Elegoo Saturn Journey to a New Frontier
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
Make3D TV provides an interesting insight into the development of the Elegoo Saturn, the issues faced by early adopters and the measures taken by Elegoo to resolve the early teething problems.
As most of you know, the Elegoo Saturn is the big brother to the Elegoo Mars series resin 3D printers, and for those of you who are looking into getting one, I wanted to tell you about the various issues that some people had with their early-bird pre-orders. Elegoo was very responsive to the early-bird adopters and they have successfully addressed these issues in the most recent production models that were released last fall and early this spring.
Elegoo did their first batch of 2000 Saturn pre-orders back at the beginning of June 2020. There was so much interest that the first batch sold out within minutes. As a result, there were a lot of Elegoo fans that were really upset that they had missed out. So, Elegoo being the winning brand that it is, offered a second batch of 2000 pre-order units a week later. The last batch of pre-sale orders were shipped during the first few weeks of November 2020.
Elegoo has been releasing new resin 3D printer models at a hectic pace and they acknowledged that this had been, to some degree, at the expense of quality. On September 15, 2020, they addressed this on their Elegoo Mars 2 Pro Facebook page. They said that they were not going to be releasing any new printer models for the rest of the year, and that they were going to focus on improving the existing models. Their statement was as follows:
Here we’d like to share our view with you on the product iteration and release of our printers.
The Mars printer was launched two years ago (2018). With the birth of the product, we reflect and summarize the improvements that can be made to a printer, and we received an ocean of feedback and questions over Mars from our loyal customers. Based on our experience and people’s voice, we released the Mars Pro, and even later the Mars 2 Pro. It is the law of product development that we research improved machines, also it is the requirement for our own innovation. As the growth of communities goes fast, so too does the customers’ needs for more diverse printers.
Kindly believe that our goal is to create better quality, more efficient and versatile machines through our manufacturing experience and by responding to the different needs of our customers all along.
Beyond that, in the second half of the year we will not work on launching a new unit but will be focusing our full attention on Saturn, Mars 2 Pro, Mars Pro and Mercury Plus. While keeping in touch with our customers closely, we’re about to continuously strengthen quality control and optimizing the customer experience. Thank you all for your understanding and support along the way. Should you encounter any kind of problem using Mars or other machines, feel free to email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re all glad to help you out.
The response from customers was overwhelmingly positive and Elegoo made good on its promises. With that said, let’s discuss the issues that became apparent with the early-adopters of the Elegoo Saturn.
One thing that was a bit of a disappointment for some people is that, even though the Elegoo Saturn has a much larger build volume and a higher resolution screen, it doesn’t actually generate much finer quality prints than the Elegoo Mars and Mars Pro. The Saturn beta units originally came with an 8.9 inch, 2K screen. That quadruples the pixels of the Mars and Mars Pro, so naturally, one would assume that you’d get a higher resolution. But, when you do the math, the pixel size with the 2K screen was 75 microns, compared to 47 microns on the Mars and Mars Pro. Even though the final production units ended up with the 4K monochrome screen, it still doesn’t stack up to the Mars and Mars Pro in terms of resolution. Although the 4K monochrome screen allows the machine to print quite a bit faster with a large build volume, its pixel size still only comes in at 50 microns as opposed to the Mars and Mars Pro’s 47 microns. So the Saturn generates prints with only a very slight improvement on resolution, but you do get the larger build volume and the time-saving benefits of the monochrome screen.
LED Array Grid Problem
The LED grid array problem, dubbed “grid gate” by some, was an issue with the LED array and diffuser that caused dark spots in the LCD screen. The result was a grid pattern or, in some cases, holes in the print. This was initially a problem in some batches of the Elegoo Mars Pros and some very early versions of the Elegoo Saturn. Elegoo was quick to correct this issue in the Mars Pro by sending out new LED array assemblies, but some customers complained that this did not completely remedy the issue. In my case, my Mars Pro was in one of the first batches, which wasn’t affected. They were able to correct this issue in the Saturn before they shipped the early bird models. It seems that the solution for the Saturn may have been with the brightness adjustment. Here’s something that I found interesting:
the Saturn actually has brightness controls for the LED array! In one Facebook post, Elegoo had instructed a customer to manually adjust the brightness of their LED array, using the controls shown here. [Show Image]. I followed up and asked that customer if he had actually tried it. He replied that he hadn’t, stating that he didn’t want to mess with it because he paints most of his prints anyway. This has been a problem with most resin 3D printers that have the LED array set up. I have the same problem with my EPAX X1K and, when I spoke to EPAX about it, they said that there is no way to completely eliminate the grid pattern issue in printers with the LED array setup. As a result, I suspect we may see manufacturers moving away from the LED array, like Elegoo has with the Mars 2 Pro.
Build plate damage during shipping
Some early bird customers received their units with damaged build plates. The issue seemed to be the result of insufficient protective packaging. Elegoo was able to address this problem and issued the following statement on Facebook:
“We have learned that some of our customers found serious damages to the build plate of Saturn.
After an internal meeting with our production team and logistic dept, we think the damages have something to do with transportation but the root cause would be more likely related to the protective foam inside the package, which didn’t provide enough protection then caused the scratches and cuts on the plate.
We have urgently changed the foam structure today and add thicker protection over the plate. Hopefully, this issue won’t happen again from the next orders we’re going to fulfill.
To those customers who had a damaged built plate please contact our service team at email@example.com and we will send you a new build plate via UPS/DHL and a bottle of resin to make up your loss.
If you feel like the damages won’t affect your printing and you don’t need a replacement, please also let us know the situation and as compensation, we will send you a free gift as well.
We appreciate your support of ELEGOO and we do apologize for the inconvenience caused so far in terms of delayed shipment and the build plate issues. Your trust will make ELEGOO thrive and we will put out all our endeavours on the production, quality control, and customer service. Thank you.”
Customers on facebook later confirmed that the issue had been addressed. My unit arrived in flawless condition with absolutely no damage.
Apparently, in order to get the Elegoo Saturn to function properly over the network, you need to have your thumb drive inserted. For larger prints, the process seems to be very slow. I assume this is because the file has to be copied onto the thumb drive. It also has to be a direct ethernet connection. There is also a WIFI solution using an ethernet WIFI adapter. Of course, this solution obviously won’t speed up the process, but it’s an option.
Loose Stepper Motor Mount Screw
Some of the early bird pre-order Saturn units arrived with loose screws. A few users on facebook had documented that their Z-axis stepper motor mount screws had come loose. This resulted in the z-screw coming loose and dropping the build plate into the vat while printing (picture). If you do place an order for this machine, you should do an inspection of the unit to ensure that all screws are properly tightened. Check these specific screws before you attempt a print.
Failed Prints due to Lift Speed and Height
So, I need to define a few terms before going into this one: lift height, lift speed, and retract speed:
Lift Distance: The distance that the build plate raises your print between each layer.
Lift speed: The speed at which the build plate pulls your print from the FEP film.
Retract speed: The speed at which the build lowers your print back onto the FEP film for the next layer.
Some early-bird users noticed an issue with the way the Saturn’s build plate was lifting and they suspect this may have caused some unexplained print failures. The problem appeared to be that the Saturn was lifting for half of the specified lift height and the specified lift speed but, for the second half of the lift height, the speed had suddenly increased to the retract speed. It would then lower at the specified retract speed. A sudden increase in lift speed could tear the print from its supports or cause layer separation and, thus a total print failure.
Users in the Elegoo Saturn 3D Printer owners group on Facebook found an issue in the Saturn’s Gcode configuration file. They found the code that specifies the lift distance at the slower speed before kicking into the higher speed. It turns out that slower speed value was not high enough for the print to separate from the FEP film before kicking into the higher speed and the print would fail. Julian Scheutze posted a YouTube video on how to change this setting in the gcode for your Saturn. Greg (3DPrintingPro on YouTube) has also suggested that this change be made. See his video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJDJPj8Fg18. In the comments to Greg’s video, Julian posted an update:
“Hey Greg, just letting you know that I deleted the video on the “turbo zoom” fix, as it’s now outdated. Elegoo Posted an official update on how to better tweak settings, and the VROOM settings as presented by the Atlas Discord seem to be working regularly well for many people. Both of those surpass the methods as described in my original video.”
Elegoo made the following statement regarding this issue on the Elegoo Saturn Facebook group:
we have been receiving some feedback over the “overriding lifting speed” on Saturn in the recent past. Thank you all for your feedback and suggestions.
All Saturn machines we send out apply stable parameters that are ready for normal print. Saturn printer is currently set to lift with a distance of 7mm. The model is lifted first by a slow rise of 3.5mm, a fast rise of 3.5mm, a fast drop of 5mm, and then a slow drop of 2mm. You can rest assured that the lift speed is set by our technicians after many tests, and this method ensures that the time consumed in motion is reduced while the model is successfully printed.
In case that you are experiencing difficulties on account of the excessive speed, containing a model failing to print, just make contact with our support technicians at firstname.lastname@example.org. They will make each effort to help you get it sorted out.”
Users disagreed with Elegoo on this, stating that their engineers did not quite think this through. They argue that these parameters should not have been hard-coded into the printer’s configuration file and that control should have been given to the users in their slicer software parameters. They contend that this problem typically isn’t an issue with larger prints, but that smaller detailed prints tend to get ripped off of their supports.
Elegoo’s approach to this problem seems to be to deal with users on an individual basis if they have problems, instead of making a universal change in the gcode configuration file.
Elegoo recently updated their resin settings sheet to include the Saturn and one thing that stands out is the optimal printing temperature of 25-30 degrees Celsius, or 77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Controlling
the ambient air temperature can be challenging if you don’t keep your printer in your living space. Even so, the upper end of that temperature range is a little warm for me.
Now, if you can’t control the ambient temperature, you may have to extend your exposure times. You can also preheat your resin with a reptile heating pad or with your ultrasonic cleaner. Using the Mach5ive Blackout Cover can help to retain some of the heat that the machine generates, in addition to blocking the UV light that the acrylic cover can let in.
Elegoo has also recently teamed up with the Practical Printing blog and created two new profiles specific to Siraya Tech resins for the Saturn and Mars 2 Pro printers. The following are related links:
Practical printing: http://practical-printing.com/
Holes in the FEP Film
There seems to have been a few early-bird Saturn users who set up their machines, poured resin in their vats, and attempted a print only to realize that their FEP film had a hole in it. Of course, the resin leaked all over their machines. My friend Samuel Rowan ended up with this complete mess. The resin had completely hardened on his screen and there seemed to be no way to clean it up. Elegoo has been responsive to his complaint and they are sending him a new screen.
This exposed what I consider to be a pretty serious design issue with the LCD screen to date: there is literally no protection against resin spills or scratches. This diagram shows you how the screen is designed. Elegoo put polarizer film on top of the LCD glass and there’s no protection against a resin spill. In addition, the polarizer film can be scratched very easily. Initially I thought that, if this happened, one would have to completely replace the screen, but it seems as though there may be a way to fix it. I think the resin can probably be removed by peeling or scraping off the polarizer underneath. One Facebook user said that he has been able to replace his polarizer with a standard A4 sheet of polarizer film that can be purchased on Amazon.
In order to completely avoid this headache, many users are protecting their screen with an extra sheet of FEP film. The standard Mars replacement FEP film is the perfect size for the Saturn screen. You can tape it down with kapton tape. If you don’t want to make this solution yourself, my company provides a screen protector kit, designed specifically for the Saturn. We also provide one for the Anycubic Photon Mono-X, which has the same screen. You can just leave the existing screen tape on and put this solution over the top. This will keep any spilled resin from leaking into your printer and you’ll have an extra layer of protection over your screen and polarizer. These protection solutions are also available for other resin 3D printers at Mach5ive.com.
As of this writing, more recent batches of the Elegoo Saturn have arrived with some pretty nice upgrades to the z-axis mechanics. Elegoo added extra brackets to the base of the z-screw arm, more screws to the top plate, and wider linear rails. This may have been done in order to further stabilize the z-screw and prevent layer lines typically caused by z-wobble.
I’m impressed with the job Elegoo did introducing this new mid-sized resin 3D printer to the 3D printing community. They listened to the early-adopters from the very beginning and were very responsive to community feedback. Suggested improvements are continually being implemented in subsequent releases of the Saturn. As a result, Elegoo has produced a quality product that doesn’t disappoint. The Saturn doesn’t stray from the expectations set by their previous Mars series resin 3D printers.
Christopher Lannon is the host of Make3D TV on YouTube, where he aims to help makers achieve success with their resin 3D prints. He also owns Mach5ive, a 3D printing accessories brand. Mach5ive products can be found on Amazon and Mach5ive.com.