Resin for 3D Printing: Types, Tips, and Techniques

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Written By Noah Campbell
UPDATED:
Resin for 3D Printing

In the realm of 3D printing, resin has emerged as a versatile and indispensable material, opening up new horizons for creativity and innovation. Resin-based 3D printing, often referred to as stereolithography (SLA) or digital light processing (DLP), has gained significant popularity due to its precision, detail, and capacity to produce intricate designs. This article delves into the multifaceted world of resin in 3D printing, exploring its various types, essential techniques, and the pivotal role it plays in modern additive manufacturing.

As 3D printing continues to evolve and permeate various industries, comprehending the nuances of resin types and techniques has become paramount. Whether you’re an avid hobbyist, a professional designer, or an engineer, knowing which resin suits your specific project and mastering the techniques to work with it effectively can significantly impact your 3D printing success. In this article, we will dissect the diverse resin options available, offer insights into selecting the right resin, and provide guidance on best practices for handling and printing with resin. Join us on a journey through the fascinating world of resin in 3D printing, where creativity knows no bounds.

standard 3d resin printer

Types of Resin for 3D Printing

Resin, the fundamental material in stereolithography (SLA) and digital light processing (DLP) 3D printing, comes in a variety of formulations, each tailored to specific applications. Understanding these resin types is crucial for achieving the desired results in your 3D printing projects. Here, we explore the most common types of resin used in 3D printing:

A. Standard Resins

Standard resin, also known as general-purpose resin, is the go-to choice for many 3D printing enthusiasts. It strikes a balance between versatility and affordability, making it suitable for a wide range of projects. Standard resin is ideal for creating functional prototypes, figurines, and various intricate designs with a smooth surface finish.

standard resin
  • Standard resins are the most common and versatile type used in 3D printing.
  • They are ideal for a wide range of applications and are known for their balance between detail, strength, and price.
  • Standard resins typically offer excellent surface finish and are compatible with various 3D printers.
  • Common uses include prototyping, modeling, figurines, and functional parts.

B. Flexible Resins

When flexibility is a requirement for your 3D printed models, parts and objects, flexible resin comes to the forefront. It offers a rubber-like texture and is commonly used for producing functional parts such as gaskets, seals, and shock-absorbing components. Flexible resin can withstand bending and stretching without losing its structural integrity.

flexible resin

C. Tough Resins

Tough resin lives up to its name by providing durability and impact resistance. It’s designed for applications where the 3D printed objects need to endure mechanical stress and pressure. Tough resins tend to have more flexibility so they can bend a little before they snap. Common uses include engineering prototypes, functional and industrial parts, and components that require a high degree of toughness and resilience.

D. Transparent Resin

For projects that demand transparency or optical clarity, transparent resin is the material of choice. This resin type allows light to pass through, making it suitable for creating lenses, clear enclosures, and visual prototypes where transparency is essential easily create high quality.

transparent resin models printed

E. Castable Resin

Jewelry designers and professionals in the casting industry often turn to castable resin for their 3D printing needs. This resin is specifically formulated for creating detailed wax patterns that can be used in investment casting processes. It offers high precision and burnout properties, making it an excellent choice for intricate jewelry designs and dental applications.

F. Dental Resin

Dental resin has revolutionized the field of dentistry, enabling the creation of custom dental prosthetics and models with high accuracy and unparalleled precision. Dental professionals use this resin to produce crowns, bridges, surgical guides, and other dental appliances and models with exceptional accuracy.

dental resin

G. Metallic Resins

Metallic Resins, infused with metal powders, offer the unique blend of 3D printability and metallic aesthetics. They emulate metals like bronze or steel, making them perfect for jewelry or art pieces where metal’s luster is desired without undergoing the complex process of metal casting.

  • Metallic resins are used for achieving metal-like aesthetics without the need for actual metal.
  • Metallic resins can simulate a wide range of metals, including gold, silver, bronze, and more.
  • Common applications include jewelry, decorative items, and any project where a metallic finish is desired.
metallic resin

In our exploration of cutting-edge 3D printing technologies, delve into the realm of metal 3D printers and discover their transformative potential.

H. ELEGOO Water Washable Resin

ELEGOO Water Washable Resin is one of the popular choices in the 3D printing community, especially among users of SLA, DLP, and LCD 3D printers. As the name suggests, its unique feature is the ability to be cleaned with water, removing the need for chemicals like isopropyl alcohol that are typically used in the post-printing cleaning process of standard resins.

low viscosity model printing model printing

Key Features of ELEGOO Water Washable Resin:

  1. Water Washable: Post-processing becomes easier since you can wash away uncured resin with water rather than using chemicals, making it more user-friendly and environmentally conscious.
  2. Compatibility: This resin is usually formulated to be compatible with a wide range of LCD 3D printers, but it’s always essential to check your printer’s specifications before use.
  3. Range of Colors: Like many of ELEGOO resin offerings, the water washable variant also comes in a variety of colors, giving users flexibility in their projects.
  4. Rapid Curing: Designed to optimize the balance between curing time and print quality, leading to detailed and reliable prints.
  5. Safety and Odor: It typically has a low odor, and due to its water-washable nature, it reduces the exposure to chemicals during the cleaning process. However, safety precautions like wearing gloves and working in a well-ventilated area should still be followed.

I. Industrial-Grade Resins

Industrial-grade resins are formulated to meet the rigorous demands of industrial applications, distinguishing themselves from abs like the hobbyist or consumer-grade resins mainly in terms of their mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties. They’re used in industries like automotive, aerospace, medicine, and manufacturing. Here’s a closer look at industrial-grade resin:

resin for sla printer

Key Features of Industrial-Grade Resins:

  1. Durability: These resins often exhibit high tensile strength, making them suitable for parts that will be exposed to stress or strain.
  2. High-Temperature Resistance: Industrial resins can withstand higher temperatures without deformation, making them ideal for applications where heat resistance is crucial.
  3. Chemical Resistance: They are formulated to resist exposure to various chemicals, making them ideal for environments where parts might come into contact with corrosive or reactive substances.

  4. Biocompatibility: Some industrial-grade resins are designed to be biocompatible, suitable for medical applications like surgical guides or dental applications.
  5. Dimensional Stability: Precision is crucial in industrial applications. These resins are formulated to ensure minimal shrinkage and warping, maintaining accuracy and consistency. Excellent dimension tolerance and low volume shrinkage ensure high precision of the printed models with incredibly smooth surface finishes, clear details, and accurate dimensions.
  6. High Precision and Low Shrinkage: Extensive tests are done to verify low volume shrinkage and high printing accuracy of the 8K standard photopolymer resins before they are released to the public.
  7. Flame Retardancy: Certain industrial resins come with flame retardant properties, essential for sectors like aerospace or automotive.

J. Rapid Resins

Rapid resin generally refers to a type of 3D printer resin that cures quickly when exposed to UV light. This swift curing process can significantly decrease the time it takes to print an object, making it a popular choice for users looking to optimize their print speed without compromising too much on detail or strength. Here’s a deeper dive into rapid resins:

Key Features of Rapid Resins:

  1. Fast Curing: As the name suggests, rapid resins are formulated to cure quickly under UV light. This leads to reduced layer exposure times and faster print completion.
  2. Versatility: Many rapid resins are designed to be compatible with a variety of SLA, DLP, and LCD 3D printers.
  3. Color Variety: Rapid resins are often available in a range of colors, much like their standard counterparts.
  4. Resolution: Despite the speed, rapid resins can still produce high-resolution prints, although the finest details might not be as sharp as with standard resins under certain conditions.
resin for 3d resin printer

Using 3D Printing Resins

Working with a 3D printer and printing resins requires precision, understanding, and a certain degree of caution. From the initial handling to the final curing, each step plays a crucial role in determining the success of the end product. Here’s a detailed guide to help you navigate the process seamlessly.

1. Pre-Preparation

Before you begin, thoroughly read the manufacturer’s guidelines. Different resins might have varying requirements high printing accuracy, and understanding these specifications can set the stage for a flawless print.

2. Equipment and Precautions

3d printer
  • Safety Glasses: Protect your eyes from accidental splashes.
  • Nitrile Gloves: Always wear gloves to prevent direct contact with the skin.
  • Well-Ventilated Area: Work in a room with good airflow to avoid inhaling any fumes.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: UV rays can inadvertently start the curing process, so store and handle resins away from sunlight.

3. Prepping the Printer:

digital light projector
  • Resin Vat Cleaning: Ensure that the resin vat is clean and free from any old resin or debris.
  • Layer Calibration: Ensure that the printer’s Z-axis and the build platform are properly calibrated for optimum layer adhesion.

4. Pouring and Loading the Resin:

  • Shake Well: Before pouring, gently shake the resin container to ensure any settled pigments are mixed in.
  • Pour Carefully: Pour the resin slowly into the vat to prevent bubbles. Fill to the line indicated on the vat, but avoid overfilling.

5. Initiating the Print:

With everything set, initiate the printing process as per your design. The printer’s UV light will cure each layer of resin, building the model from the bottom up.

6. Post-Print Handling:

resin 3d printer
  • Removing Excess Resin: Once printing is done, gently remove the model from the build platform. Use a plastic spatula to prevent damage. Let the excess resin drip off or gently brush it off with a soft brush.
  • Rinsing: Immerse the model in isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or any recommended cleaning solution to remove uncured resin from its surface. Gently agitate the model in the solution for a few minutes.

7. The Curing Process:

  • UV Curing: Place the cleaned model under UV light to harden and strengthen it. This can be achieved using a UV curing chamber or even natural sunlight. The duration will depend on the resin type and the UV source’s intensity.

8. Post-Processing Steps:

3d resin structure
  • Cleaning: Immerse the print in a container of isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or a similar solvent to remove uncured resin. Gently agitate or use an ultrasonic cleaner for best results.
  • Support Removal: After cleaning, remove any support structures using clippers or tweezers.
  • Smoothing: If the surface requires smoothing, you can sand it using a progression of finer grit sandpapers.
  • Painting: Before painting, ensure the print is clean and free of grease. Use a primer suitable for plastics, followed by your choice of paint.
  • Assembling: If your project involves multiple parts, assemble them using adhesives that work well with cured resin. Sometimes, UV-curable adhesives are an excellent choice for this.

9. Techniques for Specific Resin Types:

  • Flexible Resins: Handle with care during post-processing as they can be more susceptible to tearing. For cleaning, it’s advisable to use a gentler agitation.
  • High-Temperature Resins: Ensure a thorough post-print curing, as these resins often require a more robust UV exposure to achieve their high-temperature resistance.
  • Metallic Resins: After post-processing, consider polishing the print to enhance its metallic sheen.

Where to Buy 3D Printing Resins

The right resin can make all the difference in a 3D printing project. But where does one procure these materials? With a plethora of options, both online and offline, pinpointing the ideal source can be daunting. This section will guide you through popular avenues for purchasing 3D printing resins and emphasize the significance of reputable sourcing.

Online Platforms:

matterhackers
  • Dedicated 3D Printing Stores: Websites such as MatterHackers, 3DResinSolutions, and Formlabs offer a wide range of resins tailored for 3D printing. They often provide comprehensive details, user reviews, and expert recommendations to aid your purchasing decision.
  • E-commerce Giants: Platforms like Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress are teeming with resin options. These sites host multiple sellers, giving you a broad selection, competitive prices, and user reviews. However, caution is advised due to the presence of non-specialized sellers.
  • Direct Manufacturer Websites: Some resin manufacturers sell directly to consumers through their official websites. This route can often ensure product authenticity and, occasionally, better pricing or exclusive deals.

Physical Stores:

special 3d printing resin store
  • Specialized Hobby Stores: Many hobby and craft stores now carry 3D printing materials, including a selection of resins. Visiting these stores can offer a tactile experience, letting you assess the product firsthand.
  • Electronics and Hardware Stores: With the growing popularity of 3D printing, even some larger electronic and hardware stores have started stocking resins.
  • 3D Printing Workshops and Conventions: Occasionally, workshops or conventions centered on 3D printing will have vendors selling resins. These events can be a great place to get insights, see new products, and engage with the community.

Pricing and Cost Considerations in 3D Printing Resins

As 3D printing continues to gain traction across diverse industries, the pricing of its core materials, particularly resins, becomes a topic of interest for many. Just as there is a vast array of resin types with varying characteristics, there’s also a broad spectrum of pricing associated with them. Let’s unravel the intricacies behind the cost dynamics of 3D printing resins.

metallic resin 3d printer

Cost Range of Different Resins:

Standard Resins: Being the most ubiquitous type, these are generally priced in the lower to mid-range. As of the last update, you might find standard resins priced anywhere from $30 to $100 per liter, depending on the brand and quality.

Specialty Resins: Due to their niche characteristics, specialty resins are often priced higher. Prices can range from $100 to $300 per liter, with certain high-performance variants even fetching a premium beyond that.

Metallic Resins: The inclusion of metal powders often raises the price tag of these resins. Expect them to be in the mid to high price range, typically between $150 and $400 per liter.

Factors Influencing Resin Pricing:

pricing resin 3d printer

Brand Reputation: Established brands with a history of quality and reliability often command a higher price. It’s a testament to consistent quality, research, and development invested in their products.

Resin Type: As mentioned earlier, specialty and metallic resins, due to their unique properties and ingredients, are priced higher than standard ones.

Volume: Bulk purchases or larger volume containers often come at a discounted rate per liter compared to smaller quantities.

Supply Chain Dynamics: Factors such as manufacturing costs, import duties, shipping, and distribution can influence the final price.

Tips for Budget-Conscious Enthusiasts:

3d printed parts

Bulk Purchases: If you’re certain about the resin type you need and have adequate storage conditions, consider buying in bulk to avail of volume discounts.

Explore Emerging Brands: While established brands guarantee quality, emerging brands might offer competitive prices for consumer goods of similar quality as they try to gain market traction.

Stay Updated with Offers: Many suppliers offer discounts during sales seasons or for first-time buyers. Joining online 3D printing forums or subscribing to supplier newsletters can keep you informed.

Practice Efficient Printing: Reducing material wastage by optimizing your print design and settings can indirectly save costs.

Recycle Where Possible: Some setups allow for the recycling of unused resin, which can be cost-saving in the long run.

Tips for Successful 3D Printing with Resins

Achieving impeccable 3D prints with resins is as much an art as it is science. Each resin type presents its unique potential and challenges. By incorporating expert insights and troubleshooting common hiccups, you can optimize your prints. Here’s a curated guide to help you master 3D printing with resins.

1. Choose the Right Resin for Your Project:

transparent 3d resin parts

Project-Specific: Determine the requirements of your project. For instance, use durable resins for functional parts, transparent resins for see-through objects, and flexible resins for items needing elasticity.

Check Printer Compatibility: Always ensure that the resin you’re using is compatible with your printer’s specifications and UV wavelength.

2. Store Resins Correctly:

Away from Sunlight: Direct UV rays can prematurely cure the resin. Store bottles in a cool, dark place.

Seal Properly: Always ensure that the resin container is tightly sealed to prevent contamination and degradation.

3. Level Your Build Platform:

3d resin base

A properly leveled platform is crucial for successful prints. Regularly check and recalibrate to ensure a uniform first layer and better print adhesion.

4. Ensure Optimal Exposure Settings:

Layer Exposure Time: Depending on the resin and printer, adjust the UV exposure time for each layer to avoid over-curing or under-curing.

Test Prints: Before committing to large prints, run smaller test prints to tweak exposure settings for optimal results.

5. Maintain a Clean Vat:

After each print, inspect the vat for debris or cured resin bits. Cleanliness prevents print failures and ensures a clear path for the UV light.

6. Troubleshooting Common Issues:

Incomplete Prints: This might be due to poor adhesion. Re-level the build platform, adjust exposure settings, or use a primer.

Warping or Deformation: Ensure a consistent printing environment, free from drafts or temperature fluctuations. Consider increasing the base thickness or adding supports.

Brittle Prints: This could be due to over-curing. Reduce the exposure time or post-curing duration.

3d resin printer

Safety Precautions and Best Practices

Resins, while offering transformative possibilities in 3D printing, demand meticulous safety considerations. Neglecting these can lead to health hazards and accidents. Here’s a comprehensive guide on ensuring safety while working with a 3D printer and printing resins.

1. Protective Gear and Equipment:

  • Nitrile Gloves: Always wear nitrile gloves to prevent direct skin contact with the resin. Regular latex gloves may not offer adequate protection against certain resins.
  • Safety Goggles: Protect your eyes from potential resin splashes with safety goggles. Remember, your regular eyeglasses aren’t a substitute for protective eyewear.
  • Respirators: While many modern resins are formulated to be low-odor and less toxic, using a respirator in spaces with limited ventilation can help prevent inhalation of fumes.
  • Protective Aprons: If you’re working with large quantities of resin, consider wearing a protective apron to shield your clothing and body.

2. Workspace Considerations:

  • Well-Ventilated Area: Always work in a space with good ventilation to dissipate any fumes or odors, reducing the risk of inhalation.
  • UV Shielding: Ensure your workspace is shielded from direct UV sources, like sunlight, to prevent unintentional curing.
  • Organized Setup: Keep your tools and equipment organized. A clutter-free workspace reduces the chances of accidents.

3. Safe Handling and Storage:

  • Avoid Skin Contact: If resin comes into contact with the skin, wash it off immediately with soap and water.
  • Proper Storage: Store resin containers in a cool, dark place, away from UV light. Always ensure they’re tightly sealed to avoid spills and contamination.
  • Keep Away from Children and Pets: Ensure resins are stored out of reach of children and pets.

4. Preventing and Handling Accidents:

  • Spill Response: In case of a spill, act quickly. Wipe it up with a paper towel, then clean the area with isopropyl alcohol. Dispose of waste properly, considering local regulations.
  • Eye Contact: If resin enters the eyes, rinse immediately with plenty of water for several minutes and seek medical attention.
  • Ingestion: If resin is ingested, do not induce vomiting. Rinse the mouth and consult a medical professional immediately.
  • Inhalation: If feeling dizzy or unwell due to resin fumes, move to an area with fresh air immediately. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention.

5. Disposal and Environment:

  • Cured Resin: Fully cured resin is generally safe and can be disposed of with regular waste, but always check the resin’s safety data sheet and local disposal guidelines.
  • Uncured Resin: Dispose of uncured resin as hazardous waste. Never pour it down the drain.
  • Empty Bottles: Clean them with isopropyl alcohol before disposal or recycling.
standard resin 3d printer resins

FAQs – Resins for 3D Printing

Q: Can I mix different resins together?

A: Mixing resins can lead to unpredictable results. While some users mix resins to achieve specific colors or properties, it’s essential to test the mixture before a full print. Ensure that the resins are compatible and always check their respective safety data sheets.

Q: How long can I store a resin bottle?

A: Most resins have a shelf life of 12 to 24 months if stored properly in a cool, dark place. Check the expiration date on the bottle, and if the resin appears cloudy or has separated, it might be past its prime.

Q: Do I need to post-cure every resin print?

A: While many resins benefit from post-curing to achieve their optimal strength and finish, some resin printers might not require it. Always refer to the resin manufacturer’s guidelines.

Q: What’s the difference between water-washable resin and standard resin?

A: Water-washable resins allow for easy cleanup with water, eliminating the need for chemicals like isopropyl alcohol. However, they might be slightly less durable than standard resins.

Q: Can I reuse leftover resin in the vat?

A: Yes, leftover resin can be reused. However, ensure that it’s free from debris or cured bits before pouring it back into the bottle or using it for another print.

Q: My print is sticky even after curing. What should I do?

A: A sticky surface indicates incomplete curing. Increase the post-curing time or ensure a smoother surface if the print is thoroughly cleaned of uncured resin before the curing process.

Q: Is it safe to pour uncured resin down the drain?

A: No. Uncured resin is hazardous to the environment and should never be poured down the drain. It should be disposed of according to local hazardous waste regulations.

Q: How do I know if my printer is compatible with a specific resin?

A: Check the printer’s specifications, especially its UV wavelength. Match it with the recommended wavelength of the resin. Most manufacturers provide compatibility charts or lists for their resins.

Q: Are there biodegradable or eco-friendly resins available?

A: Yes, some companies produce bio-based or eco-friendly resins. However, even these should be handled and disposed of with care, following manufacturer guidelines.

Q: Can I paint my resin prints?

A: Absolutely! Ensure the print is clean, free from grease, and possibly primed before painting. Use paints that adhere well to plastics or specific resin-adherent paints.

3d resin decoration models

Conclusion

In the dynamic realm of 3D printing, the choice of resin is paramount. It determines not only the aesthetics of your print but its functionality, longevity, and versatility. Each resin type, be it standard, specialty, or metallic, holds its unique properties and potential applications. Making an informed decision, backed by an understanding of the resin’s characteristics, can truly elevate the final outcome of your projects.

However, it’s not just about selection. It’s about exploration. The 3D printing industry is continuously evolving, introducing a myriad of new resins with enhanced features and capabilities. As enthusiasts and professionals, we are poised at the forefront of a creative revolution. The materials we have today were mere figments of imagination a decade ago. Who knows what the next decade holds?

So, as you step into the vast and vibrant world of 3D printing, let curiosity be your guide. Experiment with various resins, push the boundaries of what’s possible, and most importantly, enjoy the process. The canvas of 3D printing is vast, and with the right resin in your arsenal, your imagination is the only limit.