3D Printering: You Want UV Resin?


Just a few short months ago, 3D printing with stereolithography was an uncommon and very expensive proposition. Consumer-oriented SLA machines such as the Form1 and the B9Creator are as expensive as the upper echelons of squirting plastic printers and the community behind these machines isn’t even as diverse as the forums for the fly-by-night printers featured on Kickstarter every week.

This may be about to change with last month’s reveal of the Peachy Printer, a remarkably clever stereolithography printer that requires no special equipment, hardly any electronics, and costs $100. Even if the folks behind Peachy never ship a single unit, their clever engineering ensures that stereolithography will be a staple in the makers toolbox in the near future.

There is, of course, the problem of material. While plastic filament can be bought  just about everywhere, UV curing resin is a little harder to come by and much more expensive per kilogram or liter. Where then does the stereolithography experimenter get their hands on some of this magical material from the future?

Before we get to the article…

I’ve been writing a 3D Printing column once a week for a few months now, and I’m running out of ideas. If you have something in the 3D printer world you’d like to see covered in a little more depth than the standard Hackaday post, send in a tip. I’ll send you a few Hackaday stickers if it’s a good idea.

This stuff is really complicated

Needless to say, the market for SLA resin is a bit complicated. Some printers use DLP projectors, others use lasers. Some printers require a low viscosity resin while in others it doesn’t matter as much. This has a direct effect on what types of resins can be used with which printers. The market is so convoluted there’s no standardized unit of how to sell resin; some sell it by volume, others sell it by mass. For better or worse, the makers behind these SLA printers have stepped in and are selling their own resin.

It’s like printer ink!

The most expensive resin printer, and by some accounts the best, is the Form 1. While the printer itself is not shipping yet – a result of a few legal problems with a major 3D printer manufacturer – they are selling liters of clear and grey resin for $149. Another printer manufacturer, B9Creator sells their cheapest kilogram of resin for $107.

Or go straight to the manufacturers

Just because your new Form 1 or B9 came with a specific resin doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with other resins. There are a few light-curing resin manufacturers out there that will sell to any joe off the street. Bucktown Polymers is a name frequently dropped around the RepRap forums, and for good reason: they have UV, visible light, and IR curing resins available in a huge array of colors.

Judging from a little research, Bucktown resins are available for about $50 a quart, although for a while earlier this year it seems they were selling it at $220 a gallon (or $55 / quart).

Another notable vendor of UV resin is 3D Ink, purveyors of an orange and clear resin priced at about $75 a liter. If versatility in materials is what you’re after (or you simply live in Europe), Spot-A Materials in Spain sells flexible, hard, and elastic resins for between €68 and €78 ($92 to $105 USD) per kilogram. Spot-A also sells dyes for their resins, giving the SLA experimenter a more diverse palette.

Judging from price alone, it appears the most innovative resin manufacturer is MakerJuice who offers two resins of varying viscosity and shrink for $40 and $45 per liter. Not only do they also offer pigments, they’ll also pre-mix colors and sell you a quantity smaller than the kilogram/quart/liter other suppliers offer. 500 ml comes to around $25 from MakerJuice, a pittance compared to what UV resins were selling for a few years ago.

Now compare this to plastic filament

A few weeks ago, we took a look at suppliers for the cheapest PLA filament, with mean price for 1kg of PLA filament being $43.93. If you compare that to the cheapest UV resin above, it’s actually cheaper to print with UV resin than plastic filament. Let that sink in for a bit. Only a few years ago, printing a plastic octopus or Yoda head on an SLA printer would have cost far more than the actual value of the object. Now, we’re looking at a world of disposable plastic trinkets with unparalleled accuracy printed for just pennies.

As the price of resin comes down, be on the lookout for cheaper resin printers. As the technology improves, we should be looking for proper SLA printers – either cheaper Form 1s and B9s or upscaled Peachys – that approach the $1000 price barrier.

56 thoughts on “3D Printering: You Want UV Resin?

    1. The environmental impact isn’t too bad when the resins are solid. When they are liquid they are generally dangerous (household cleaner dangerous). If you drink them you’ll die, splashing them in your eyes will probably blind you.

      The good news is the disposable isn’t too difficult. Most of them will set in direct sunlight. If you can leave them in direct sun until they harden you can dispose of them easily with standard household disposal.

  1. I’d like Hackaday to flag more visibly what is the main link to the source page/product/kickstarter/whatever. Use a different link color, make it bold, put starts around it or whatever. For some posts I’d rather click through to the original immediately (no offence!) without skimming through text to figure out which of all the green links will lead me there. And maybe some other readers feel the same.

  2. If you want cheap resin, just buy a few kilograms of copycat Irgacure 784 photo initiator in hong kong along with a ton of cheap photo-don’t-care-resin, add color (sudan II does a good job for that), mix it all together for a few days and you’ll have the finest, cheapest photopolymer you can imagine. But if you start selling it then, you better live in a country where BASF cannot sue you for stealing their intellectual property since they’ve got the patent on the initiator (actually on the way it’s synthesized, but that won’t stop them) and they sell their licenses rarely and expensively. That’s why photopolymers are either expensive, illegal, or both. Check out my build at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrmQFqIotYM

      1. Hit alibaba.com, type photoinitiator, contact a supplier, they will be able to provide you the right formula for your needs. Even if you purchase elsewhere, this is a good source for chemical know how. It’s not difficult to mix three ingredients.

        1. I’m not sure I’d recommend someone new to UV resins and monomers dink around with HDODA given its draize value. That said, it’s one of the less expensive UV monomers out there…

          1. This is very true, it’s not a low VOC, but neither are the cheap ones from the cheapo-dot-com shops out there. We’ll soon release some low VOC tutorials as well, they’ll still be cheaper than off the shelve resin. With respect to health, I think its a bit like circular saws, if you know what you do you probably won’t get hurt, but there is also always a first time and the tinkererscene is not where it is right now if it wouldn’t have some kind of affinity to finding out how thinks work.

    1. (UV resin formulator here) You make it out to be MUCH easier than it actually is to come up with a good formulation for UV SLA and FYI Sudan is NOT used in a UV formulation specifically as a colorant.

      1. Thats true, tuning is the key, but this is what seperates hacked stuff from off the shelf. More initiator >> shorter exposure time, more color dye >> thinner layer height. 30g of initiator for 1kg resin is good, for color dye use sudan II, so does Spotamaterials. You can choose almost any curing monomers, oligomers or vinylesters that suit your mechanical needs, such as the shore hardness if you go for strength. If they cure with regular hardener, they will also cure with a photoinitiator. It’s the same radical reaction happening, just photoinotiated.

      2. Hacker here. Thats true, custom tuning is the key, but this is what seperates hacked stuff from off the shelf. More initiator >> shorter exposure time, more color dye >> thinner layer height. 30g of initiator for 1kg resin is good, for color dye use sudan II, so does Spotamaterials. You can choose almost any curing monomers, oligomers or vinylesters that suit your mechanical needs, such as the shore hardness if you go for strength. If they cure with regular hardener, they will also cure with a photoinitiator. It’s the same radical reaction happening, just photoinotiated. And you are right, printing transparent is cool, but color dyes absorb light, resulting in thinner layers.

  3. As for comparing price, with FDM you can print hollow parts, while with resin you would capture and lose the resin this way.

    But what I really would like to know is how resin holds up strength wise. FDM printed parts in PLA,ABS or Nylon are quite strong. I’ve only seen resins used for “nice looking things” not “useful mechanical bits”, which makes me wonder.

  4. I know you say that printing with UV is cheaper, but with PLA you can tell it to print, say, 50% of the inside of the model in a raster type arrangement and even though you can do that with UVstuff as well, unless you leave a place for the excess fluid to drain out of every weave pocket after the print, it will be 100% full of resin.

  5. Daid/Ned, if you print hollow part, you will not trap resin inside since in most of these systems, the build table pulls up from the resin and only the printing layer is at the resin fill level. You may trap a small amount in the final layers, but you will not end up with a solid object if you try to print a hollow one.

    A bigger factor for the cost comparison is that FDM systems have no waste besides support structure*. With resin systems, if you have a failed print**, you may contaminate the rest of the resin in the vat. It can be filtered and reused, but with some degradation. In general, liquid resin will have a bit more waste than solid extruded materials due to transfer and other losses.

    * but these resin printers require much less support structure, which will effect some reduction in waste.
    ** frequency of failed prints will decrease greatly as you become more familiar with your equipment and should be near zero long term, but can be quite common until you get to know your machine/resin/best practices.

    (proud B9Creator owner)

  6. An idea, that would fit in nicely with the hackaday theme – I know you’ve done alternative filaments, but why not get a filament extruder and start experimenting with things like acetal, delrin and oiled nylons? Just experimental plastics, I love them but can’t afford my own filament extruder! Live vicariously through me, Brian!

  7. For ideas on future columns, perhaps you could take in in-depth look at how 3d printing has been applied in various industries. A column on the past, present and future of 3d printing in the healthcare industry for example. Or fashion.

    Another idea might be a particular technology: Who was the first to do SLS, and what did they make?

    Or a material: What are the different ways that you can 3d print metals, and what are their relative pros and cons?

    Maybe some bios on 3D printing pioneers. Who are the giants whose shoulders we are standing on?

    Lots of things you could write about. It’s great fun to print trinkets, but what does that mean in the grand scheme of things? Bigger picture stuff, to help us better appreciate the technology, its uses, and the people behind it.

  8. Strange that a resin with somewhat exotic properties can be cheaper than a common plastic. I’m glad to see such progress though, as FDM always struck me as a process that tends towards low quality, especially if you don’t tune the printer well.

    I looked up the datasheets on Makerjuice. Tensile strength is 50% higher than a random ABS, which looks promising for mechanical applications; though I know tensile strength alone is probably not the sole predictor of performance.

    I also noticed it has a six month shelf life. That’s a bit disappointing if you tend to make prints only sporadically, and I would probably fall into that category.

  9. Do any of these resins specify curing dose (i.e. exposure energy so that I can choose the power density x time)? I’m curious what rates these can be cured at using collimated not-so-dangerous bluray lasers.

    1. I’m certain they could provide this data. However the counter to that request is: do hobbyists have the money to buy a quality UV irradiance puck? They are not cheap. DLP bulbs degrade over time, so DLP folks really should have one if they don’t want to keep tweaking their system.

          1. As long as you’re not trying to print a readable blue ray disc you’ll be fine with either a better lens with a long focus of 0,5m or, for lasers in the hundreds of milliwatts you can afford the loss of a simple pinhole.

  10. >While plastic filament can be bought just about everywhere, UV curing resin is a little harder to come by and much more expensive per kilogram or liter.

    >it’s actually cheaper to print with UV resin than plastic filament.

    Again with this shit, HaD.

  11. Now here is an idea. Start off with a cube of UV curable resin in the form of a soft gel, plastic or solid. Use three UV lasers that articulate around the object to be created. Where the three UV beams intersect the combined UV intensity exceeds a threshold and the material is cured or transformed into a curable material.

    Develop and wash away the uncured portions and voila! you have your 3D object. This has the potential of being a lot faster and accurate that the traditional layered process.

    As you say, it’s all in the chemistry.

  12. just wonder will UV curing resin merge with other PVC or ABS ?i mean ,if there is already some solid PVC or ABS inside the liquid resin,when fire UV beams,the uv curing resin will solidify,but with it merge the exist solid PVC ?

  13. Instructables has a hardware-store-only DIY “filament factory” costing about $150 in materials. Pellets to go in cost about $1/kg. Adjustable diameter. It can process about 4-5 kg per day. If it’s not illegal due to dumb patent laws, I could make money selling filament to my brother’s school at $10/kg. And maybe I could get my brother to print off parts for our own 3d printer.

  14. I wonder why FunToDo resins, one of the biggest and fastest growing resin providers in the world isn’t mentioned?
    FunToDo sells affordable quality resins since november 2012. We have castable resin, Industrial resin, and several other blends. With distributors all around the world, you can buy your resins locally, no hassle with import duties and against local shipping costs. Visit us on http://www.funtodo.net and visit our facebook page for the latest news!
    See you soon!

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