The Best Resin Printers for Miniatures - March 2021 Edition
This is the second part of our Complete Beginners Guide series, you can read the first part here that covers the basics of printing tabletop miniatures, before going on to read our recommendations of the Best Printers for Miniatures.
Having established that the only choice for printing great quality miniatures is Resin Printers lets get to the nitty gritty and get you on your way to picking a great printer and printing out those armies.
The good news is that there is a great choice, from budget entry level, mid range to higher end printers and the cost may surprise you. Our top recommended budget friendly entry model which is more than capable of producing high quality 28mm scale miniatures comes in at under $230! With the advance to Mono Screens that are capable of faster print speeds there is no reason now to accept anything less when considering your first printer. For the budget entry level we consider the target prices to be under $230 with Mid Range from $250 to $500 and the high end under $1000.
Best Budget Printer - Under $230
At the budget entry level there are increasingly more low-cost resin printers to be able to keep up with and that is not even taking seasonal discounts and promotions into account. However we have selected those printers that offer outstanding value for money below the $230 price point that are ideal for the beginner. It is true that it can be difficult to set one apart from the other on technical specifications alone. From our three recommendations here the Creality LD-002R is the currently the cheapest of our three recommendations followed by the Phrozen Sonic Mini. Both of these alternatives lack the print volume of the Elegoo Mars 2 and coupled with the lower XY resolution lead us to pick out the Mars 2.
Phrozen Sonic Mini
Best Mid Range Printer - $250 - $500
Now that Mono Screens are widespread and considered baseline this price point becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate printers from the budget entry level above, but we can recommend our top pick among the current crop as described below.
Elegoo Mars 2 Pro
Elegoo are in an unusual spot with this printer now following the release of the Mars 2 which we picked out above. On the face of it the specs of this higher priced machine are identical to the newly updated Mars 2 with the exception of a built in Activated Carbon Filter on the Mars 2 Pro and a 10mm increase in the Z Height. The jury is still out in how effective these filters are in removing and eliminating the odours and VOCs (Volatile organic compounds) and as a result we would always recommend you select a well ventilated area for your printer. Right now, until Elegoo sort the pricing we cannot recommend the extra $80 for the Mars 2 Pro over the Mars 2 as other than the filter and extra 10mm Z height it is the exact same machine.
Phrozen Sonic 4k
The Phrozen Sonic Mini 4k as the name suggests is one of the first entry level offerings to offer a 4k 3840x 2160 Ultra High Definition screen providing incredible detail at a very impressive 35um. As we can see the Mini 4K bears a lot of resemblance to the Sonic Mini above however these pint sized heavy weight crams in a 3840 x 2160 4K resolution screen compared to the 1920 x 1080 resolution screen offered in the Sonic Mini. As such, this increase in resolution allows the Mini 4K to print highly detailed crisp miniatures. With an XY resolution of 35 microns this little machine is one of the highest among budget entry level models. We would like to have seen a little bit of an increase in the build plate area and also the placement of the USB port brought round to the front.
AnyCubic Photon Mono SE
The Photon Mono SE is an upgraded stable mate to the Photon Mono at the entry level point and unlike Elegoo there are several differences that set it apart from the Photon Mono. While both printers offer the same screen and 2k resolution the Mono SE is equipped with a dual rail Z Axis providing much greater stability together with a beefier build plate carriage. In addition the printer is equipped with a WIFI antenna however this does not allow you to upload print files remotely and only serves as a connection to connect with AnyCubics print monitoring app. Finally you can see this machine is encased with a cover and a lift up access door, this can make it a little more difficult for access.
EPAX have been building a strong reputation among 3d printers and typically tend to be a little more expensive, for this reason the E6 did not make it into our entry level category. For the E6 they have taken a little bit of a different approach to some of their competitors. What does remain similar is that the E6 is fitted with a 2k HD screen and offers a comparable print area and resolution. Where EPAX differ is their approach to the VAT and build plate. Rather than all metal construction, EPAX have opted for a fully molded VAT and partially molded build plate. While in part this decision has been taken to remain competitive EPAX will point out that this reduced cost is a benefit to the end user when replacing a VAT for example. Finally all EPAX printers are supplied with the companies own nFEP with a special blend of Teflon that Epax claim reduces the vacuum suction force, which should result in less print failures.
The bigger stable mate of the LD-002R . Which in a similar approach to Elegoo includes an Activated Carbon Filter, however unlike Elegoo, Creality have also increased the build plate size area on this revised model offering a 130 x 82 x 160mm build plate compared to the slightly smaller one found on the LD-002R. Creality on this printer are one of the few to include a VAT fill level indicator but unfortunately did not actually ident the ml increments. While this is the cheapest of the options in this Mid Range category it is nice to see that Creality have included some nice quality of life features such as the fill level indicator and the VAT hard location stops making it easy to position the VAT correctly each time.
Best High End Printer - Under $1000
For miniature printers, in an already crowded market of budget friendly consumer resin printers there are only so many ways to stand out from the competition: resolution, print volume and speed. In early 2020 the time was ripe for manufacturers to bring forward a series of larger printers offering a mid size build area when previously the choice had been the budget offerings or much more expensive options not necessarily targeted at the home enthusiast. A such this new crop of mid size machines were eagerly anticipated. For a completely new miniature printer these machines are probably over kill, particularly if table top miniatures will be your main interest. However as you become familiar with the technology these machines open a new level of possibilities not just being able to print more models in one go, but larger pieces. So lets have a look at the current crop.
Elegoo were one of the first to hit the market with the eagerly anticipated Saturn and during early pre sale release these printers were snapped up in minutes such was the demand. Today stock can still be limited such is the popularity. While the printer shares a lot of commonalities with the Mars the screen of any printer is what we call the “business end” and the Saturn does not disappoint with a whopping 8.9″ 4K UHD Screen. Coupled with a print area of 192 x 120mm the Saturn is able to achieve an XY resolution of 50um for great printing detail. With the increase in build plate area Elegoo have introduced dual linear Z Axis rails to ensure print stability. Finally, the Saturn is the first of the printers in this round up to include an Ethernet port on the back of the printer as well as the traditional USB port for transferring your files to the printer.
Phrozen Sonic Mighty
So from Phrozen who introduced the first Mono Screen with the Sonic Mini, followed quickly by the first 4k screen on the Sonic Mini 4k, comes the Sonic Mighty. It is mighty, with Phrozen managing to cram in a massive 4k 9.3 inch mono screen giving a huge print volume of 200 x 125 x 220 mm. Similar to the other printers in this category the Phrozen Sonic Mighty uses a dual linear rail for additional print stability. We are disappointed that on the Mighty Phrozen have remained with the somewhat tiny 2.8″ touch screen display and for this printer USB file transfer remains your only option as no Ethernet is included.
AnyCubic Photon Mono X
Hot on the heels of the Elegoo Saturn, Anycubic joined the party in late 2020 with the comparably spec’d Photon Mono x equipped with a 8.9″ 4k mono screen with an identical print area of 192 x 120 mm resulting in a 50um print capability. One thing that AnyCubic seem to do differently is Z height and on the Mono X this is no different, offering a Z Height of 245mm. Therefore the Mono X has the larger build volume compared to the Saturn. For these larger machines we would expect noting less than the dual linear rail set up. As found on the Photon Mono this printer is fitted with the same WIFI antenna which in the first instance can be fiddly to set up and only offers the ability to connect to the printer via AnyCubic’s monitoring app. This App while being a nice idea really only serves as a means to monitor, pause or change print settings and would have been far more useful if it provided a way to connect to the printer to upload print files direct from your slicer.
As stated before EPAX have a strong reputation for high end Resin printers and their entry into the budget consumer market has been very well received. The EPAX E10 is no different and while on the face of it, the printer equipped with a 8.9″ 4k screen with a build area of 192 x 120 mm seems very comparable to the Saturn it is EPAXs approach with this machine that makes it a little special. From this base machine EPAX will offer an upgrade kit allowing you to replace the screen with a 10.1″ 5K UHD screen together with a larger build plate with an area of 216 x 135mm resulting in a print resolution of 45um, so bigger better detailed prints for the cost of an upgrade. It is true that the EPAX pricing sits at the top end of this group but with this modular upgrade approach you are given the opportunity to further increase your printing capabilities for a few hundred dollars rather than shelling out for a new machine. This is a novel approach taken by EPAX and one that I hope is taken by other manufacturers.
At the time of writing there is no better time to enter the world of table top miniature printing with a great selection of capable machines to choose from. For the most budget conscious the Creality LD-002R is the most wallet friendly option to consider followed closely by the Elegoo Mars 2.
For the mid range the EPAX E6 is a great choice, however these can be difficult to source outside of the US and therefore for non US the AnyCubic Photon Mono SE would be a great alternative.
Finally if you are wanting something a little bigger than what the most budget friendly printers can offer we are very excited about the EPAX E10 in particular for the upgradability options the printer offers in the future. For non US it has to be the Elegoo Saturn, the pioneer in this current crop of Mid Size Printers for miniatures.
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