In general, there are 2 main typical Consumer 3D Printer in the Market which are Resin 3D Printer (mSLA/DLP) and Filament 3D Printer (FDM/FFF). The main core difference between these 2 types of printers is the Material that is used to make 3D physical models. Resin 3D Printer uses Resin Material - and FDM 3D printer using plastic polymer material and it is not only that. How the printer process works, preparation, characteristics of printed model, and many other things are also different. Here we explained the details of 2 major 3D printer types in the market:
Filament 3D Printing
Filament 3D Printing was first introduced by Scoot Crump in 1988 (Stratasys), and it uses thermo-plastic extrusion to build the model. The simple process uses mechanical along XYZ axis movement while the head extrudes material like a glue gun. Thermoplastic can be extruded easily at melted temp and it solidifies at normal temp without any change in characteristic and requires no further post-process or cleaning. This made filament 3D printing the most popular in the wide market especially the consumer market.
Operating Filament 3D Printer also has almost no harm since it does not use toxic material and is secure the machine can be easily applied (for example enclosing the machine is a very safe operation including kids).
The features of Filament 3D printing
- Filament 3D Print is a dry process - no toxic material is involved in the process but high-temperature material printing like ABS, ASA, or Nylon creates fumes that are not good for health.
- Filament material is a plastic wire with a certain diameter that is fed, melted, and extruded at a smaller diameter - this process reduces the strength and durability of the material. It cannot be compared with industrial injection even though the material is the same. However the 3D Printing process methods can do more to build a very difficult shape even in some cases - injection molding cannot create the model.
- Filament 3D Printing is a lot of variations of material from just standard thermo-plastic polymer, mixed metal/wood, and even carbon/glass fiber reinforced. This variant combination material grows rapidly and makes 3D printing able to be used almost in all industries.
- Since Filament 3D Printing is a safer process compared to resin - Home user prefer using their Printer. The price of the machine it’s a bit expensive due to mechanical component use but almost no post-processing cost is required.
- Filament material in theory doesn’t have an expiry date but some materials degrade over time due to temp and humidity. PLA actually can stand for about 1 year if stored correctly in a vacuum pack. Other materials like ABS or PETG still can be printed okay even after 3 years.
- Filament 3D Printing have limitation since the material is extruded through a small nozzle. Even the smallest nozzle (0.15-0.2mm) is still showing layer lines. So extreme detail cannot be achieved with this Filament Printing.
- Solid, durability, heavy-duty, and higher temp resistance is the main feature of Filament 3D Printing. Some Industrial Filament materials can stand practically above 250C. The cheap material is also one of the main advantages of why 3D Printing is popular.
- As we know 3D Printing filament consists of XYZ movement, and this makes multi-material and multi-color process possible and easily implemented. Multi-color 3D Printing is currently popular in the market because the Printer is getting cheaper. Even if just using a single extrude - using Pause Resume capability, the user can change color easily between layers and make good creation.
Filament 3D printing applications
Filament 3D printing has broader applications than resin 3D printing. It is used for prototypes, medical devices, reverse engineering, product development, cosplay, personal hobbies, artwork, housewares, gadgets, and more. To serve these diverse 3D printing applications, filament manufacturers have developed many types of 3D printer filament, from PLA and ABS to PETG, ASA, carbon fiber, nylon, TPU, PC, and even metal filaments.
Resin 3D Printing
Resin 3D Printing methods were first launched by Chuck Hull in 1984 (3D Systems) and called stereolithography (SLA). The technique uses Photosensitive polymer and some UV lights to harden the liquid polymer material. This material is only available in resin polymer form which is toxic and the cured result is not very hard compared to other polymer material forms. In the beginning, 3D printers were only used by Industrial for prototyping rather than production items. So SLA 3D printer is sufficient for this main task. Resin 3D Printing grew fast later in 2010 along with the technology of display and lighting since Resin 3D Printing mainly uses projection display to cure and build the object.
The features of resin 3d printing
- Resin 3D Printing also called the wet printing process as it involves liquid from material to post-processing like cleaning the model. Resin 3D Printing also uses Toxic Chemical along with processes like IPA. So Resin 3D printing is still considered an Industrial Process. Home user for this 3D Printing is not advised if have kids below 15 years old.
- The 3D Printer cost is cheap but the resin and post processing material is high cost. Recent Technology brings Resin 3D Printing to the lowest level in terms of Machine Price. However, the UV resin material, other support equipment, and consumables are still very high. Users still need one-time usage consumables like PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and IPA for post-process cleaning.
- Highly detailed 3D printing objects is the main advantage of this Printer. Resin 3D Printing can create a model in very detail because of its raw material characteristic which is liquid. The layer printed resolution can be as low as 10 microns (0.01mm) and XY resolution at 18 microns (0.018mm). So many thanks to display technology which can pixelate display at that micron level. Because of this, Resin 3D Printing is mostly used to produce miniature/small items rather than big models.
- Resin material is toxic and the printed part (cured resin) is still considered toxic. Unlike thermoplastic which is used in FDM/FFF 3D Printing - Resin material is still can harm health for some reason. The process must be completely cured and cleaned and somehow it considers not easy. Resin 3D Printed objects should not be used for food contact stuff because of this. Even during the printing process - UV exposure from the printer can harm health.
- Resin 3D Printing process is difficult for Big models. Budget Resin 3D Printer using Bottom-Up mechanical system. The 3D Printed object must stick on the platform with the help of a support structure. This causes a lot of frequent failures along the process as the model has to defy gravity force. Bulky Technical 3D model is more difficult to print in Resin compared to art model because of this.
- Resin 3D Printing can only use one type of material at a time. There’s no way that you can create a multi-color print (XY) in resin. Resin 3D Printing mechanic move is only along one Z-axis. Even replacing material during printing is not advised as UV cure while in the process is not complete curing. Failure print is likely to happen when you pause/resume the print process.
- Raw Resin 3D Printing material has an expiration date (around 12-18 months duration) which means it must be use before expiration so the chemical characteristics do not change.
Resin 3D printing applications
The applications of resin 3D printing largely depend on the type of 3D printer resin used. The most common resin is called standard or rigid resin. Models printed with this resin tend to be brittle. As such, standard resins are typically only used for display models. For functional parts and figures requiring durability, high-toughness and ABS-like resins have been developed. Resin 3D printing has many industrial applications including in medicine, jewelry, engineering, and dentistry.
which material is better: resin or filament?
There are pros and cons to both resin and filament for 3D printing. The main pros for resin are fine detail and smoothness which makes it ideal for small, high-precision prints. The cons are the higher costs, slower print speed, messier cleanup, and toxicity risks. Filament's advantages are lower costs per volume, faster printing, safety, and ability to print large objects. But quality is lower on small prints. There's also more material options like flexible, composite, etc. For miniatures, cosplay, dental models and other small but detailed prints, resin provides better quality. For larger prints, prototyping, and ease of use, filament is likely preferable.
Consider the specific print uses and which qualities are most important. With high-end printers, both materials can produce exceptional quality. Weigh the trade-offs based on application and budget to choose resin or filament. FDM 3D printers are more popular than resin 3D printers. The main reason is the filament is much cheaper than resin.
No doubt Filament 3D Printing is still popular compared to Resin 3D Printing. Resin 3D Printing is still considered a semi-Industrial Process rather than a home-friendly process. Detail and Fast printing is the only advantage of Resin 3D Printing. Filament 3D Printing on the other side is very home-friendly, very easy, cheap material, and has almost no post process making 3D Printing available for everybody.