For a new SLA or DLP printer, you will need a small funnel and paper filters for returning resin to the bottle, Nitrile rubber gloves (as the liquid resin is toxic), two plastic pickle jars (one for Mean Green and one for water to clean printed models) and a bunch of kitchen paper towels. You’ll need a source of UV light to cure the models once clean. Keep a large garbage can handy for the stuff you have to throw out (like the paper towels and gloves once used).
Suggested List of Items
Please see the site’s Recommended Gear page for affiliate links to all the items I recommend.
|Product||Rough Price Estimate|
|Plastic spatula||Included with my printer|
|Nitrile rubber gloves||Box of 100 for $25.00|
|Kitchen paper towel||Package of 6 rolls for $14.00|
|Mean Green cleaner||$10.00 for a gallon jug|
|Plastic pickle jars with sieve inserts||$15.00 each (I use two)|
|Empty paint can||$12.00|
|Ultraviolet LED strip lights, 16.4 feet||$14.00|
|Aluminum Foil 2” Wide, 30’ long tape||$7.00|
|12V, 2A Power Adapter Supply||$8.00|
|X-Acto hobby knife||$5.00|
|10-piece needle file set||$10.00|
|Model side-cutters (to cut support material)||$7.00|
|Extra 405nm Resin for printing||$45.00 per liter (that’ll make roughly forty 1:100 tanks for me, maybe more!)|
|Paper funnels for returning unused resin to the source bottle||$10.00 for 20 paper filters|
|Small plastic funnel||$3.00|
Getting the printer is the first step in printing with an SLA or DLP printer. It’s a big step, for sure, but it’s not the only step. You’ll need a bunch of stuff to help you complete the process of getting a model from the printer to a point where it’s ready to be handled.
I use my printer to make figurines and miniature vehicles for my games. The end result not only get handled a lot, but they need to be able to be sanded, filed, painted and glued (superglue is the right glue for this sort of resin plastic) together. For those of you that don’t know, the model that comes out of the printer after a successful build is messy, slimy and soft. What’s going on here?
The printer cures the plastic resin enough, layer by layer, to make your model and the support struts necessary to make it print well. When it comes out of the resin bath at the end of the print, all complete, it’s still wet with liquid resin (or uncured resin) all over the model. I tend to leave mine for a while to let all the excess resin drip back into the resin bath (thus making it usable for future prints!)
What Is Needed and When?
Nitrile rubber gloves are an absolute must for use with this sort of printer. The resin is quite unhealthy and you shouldn’t handle either newly printed and uncured models or the liquid resin itself with unprotected hands. It is essential that you keep this stuff out of your eyes. From what I’ve heard, it is a nasty product and could do some damage. Avoid like the plague.
Nitrile rubber is the correct sort of glove to use. Apparently (I’m no chemist!) other rubber gloves don’t protect from this resin like nitrile rubber gloves do. Luckily, they’re cheap and plentiful. You can find them in the drug store or online very easily. Use them and throw them away. Don’t try to reuse them. It’s just not worth it and you can always get another box of 100 gloves for cheap, delivered right to your door!
The AnyCubic Photon came with a plastic spatula included. This tool is perfect for popping the models off of the build plate, letting them gently fall onto a piece of kitchen paper towel. I purchased a metal spatula for doing this (not realizing that the printer would come with one) but I’m afraid to use it in case I scratch the build surface of the printer. The plastic spatula is a great size and works really well (likely why they put it in with the printer!)
Once the model is separated from the build plate and on the paper towel, I transfer the model to the pickle jar with Mean Green in it. Mean Green is a cleaning product that you can find at most hardware stores, grocery stores or DIY stores. Or you could order it online, like everything else in this list. A lot of the sources out there suggested that I use isopropyl alcohol at higher than 90% concentration. I don’t like the smell, or the fire hazard that alcohol represents. In my research, I came across another maker using Mean Green, and was convinced by his recommendation. It is cheaper than the alcohol, smells better, cleans up after itself, and isn’t a fire hazard. It even comes in gallon jugs.
The pickle jar is used to wash the model. It has an inner cage that I can swish up and down in the solution for 30 seconds or so, ensuring that there is a flow past the model, cleaning it off. I use the plastic spatula to stir up the models (gently), more to clean off the resin from the spatula than to do anything to the model, but it can’t hurt. Once I’ve done that, I transfer the model to the second pickle jar that has just water in it. I repeat the 30 seconds of swishing to clean the model. I clean the spatula in the water, too. Same deal.
Once I have the model out of the water, I let the model stand on a clean sheet of paper towel for a few moments to soak up the excess water from the last step. I then place the model in my curing chamber.
The Curing Chamber – My UV Light Bucket
The curing chamber was a fun, quick little project. I built this with a few things ordered off of Amazon for about $25.00. I purchased an empty 1-gallon paint can, some shiny 2” aluminum plumber’s tape, a strip of 12 volt ultraviolet lights (16.4 feet long!) and a 12 volt power supply. I initially forgot the power supply, but with Amazon Prime, I fixed this in two days, all before the printer arrived.
I took the aluminum tape and coated the inside of the paint can, so that it would be shiny and light would bounce around in there. I drilled a half-inch hold in the side near the base, to allow the power cable for the lights to easily come out. The light strip is flexible and comes with double-sided tape on it. I removed the backing (slowly), and started wrapping the lights around and around on the inside of the can until I had used up the whole roll of strip lights. That took me to the top edge of the can. I didn’t do anything with the lid. I keep the lid off when I use the curing station so that the heat doesn’t build up in there. It’s minimal, but with no lid, it dissipates nicely. To turn it on, I just plug in the end of the light cord that sticks out the hole at the bottom of the can into the 12-volt power supply, and just leave it. For my 1:00 scale tanks, I let the model cure at the bottom of the can with the UV light on it for around four hours.
After the four hours, the model is good and cured. I take the model out and turn off the UV lights. It’s only at this stage that I no longer need the gloves to handle the model. You can tell right away that the model is no longer wet or slimy, and has stiffened up.
Post Curing Needs
From here, I take the model to my model workbench, and take a set of side cutters to the support structure that was printed with the model. With the settings I use in my slicer (I use the free ChiTuBox slicer software) the supports are easy to get to and snip off. They can leave a small nub on the model. I then take a hobby knife and/or a fine hobby file and remove these nubs. What’s left is a really nice model!
I haven’t needed to sand any surfaces to remove the layer lines that were printed. I do print my figures and vehicles at a 45- to 60-degree tilt. My research has led me to conclude that everyone feels that this is the best method (and not build parallel to the build plate). With this method, my models show slight layer lines, but I can’t even feel them with my fingernail. If I wanted them reduced, I could always print at a finer Z-axis scale. Currently, I print at the default 50 microns. The machine is capable of printing at 25 microns, but that would take near double the amount of time to print.
Once the support material is removed and the nubs filed off, I spray the vehicle with a good primer. Many recommend Tamiya’s Fine Primer, but I just use either really cheap Walmart Krylon camouflage tan or really expensive Army Painter camouflage green paint (depending on what model I’m painting). It’s important that you allow the paint to dry fully before moving or handling the model. I sprayed the bottom of one of my tanks, and while wet, flipped it upright to spray the top. Due to the smooth nature of the resin model, the paint stuck from the bottom of the tracks to the cardboard it was drying on, and left an unpainted section on the bottom of my tracks. This wouldn’t have happened if I had waited for the paint to dry before flipping the model over. It’s an easy fix so no big deal, and once the paint is dry, it’s adhered very well. No issues there.
Problems From Failed Prints
I’ve had a few failed prints (either nothing stuck to the build plate or I only got a partial build on the plate). That will leave cured bits of resin in your liquid, uncured resin bath. These will interfere with the next print. I remove the resin bath from the printer, and slowly pour the contents into a paper filter that’s inside a funnel that’s pouring into the source bottle for the resin. The filter lets the liquid resin through but traps all the little bits of hardened resin. I throw away the paper filter and wash the resin bath reservoir and the plastic funnel with Mean green in the sink. I rinse the whole thing with clean water when I’m done and dry with paper towel. I then put the resin bath reservoir back into the printer, ready to be used again. It’s important to have that plastic funnel handy, as well as the paper filters. And through the whole messy, sticky process, I’m wearing my Nitrile rubber gloves!
Keep a garbage can with a garbage back liner close by. You’ll use it for resin-soiled paper towel, resin-soiled rubber gloves, any used paper filters, clipped off support materials and the other messes of resin printing. Don’t keep that garbage can anywhere a child or pet could get into it. Like I’ve said, the uncured resin can be nasty!
Best of luck with your new printer and keep these accessory items in mind (and even pick them up as you order the printer, so that you don’t have to wait to print once it arrives, and you can dive right in).
What is the difference between SLA and DLP Printing?
Both SLA and DLP printers use UV light to cure a thin slice of UV curing resin. The SLA printer uses a laser to do this, while a DLP printer uses UV light from a computer screen under the resin bath.
How does a DLP printer work?
A DLP printer shines UV light from a computer screen under the resin bath to cure one layer all at the same time. Once cured, the print bed is raised one layer height by the z-axis motor, and the next layer is printed. This is repeated until the model is complete.