June 25, 2021
If you’ve been in the desktop 3D printing industry long enough, you’ve come across the Anycubic. While they do have several different plastic based, FFF 3D printers, they really made their mark with the Anycubic Photon: a compact resin 3D printer at an affordable price not seen before in the resin 3D printer market. Nearly four years later and Anycubic has an expansive array of desktop resin 3D printers to choose from, along with accessories to cater to the entire resin 3D printing process. The PROs at MatterHackers are here to help you break down the differences and find out which machine is right for you. The three Anycubic Photon Mono printers have similar functionality, but have enough unique features that each one can fill a different niche and perform better for you in one specific area or another.
Between the three Anycubic Photon Mono models - the Mono, Mono SE, and Mono X - the Mono and Mono SE have comparable build volumes; they both have a build height of 130mm, while the Mono is 78mm deep and 165mm wide and the Mono SE is 80mm deep and 160mm wide. They end up only varying by 70mm2 The Mono X is a different beast altogether and boasts a much larger build volume: 192mm tall, 120mm deep, and 245mm wide. While This means that the Mono X has a larger footprint overall, if you're looking to create some seriously gargantuan resin 3D prints the X is the machine for you. What you need to consider is whether you need to print many small models or one large model or print a handful of small models or are prepared to cut a larger model into pieces in order to fit it on the build plate.
The big draw for the Mono line of Anycubic printers is their monochromatic LCD screen that is part of the Masked StereoLithography Apparatus (MSLA) system. This feature makes each layer cure over 4 times faster than previous models, and since it lets more light through, the LCD is absorbing less radiant heat so it lasts significantly longer as well. Across all three models, layer cure times are on average between 1 and 2 seconds with the Mono SE having a slight edge due to its slightly stronger light matrix than Mono. And despite the Mono X having a much stronger light matrix (over double the Mono SE’s wattage), it has to light a much larger area as well and results in cure times about the same as the Mono.
As the Photon Mono SE is based on the form factor of the original Photon, it also uses the same leveling system as before: one screw on the build plate adjusts the ball-and-post that aligns the build plate to the vat. Both the Mono and Mono X instead have four mount screws that are used to hold the build plate in place for extra security. The actual leveling process is nearly identical for all models: simply loosen the screw or screws, start the leveling wizard (which lowers the build plate and presses it against the vat (important to make sure it’s empty!)), and follow along to have the ideal distance between the build plate and the vat. Remember, with resin 3D printers you are dealing with incredibly fine layers, so any sort of skew or a poorly calibrated first-layer distance doesn’t have as much wiggle room for compensation like FFF 3D printers’ first layer. If you’re looking to have an updated leveling system that gives you more control over your build plate’s alignment, then the Mono or Mono X take the win in this category.
The Anycubic Photon SE is the only one of the bunch to have any sort of in-built filtration system. Two small fans in the corners of its interior that push air through a filter to remove any sort of stinky odor that’s common with 3D printing resin (unless of course you are using epoxy-free MH Build resin). It’s subtle, but you will notice an improvement to the air quality of your workspace with this feature. So if your environment isn’t compatible with an unfiltered machine, the Photon SE is the choice for you.
It might surprise you to consider that the form factors of each printer do have some effect on their usability. The Anycubic Mono and Mono X each have a single piece tinted acrylic lid, which work perfectly in all the ways they’re designed to operate, but since it needs to be removed completely in order to access the 3D print, build plate, or vat you’ll need to make sure you have the vertical clearance to do so. However, by removing the lid you have full access to the build plate from all sides, which does make it easier to view your progressing 3D print or reach into the build chamber for any sort of cleaning or even something as simple as pouring in more resin between prints. In contrast, the Anycubic Photon Mono SE has the front and top separate from the sides, so it hinges up and minimizes the vertical clearance necessary. This does mean that it is a little harder to reach into the chamber to clean anything up, but the lid is never removed and you won’t need to set it anywhere while you work, making this choice a tradeoff between usability for your workshop’s space and the usability of the 3D printer’s interior space.
It may come as a surprise at how affordable these machines are for what they do, but it would be quite easy to build out a print farm using Anycubic 3D printers or be able to dip your toe into the 3D printing waters without a huge monetary commitment. One might consider the Anycubic Photon Mono SE to be the mid-tier model that has a couple extra features than the other two, but the main draw of the Mono or Mono X is price and size, respectively. Interestingly enough, if you’re weighing between the Mono and Mono X, you could buy three Monos for the price of a Mono X, so if you are looking to produce a lot of small prints or need to produce one big print, that fact might help you narrow down your options.
This is a must buy no matter the Anycubic Photon Mono you choose, or resin printer in general. For a time most post-processing solutions for resin 3D printing haven’t been a fully controlled process; usually it’s a bit of buying some plastic containers and UV lamps and crafting your own cleaning station but, with the Wash and Cure Station you can place the entire build plate, print and all, right into the container of isopropyl alcohol, turn it on, and let it swirl the alcohol around the print and cleaning off any uncured resin. When it’s done you can pop off the finished print, replace the alcohol container with the turntable piece, and post-cure the 3D print in the same footprint. It may not seem like much, but as someone that has done a lot of resin printing without it, it has been nice to be able to take care of my resin prints mess-free.
Anycubic is an established company in the resin 3D printing space, synonymous with quality and affordability. If I’ve done my job today you should have a better idea of which machine is right for you and your projects. To learn more and order your resin printing platform today, check out the collection here.
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