With price reductions and improved print quality, the 3D printer market has changed significantly over the last few years. With the AnyCubic Photon Mono X, which costs $599, SLA printing continues to improve. It isn’t the cheapest price we’ve seen for SLA printers, but it’s still more than reasonable for a capable 3D printer that makes impressive prints.

We also tested the Anycubic Wash and Cure Plus, which using UV lights washes, and cures the prints produced by the Anycubic Photon Mono X.

PHOTON MONO X 3D PRINTER: SPECS

Size: 18 by 11.4 by 10.6 inches

Print Size: 9.6 by 7.5 by 4.6 inches (331 Cu. in)

Type: SLA Resin

Photon Mono X 3D printer review: Design

photon mono

Photon Mini X is a Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer, which uses a light source to turn liquid resin into solid objects. The final product is formed by layering this solid material on a metal plate and then repeating the process to create many more layers.

SLA printers are more expensive than FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printers because they build layers using melted plastic rather than FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). SLA printers, on the other hand, produce more intricate prints with finer detail because they use finer layers. (Form Labs’ Form 3 is our favorite SLA printer, and it costs $3,499). The default layer height of the Photon Mono X is ten times larger than the layer height of a typical FDM printer at 0.01mm.

Despite its size, the Photon Mini X is a small printer compared to its print size: It produces prints that measure 9.6 x 7.5 x 4.6 inches, or 331 cubic inches in total. A hood covers the printing area, which shows the printing process but blocks UV light.

Unlike most SLA 3D printers that use lasers to zap resin, the Photon Mono X uses a panel of ultraviolet (UV) LEDs and an LCD screen directly above and below the resin tank. Basically, it works like the backlight on your HDTV: it shines through the screen where the pixels are on but remains blocked where they are off. The final print is roughly 0.01mm from each pixel on the screen. In other words, the screen has a resolution of 4K (3840 x 2400 pixels). The sheet is made of fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP), which is solidified by UV light.

Due to UV damage, both the screen and FEP film must be replaced after heavy use. The monochrome screen of this model will last thousands of printing hours, while the FEP sheet needs to be replaced every 20 to 30 prints.

In addition, monochrome screens are faster: unlike color LCD screens, which are typically used in SLA printers, monochrome screens have no filters that block red, green, and blue light. As a result, printing will be faster since more light will come through. Approximately 2.3 inches can be printed per hour, according to AnyCubic.

It is similar in size and shape to the printer. UV LED arms to bend at their ends to cover the entire print as an alternative to the print head. There is also a washing vat with a built-in agitator for mixing liquid materials.

Photon Mono X 3D printer review: Print process

photon mono

Using the Mono X software, Photon Workshop creates prints using both Windows and OSX.  Printed 3D models can be loaded into this 3D slicer and then ready to print with just a few clicks. Modifications such as moving, multiplying, and scaling models can then be saved and printed. Although Photon Workshop enables editing existing models, there is no creation function.

While a print is being created by the Photon Workshop, it can be automatically supported, and later removed. The printing failures we experienced, however, were caused primarily by incorrectly placed supports; therefore, I would normally add automatic supports, then manual ones where problems might occur.

There is an interesting feature here that allows you to divide models. Photon Workshop can slice up large models into smaller ones. Once each piece of the model has been printed, the pieces have adhered together. There may be other slicer apps that could benefit from that trick.

Anycubic also has an Android and iOS app that you can use to start a print or to monitor its progress. Although you cannot upload a print file to this app, knowing the progress of a print is quite helpful. Ideally, there would be a camera included on the Photon Mono Xr to check if prints are working, but there isn’t one.

With this machine, as soon as the print is complete, it is washed for any liquid resin to be removed from the print and cured to solidify the resin. When you remove the prints from the bed, you can either wash them in isopropyl alcohol or mount them in one of two slots in the basket that is included. It has a capacity of 8.5 liters (2.25 gallons). Sometimes it has to be a lot, but sometimes it will be enough to cover the print completely. Hand sanitizers commonly contain isopropyl alcohol, but it isn’t always readily available.

When you’ve placed the print, you select the length of time it should be washed for and then press the start button. During the stirring process, an agitator alternates directions every 2 minutes so that every crevice is cleaned.

Having washed and dried the print, it can now be removed. On the Wash and Cure Plus, the rotating platform is used instead of the alcohol container to cure the print. As with the original device, the cure time is controlled by a dial. Depending on the size of the print, this will take between two and five minutes.

A towering arm above the platform rotates to expose the print to the UV light generated by the LEDs mounted on it. You need to replace the UV-blocking plastic cover before you start. Such high UV intensities could affect your eyes.

Photon Mono X 3D printer review: Print speed

The Photon Mono X was printed in just 7 hours and 35 minutes on our 4-inch high Thinker test model. This is significantly faster than most printers in its class. For instance, it took just over 13 hours to print the same model at the same size on the Peopeoly Phenom.

Thinker models are usually printed vertically so that printers with insufficient build plates can print the Thinker lying down horizontally. With enough print space available to handle this, the Photon Mono X took only 3 hours and 56 minutes to print this direction.

Photon Mono X 3D printer review: Print quality

Excellent prints can be obtained with Photon Mono X. I had clear, sharp edges in my prints, as well as organic curves and surfaces. For testing, we used three models: Rodin’s Thinker, planetary gears, and a geometric sculpture.

This sculpture mimicked the real thing in terms of intricate details, seamless curves, and organic styles. As a result of its precise interlocking surface and clean, sharp edges, the Geometric sculpture was a success. The grey resin we tested for this printer produced quite a bit of dust and residue when we fixed the gears together.

However, we noticed some issues with prints: sometimes, layers were loose, causing the resin to flake. There are a few layers in the inner calf of the right leg of The Thinker that does not adhere to the layers above them. Furthermore, the printed layers of the geometric sculpture appear to have been pushed down during printing, flattening one of the points.

In most cases, the problems can be fixed by tweaking the print. However, the loose layers and squashed points suggest that the object would perform better from a different vantage point.

This indicates that most 3D printers need some tweaking and retrying to achieve their best quality prints.

Pros Cons
High-quality prints Some print failures
Fast prints Slicing software produces inconsistent supports
Large print size for low cost SLA printing is still a mess, stinky business

Conclusion

This AnyCubic Photon Mono X makes it easier to afford SLA printing than ever before. Although it still takes some time and effort to print (and you will need disposable gloves and a mask), it is relatively simple after that.

Even though SLA printing can still be time-consuming, some Photon Mon X prints have failed and have had to be reprinted. You may wish to purchase Wash and Cure Plus as well. Cleanup and curing of SLA prints are much easier with this product.

Both allow you to print large prints of high quality at superfast speeds and for less than $800. Photon Mono X 3D printer is the perfect tool for anyone curious about 3D printing and who wants to do heavy-duty printing.