DLP Resin Printers – Go Big or Stay Small?

Peopoly Phenom Large Scale DLP Resin Printer

DLP resin printers offer some outstanding value for producing very detailed models. They are capable of excellent detail, and they can do it within a reasonable price point.

With the prices of smaller build plate DLP resin printers being so small, they are easy to recommend. They are perfect for smaller print models, and for learning. You’re not spending a lot to figure out the technology and the liquid resin workflow. Only move to the larger build plate DLP resin printers if you have a compelling use case.

There are some other pros and cons of the two different sizes of DLP resin printers. Price, amount of resin and build plate characteristics are three of the most important.

Examples of Smaller and Larger Build Plate DLP Resin Printers and Their Prices

Larger build plate printers are both newer and larger (surprise, surprise!) than their small cousins, so it’s obvious that they’re going to be more expensive. Here are some examples of some printers and their build volumes and approximate street prices.

Smaller Build Plate DLP Resin Printers

PrinterBuild Volume (mm)Build Volume (inches)Link
AnyCubic Photon115mm x 66mm x 155mm4.53″ x 2.60″ x 6.10″https://amzn.to/3gGfczu
Elegoo Mars120mm x 68mm x 155mm4.72″ x 2.68″ x 6.10″https://amzn.to/37eRw25
Monoprice MP Mini Deluxe120mm x 70mm x 200mm4.72″ x 2.75″ x 7.87″https://amzn.to/342cPBC
Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K Mono (higher resolution)135mm x 70mm x 130mm5.31″ x 2.75″ x 5.12″https://amzn.to/2JN43ko

Larger Build Plate DLP Resin Printers

PrinterBuild Volume (mm)Build Volume (inches)Link
ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X192mm x 120mm x 245mm7.56″ x 4.72″ x 9.65″https://amzn.to/3gF8iu5

It is likely that other manufacturers, like Elegoo, Monoprice and AnyCubic, will enter the market with new larger-sized printers, too. Those will enter the market with likely lower prices, and they’ll drive the earlier ones down in price, too. Plus, they’ll likely want to raise the bar in some fashion to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. This will drive some new features or innovations that we can all take advantage of.

Amount of Resin Used For Large and Small DLP Resin Printers

The larger the print bed, the larger the volume that the resin bath for that printer can hold. For an AnyCubic Photon (or any of the other small DLP resin printers – they all use near-identical resin baths). I can get away with adding around a tenth of a liter to the resin bath for most prints. On a print that takes up a high percentage of the build area, it may be necessary to add resin to the bath part-way through the printing process (as the bath can’t hold enough).

On the larger format printers, the print bath can take an entire 1 liter bottle of resin. That will fill it (so maybe you don’t want to put the whole bottle in, so that you have some overflow protection). This means that you can print much larger items, but it also means that if you’re needing to transfer unused resin back to the bottle, it’s a heavier, harder process to pour over two pounds of liquid, plus holding the heavy resin bath itself. The potential for spills (and thus accidents – remember that most 3d resin for UV curing is highly toxic and caustic) is much higher. Keep this in mind when you’re looking to buy a large format printer, especially if you have kids or pets around. 

To mitigate this risk, you may wish to build a holding jig for a larger funnel that you can put a filter in, that will hold in place with the lower end inside the bottle you are pouring into. That way, you’re only having to worry about the resin bath, and not the funnel, paper filter and the bottle tipping over, too.

Build Plate Characteristics of Large and Small DLP Resin Printers

Small DLP resin printers have smooth build plates. To remove a completed model from this sort of build plate, you must use a (plastic) spatula scraper to pop the model from the plate. Early models of some of the printers had build plates that weren’t flat – they had slightly warped surfaces – and needed to be sanded or machined flat. That issues seems to have been solved by the manufacturers. Still, it’s handy to have that in your back pocket if you ever dent or ding your print bed.

Some larger printers have flat build plates like those found on the smaller printers. But most give you build plates that are covered in small dimples, or indents into the surface. This means that the bottom surface of your model (assuming you’re printing right on the build plate) will have these bump imperfections on the bottom. I have not printed any model flat on the build plate. I instead use a raft on every model. I orient the model at an angle to reduce layer lines and reduce liquid suction, so this is just fine. Having bumps on the bottom of a raft is of no consequence at all!

The Cost Versus the Benefit of a Large Format DLP Resin Printer

Roughly $2,000.00USD seems high for a home 3d printer. That price is coupled with the likely use of far more UV cured resin in your larger prints. After all, if you’re going to have a large format printer, you’re likely going to print models larger than what would fit on a small format DLP resin 3d printer. At somewhere around $40.00USD per liter, this can add up quickly.

It may not be much of an offset, but this may fill the niche that a smaller FDM filament printer (like the Ender 3) currently fills. I print items for my tabletop games at home. My DLP resin printer is great for figures and model vehicles, while the FDM filament printer is great for scale model buildings or larger items to use as terrain in my games. The larger format DLP printer could likely print the larger buildings and the quality would be exceptional. I don’t necessarily need that level of detail, but having it isn’t a problem.

If these printers drop to the roughly $1000.00USD point, I think that they will become extremely popular. It will be a very tough sell to swallow the tiny footprint of the small format DLP resin printers when the larger ones are so affordable. I think the small format ones, though, will have the ability to increase in quality (even finer resolution screens and smaller z-axis layer heights), making them even more desirable for jewelry and figurine printing in the future.

Related Questions

Are resin printers faster?

DLP resin printers can be faster than FDM filament printers, as they print an entire layer all at one time. Printing a single object, like a gaming figure, will be similar on both printers, but printing 10 gaming figures on the same build plate will be 10 times slower on the FDM filament printer while it will be the same speed on the DLP resin printer.

Is the AnyCubic Photon worth it?

Yes, the AnyCubic Photon is a great printer at a very reasonable price! The AnyCubic Photon has specific uses, like printing game figures and model vehicles. Due to its small print area (115 x 65 x 155mm), it can only handle things roughly the footprint of a smart phone. But the quality is excellent for the price: https://amzn.to/3gGfczu

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