October 21, 2022

Which Resin Printer is Better? SLA, LCD or DLP

Resin printers are becoming increasingly popular as they are now easily accessible and a cost-efficient solution for highly detailed 3d printing. A resin printer offers much greater print quality as compared to a Fused Deposition Modeling FDM printing but at a much higher cost. 

In this, a resin printer with LCD technique offers an optimum solution in terms of high-quality print and a moderate cost of the printer. It provides excellent print quality as compared to an FDM printer and a much better print quality to printer cost ratio compared to other resin printing techniques.

This article is about the technology, qualities, and comparison of the resin printers to show why this LCD technology is better than others.

Flashforge Resin 3D printers

Different Techniques used by a Resin Printer

Resin 3D printing is one of the three basic 3d printing technologies used by 3d printers. These printers use the vat polymerization technology to cure and print successive layers of a chemical called resin. 

In these printers, liquid crystal display (LCD), Stereolithography (SLA), and Digital Light Processing (DLP) are the three commonly used 3d printing techniques. 

What is the SLA technique in a resin printer?

Being the oldest of the three, SLA is used as a synonym for resin printing. As far as education and a basic introduction to resin or liquid-based 3d printing are concerned, the synonym works well. SLA uses a laser as an Ultraviolet (UV) light source that passes through a Galvanometer. A Galvanometer can be seen as a guiding mirror for laser beams. The mirror reflects the light as per the design requirements. 

In SLA, lasers define everything, print quality, speed, surface finish, and details of the finished product. Thickness or can say diameter of the laser spot will define the smallest possible dimension that can be achieved using SLA.

What is the LCD technique in a resin printer?

LCD technique resin printers use UV lamps light as a source that passes through an LCD screen. LCD masked a particular pattern of UV light on resin as per the design required. The ability of the LCD screen to mask the pattern defines the quality of the print.

LCD screen resolution defines the print quality. The higher the resolution, the higher the print quality. The LCD resolution is measured as 2K, 4K, 6K, and 8K. A typical 4K LCD screen has 3840 x 2400 pixels (here, 3840 is considered 4K). These pixel numbers, when combined with the screen size of the printer, define the pixel density. 

The smaller the screen for any given number of pixels, the higher will be the pixel density and the higher will be the quality of the print. In more direct wording, resolution defines the smallest possible dimension a printer can print. A typical 4K resin printer can print as small as 35 um to 50 um, depending on the screen size.

What is the DLP technique in a resin printer?

DLP technique also uses UV light to cure the resin but in a much more complete and efficient way. DLP projects a complete 2D pattern of digital light on resin at once and cures it to develop a very thin layer of solid resin. 

UV light from the digital source is directed selectively using a digital micromirror device DMD. DMD is a combination of hundreds and thousands of very tiny mirrors that reflect a very thin beam of light, usually in microns. This is what makes DLP technique efficient and costly at the same time.

This DMD is the same as that of the home cinema projector where light is directed to make specific 2D images on the wall, different lies only in colors. The quality of DLP depends on DMD and works similarly to LCD, where mirror size and pixel density define the quality. The quality of DLP is measured in the voxel.  

Which resin printing technique is better?

Without any priorities, it’s not possible to say which one is better than the other. For this article, all three techniques will be compared and evaluated, keeping in view the consumer end needs.

Availability of Resin Printer

SLA is the oldest and has gone through most research and development processes. That is why most large-scale industrial applications involve the SLA technique. There will be hardly any low-cost or consumer-end SLA 3D printer available in the market.

DLP provides excellent print quality in terms of final product detailing and surface finish. DLP printers work on an invention that does pixel shifting of HD resolution into a 4K image. This makes DLP a bit easy to manufacture, but limitations on the mass product due to the cost limit their availability for the consumer end.

LCD technique uses an easy-to-manufacture and low-cost LCD that makes it easily available for the consumer end and can deliver a high-quality 3d print. UV light damages the LCD screen content, so these screens are treated as consumable and need to be replaced after a recommended run time.

Cost of Resin Printer

3d printers, when invented, were not developed for the consumer end. Thus, SLA was never designed and developed for a low price tag. Almost all SLA printers are for industrial applications and involve huge initial costs.

The cost of a DLP resin printer makes it available for only very high-end industrial products. DLP is too expensive for a model scale consumer level working. 

LCD techniques work as a bridge between SLA (dedicated for industrial applications) and DLP (too expensive for consumer level) and provide a cost-effective solution for good-quality resin printing.

Print Quality of Resin Printer

SLA technique uses a laser beam with a diameter of microns that enables them to print some of the most detailed and finest quality parts. DLP makes use of a DMD whose hundreds of micro mirrors can be controlled separately. 

Each mirror reflects light independently, and a full HD DMD chip can have 2 million of these mirrors. This enables DLP to provide a print quality and surface finish that can satisfy industrial applications’ needs. 

LCD technique can provide a resolution of 8K, and that’s high enough to provide excellent quality print. The print quality depends on the combination of screen resolution, screen size, pixel density, and printer setting for a particular print. 

All types give more than the required 3D print quality needed by most of the consumer end users. 

Concluding the better resin printer from SLA, LCD, and DLP

All three techniques were developed with their advantages and drawbacks. Among them, LCD resin printers are considered to give a better combination of printer performance, print quality, and cost than the other two. 

DLP technology offers better performance than LCD but a higher cost that only recommends for industrial or high-end users. SLA, which was developed in the early stages of resin printing, is now the slowest technique among the three but offers supreme print quality for industrial applications. 

Based on the above discussion, LCD resin printers, with their easy availability, lower cost of equipment, and ability to give a good print quality, can be considered a better option as long as the consumer end user is concerned.

About the author 

Kyrie Mattos

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