Is the Photon S a reliable SLA 3D printer? Read our Anycubic Photon S review to find out what to expect in terms of features, specs, quality of print and more.
We recently received the Anycubic Photon S resin printer for testing. This is an updated and improved version of the very popular LCD Photon printer.
Anycubic has long established itself as reliable, simple and inexpensive printers that are 100% worth their money. The first Photon was immensely popular not only as a home printer for DIYers and enthusiasts, but it could even do professional tasks for jewelers or dentists.
Just like its predecessor, the Photon S comes in a small box ready to work. Includes hex wrenches, a small screwdriver, a few spare bolts, rubber gloves, a mask, a USB stick, a plastic spatula, resin filters, a spare bathtub FEP film, and a 250 ml bottle of Anycubic green resin.
Taking the printer out of the box, we immediately see the first difference. The Photon S is made of plastic.
Doubtful improvement, for Photon it was metallic. It seems that the plastic is of high quality and pleasant to the touch, but it clearly lacks rigidity. The printer seems too light and flimsy. The lid generally shakes and it seems that with a careless movement, you can simply break it off.
Well, okay, you shouldn’t drop or hit the printer in any case. And if you handle it carefully, nothing should break off.
The windows in the printer have become larger, it is convenient, although everything that is needed was visible before.
The handle has disappeared in front, the lid now opens behind the ledge at the bottom. This is neither bad nor good, just a little different.
The handles on the sides were also missing. Apparently Anycubic decided, since the printer has become lighter, you can lift it without handles.
All connectors and buttons remained in place. At the back is the connector for connecting the power supply, here it is 12 volts 6 amperes. On the right is an on / off button and a USB port for a flash drive.
The resin bath has not changed either. It is fixed in the printer with two screws.
The printing platform has changed slightly. The lower part is now not anodized, and the surface has become a little rough, this should improve the adhesion of the parts to the platform.
The next obvious difference is of course the two rails of the Z axis on the sides of the helical shaft. This improvement should provide more stable Z movement and avoid possible wobbling. Although everything worked quite well on the first version.
In the same place, a second air filter appeared at the rear wall. Now they are on both sides and should better clean the air coming out of the printer. Again, this hasn’t been a big deal before either.
And the last obvious change is the interface of the LCD touch screen has changed slightly. By the way, it works flawlessly. The response is good. All the necessary functionality is present.
Of the unobvious, but very important changes, it is worth noting the new UV floodlight. Previously, it was a small panel with 4 diodes. Now it is a whole matrix with 28 diodes on top of which lenses are installed. The power of the floodlight has increased from 40 to 50 watts. This improvement should provide a more even exposure of the resin and slightly reduce exposure time.
The resolution of the LCD screen remains the same, 2560 by 1440 pixels. The screen itself is small and the size of each pixel is only 47 micrometers.
The print area along the X and Y axes has not changed either, 115mm by 65mm. But the Z-axis has increased, and now you can print models with a height of 165mm instead of 155mm on the first Photon.
In order to start printing, you just need to calibrate the printing platform. This is done similarly to the first Photon and most similar printers. We unscrew the bolts holding the bathtub and remove it.
Using the hexagon from the kit from above, loosen the bolt that fixes the platform so that it can move.
After that, through the printer menu, go to Tools – Move Z and press the home button. The axis goes down to the optical limit switch, which is at the bottom and stops a few millimeters from the LCD screen.
We put a piece of paper on the screen and carefully lower the platform down, first by a millimeter, then by a tenth of a millimeter. Until the piece of paper between the platform and the screen begins to move with little resistance. Gently press the platform evenly against the piece of paper and tighten the fixing bolt.
Now you need to go back to the Tools menu, and press the Z = 0 button.
From this point on, the platform is set parallel to the screen and the printer knows at what height its zero point is. Calibration completed. You can pour in the resin and start printing. Remember to shake the bottle before doing this.
Anycubic offers its Photon WorkShop slicer to prepare models for printing.
I can’t call it a convenient and multifunctional language. There are only the bare essentials. The print and printer settings are minimal, but sufficient. The ability to create print profiles for different resins and layers is sorely lacking. You have to memorize them or write them down somewhere. This problem is partially solved by the fact that Photons are very popular, and there are ready-made tables with print parameters for different types of resins on the Internet.
These tables are, of course, made for the first version of the printer, but the parameters are suitable for the Photon S as reference values.
In case the required resin is not in the table, or you want to select the parameters yourself, the latest firmware has a very convenient exposure time test, but more on that later.
Interestingly, it is possible to use anti-aliasing. This function should smooth the surface of the model, eliminating the appearance of screen pixelation. We will also try to verify this in tests.
The support settings are flexible, their interface is very similar to the Chitubox slicer. You can separately change the parameters of different sections of supports: raft, bottom, middle and top. And there is a choice of three ready-made presets: light, medium and heavy. In the automatic mode, the supports are placed poorly, it is imperative to check and edit them manually.
As a last resort, you can always prepare the model and arrange support in Chitubox, save as STL., And use Photon Workshop only to slice the model into layers.
With the factory firmware, it was possible to cut models directly in Chitubox, it saves a file in * .photons format. But after installing the latest firmware on the printer, the printer stopped seeing such files, only * .pws
For the resin that comes with the printer, the settings that are set by default in the slicer are suitable. That’s 60 seconds of exposure for the first layers and 8 seconds for all others.
Without thinking twice, we printed several models with this resin with the standard parameters of 0.05mm layer. The lion ring was printed first. It worked out great. Even though the resin is transparent, all the details are printed very well.
Then they printed a small rook Make: Rook. There were no problems with her either. It is only 24mm high. The surfaces are smooth and even. The steps and the DNA helix inside were printed perfectly. During printing, they paused once, because of this, a strip appeared at 6 millimeters. The letters on top are a little blurry, but at the same time they are readable with the naked eye. In general, the rook turned out to be very worthy.
Next, a small test from Ameralabs went to print. It’s a small city with a bunch of complex elements of different sizes and angles. There are no complaints about him either. Despite its size (only 30x10x15 millimeters), complexity, transparency of the resin (transparent resins are highly susceptible to parasitic illumination), almost all the smallest elements were printed. A couple of houses have no windows visible and there is one small horizontal strip on the surface. Everything else is good.
And another complete resin model is Captain Mack Rhukta from Myminifactory. It did not fit completely onto the printing platform, so we had to reduce it to 70mm in height. Printed slanted back on light supports placed in the Chitubox. The supports survived, nothing fell off or broke off. But the captain turned out worse than we expected. Small details like braided straps and hair are unfortunately smoothed out. The model turned out to be a little blurry. Layering is quite visible on one shoulder. In addition, the surface turned out to be glossy in places and matte in places. This may be due to the rather large planes of the layers. This made it difficult for the printer to pull the model away from the bathtub film. On a matte surface, such defects would not be so noticeable. But on glossy resin, which, by the way,
After that we switched to another resin – Monocure Gun Metal Gray.
The resin table we talked about earlier has it, but we decided to test the exposure time test on it. This is a very interesting and useful feature that should save you a lot of the time it usually takes to sizing a new resin.
Please note that this function only works with the latest firmware and slicer versions. Installing new firmware on your printer is not difficult at all. On the Anycubic website, from the Photon S page, you need to download the archive. It will contain two files with the * .bin extension. P_V is the firmware of the printer itself and P_UI is the firmware of the screen shell. To install everything, you need to write these files to a USB flash drive, it is desirable that there is nothing else besides them. Insert the USB flash drive into the printer, go to the Print menu. And first run the P_V file on “print” (at the time of our testing it is P_V341.bin), wait for its installation.
And after that also run the P_UI file (at the time of testing P_UI_2_6.bin).
When the latest firmware is installed, you can proceed to the test. The finished sliced dough file can be downloaded from the Anycubic website, it will be in the archive along with the slicer. The file is called R_E_R_F, this abbreviation stands for Resin Exposure Range Finder, translating literally into Russian Resin Exposure Range Finder. Its essence is that 8 identical test models are printed simultaneously, placed in a certain way on the platform. The tests are numbered and each one is printed with a different exposure time.
The finished pws file is designed for a range from 4 to 11 seconds, that is, block number one is printed with an exposure time of 4 seconds, the second – 5 seconds, the third – 6, and so on. This range is not very convenient, since 4 seconds on this printer will not be enough for most resins. You can edit the parameters of the finished pws file, but this is extremely inconvenient, you need to change the settings for each layer separately. But we found an STL model that you can customize yourself.
Add it to Photon Workshop, rotate it in block 1 to the origin. And set the exposure time for the first block in the Normal Exposure Time field, for example, 6 seconds. Most importantly, save this file as R_E_R_F.pws. Then the slicer will make it so that the second block will be printed with exposure for 7 seconds, the third – 8, and so on up to 13 seconds.
As a result, literally in an hour we get 8 tests at once, from which we need to choose the one that prints the best.
This choice is also not entirely unambiguous. Thin protruding elements are printed better with increasing exposure, but small holes begin to close. In our test, at 6 seconds, the slots on top were almost all printed, but not all of the small columns were obtained.
At the same time, at 13 seconds, all the columns are in place, but almost all the slots are closed.
Therefore, we chose an average result of 10 seconds.
During this test, some of the elements may not hold onto the model and fall into the resin bath. After it, it is imperative to drain and filter the resin that remains. For this, the filters that come with the kit are useful. For convenience, you can also use a funnel, which you will have to buy separately. The same should be done if something went wrong during printing, for example, the model broke off from the supports or peeled off the platform.
They filtered the resin and immediately sent to print a large, by the standards of this printer, a model of someone else’s. The model is quite complex and interesting. We turned the model and placed the supports in Chitubox too. The exposure time, obtained as a result of tests, is 10 seconds.
Alien was printed, though not without problems. Stripes are visible at a height of about 4 centimeters. There are two ways why this happened. Or the Z-axis did not rise evenly, which is unlikely. There are no backlashes, the screw shaft does not bite anywhere, and there were no displacements on the Mack Rhukta at the same height. Most likely, in this place, the model adhered so strongly to the screen film that it shifted slightly when it was lifted. Some supports broke off, some of them did not affect the model itself. But one of the elbows flattened a little.
The tip of the tail turned out to be light, because in 10 hours of printing, the resin managed to exfoliate, but this is already a problem of the resin, not the printer. Besides these shortcomings, the stranger turned out well. All details were printed. It looks very nice. And the shortcomings, if necessary, can be corrected with a little post-processing.
After that, Uniz zDental Model Sand dental resin was poured into Photon S. To determine the exposure time for it, we also typed an R_E_R_F test, the same as for Monocure, from 6 to 13 seconds. The first 4 tests turned out to be quite sluggish. 13 seconds was almost enough, but not enough.
Threw in one more second and printed the jaw model. One tooth and two caps for it were printed separately. Printing time was 5 hours with a layer of 0.05mm. And then a pleasant surprise awaited us.
All supports turned out just perfect, none of them broke off. All surfaces are simply obscenely smooth, even shine and shimmer. There is no wobling. The layers are almost indistinguishable. Just a lovely sight. The tooth and caps are also great.
But the most important question is whether the tooth is inserted into its place in the jaw. As it turned out, with difficulty. I had to walk quite a bit along the place of attachment with a scalpel. And after that, the tooth began to fit like a glove. The caps fit nicely on it without any post-processing.
Finally, we decided to check how Anti-alias works. The screen resolution of the Photon S is quite high for such a diagonal, and there is little pixelation on the models. To be able to capture it properly, I had to make a small test model with a very smooth curve.
Without anti-aliasing, the transitions on the pixels of the LCD screen are quite clearly visible on it, both along the X-axis and Y-axis.
But it was worth enabling Anti-alias in the slicer, even with 2X the result is immediately obvious. Transitions are much smaller.
At 4X they are almost invisible to the naked eye.
Not to mention the 8X, the surface is almost perfectly smooth with it.
How it works technically, we have not understood. Perhaps, this function should not be used on complex models with parts, as it will lubricate small elements. If you know the algorithm for such anti-aliasing, write in the comments, we will be very interested.
Anycubic Photon S can be considered the best LCD printer for its price. The quality of the resulting models is very decent, with good resin and with the correct selection of parameters, almost ideal. The high resolution of the screen, coupled with a small diagonal, allows you to print models with excellent detail. I really liked the function of testing exposure time, it saves a lot of time. The anti-aliasing was also pleasantly surprised.
As for the differences between the Photon S and its predecessor. Not everything is clear here. Almost all innovations are useful, but they do not radically affect the print quality. Rather, they should improve the repeatability and usability of the printer. And replacing the body material with a plastic one can turn away some of the potential users. Although, as we said at the beginning, with careful use this should not affect durability in any way. In general, we can say so. If you are already using the first Photon, there is little point in upgrading to Photon S. But if you are looking for your first resin printer, the Photon S is a great option for you.