Resin printing produces items with a finer finish and at a much higher level of detail than printing with filament.
To its credit, however, FDM printing produces a higher volume of items using less material. Resin printing requires more raw material (resin) to produce the same size or number of items as printing with filament does. The higher cost and longer build times of resin printing only add to the frustration. Yet, it’s still widely used for the benefits it offers. For more on this, check out our post “What Is Resin 3D Printing? Resin vs FDM: Which Is Better!“
If resin printing takes up a lot of material, what do you do if for instance you run out of material in the middle of a print? Can you simply refill your vat and resume printing?
In general, if you anticipate your resin will run out and you do not have more resin with which to top up your printer, the smart thing to do is pause the print. Once you have your refill, you can resume printing from where your print left off.
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Also, resin printing can take anything from 15 to 30 minutes for a simple job or 8 hours or more for something a little more complex. Do you need to be there the whole time the machine prints? Can you leave a resin printer unattended while you are at work? These are the questions we want to explore today.
What is Resin Printing Process ?
Resin is a thermosetting liquid photopolymer. Unlike FDM printing which has standardized filament categories like PLA, ABS or Nylon, resins do not have the same clear cut categories.
Instead what you will typically find when shopping for resin is that individual manufacturers label their resins differently. Generally, however, you can expect to find standard, clear, tough, flexible or water-washable resins. Source
You will also see resins specifically formulated for certain industries like dentistry or jewelry for example. Resin is printed using one of three main technologies namely:
- Stereolithography (SLA)
- Digital Light Processing (DLP)
- Masked stereolithography (MSLA)
All these technologies use light to harden a liquid resin in a process known as curing. The main difference between the technologies is in how they cure resin. SLA uses a laser, MSLA uses a liquid crystal display while DLP uses a projector.
The workflow for printing with resin is almost exactly the same as printing with filament in an FDM printer.
- The first step is your 3D model which you either download or create yourself using 3D modeling software.
- The second step is slicing your model and preparing it for printing.
- The third step is feeding material (resin or filament) into the printer and starting the print. In an FDM printer, the print will either pause or “print air” (the printer head moves but no material is extruded) when it runs out of filament. But what happens with a resin printer?
Can You Refill Resin While Printing?
Most consumer level resin printers have small vats. This can present a problem when printing large items if the resin in the vat runs out. Should the resin run out, the print will in most cases fail. Fortunately, this can be prevented by refilling the vat while printing.
Resin printing is prized for its ability to produce high fidelity prints. The problem with highly detailed prints, however, especially prints with a zero infill, is that they tend to take up a large amount of material.
Depending on the complexity of the print it can require a large amount of resin to get the print done. Having a printer with a small vat necessitates one or two if not several refills. Adding more resin during a print prevents running out and having a failed print on your hands.
Can You Pause A 3D Resin Printer?
If you anticipate your resin will run out and you do not have more resin with which to top up your printer, the smart thing to do is pause the print. Once you have your refill, you can resume printing from where your print left off.
Newer model printers will automatically pause a print when they detect that the resin in the vat has reached a critical level. Older or low end models do not have this function so unfortunately, you have to do this manually.
Do You Have To Change Resin Between Prints?
Resin can be left in a vat overnight or even for up to two months. This is if the vat is kept covered and the printer is in a cool, dark space with minimal UV light to prevent accidental curing. Upon resuming a print using the same resin, it’s important to check the resin did not harden while the print was paused.
Stir the resin before you start printing to make sure it’s thoroughly mixed before starting a new print. You should also sieve it to remove any clumps or cured resin if it has been sitting in your vat for a while.
Is It Safe To Leave A Resin Printer Unattended?
3D printer manufacturers generally advise against leaving a 3D printer unmanned because it presents a possible safety hazard. The biggest risk is a printer malfunction causing a fire. Most modern printers have an automatic shutdown capability to mitigate the risk however.
3D printing can take anything from minutes to days. In this situation, it’s impossible to have eyes on your print the entire time it takes to complete. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to safely print without having to watch the printer as it prints every single layer.
- Double-check to make sure your printer has auto shutdown and it is turned on.
- Set up a remote monitoring system using webcams and software. Octoprint is software you can use to stay updated on the status of your print while you are away.
- Printing at slower speeds and temperatures is also helpful in reducing the chance of your printer overheating.
- If your printer has thermal runaway protection, make sure it is turned on. Thermal runaway guards against any unusually high temperatures in your printer.
Also, find out “Does 3D Resin Expire? Can You Still Use It !“
Can You Reuse Failed Resin Prints?
Printing with filament is a reversible process. The prints from an FDM printer can be melted and reused as raw material for a new print. This is because FDM printing uses thermoplastic. Resin printing on the other hand uses thermoset plastic as raw material in a non-reversible process which makes resin prints non-recyclable.
FDM printing is more forgiving in terms of what you can do with failed prints. There are far more options including remelting the print to produce filament or using the print as part of a new build. Resin printing is less accommodating.
In resin printing, bonding happens at a chemical level. This is why you cannot remelt a resin print and turn it back into resin. This is different from filament printing where bonding occurs at a mechanical level.