As 3D printing continues to become cheaper and more accessible, resin 3D printers have become a popular choice for anyone interested in making highly detailed models that wouldn’t be feasible using a filament-fed 3D printer. These MSLA (Masked Stereolithography) resin 3D printers typically only have a single axis of motion, and this simple mechanical system means these machines can regularly be found for under $300. With so many models on the market, we’ve made this list to help you find the best resin 3D printer for you.
Resin 3D printers are capable of making high resolution models by curing a liquid resin using a UV light source. This MSLA process uses a masking LCD to selectively block the UV light on a pixel-by-pixel basis, allowing these printers to create models that have a resolution of down to .035mm on the XY axes. This high resolution comes at a price, as parts made on a resin 3D printer require post-processing after printing, and UV resin requires caution when handling. Because resin requires gloves and a mask to handle, we recommend beginners or anyone with young kids consider one of the FDM (fusion deposit modeling) printers on our overall best 3D printers page.
There are several factors to consider before buying a resin 3D printer, so be sure to consider these questions before making a choice.
Shopping Tips for Best Resin 3D Printers
- Mono or RGB LCD? The type of masking LCD on your resin 3D printer can have the single largest impact on your overall print speed. Because they are commonly used in other electronics, RGB masking LCDs are cheaper, but slower because they don’t allow UV light to pass through efficiently and need more exposure time per layer. For example, the RGB LCD on the Creality LD-002R requires 9 seconds per layer, while the Mono LCD on the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro requires only 2.2 seconds per layer.
- How much build volume do you need? Most resin 3D printers have smaller build volumes than FDM 3D printers, so you may find yourself limited by this relatively small build volume. If you are interested in printing large parts, you’ll want to look at a large format resin 3D printer such as the Elegoo Saturn or the Anycubic Photon Mono X.
- 2K, 4K, or Beyond? A resin 3D printer that uses a 6.08-inch 2K screen like the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro is capable of an XY resolution of .05mm as well as a layer height of .05mm. For context, this means even a relatively low-resolution resin 3D printer is still capable of making extremely fine details that simply wouldn’t be possible on an FDM printer. If you need even more resolution, a 4K screen is capable of making finer features, but is typically more expensive.
- Post Processing Equipment? Resin 3D printers create parts that require post-processing before they are completely finished. Typically, this workflow involves rinsing the parts in a solvent to dissolve any excess resin on the surface of the part, followed by a cure cycle that uses UV light to fully polymerize the part. This process can be done manually by submerging the part in a solvent and using an inexpensive UV light for curing, but some manufacturers have created post-processing equipment like the Elegoo Mercury X that automate the process and reduce the mess.
Best Resin 3D Printers 2021
A near-perfect balance between value and performance, it’s hard to find a better resin 3D printer than the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro. It’s fast, well-built, and provides reliable prints without any fuss. The slicer app Chitubox comes with a profile for the Mars 2 Pro that offers a 2.5-second exposure time, which lets this machine race ahead of competitors using traditional RGB LCD screens which can take 5-10 seconds per layer.
The 129mm x 80mm x 160mm build volume of the Mars 2 Pro is a little on the smaller side, but the two-bolt leveling system used for calibrating the platform is so easy, it almost feels like cheating. Throw in an integrated air filter, a color LCD, and a solid metal base and you’ve got a 3D printer that can make accurate parts quickly and repeatedly.
Generally available for between $250 and $300, the Mars 2 Pro provides rock-solid construction along with a fast-curing Mono LCD screen to give users a smooth printing experience. If you’re most interested in the highest possible resolution and don’t mind a plastic base, the Elegoo Mars 3 offers a 4K screen and a slightly larger build volume for around $300.
The Prusa SL1S is one of the smartest consumer resin 3D printers on the market, and it’s packed with features that make it the perfect choice for anyone who wants to get up and running with a resin 3D printer as fast as possible while still making quality parts. The tilting vat on the SL1S allows for blazing fast print speeds, and the color LCD touchscreen guides users through everything from unboxing the printer to calibrating the build platform.
The Prusa SL1S advertises a jaw-droppingly fast per-layer exposure time of 1.4-seconds, and the native integration with the user-friendly PrusaSlicer app makes adjusting the various parameters of this printer a breeze. The 2K Mono LCD screen provides a .049mm XY resolution, which is more than enough to give parts made on the SL1S a smooth and high-definition appearance.
With a retail price of $1,999 (or bundled with the optional CW1S Cure Wash station for $2,599), the SL1S is targeted towards prosumers or businesses and is unlikely to wind up on the desk of a hobbyist. For anyone interested in high-resolution printing at a lower cost, the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro and Elegoo Mars 3 both sell for under $300 and offer similar XY resolution at the expense of a slower print speed and a less-intuitive user interface.
Combining the ease-of-use of the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro and the larger build volume of printers like the Anycubic Photon Mono X, the Elegoo Saturn is capable of printing large parts quickly just as easily as printing lots of small parts simultaneously. The .05mm XY resolution is on the lower side for most resin 3D printers, but the Saturn is still able to make smooth parts that require minimal post-processing.
Just like its smaller sibling the Mars 2 Pro, the Saturn uses a spring-loaded, self-leveling platform that makes calibration a breeze, something to be grateful for when you have such a large build volume. Replacing the FEP film on the vat is similarly easy, and the entire printing experience is designed to be as frictionless as possible thanks to the native integration with the Chitubox app.
The Saturn has a build volume of 280.46 cubic inches, a dramatic increase from the 100.81 cubic inch build volume of the smaller Elegoo Mars 2 Pro. If you’re looking for a resin printer that offers a large build volume, but you don’t want to compromise with a lower-quality print, the Saturn is an ideal solution. Originally very difficult to find in stock at release, Elegoo has since caught up with demand and the $499 Saturn is readily available at Amazon and on the Elegoo site.
The Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K offers a fast 2.2 second exposure time thanks to a 4K Mono LCD and plug-and-play compatibility with the Chitubox slicer app. The Sonic Mini 4K offers a best-in-class XY resolution of .035mm, making it a perfect fit for anyone interested in printing small models with high levels of detail and precision.
The .035mm XY resolution provides extreme levels of detail for making intricate models without compromise. Unfortunately, the Sonic Mini 4K has a Z axis of 130mm, significantly shorter than most other resin 3D printers in this price range. In addition, the build platform uses a four-bolt leveling system that can be tricky to calibrate accurately, and our review unit had some machining-related quality issues that should have been caught before the machine shipped.
Selling for $399 on Amazon and $349 direct from Phrozen, the Sonic Mini 4K is the perfect printer for jewelers looking to make highly detailed castable-wax prints, dentists interested in making accurate dental models, or anyone else interested in high-accuracy printing. If you’re looking for a slightly larger build volume and want to keep the .035mm XY resolution, the Elegoo Mars 3 offers both for about the same price.
The Anycubic Photon Mono is the perfect entry-point into resin 3D printing: it’s inexpensive, provides fast prints, and offers a reasonable build volume. The 2K Mono LCD offers a fast per-layer exposure time of around 2 seconds, and the .051mm XY resolution is more than enough to get a good-looking part.
The Photon Mono uses Anycubic’s Photon Workshop slicer app by default, which lacks some of the more advanced functionality offered by the competing Chitubox slicer app. A fast and easy model preparation process combined with quality-of-life features like an angled build platform that prevents resin from pooling make the Photon Mono a great first resin 3D printer.
The plastic enclosure on the Photon Mono feels a little inexpensive, so if you’re interested in a printer with similar specs that is more robust and heavy-duty, the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro is a great choice.