The SLA 3D printing process “used to be” mostly associated with relatively high costs, but now more and more Chinese manufacturers are trying their luck. In summary, the SLA printing stands for extreme accuracy, but the printing space is much smaller and the effort is “not entirely without”. We currently have five different copies – so there will be some test reports in the future. The Chinese manufacturer Elegoo also offers a comparatively inexpensive one of its kind with the Mars SLA 3D printer . It promises, among other things, simple operation and a precise printing process . Is the 3D printer worth the money?
|Speed :||22.5 mm / hour|
|Printing process:||LCD SLA|
|Printing area:||12 x 6.8 x 15.5 cm|
|Layer height:||0.01 to 0.2 mm|
|Particularities:||Fully assembled, touchscreen & “full metal”|
Packaging and scope of delivery
The Elegoo Mars 3D printer was sent to us directly by the manufacturer Elegoo. The 3D printer was packed twice in cardboard – definitely a good idea due to the large plastic cover. Once the outer cardboard packaging has been removed, the actual packaging of the SLA printer, in which the China gadget is located, appears. The package was sealed with a lot of scotch tape and, apart from a few minor scratches, shows no damage.
After opening the package, the first thing you see is a huge block of foam. If you remove the upper foam hood, the Elegoo Mars 3D printer appears. The inside of the package looks quite neatly put together . The printer is an English manual and the printer is the Toolbox are included in some important component.
The tool box contains:
- Assembly tool + spare screws
- Ten paper funnels (lacquer sieves)
- Three pairs of gloves
- Three breathing masks
- A plastic spatula
- A side cutter
- A measuring cup
- Power supply + adapter
- 8GB USB stick
As you can see in the first picture of the tool box, the packaging of the tool box is a bit worn. As always, the following also applies: “The tools are enough”, but (of course) they are not the best. Minor scratches and marks from the underside of the 3D printer can be seen. However, nothing serious, none of the individual parts inside the box are affected .
The other components of the 3D printer are located in the 3D printer below the UV cover. Even under the cover there are two layers of foam. As you can see, efforts have been made in terms of protection. The printing platform and the resin container are hidden in the foam. By the way: The Elegoo Mars does not come with any resin hydraulic fluid , so it is best to order the corresponding amount of resin directly . Incidentally, that would be the first “disadvantage” of SLA printing: The liquid resin is not really cheap at 30 € per half a kilo. You should be aware of that.
Finally, we come to another advantage or disadvantage: On the one hand, you no longer have to assemble the SLA 3D printer (and correspondingly save time), but in the event of damage, the China gadget is also more difficult to repair or improve.
Processing quality of the components
The feet of the device can be screwed up and down. This allows you to adjust the height individually – which is important for the resin bed.
The print area of 120 x 68 x 155 mm is absolutely average for a current China SLA 3D printer, but of course not comparable with the 300 x 300 x 400 mm of a CR-10S Pro, for example .
The Elegoo Mars arrives pre-assembled. Our test device checked whether all screws are tight – and they do! In terms of processing, all components make a solid, really good impression.
Overall, the SLA printer weighs 5 kg and makes a good to very good impression in terms of processing quality. The Sparkmaker (report follows), for example, weighs only 3kg and, on the other hand, looks pretty rickety.
Operation of the 3D printer
The same applies to SLA printers: you have to level before printing . The enclosed operating instructions explain in English in individual steps how to proceed to level the bed. The whole thing is in simple English and is accompanied by pictures and screenshots – school knowledge in English should be sufficient.
Alternatively, the instructions are also included as a PDF on the USB stick. I uploaded it to you here again so that you can take a look . What needs to be done after the first start?
- Move the Z-axis up in the printer settings
- Attach the printing platform to the specified device
- Loosen the two screws on the print platform so that the platform can move freely
- Move the Z-axis to the home position (zero point)
- Position the printing platform in the middle of the resin container by hand
- Finally, tighten the two screws on the printing platform again
The operating system of the Elegoo Mars is the ChiTu L 5.5 series , which is delivered in the 4.2.16 version of the device. The 3D printer is controlled via a 3.5 inch touchscreen. After starting the apparatus, there are only three menu items to choose from.
While the 3D printer can be leveled under the menu item “Tool”, information about the system is available in the system settings. With regard to the language you can “only” choose between English and Chinese . The changeover takes place at the push of a button in the system settings. In the print menu you can view and print the print files on the connected USB stick.
The entire menu navigation is kept simple. Big buttons and individual keywords characterize the whole thing. The touchscreen is easy to use and reacts quickly to inputs. There is also a small preview of the print files: Since I print a lot and am sometimes a little lazy with the naming of the files, this is quite helpful ;-).
ChiTu DLP Slicer: The slicer software
The ChiTuBox for Linux, MacOS and Windows is included in the 8 GB USB stick as slicer software. If you look at the user interface, you notice that it (of course) has similarities to well-known FFF slicers such as CURA. To give you a small overview of the functions, I will briefly discuss the slicer program here.
On the left side of the user interface you can see setting options for the position and scaling of the print object. On the upper bar there are, among other things, buttons for opening, saving and revoking changes.
Compared to normal FDM slicers, there is the option of hollowing out the object in order to save precious resin. However, this makes the printing units more unstable and easier to break. Another unique selling point is the “Dig Hole” button . This can be used to drill a hole on the print object. But why would you want a hole in your beautiful printing unit? In order to drain possible resin over it in prints that have hollow spots, as resin, which is located inside the printing unit, cannot solidify sufficiently.
If you take a look at the settings, you can see that the slicer already has a ready-made settings template from the Elegoo Mars. Including the mandatory machine and print settings and other setting options for infills and resin.
After the print object has been adjusted to the desired settings, it can be sliced. The program was able to slice my test objects relatively quickly. As soon as the process is finished, a print preview appears on which you can examine the individual printing steps with the controller. This also shows what can be seen on the LCD during the respective shift.
It is nice that in the preview, in addition to the amount of resin used and the duration of the print, the approximate material costs that arise during printing are also displayed. “ChiTuBox” for MacOSX and Windows 32/64 bit in version 1.6 is currently available for download here . To do this, you (unfortunately) have to register with (fake) data free of charge.
Overall, I find the software, in contrast to some other white label slicing tools, to be well thought out. I even claim that beginners get along better with this software than with the powerful Cura or similar FFF / FDM slicers.
The first prints
In the stereolithography process (SLA) in 3D printing, printing is not carried out with filament as with FFF printers, but with liquid resin . The special property of the synthetic resin is that it begins to harden when exposed to light . SLA 3D printers take advantage of this and irradiate with a light source precisely at the desired points during the printing process – on one level. The Z-axis moves steadily upwards and thus we “print” 3D.
Depending on the layer height, however, the prints can take several hours even with SLA printing!
However, since no resin is included in the scope of delivery of the package, I used other standard epoxy resin from our own inventory. So again, if you get the Elegoo Mars, be sure to buy resin! The print file on the USB stick served as the first test print. Ideally, this has already been adapted to the printer by the manufacturer and delivers the best possible result. Otherwise you have to “feel your way” with the exposure times, layer heights, etc. (as is the case with filament printers, for example).
In contrast to FDM printers, the finished printed parts still require some post-processing time (and UV post-curing) . To get the superfluous resin residues away from the print, they must be cleaned. It is best to use an alcohol such as isopropanol. Here, it is noted that it is always in use of the 3D printer and during the post- protection measures should meet and carry appropriate clothing, such as gloves, breathing mask etc. .
Once the printing units have been cleaned, they still have to harden completely. Either you use a UV light or you put it in the sun for a few hours.
The included accessories are unfortunately mediocre . When I tried to get the figures off the printing plate, a piece of the plastic spatula broke off. But: the quality is awesome!
Due to the inferior plastic spatula, black traces got stuck on the printing plate, which is quite annoying. The traces were difficult to remove. In the meantime I have adjusted the exposure time and now inclined objects with larger surfaces to reduce adhesion.
Excursion: SLA printing does not work?
There are umpteen sources of error with FDM printers: Was the level properly, is the temperature, the speed, the acceleration correct? Of course, you can’t expect to get the perfect print image from an SLA 3D printer either – after all, there are different types of resin. Here are my TOP3 errors that I made with the five SLA 3D printers, especially in the heat of the moment:
- Not properly leveled: The bed has to be pressed onto the home position, onto the foil and then screwed tight.
- The exposure time is not high enough: Warning. The first layers in particular have to be exposed considerably longer!
- The pool was not cleaned properly. There may still be residues in the pool or the film is “steamed up”.
- Think about the support: This applies to both FDM and of course SLA 3D printers.
- If the print does not come off well: reduce the exposure time of the first layer and / or slightly tilt the model when slicing to reduce the surface.
Invest some time before and after printing – this will save you a lot of frustration.
Quality of the models
Some smaller models were printed and I have to say, the Elegoo Mars convinces me! The printer delivers super print quality even out-of-the-box .
The individual layers are barely or not at all visible on the objects . And that with a layer height of 0.05mm – even less is possible! In the case of the towers, the lettering is so well represented that you can still read it from a little distance – even with such small models.
[test print front image]
There is hardly anything to complain about in terms of the level of detail. Pictured below is one of the first prints. Individual features of the body and skull can be clearly recognized in the skeletons. The eye sockets are also easy to see. However, the quality suffered noticeably in very flat pressure areas, such as hands and feet. That was also my fault: the support was simply missing.
So approach the matter a little more thoroughly and try out an even more detailed model right away. One area in which SLA printing is extremely interesting, among other things, is tabletop wargaming. With this Ork ( here the model at Thingiverse ) the support structures are prefabricated. This also makes it clear: It is better to use a support structure more than too little – fortunately, manual insertion in ChiTuBox is extremely easy.
Clean – let harden – prime. Three steps later the model looks like this:
Overall, I’m more than happy with the print quality. And that’s what matters with this model. If you consider the points I have already listed above, impressive printing results are possible.
Conclusion: buy Elegoo Mars SLA 3D printer?
Since the Elegoo Mars is the first (longer) presented SLA printer on “CG” (as I said: more to come), I would like to briefly discuss the printing process again. Of course, SLA 3D printers only offer a great advantage when better accuracy is required. Otherwise, the SLA 3D printers offer too small a printing space, the resin is relatively expensive and post-processing (curing, protective measures, sticky resin residues, …) should not be neglected.
However, if you are in the “miniature world”, the Elegoo Mars is a good 3D printer. The workmanship of the device is great and makes a valuable impression . The prints are also impressive: barely visible layers, a relatively smooth surface and a very high level of detail characterize the results of the printer.
Again: The level of detail is just awesome. In the aftermath of work, we already spent a few hours reworking the models.
Still, I remain skeptical: 3D printers are already relevant for a relatively small target group (= hobbyists, modelers, modelers) … will SLA 3D printers even find their place in the market?