When it comes to 3D printer sales, stereolithography (SLA) definitely trails behind fused deposition modeling (FDM). But in terms of quality, you’ll find that an SLA 3D printer is usually the way to go. If you choose an SLA 3D printer, you usually don‘t go for big builds, but for quality and highly detailed objects – which makes an SLA / DLP 3D printer a favorite for labs and jewelers.
On the small-scale end of the industry, both 3D printing technologies are still in their infancy, having only recently entered the home and small business markets. FDM was the natural to take the lead, with fewer cost and patent restrictions. Yet as SLA 3D printer technologies advance and patents expire, the sales gap between the technologies has begun to narrow.
Of course, quality is what we generally strive for when it comes to our 3D printing endeavors. For most, an FDM printer is sufficient. But compare an FDM print to one made by any SLA printer and you’ll quickly see the difference. Overall quality and finish goes to the SLA printer. Especially when it comes to detailed 3D prints, even a mediocre SLA 3D printer beats most FDM printers.
Of course, as is usually the case, there’s a trade-off. Compared to most FDM printers, a typical SLA 3D printer is relatively expensive, slow, and a bit messy.
But things are changing. Looking at the latest generation of desktop SLA printers, both the price and complexity are quickly falling. Case in point, many models are now available for less than $5,000.
With many more affordable SLA printer models on the market, those requiring high-quality prints should consider taking the plunge. Here we take a look at some of the best resin 3D printers on the market today.
This list takes a look at both SLA and DLP printer models falling below $9,000. Not present here are large industrial resin 3D printers, such as those manufactured by EnvisionTEC and Prodways. These machines often cost more than $50.000 and are aiming at professional use cases.
The aim is to offer you consumer resin 3D printers that teeter between affordability and quality.
Stereolithography (SLA), also known as stereolithography apparatus or resin printing, produces 3D models out of photopolymers. Taking the form of a resin, these are polymers whose molecules link together when exposed to light, a process called photopolymerization.
SLA comes in two forms, depending on how the reaction is activated. The first is laser SLA — referred to here simply as SLA — where a laser selectively “draws” an object’s layers. The second is digital light processing (DLP), where entire layers are digitally projected onto the resin.
Though similar, an SLA 3D printer and a DLP 3D printer differ in the way they project UV light onto resins. It therefore makes sense to review and compare the two technologies separately.
In this first section, we take a look at the (laser) SLA 3D printer. Order is loosely based on maximum build dimensions, price, and resolution.
The Form 2 SLA 3D Printer:
The Form 2 is the breadwinner of the SLA 3D printer market, far and away the most popular of the bunch. This SLA printer deserves its reputation, and not just for being the successor to a 3 million dollar Kickstarter success.
Ease of use is the key factor, coming in three main flavors. First and foremost is the automated resin system. By accepting cartridges, the Form 2 automatically fills the vat and adjusts settings based on the type of resin.
Next is the user-friendly touch screen and WiFi connectivity, making it easy to deliver instructions and monitor operation. Finally, there is a large assortment of resins available, including standard (clear and white), castable, flexible, dental, and tough. Formlabs brings new engineering SLA resins to the market at least twice a year.
The Nobel 1.0A SLA 3D Printer:
XYZprinting are known for their budget FDM printers, but they’ve also taken aim at the SLA 3D printer market with their Nobel line. The Taiwanese company recently upgraded their Nobel 1.0 to the Nobel 1.0 Advanced.
As with the rest of XYZprinting’s range, this machine was built with budgeting in mind. Sure, some of the higher end features that you’ll find on another SLA printer are lacking with the Nobel 1.0A. But it performs well for its price, automatically refills its resin vat, and comes complete with its own software.
Resins available for this SLA printer include standard (clear, white, yellow, blue, gray), castable, flexible, tough, and rigid.
The Moai SLA 3D Printer:
Coming out of California, the Moai is the cheapest laser SLA 3D printer in this list. In part that’s thanks to the fact that it comes as a kit, which the user must assemble (a process that’s not very complicated).
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It may not be much to look at, but it’s the Moai’s simple, open design that sets it apart. Nothing is hidden from the user. Even the laser exposure settings are fully accessible, a feature which researchers and developers are sure to appreciate.
The S130 SLA 3D Printer:
This professional desktop SLA 3D printer comes out of Shenzhen, China. Although its target applications are dentistry and jewelry, its ample build space and moderate price tag make it a good general purpose option, as well.
For a laser SLA printer, the S130 boasts an impressively fine resolution. Combine that with a user-friendly touch screen and a healthy selection of resin colors (clear, white, black and red).
Request a quote for this SLA 3D printer from Dazz 3D.
The Antares SLA 3D Printer:
With the largest build space of the printers on this list, the Antares is a mammoth.
Not much else can be said about this SLA printer, as it’s a relatively new product. On the other hand, Italian company Sharebot have a reputation for high quality 3D printing solutions.
Apart from its generous build space, this device’s other notable feature is a that it can be operated remotely through a network.
Two resins are currently available for this printer: a black all-purpose material and a stronger, more rigid gray.
Request a quote for this SLA 3D printer from Sharebot.
The ProJet 1200 SLA 3D Printer:
You needn’t worry about reliability with this SLA printer. Indeed, it was 3D Systems’ co-founder Chuck Hull who coined the term “stereolithography” in 1984. Two years later, he filed a patent for the first SLA 3D printer. Needless to say, this company has been in the business for a while…
Unlike most of the printers in this list, the ProJet 1200 was specifically designed with dentistry, electronics, and jewelry in mind. That’s the reason for its relatively small build space and high resolution.
3D Systems’ VisiJet FTX series of resins was specifically designed for the ProJet 1200, and includes general purpose, castable (wax and plastic), and tough materials.
This SLA 3D printer can be purchased from third party sellers. It’s no longer available through the company’s website, in the wake of a similar, soon-to-be-released machine, the FabPro 1000.
The Pico 2 SLA 3D Printer:
Asiga, based out of Sydney, Australia, has been designing and manufacturing 3D printers since 2011. Their product catalog offers a number of machines, and even the Pico 2 has several different versions, depending on the desired resolution and build space.
Like the ProJet 1200, this SLA printer is targeted towards dental, audiology, and jewelry. Unlike the ProJet, it boasts an extraordinary 1 micron resolution in the Z-axis. Making this a reality is their patented Slide-And-Separate (SAS) technology.
Other notable features of this SLA printer include fast Single-Point calibration and the Squeeze Build Tray, which permits fast material swapping.
A wide variety of materials are available for the Pico 2, specialized for dental, audiology, jewelry, manufacturing, and biocompatibility.
Where to buy this SLA 3D printer: Asiga
The Xfab SLA 3D Printer:
The Xfab is unique in this list as the only SLA printer with a cylindrical build space. Don’t let that scare you away, though. Italian company Digital Wax Systems has a long running history of professional grade 3D printers.
Although this SLA 3D printer has a relatively high cost and wide laser, it does have a system for quick material change and a large selection of resins. Material types include transparent, castable, rubber-like, and nano-ceramic materials.
Request a quote for this SLA 3D printer from DWS Lab.
Next up is the DLP 3D printer. Instead of a laser “drawing” a single point at a time, a projector beams an entire layer.
Order is loosely based on maximum build dimensions, price, and resolution.
The Make DLP 3D Printer:
It’s not hard to see why the Make is our first DLP printer. It may not be the most professional of machines in this list, but it has a set of features that simply cannot be argued with. A low price tag, large build volume, and high resolution make it ideal for anyone trying a DLP 3D printer for the first time.
Looking for even more good news? How about the fact that you can control it wirelessly and use third party resin?
For twice the price, the Taiwanese company also offers a larger version, the Make XL.
Where to buy this DLP 3D printer: Phrozen
The Duplicator 7 DLP 3D Printer:
Introducing the cheapest DLP printer in the list, coming in at under $500! Despite that, the Duplicator 7 boasts decent resolution and a large build space.
Chinese company Wanhao designed their DLP 3D printer with hobbyists in mind. Though it comes with its own software, it’s also compatible with third party slicers.
Where to buy this DLP 3D printer: Wanhao
The B9Creator v1.2 DLP 3D Printer:
With its projector at its heart on full display, the B9Creator is arguably the most distinctive looking DLP printer in the list. Slightly less distinctive are its cousins in the company’s Core series, which are smaller but print faster.
Thanks to its high accuracy and wide range of materials, this DLP 3D printer is ideal for both jewelry makers and researchers.
B9Creations provides castable (emerald, yellow, cherry) and prototyping (black and red) material. The latter is designed to be accurate, strong, and temperature resistant. Users can also use third party resins.
Where to buy this DLP 3D Printer: B9Creator
Colido’s DLP 2.0 DLP 3D Printer:
Colido may lack the same brand name appeal as FormLabs or 3D Systems, but the DLP 2.0 offers all the standard features you would expect from any DLP printer. For an affordable price, you get a comfortable build volume, decent resolution, and sleek design.
The Hong-Kong-based company also provides their own line of resin, which is included with the machine.
The Slash+ DLP 3D Printer:
From San Diego, USA, Uniz brings you the “world’s fastest desktop 3D printer”. Whether or not that’s true, it certainly is an easy-to-use DLP 3D printer that delivers.
Compared to the other printers in this list, the Slash+ offers a large build volume, and that for a decent price. Add to that a convenient cartridge system to easily swap printing material and a steel reinforced column to reduce deformation and enhance precision.
Uniz sells a list of resins with unique names, including ZABS (general purpose), ZPMMA (translucent), ZWax (castable), and ZFPU (flexible).
The Titan 2 DLP 3D Printer:
Like several others on this list, California-based Kudo3D is a startup company with a crowdfunding approach. Their first DLP 3D printer, the Titan 1, raised nearly $700,000 from backers.
The Titan 2 claims to offer better resolution and speed compared to most of its laser-based rivals, as well as advanced connectivity and workflow processes.
The secret to better detail and speed is called Passive Self-Peeling (PSP). It minimizes the separation force between the cured layers and the vat of resin, speeding up the 3D printing process.
For $3,799, you can get the upgraded version, the Titan 2 HR, which has a higher resolution but a slightly smaller build space.
Resins for this DLP printer come in standard (black), castable, flexible, tough, hard, and ultra high resolution.
The MoonRay D DLP 3D Printer:
The MoonRay S DLP 3D Printer:
Back in 2015, SprintRay was a huge crowdfunding success story with the MoonRay DLP 3D printer. Since then, the Los Angeles has split the product into two separate lines, the MoonRay D and the MoonRay S.
The D is better-suited for dentistry and jewelry as it has a smaller build space and higher resolution. The S is targeted more toward designers and engineers.
Each DLP printer features SprintRay’s patented RayOne DLP projector, which is custom-built for 3D printing. They also come with long-lasting resin tanks and user-friendly RayWare software.
Available resin types include standard (clear, white, green, orange), castable, and prototyping (gray).
The Minny DLP 3D Printer:
According to Nyomo, the Minny is the “smallest professional 3D printer in the world.” With an exceptionally high resolution, the Hong Kong company specifically designed this DLP printer for dentistry, audiology, and jewelry.
Technical specifications aside, this miniature machine is also easy to use. An LCD touchscreen interface complements a sleek design and WiFi connectivity.
You’ll never go wanting for materials with this DLP 3D printer. The list of resin types includes standard (translucent orange, white, blue, gray), castable, and dental (stone and castable).
Impressed with Nyomo but looking for something a little bigger? Check out the Makyn 6.
Request a quote for this DLP 3D printer from Nyomo.
The Hunter DLP 3D Printer:
FlashForge is known as one of the leaders in affordable desktop 3D printers and scanners, and that’s true as well in the DLP printer market.
The Hunter features a long-lasting proprietary DLP projector, providing uniform UV exposure throughout its generous build space. It also comes equipped with a durable aluminum resin vat, guaranteed to require fewer replacements.
Although this DLP 3D printer is compatible with third party resins, FlashForge offers some of their own. They come in the following flavors: standard (gray), castable, tough, and bio-compatible.
Request a quote for this DLP 3D printer from FlashForge.
The Aria DLP 3D Printer:
You get what you pay for with the Aria. The lofty price tag attached to this DLP 3D printer reflects its user features. Those include a touchscreen interface and networking capabilities through both Ethernet and USB.
EnvisionTec, headquartered in Detroit, offer three resin types for their DLP printer: prototyping, castable (light and heavy), and heat-resistant.
Where to buy this DLP 3D Printer: EnvisionTec
The Makyn 6 DLP 3D Printer:
Nyomo calls the Makyn 6 the “best professional desktop 3D printer available in its category.” A bold statement, but not without some merit.
This DLP 3D printer, though pricey, comes with a number of useful features. Like its smaller cousin, it’s equipped with an LCD touchscreen interface and can be connected to through WiFi, Ethernet, and USB.
Resin types for the Makyn 6 include standard (translucent orange, white, blue, gray), castable, and dental (stone and castable).
Request a quote for this DLP 3D printer from Nyomo.
The SLA GEM 2.0 DLP 3D Printer:
The Gem 2.0 is specially optimized for jewelry making. Hence its relatively small build space and high resolution. Otherwise this DLP 3D printer is all about simplicity. Just a glass hood and metal frame cover the working components.
Request a quote for this DLP 3D printer from 3DMaker.
License: The text of "20 Best Resin (SLA/DLP) 3D Printers 2018" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.