When 3D printing, you can use a variety of materials, two of the most common options to use are liquid-based resins and thermoplastic filaments.
Filaments are used with FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) technology in 3D printing, however, resins are the materials used for SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus) technology. Each material has its features, benefits for use, and downfalls. Both contrast each other in their properties.
Today, we will be comparing these two options so that you can easier decide on which you want to use for printing materials, or which would be best suited for your intentions.
Resin Printing Vs Filament Printing, Which is the Best Quality?
On the most basic level, the simplest answer is that resin printing has a superior quality to filament printing does. That being said, this doesn’t mean that you cannot get great quality from using FDM 3D printers.
Filaments do have the capacity to take you by surprise in their amazing levels of print, which is still a fantastic quality, just not quite the levels of amazing that you can reach with a resin.
To get this high quality from an FDM print you will be looking at an increase in the 3D print time, so this is something that you will want and need to account for.
The reason behind the superiority in the quality of SLA, or resin 3D printing, is in the laser. It has a very strong laser that has very precise dimensional accuracy and can therefore make very small movements in the XY axis, which results in a high resolution of printing. You can especially see this difference when you compare this to FDM printing.
Looking at the microns, the number of microns that an SLA 3D printer moves is also very high in quality. Some even show up to 10-micron resolution. In comparison to the standard 50-100 microns seen in FDM printing.
As well as this, you must remember that models are put under significant stress in filament printing, this may be one of the reasons why the surface texture is not as smooth as you would find in resin 3D printing.
Filament printing also uses a significantly high heat which can then result in print imperfections. These imperfections then require post-processing to get rid of.
An issue that can often present itself in filament printing is the formation and appearance of blobs and zits on your print. There are a plethora of reasons that this can happen.
In FDM printing the resolution of your prints is a measure of the nozzle diameter alongside the extrusion precision. There are many different nozzle sizes that you can get and each size will have its pros and cons. A majority of FDM 3D printers around these days will ship to you with a nozzle diameter of 0.4mm, which is a standard balance between quality, precision, and speed.
That being said, you can change the size of the nozzle any time you want with a 3D printer, there are no hard and fast rules about this. However, sizes greater than 0.4mm are more well known for producing fast prints and have fewer nozzle-related issues.
But, a nozzle size less than 0.4mm will bring you a greater precision with superior quality. This superiority does come at the cost of speed though and can go as low as 0.1mm in nozzle diameter.
Considering these nozzle sizes, 0.4mm in comparison to 0.1mm, is basically 4 times less. When thinking about how this will affect your print, the most significant impact will be in the time taken to print.
To output the same about of material you would get from a 0.4mm nozzle with a 0.1mm nozzle, it would mean going over the same lines four times. This is why it though you can get better quality, it makes four times as long.
An SLA printer can use a photopolymer resin for 3D printing, these can boast having more detailed prints and even more intricate depth. A reason for this is in the layer height and microns. This seemingly innocent setting can affect the resolution speed and overall texture of the print.
For an SLA 3D printer, the minimum height at which they can comfortably print at is much smaller and is better when compared to an FDM printer. The smaller minimum contributes directly to the output of amazing precision and detailing on resin prints.
Although SLA printing produces fantastic quality prints, some 3D printing filaments such as PLA, PETG, and even Nylon, are still plenty capable of producing exceptional print quality as well in the right situations.
Every type of print can yield imperfections that you need to keep an eye on as they could compromise the standard of your end print result.
Let’s take some time to look into what the possible print imperfections can be.
What is it/ What causes it?
This happens when there are stingy lines of thin filament throughout your models, this is most common between two vertical pieces.
This is when layers that extend beyond the previous layer at particular angles are unable to support themselves which leads to drooping. This can be fixed with supports.
These are small wart-like bubbles, blobs, and zits that appear on the exterior of your model. This is usually an occurrence from moisture in the filament.
This is exactly what it sounds like when actual layers of the print have not adhered properly to one another which can lead to a rough-looking print.
Lines appearing on the side of prints.
This happens if there are skips on the Z-axis, it leads to very visible lines throughout the mode exterior.
Under and Over-Extrusion.
This is what happens when the amount of filament that comes out of the nozzle is too little or too much, this can lead to obvious and clear imperfections.
This is the result of under-extrusion or overhangs in your print, it can leave visible holes in your end model and can make it weaker/
Although resin prints generally result in a better quality print than filament prints do, there can still be print imperfections in resin too.
What is it?/ What causes it?
Models detaching from the build plate.
This can happen as some build surfaces do not have the best adhesion, so you want it to be pre-textured and the environment warmed.
Patches can be visible on your model from this, and this can make your model more brittle.
Hardened resin shifts.
Prints can fail due to movements or shifts. You may need to change and alter the orientation or add extra supports.
Layer Separation/ Delamination.
Layers may not bond properly, which can easily ruin a print. You should add more supports.
When you use an SLA 3D printer, layers of resin will quickly adhere to each other and bring finer details. This leads to top-notch prints with excellent quality and outstanding precision. Although filament prints can be very good, they are still no match for what resin prints can do. So in terms of quality, resin takes the gold.
Is Resin more expensive than Filament?
Both resins and filaments can both be very expensive depending on what brand you use and what their standard of quality is.
They both have options in the budget range as well but on a general scale, resin tends to be more expensive, but as previously discussed is also has better quality. You get what you pay for right?
With variations of filaments you can find significantly varying prices, some can be excessively cheaper and often way more inexpensive than resins are.
Later we will look through the three primary price ranges for both resins and filaments.
One of the best-selling 3D printer resins on the market is the Elegoo Rapid UV Curing Resin, this resin is a top-choice, low-odor, photopolymer that is less likely to break the bank than some other options you may find.
You can grab yourself a 1Kg bottle of this for less than $30, making it one of the cheapest resins available, which is pretty astounding considering the overall costs of resins.
Another option, a bank-friendly filament is the Tecbears PLA Filament. You can get 1Kg of this for around $20.
It is very highly-rated as a budget filament. There is much praise for the packaging, the ease of use, and the overall print quality of their models.
It also has low-shrinkage, is clog and bubble-free, minimal tangling from mechanical winding, 0.02mm dimensional accuracy, and an 18-month warranty to reduce all risks. This is a budget choice that is perfect for beginners to filament 3D printing.
As we look at more advanced materials for 3D printing there are plenty of options out there still.
ADVANCED MID-RANGE RESIN
For a moderate price, brand-respected Siraya Tech is a good choice. A favorite is their ‘Tenacious, Flexible, and impact-resistant Resin’, a 1Kg resin once more, that you can buy for $65.
This has a price increase from the cheaper option, as with resin once you start to add qualities to it you find that costs will go up.
In this example, you will find stellar flexibility, strong, high-impact resistance, bendability up to 180° with no shattering, mixability with Elegoo resin, low-odor, detailed print production, and even a Facebook group for help and advice.
ADVANCED MID-RANGE FILAMENT
A mid-priced example is the PRILINE Carbon Fiber Polycarbonate Filament This is again 1Kg of filament that is priced around $50.
As the price goes up, you can see improvements to the features; heat tolerance, high strength-weight ratio, dimensional accuracy at 0.03, warp-free printing, stellar layer adhesion, simple support removal, 5-10% carbon fiber-plastic volume, printable on a stock Ender 3, all-metal hot end recommended still.
For a mid-range price, this is still pretty good.
PREMIUM OPTION RESIN
One of the biggest premium resin brands you will find if you scour the internet in search is Formlabs.
One of the best examples of their premium resins and what you get for price-quality is the Formlabs Permanent Crown Resin this is an expensive option over $1,000 for 1Kg. Quite a shock right? Going from two zeros to three? This is a long-term biocompatible material.
Now, unlike the previous options, this is a resin designed for dental crowns, onlays, and bridges, etc. It’s not the kind of resin you would be using for action figures, models, or independent business, but more for medical and biological reasoning. Hence, its extensive cost.
PREMIUM OPTION FILAMENT
On the flipside from the resin option that sees more use in dentistry and medical scenes, the premium filament option we want to show you is used more in the oil, gas, automotive, and aerospace industries.
A brand you will find for this kind of work is PEEK, You can get CarbonX Carbon Fiber PEEK filament, unlike the resin option, this filament will cost you around $600 for 1Kg, while this is significantly more pricey than a standard PLA, PETG or otherwise, it doesn’t hit quite as hard as the $1000 plus resin option.
Nonetheless, this is still a material that you do not want to take lightly. It requires printing temperatures of around 410°C and bed temperatures of 150°C.
This brand is considered to be one of the most high-performance thermoplastics in existence. It is very stiff and has outstanding resistance to mechanics, temperature, and chemicals. It also has near 0 moisture absorption.
To finish our point there, this just proves that price is not always a defining factor and that there is no extreme difference unless you are making someone’s tooth.
You can get easily cheap options that won’t make your wallet scream as long as you are willing to sacrifice a few features and some quality. There is no answer to which is better, while filament is still cheaper, it depends on what you are making, and also, what machine you have too.
Is Filament easier to use for printing than Resin?
Ease of use is a question worth pondering if you are a beginner in 3D printing. This is because resin can get rather messy and there can be hefty post-processing involved in this. Whereas filament is much easier to use and is best suited for beginners in 3D printing.
Resin printing takes a significant amount of effort in order to remove the prints and get them prepared for their final stage of printing.
Once you have done the print you will have to consider a fairly significant amount of effort just to release from resin model from the build platform. This will be due to a whole medley of uncured resin that you will have to tackle.
You will have to wash this part in a cleaning solution, a common solution being isopropyl alcohol, then after all the resin has been washed away, it will then require curing under UV lighting.
On the other hand, printing filament takes a lot less effort to do once the print is complete. In the past, you would have to use all your strength to remove your filament from the print bed but time has changed and so has this.
Now that convenient magnet build surfaces are a thing, they can be removed and flexed which means that builds can pop right off of the build plate with exceptional ease. They are not expensive to buy either and they are very well-reviewed for how much easier they make things.
FDM/ Filament prints do not require much in terms of post-processing unless you have used support materials and they were not removed smoothly. But, if you are not fussed about a few rough spots on a print then it is a no-problem and can be cleaned up pretty easily.
You can also get a really good 3D printer toolkit that can assist you in cleaning up FDM prints. These will usually include; a needle file set, tweezers, deburring tools, a double-sided polished bar, pliers, and a knife set. These kits are great for beginners and advanced modelers alike.
Without these toolsets and these external factors, post-processing can be on the same scale of difficulty as resin is, but the process is generally shorter with filaments.
However, common issues that apply to resin and filament are often due to poor adhesion to the build plate, delamination, when the layers separate, or messy/ convoluted prints.
To tackle and prevent issues that arise with adhesion in resin printing you should check the build plate and resin vat to ensure that it is properly calibrated.
If the resin is too cold it will not stick to the build platform and this leaves the resin tank poorly attached. In these instances, you should try to move your printer to a warmer location so that the print chamber and the resin are not as cold.
Another issue you may come across is when there is not an appropriate adhesion between the layers of your resin print, otherwise known as delamination, which when occurring can make the print look awful.
Fixing this is not too much of a hassle. You should check that the path of the layer is not being blocked by any sort of obstruction. To check this you need to ensure that the resin tank is free of any sort of debris and that left-overs from previous prints are not causing a blockage or barrier.
As previously mentioned, you should use supports where necessary as well, doing so can solve many issues in both resin and filament, especially when talking about things like overhangs that can affect the overall quality.
You also need to ensure that you are working with proper orientation, misalignment is one of the most notorious culprits of failures and messy prints.
You should be mindful of the supports you use as well, using weak supports cannot do much to help your print, so you should always use strong supports if support is the issue, you can also increase the number of support items that you use if you are not too concerned about removing them after use.
Like anything, once you have your process for resin or filament printing, it becomes pretty easy. Practice makes perfect and once you have your technique and process down, it becomes easy on its own, whatever you use.
Overall though, filament FDM, is generally easier than resin SLA printing, especially for newbies to 3D printing.
Which is the strongest? Resin V Filament.
Depending on what print you are doing, strength can be a key factor in deciding whether resin or filament is right for you. Resin 3D printers are generally at their strongest with premium brands, however, filament prints are generally stronger due to their physical properties.
Polycarbonate is one of the strongest filaments and it has a tensile strength of 9,800 psi. That being said, a Formlabs tough Resin, claims a tensile strength of 8,080 psi.
This can be a question that brings up a lot more questions and a few complications, the simplest answer we can give you is that the most popular resins are more brittle when compared to filaments.
While quality state resins are better, filament is more robust. A budget filament and a budget resin will provide you with insight into this, there is a significant difference in the strength of the two, filament is the leading material here.
In 3D printing, resin still has a way to go when it comes to innovation that can bring strength into play in resin-printed parts. They are not quite at the level that filament is at, but they’re getting there. As the resin market has been catching up to the filament market, it has been developing more materials.
Then there are filaments such as nylon and carbon fiber, both very strong. There is also the strength overlord, the king of strength, Polycarbonate. To give an example of just how strong this material is, a polycarbonate hook actually managed to lift a weight of 685lbs.
The aforementioned filaments are very strong in different settings and are generally well ahead of any strong resin that can be found by an SLA printer.
It is due to this strength that many manufacturing industries use FDM technology and filaments such as polycarbonate that they use to craft strong and durable parts that can perform well and withstand any potential heavy impact.
Though resin prints are detailed and high in their quality standards, they are also notorious for their brittle nature. This is why if you want a delicate design for figurines or other delicate models, resin is the best way to go, but for strength and sturdiness, filament is a better choice.
Filaments do not just add strength to your 3D printed models, but they also provide you with a wide variety of other properties. As an example, TPU, despite having a flexible filament in its core, also packs serious hardcore strength and heavy resistance to wear-and-tear.
Also worth noting in this regard is the Ninjaflex Semi-Flex that is capable of withstanding 250N of pulling force before it would break, with is very impressive, equal to 56.2lbs in force.
In comparison to this, you can look on YouTube and find many YouTubers testing out the strength of resin parts but dropping them down or shattering them on purpose. It is safe to say that these are not quite as strong as filaments simply from seeing these videos.
There is a strong filament called ABS, which is very common. Siraya Tech has an ABS-like Resin that boasts having the strength of ABS while retaining the details of SLA 3D printing. We have to give them credit, that it is very tough in terms of resins, however, it does not hold up close to the strength of real ABS, or other filaments.
Therefore if you seek strength, then filament is for you.
Which is faster to use? Resin V Filament
When seeking speed Filament is usually faster than resin, due to being able to extrude more material. But, when you look deep into this topic there are even more things that you need to consider.
First of all, when talking about multiple models on a build plate, the resin could be a faster choice. This is because of a special kind of 3D printing that exists today, it is called Masked Stereolithography Apparatus or, MSLA, which does differ quite a lot from regular SLA.
The biggest difference is that in MSLA, the UV curing light on the screen will flash in shapes of whole layers instantly.
In normal SLA 3D printing, it will map out the beam of light from the shape of the model, which is similar to how an FDM 3D printer will extrude materials from each area.
A good MSLA 3D printer that we can tell you about is the Peopoly Phenom, which is fairly up there on the pricing scale. The Peopoly Phenom is one of the fastest resin printers that exist.
Despite MSLA being fast for 3D printing with multiple models, you can usually print any single model faster with either FDM or SLA printing, so this really depends on how many models you are doing at any one time.
When we consider how SLA printing works, we know that each layer has a small surface area that can only print so much at any one time. This can drastically increase the overall time that it will take to finish printing the model.
On the flipside, FDM extrusion systems print thicker layers and create an internal instructure, which is called an infill, this decreases print times. Then you have the extra post-processing steps in resin printing. With resin printing, you need to thoroughly clean and cure afterward to make sure that the model turns out well.
In FDM printing there is only the removal of the support if there is any, and potential sanding which is dependant on the particular case. Many designers have now begun to start implementing orientations and designs that will not require any supports at all.
There are a few different types of resin printing, there is SLA (which is laser-based), DLP (light-based), and LCD (also light-based).DLP and LCP are both rather similar in the way in which they build the model.
Both technologies use resin but neither of these involved a laser or any extruder nozzle. Instead of this, a light projector is used to print whole layers at once.
This often makes things faster FDM printing. In terms of multiple models of the build plate, for resin printing, resin comes out on top when this technology is used. That being said, you can switch nozzle sides in FDM printing to tackle this as previously mentioned.
So instead of the standard 0.4mm nozzle, you could use a 1mm nozzle for a largely increased flow rate and speedy printing. This will substantially bring down print times, however, it would also take the quality with it as well.
This is exactly why it depends on your personal choice as to which aspect you would sacrifice to gain another, whether you wanted to sacrifice quality or strength for speed, or vice versa.
Usually, an equal balance brings the best results, but you can always focus on one or another, but if so, be prepared to sacrifice another factor.
Which is safest to use?
There are safety concerns with any type of 3D printing. Both resin and filament have fairly significant safety concerns, they have different things that can make both of them dangerous in their own individual ways.
First of all, with filaments, you need to watch for harmful fumes and high temperatures, where on the other side of things, resins may run the risks of possibly dangerous chemical reactions and fumes too.
Resins are known to be chemically toxic and can release dangerous, and potentially harmful by-products that can affect your health in multiple ways if not used safely and with caution.
They can release irritants and pollutants that can irritate eyes and skin, as well as contributing to respiratory problems, such as asthma. While many resin printers will have a good filtration system, it is still recommended to use this material in a well-ventilated and spacious area.
You want to avoid getting resin on your skin because it can not only worsen current allergies and cause rashes but can also cause dermatitis. As resin reacts to UV light, many people who get resin on their skin and then proceed to go into the sun have experienced burns.
Not only this but resins are toxic to the environment as well, which can hold severe effects on animals such as fish and other aquatic life. This is why it is key to handle and dispose of resins adequately.
On the flipside filaments can also be dangerous too, an example of this is ABS which is a very common thermoplastic melted at high temperatures.
As the temperature increases the number of fumes that are released will increase. These fumes contain VOCs and are dangerous to health when inhaled. To be safe you should always wear protective gloves when handling either resin or filament and never touch them bare-handed before curing.
You should also use safety glasses/ goggles, print in a well-ventilated area, use an enclosed print chamber to minimize the regulation of fumes, and also try using low-odor resins. You can also wear a mask during the printing process as it can help to prevent issues with inhalation.
Making miniatures, Resin or Filament?
When looking to make miniatures, resins are the best choice, as you can get unmatched quality and you can create multiple, several parts very easily and with speed, especially when using an MSLA 3D printer.
While filaments are in a different league of their own, you can make miniatures with filament they are not quite the same level of quality. It is what resin printers are made for, the attention to finite detail is worth the extra cost if you want to print many minis that are at 30mm or less.
This is why resin printing is primarily used in industries where depth and precision are prioritized above all else. Though you can get far enough with FDM 3D printers in terms of quality, but the amount of effort you will need to spend to get everything right, a resin 3D printer will save you the additional hassle.
Filaments are much easier to handle, and much safer, and are also a great start for beginners. They are generally the optimum choice when it comes to rapid prototyping.
Though when you are able to let a bit of detail, or surface finish, or even smoothness slide here, filaments can pay off well for you. It is all down to personal choice and what you feel is best for you, the stage of 3D print learning you are at, and if you have your personal preference in print materials.