Anycubic Photon Ultra Review

This Anycubic Photon Ultra review presents the low down of the new 3D printer, including its features, specs, quality of print and more. Read on.

[Editor’s Note: This 3D printer has been discontinued by the manufacturer. Check the upgraded version, the Anycubic Photon Mono M5S Pro]

Anycubic, one of the leading manufacturers of personal 3D-printers has unveiled the new Anycubic Photon Ultra. This 3D printer uses DLP technology.

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The company’s new resin 3D printers work with the recently released solution based on the Anycubic cloud platform. The cloud platform includes several useful features, including: model library, slicing in the cloud, printing from the cloud, file transfer, remote monitoring, equipment management and online updates.

Anycubic Photon Ultra Review

Technical Specifications

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AVAILABLE ON ANYCUBIC 

3D Printer Specifications

LCD Screen 3.5 inch touchscreen
Connection USB (Flash Drive), USB (Cable)
Print Size 102.4 x 57.6 x 165 mm
Application Area Dentistry, jewelry
Operating System Windows, MacOS X, Linux
Print speed 1.5 s/layer
Software Anycubic Photon Workshop
Layer Thickness from 10 microns
Positioning accuracy X/Y – 80 microns (1280 x 720 pixels)
Materials UV Resin 405nm
Printing Technology DLP
Printer Size 222 x 227 x 383 mm
Connection SD card, USB cable
Filament detector Yes
Power supply 10-220 VAC, 50/60 H
Net weight 15kg

How Does it Work?

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The Photon Ultra was developed in partnership with Texas Instruments, a leader in projector design, and owner of DLP technology.

Thanks to DLP technology, the 3D printer is up to three times more efficient than competitors using SLA printing technology. The printer has a UV light utilization rate of up to 95%, which is much higher than of conventional LCDs (1-5%).

The Photon Ultra delivers high precision and fast printing, thanks to the DLP technology and Anycubic’s UV light source that produces consistent light.

If you are a beginner, please not that resin is not harmless. The fumes produced by the resin can be harmful. Moreover, you should not handle the resin solution with your bare hands. Wear safety gloves when handling resin. Finally, you should dispose of any used resin properly.

DLP vs mSLA 3D Printers

When small resin printers began to conquer the hobby arena a couple of years ago – we remember the Wanhao D7 – the term DLP printer was often used incorrectly. This was probably due to a lack of a better word for printers in this class.

3D printers, such as the Anycubic Photon, Photon Mono, Elegoo Mars, Saturn etc. use an LCD display to mask the areas of the individual layers to be exposed. The more appropriate term mSLA (masked SLA) is used to describe them.

On the other hand, DLP printers, which have been around for a long time, do not have a display but use a DLP projector. Therefore, there is no need to mask the areas of the individual layers.

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DLP projector under glass. At the bottom, you can see the mirror.

What Does this Mean in Theory?

The display of an mSLA printer, especially the mono displays that have become established in the area, is very vulnerable. For example, when pressure is applied, the almost unprotected display can break.

Unlike is the case with smartphones, there is no glass protector on mSLA display. Attempting to use a normal glass protector would disturb the behavior of the UV light too much. Therefore, most people use a thin FEP film as a protective film. This protects the display against stains or scratches, but not against pressure or the UV light, which permanently damages the display during operation.

A DLP printer does not have the problem of the display. The tank sits on a stable glass plate.

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The glass plate is made of tempered glass, and stabilized with a glued flush with adhesive tape and silicone seal around it.

DLP plates also have an edge in terms of service life. With them, you can expect a service life of up to 10 times longer than a mono display, i.e., 20,000 hours vs. 2,000 hours.

Moreover, DLP plates consume less power than their mSLA counterparts. For example, the Ultra only consumes 12W when printing and does not need to cool.

DLP technology enables a more even distribution of the UV light. The cushion effect that some Anycubic mSLA devices have is not present with the Ultra.

However, DLP projectors have some problems. For example, the projectors experience increasing blurriness in the edge areas. And for the Ultra, the printer’s display has a lower resolution compared to modern mSLA devices.

However, the sharpness of the Ultra’s display is higher overall and there is less bleeding. Therefore, 3D printed models come out sharper than the low resolution suggests. There is still debate about this but we’ll see the hands-on results later on.

What’s in the Box?

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When you order the Anycubic Photon Ultra, you will get the following in the box:

  • Ready-to-use printer. Simply unpack, level it and start printing.
  • A tank covered with FEP film
  • The build plate
  • A plug-in power supply 110-240V 12V 4A
  • USB stick with detailed documentation in English, and Photon Workshop Slicer for Win32&64 and Mac)
  • Various Allen keys
  • 2 spatulas
  • A face mask
  • A pair of gloves
  • Paper resin filters

However, there is no test resin nor replacement FEP foils. Therefore, make sure you have some resin for your test prints.

For other items you will need, see our guide on how to clean resin 3D prints.

Anycubic Photon Ultra

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The housing of the Photon Ultra is made of plastic but looks chic. The color touch display at the front is small but it does its job.

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On the back, there is a power socket and, on the side,, we have an ON/OFF switch and a USB socket. I prefer the power socket on the side than always at the back, where you can’t get to it. However, this is not a big issue.

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The Photon Ultra has rubber feet that make it stable and prevents wobbling during printing.

Its Z-axis is a simple linear rail & Z-spindle, which is what we see with most budget resin 3D printers. The linear rail is sufficiently stiff and there is an optical endstop for the Z spindle too.

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Like most 3D printers, the Anycubic Photon Ultra has 4 screws for loosening and fix the building board. The screws make it easy to really tighten the board to prevent any wobbling during the printing process.

The top of the building board is made of one piece. Therefore, there will be no resin spills anywhere in or in between. Any spills will drain off, and this is a good thing. Moreover, you can hold the part tighter without having to worry about tilting it and adjusting the leveling (e.g. to knock down the pressure piece with a hammer and chisel).

The plate features Anycubic’s new checkerboard structure that offers better adhesion.

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The building board does not sit so well on the Z-axis holder. However, once the screw tightens it well.

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The Photon Ultra’s tank is made of plastic and sports a good spout. The tank is fixed with the screws in the two protruding brackets. There are 2 screw heads that protrude from the “lid”. These screws serve as end stops when pushing in the tank.

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It would be even nicer if the tank had little feet so that it doesn’t stand on the FEP film when parked somewhere.

But there is one part that I was frustrated with; the hood:

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Let’s begin with the positives of the hood:

  • You can get to it from anywhere
  • It doesn’t take up any space at the back

However, the problem is that the hood is blue.

While blue is a beautiful color, it doesn’t block UV light. I’m not sure why Anycubic shipped the Ultra with the blue hood.

This is how things look like after a few minutes when the sun shines through the window for a moment, despite the blue hood being on:

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The resin in the pan gets thick.

Therefore, keep in mind that you should not leave the Anycubic Photon Ultra with its blue hood in front of a window as the resin will harden immediately.

If you still want to buy the Photon Ultra and use it in a bright room, you should probably paint the hood matt black. Alternatively, find a hood from another printer or simply use the printer in a dark room.

Installation & Assembly

To install the printer, follow the standard procedure of installing any resin 3D printer:

i) Loosen the building board

ii) Place paper on the glass

iii) Go to Home, tighten the screws and press Z=0.

That is all.

After that, insert the tank, fill in resin and wait until the bubbles have reduced a little.

Operational

When you switch on the 3D printer, you will hear nothing. This is because the Ultra has no fans to make the noise.

However, during the printing, you can hear the Z-axis. The noise level is acceptable.

Since there is no fan to remove the resin scent from the printer, the odor is less during printing but becomes stronger when you later remove the hood.

Display Menu

The Photon Ultra has standard display & menu navigation that we’ve all seen before.

I can change the exposure times on the fly.

Pressing pause moves Z up a bit so you can see something. It takes a bit for the pause to effect. I think it works through a buffer fast.

With Elegoo 3D printers, going Home is a little rough. However, the Ultra goes home much more smoothly.

For the test, used Anycubic resin to print 0.05mm standard layers with exposure times around 2 to 2.5s and a LightOff-Delay of 1s. These are the same values I use on my Elegoo Mars 3 with its mono display. Therefore, it not surprising that the printing speed is comparable.

So, in terms of speed, the Photon Ultra performs comparable to the Elegoo Mars 3.

Slicer

Anycubic ships the Photon Ultra with the Photon Workshop. The printer is preconfigured in it. The Photon Workshop is ok, but I’m a Lychee slicer fan.

The Ultra is also preconfigured in Lychee Slicer. Moreover, there are a handful of resin profiles from the Lychee community for the Ultra. So far everything seems to be working.

Quality of Print

The prints below were made with standard Anycubic resin. There is also special DLP resin but we didn’t have it in our Test Lab at the time.

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The above is a test print from the supplied USB stick. The print was Anycubic smoke yellow, but because it was neither very clear nor showed the details particularly well, I quickly sprayed a layer of primer over it. Now, the fine details are visible, which I think came out quite well .

Next, we printed this tiny thing to repair a broken laser cannon on my Tie-Fighter wing. We used Anycubic Trans Green, sliced it using Lychee, and used manual supports.

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The next print was also sliced in Lychee. The writing on the little Make Rook, the original is legible.

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Moving, we printed the Fireball Wizard by Matt King , still without primer. With this print, we noticed an interference pattern in the X/Y direction with Lychee without anti-aliasing. Therefore, there are expressly no layer lines (or onion skin, if we are talking about FDM 3D printing).

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Directly comparing the Ultra with Lychee against Mars 3 both without anti -aliasing, the Mars 3 shows significantly less of these artefacts.

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Don’t get me wrong, compared to FDM or the first resin printers I had, these are dream results from the Ultra. However, we’ve seen better results with other resin printers.

So, we decided to switch on the anti-aliasing to see the effect. This time, I used Photon Workshop slicer but did not have the red resin. When the Fireball Wizard by MattKing was printed, it was clear that switching on anti-aliasing at level 8 reduced the artefacts, but not entirely.

See the image below.
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When the anti-aliasing is at level 16, there will probably be an improvement. However, the bottomline is that the anti-aliasing is not so incredibly effective, not even with DLP.

Below are the 3 towers without zoom, from a distance of about 10cm:

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You can’t see much of the artefact with the naked eye.

And here’s another attempt. This time, we printed the SvartWood Troll.

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As you can see, the model also had issues of artefacts.

Things got exciting when the primer is on. We printed the AmeraLabs Town with some primer.

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I love the quality of the print.

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For example, the columns on the back printed nicely. The 0.2mm gap is knotless, and the 0.1mm still recognizable. The 2.5s used here may still be a bit high. I think with 2.2s, it will be even sharper.

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Next, we have the Fireball Wizard by Matt King. Looking at the print from a certain distance, there seems to be no problem. However, the the smoother one will look better when painted. I’ll be using the 3D brushes from DaVinci 😉

I quickly used Citadel Contrast Paint at the 8x anti aliased printed wizard. The model was brushable enough, even with these extremely watery colours. Unfortunately, the print without anti aliasing broke; since the standard Anycubic Resin is very brittle.

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Conclusion

The Anycubic Photon Ultra is the first ready-to-use real DLP printer in that comes in the hobby price range. Although the DLP concept for resin printing has been around for ages, it is mostly aimed at the commercial user as a self-made project or large and expensive.

To come up with this reasonable price for consumers, Anycubic has made extreme cuts and you can see that in many places. Still, the Ultra is anything but cheap compared to the mSLA.

The unit has a small maximum size, even for resin conditions, especially for a device in this price range. I’m okay with the size since I mostly use it to make 28mm tabletop minis 28mm. However, the small construction volume could be the KO criterion for some of you.

The 3D printer produces sharper prints with more details, is quieter and affordable due to lower power consumption. There is also less display breakage and lower operating costs over the longer service life of the DLP vs. display.

Honestly, I’m always scared of the displays, I’ve accidentally destroyed one or two over the years. This cost me money and time. If DLP is a more robust technique, then that’s worth something too.

Unfortunately, I don’t like the print quality of the Ultra any better than that of the Mars 3 . I can’t put it any other way: I prefer the DLP technique, but I like the prints of the Mars 3 better.

So, should you buy the Anycubic Photon Ultra?

Well, you have to weigh what is more important to you. If you have a problem with the sensitive displays, the Ultra is a good alternative but does not offer the best resolution nor smooth surfaces in terms of print quality.

The Ultra is quite appealing despite the massive cost-cutting measures. However, the price is quite expensive. You have to be a real DLP fan for it to pay off.

PRICE ON ANYCUBIC

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