applies when post-processing the models with isopropanol alcohol.
Resin vs Filament Sources of Error
Errors can happen when printing with either resin or FDM 3D printers. However, the sources of error of FDM printer are more diverse.
FDM printers have complicated mechanics. Moreover, the filament can also determine whether or not a job will be smooth. If it is not evenly thick or is wrapped poorly, the print will break off. Also, if the printing plate is not properly calibrated, and settings such as speed and temperature are not set, the print will warp or fail to hold properly when it cools down.
FDM printers are the cheapest options when you want to buy a 3D printer. Although they are less accurate than the resin printers, they still deliver decent quality with layer thicknesses from 0.1 mm. With these units, proper calibration and software settings are always required.
FDM 3D printers are inexpensive and can print objects with an edge length of around 15 to 30 cm. However, if you want a smooth finished print object, you will have to do some post-processing.
With FDM 3D printing, there is a wide range of filaments available. The filaments come in various colors and properties. The plastics (filaments) are also comparatively cheap. Therefore, if you need special material properties or print a lot, you are better off with an FDM printer.
When it comes to print quality and attention to detail, resin 3D printing is clearly ahead. The individual layers of 0.05 mm and less can hardly be seen. However, the printing of the very thin layers takes a long time and is comparatively expensive.
One major disadvantage of resin 3D printers is that they have a much smaller installation space. Therefore, the units are unsuitable for large prints. Also, the liquid resin produces odor and their is a lot of post-processing work to be done. The cleaning process and post-curing under UV light takes additional time.
Finally, the choice of resins available is quite limited compared to the filaments available.
If you want to print large and/or cheaply, an FDM printer is the right choice. If the quality is primarily important, resin printers are better suited.