We recently received the smallest 3D printer from Anycubic, the new Photon M3 series, in our Test Lab. In this Anycubic Photon M3 review, we go through the specs of the machine, dissect its features, and look at its performance.
Anycubic Photon M3 Review
When we ordered the Anycubic Photon M3 resin 3D printer, we thought it would replace the small Photon Mono/Mono SE series. However, when the package arrived, we realized it is quite larger than the Mono series units.
The Photon M3 is nearly close in size to the Elegoo Saturn S and also has 4K resolution. We were actually looking for a mini 3D printer with 4K resolution, before we settled on buying the Elegoo, which has a resolution of 8K .
Anyway, now that we’re done with the size, let’s get deeper into the review.
3D Printing Specifications
|Build Volume:||163 x 102 x 180 mm|
|XY Resolution:||40 microns (4,096 x 2,560 pixels)|
|Z-axis positioning accuracy:||10 microns|
|Printing Speed:||<50 mm/h|
|Materials:||405 nm UV resin|
|Recommended Slicer:||Anycubic Workshop|
|Operating system:||Windows / macOS X / Linux|
Dimensions & Weight
|Frame dimensions:||425 x 269 x 256 mm|
What’s in the Box?
The Anycubic Photon M3 package has the following:
- The Anycubic M3 MSLA resin printer
- Pre-installed screen protector and a replacement
- 110/240V power supply 12V 6A
- 4GB USB
- Photon Workshop Slicer (compatible with both Windows 32-Bit and 64-Bit machines, as well as Mac OS.
- All required tools required (set of hexagon wrenches, 2 spatulas)
- 3 pairs of gloves, face mask, 5 paper resin filters
- Brief instructions manual
- USB stick with detailed installation instructions
- Metal tank with pre-installed FEP film
However, given that this is a resin 3D printer, there are a couple of things that we wished were also included in the package. These include:
- A test resin,
- Isopropyl alcohol or whatever agent you want to use for washing
- 2 or 3 containers for washing the prints
- Other items needed for resin 3D printing.
GUIDE: How to Clean Resin 3D Prints
Setting Up the Anycubic M3
After unpacking the 3D printer, there is very little for you to do apart from removing the top protective film from the display. The black tape frame and all other foils remain on.
Underneath the foil is a screen protector, and under it is the polarizer film of the display.
Today, most resin 3D printing fans who enjoy tinkering prefer to attach an additional FEP film to protect the sensitive mono displays. Anycubic resin 3D printers already come with an additional FEP films.
I’m not sure what this screen protector film is made of. However, from the looks of things, it’s definitely firmer than FEP.
The package also includes a replacement screen protector.
i) Loosen the 4 Allen screws on the building board
ii) Place paper on the display
iii) Let it go to Home
iv) Fix the building board with one hand and with the other hand cross the screws again put on.
v) If necessary, adjust the height with Z+/-
vi) Exit the menu and save by clicking on Z=0.
Here is a video showing how to level a resin 3D printer.
A quick adjustment like with Elegoo, which solves this via a ball joint, does not exist in the Anycubic M3 either. That’s maybe a bit more fiddling with the Anycubic M3. but it is also very stable.
Then insert the tank and screw the two bolts through the holes in the tank into the housing to fix the tank. Now fill in resin and wait a bit until the bubbles have reduced a little.
The case is mostly made of plastic and the unit is not supported with any feet. The housing securely stands on 4 bulges on the plastic frame. You have to make sure that it is “in the water” in other ways.
Unlike is the case with the Anycubic Photon Ultra, which has a blue hood, the M3 has a yellow plastic hood for blocking UV light. The hood protects the resin in the tank from unintentional hardening. We tested this.
On the right side of the case, there is a USB port and ON/OFF switch. The power connection is found on the back.
Z-Axis / Mechanics
The Anycubic Photon M3 has a wider linear rail compared to the smaller Photon Mono models (as well as Photon S & Photon Mono SE). The printer’s Z-axis is more stable and doesn’t give away when pulled, pushed, or tagged. This is the way it should be.
A double guide for Z is only available in the two larger models of the M3 series.
And as usual, the end stop is a metal flag that drives into an optical sensor (light barrier).
However, the small Photon M3 does not have a ball screw like the two larger M3 models (Plus and M3 Max). Instead, it has a normal trapezoidal screw.
All in all, this is a good, proven standard.
The tank of the Anycubic Photon M3 is made of metal instead of plastic. The tank has the practical pouring corner and 4 small feet that snap securely onto the printer. There are also two protruding screw heads on the printer as a rear stop.
The tank is securely fixed to the printer with two screws, which are screwed through the tank into the frame of the printer. This might not be that convenient, but it works just fine.
With the 4 feet on the tank, you can place it anywhere and not have to worry that the FEP film will be damaged.
Speaking of FEP film, the M3 comes pre-installed with a normal, highly transparent film. The new cloudy film is only available from the M3 Plus. Since I’ve not used a 3D printer with a translucent film before, I can’t say whether it’s better or not.
The tank holds 500g of resin.
The Photon M3 construction plate is 163 x 102mm. The plate features new checkerboard structure that Anycubic introduced a while ago. The plate is designed in such a way that the resin can drain off easily. There are no cracks or edges on it where resin could collect and get stuck.
Unlike the Anycubic Ultra, the mount for the build plate on the Z-axis has a stop. This should help to reduce accidental placement of the build plate at an angle.
The build plate and the overall print volume is slightly smaller than that of the Elegoo Saturn S, which should probably be seen as a direct competitor. Both of the printers have 4K resolution. However, the M3 has a smaller display, which means a higher horizontal resolution (40 microns with the Any Photon M3 vs. 48 microns with the Saturn S).
The Mars 3 has an even higher resolution (35 microns). However, this is expected since it i s noticeably smaller than an M3.
The construction plate of the M3 is too big for the small washing stations Wash & Cure 1 or 2. We also couldn’t fit it in a Mercury X. Therefore, we have to improvise.
I think the large Anycubic Wash & Cure Plus or similarly sized models from the competition would handle the large construction plate. Alternatively, you can use the chip basket that comes with the washing station.
The Photon M3 uses the Chitu system is used again. This is not surprising given that almost 90% of all resin printers for hobby users are based on the Chitu system..
According to Anycubic, the 4K mono screen has a life service of 2,000 operating hours.
The M3 uses a ParaLED style UV matrix. The default seems to be 100% power. Below is an illustration of the UV matrixc:
Unfortunately, the M3 also shows a visible cushion effect at the corners of the UV “lenses”, and this can affect the printed image. This issues seems to be typical with Anycubic resin 3D printers.
On the front, there is a small color touchscreen with the menu. The touchscreen has remained almost unchanged since the first Photon devices. That’s something good as it’s proven itself.
When you press Pause while printing, the touchscreen will move up after a short time so you can peek under the build plate. This can cause a small disruption in printing. You should only do this if it’s urgent.
All print parameters (those that can be changed, e.g. layer height) can be changed during printing.
The Anycubic Photon M3 comes with a 12V 6A power supply for 110/240V. According to the manufacturer, the average power consumption is 55W.
The printer also has a USB port, where you can plug in a USB stick with the print data. There is also an ON/OFF switch.
That’s all with the electronics.
The Anycubic Photon M3 has no activated carbon filters. However, you can buy them separately, for example from Elegoo here at Amazon, and somehow pack them under the hood.
(W)LAN & Cloud function and the new automatic resin refill system are only available for the larger models of the M3 series.
In operation, the M3 is pleasantly quiet. The only noise we could hear is of the Z-axis and that too is tolerable. We couldn’t even hear the fan moving.
Anycubic Photon M3 Slicer
The M3 uses Anycubic’s own slicer, Photon Workshop. Our package came with the 2.1.29, but there is a newer version on the Anycubic website Photon Workshop is a decent slicer. However, it does not have a lot of features. Still, the free slicer works just fine.
Apart from Photon Workshop, the Anycubic Photon M3 settings are found in Lychee and should also work in Chitubox Slicer. I use Lychee Pro myself. I haven’t tried Chitu, and if it’s not already available there, it will probably be added shortly.
So, in terms of slicer, there is nothing to worry about here.
Quality of Prints
Below is an overview of the test prints that we managed.
On the USB stick, there is a test file of the Anycubic lattice cube (test.pm3). During the test, we did not have any Anycubic resin. However, we had the grey Elegoo ABS Like. Therefore, before starting to print, I quickly corrected the exposure times to 30s burn in and 2.4s normal layer.
The lattice print came out nicely, but with a few problems. For example, the grid was bent in a few places when it is removed from the foil. Using different settings for lifting off the foil could improve the result. However, this didn’t really bother us. We wanted to see how other prints would turn out.
We sliced this print with Lychee Pro. The layers were 0.05mm layers, without AA and used Elegoo ABS Like Grey resin.
The 2.2s used seem to be a little bit too long overall. The thinnest slots of the AmeraLabs Town are too swollen and the sharpness isn’t quite there. So I still have to do a bit of tuning.
The little Rook turned out flawlessly. You can only see blemishes with a magnifying glass.
The Fireball Wizard also turned out flawlessly but had some more blemishes compared to what we got with the Elegoo Mars 3. Still, you have to look extremely closely to see the artefacts.
The picture below was taken from an iPhone and zoomed 5x. The blemishes are still almost unnoticeable. On the left is the Mars3 with primer.
As far as dimensional accuracy is concerned, we got minimal undersize of less than 0.1mm after hardening. I think the elephant foot is responsible for the burn in and the strange adjustment layers that Anycubic conjures up in between.
Anycubic is supposed to come up with something at some point to put an end to these intermediate layers. If, like me, you don’t print directly on the building board, it won’t bother you.
Overall, I’m very happy with the prints. The slight blurriness (the one that’s not due to my photo skills) also gets a little better with the shorter exposure. All in all, the M3 replaces my old beta version of the Saturn, which still has the very old display.
The Anycubic Photon M3 is a no-frills Chitu-based printer. This is a basic resin 3D printer with a high-resolution 4K mono display and 40 microns horizontally.
However, 40 microns are not the best resolution; a Phrozen Mini with 4K or even 8K or the Mars 3 achieve even finer values, but with a lower print volume. In regards to this, the M3 offers a healthy compromise between size and resolution.
Generally, this printer is good for printing oversized, high-resolution minis. Still, let’s face it, 8K would have been even better.
Compared to its predecessors, there were a few small improvements (screen protector, feet on the tank), as well as a few niggles (plastic housing, no device feet, no replacement FEP film).
The M3 also seems to have the strange transition layers. I haven’t quite gotten through it at the moment, so it doesn’t bother me at the moment. But that can still change.
In view of the resolution and the print volume, I think the printer is worth the price. If you are looking for a simple resin printer with what I call a medium size, you won’t go wrong with the Anycubic Photon M3.