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What next?...FDM vs SLA vs SLS

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  • What next?...FDM vs SLA vs SLS

    I have an Ender3 Pro (FDM - FUSED DEPOSITION MODELING) printer, I've just been made redundant and like the idea of using some of that payout to go to the next level in this new extra hobby of mine.

    My immediate thought was Prusa I3 but they also make a great resin printer which started me thinking, do I get a better filament printer or go to the next level and get a resin printer.

    Next level would be STEREOLITHOGRAPHY (SLA) or SELECTIVE LASER SINTERING (SLS) but I want to keep outlay to around £1200

    Does anyone here have experience of these other technologies? Would resin be tough enough for chassis, gears, guides etc?

  • #2
    Kevan,

    Somewhere I read that the resins used in resin printing are both expensive and toxic. If true, not something I'd consider appropriate for hobbyists.

    I've learned from your other posts that you still have not branched out from PLA (PolyLactic Acid) as a printing material. Before you buy a new printer you really owe it to yourself to experiment with some different materials. There are a lot of them that your Ender 3 Pro can handle.

    If you want a material tough enough for chassis, gears and guides, you should try PETG (PolyEthylene Terephthalate, Glycol Modified). I have been printing PETG parts on my own Ender 3 Pro, and been very happy with their toughness, strength and quality. I have had great success printing in layers as thin as 0.04mm (0.0016 inches). PETG has become my go-to material. I only use PLA for large, low-stress parts anymore. My most recent PLA part was a stand for the body of a digital thermometer I use for my filament-drying machine.

    I am also using TPU (ThermoPlastic Urethane) for parts that need flex, as well as OBC (Olefin Block Copolymer) for flexible parts that are a bit stiffer. OBC is considerably lighter than most other materials, but its poor bed adhesion has been an issue.

    And I have a reel of ABS that I haven't even tried yet. In the past I have used ABS sheet in projects. My gut feel is that jobs I might try in ABS would be done better in PETG. But I really need to play with ABS and see if it has properties that make it better suited to certain applications.

    I also have a virgin reel of Nylon filament. We can't print Nylon on our box-stock Ender 3 Pro printers. They need an upgrade to an all-metal hot end, due to the high temperatures required. But I consider Nylon to be the best filament material currently available for production engineering parts. Nylon is a true engineering thermoplastic, wonderfully strong and tough. It does, however, soak up moisture like a sponge. Drying the filament is a must. Moisture content has a substantial effect on the properties of finished parts.

    I am planning to upgrade my printer to run Nylon, and I am hopeful that will turn out to be a great investment.

    Every one of these filament materials has its advantages, quirks, and disadvantages. I have spent weeks, months exploring them, and while I have learned a ton, I am still just getting started.

    I can compare my Ender 3 Pro to a motorcycle. A complete novice can get on board and motor around the block, and maybe not hurt himself. But even an expert rider will probably need time on the machine to learn its true capabilities, and be able to exploit them to the fullest.

    Ed Bianchi
    Last edited by HO RacePro; 06-27-2020, 06:22 AM.

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    • #3
      SLA = Resin.
      If you're happy with your Ender, then get an Elegoo Mars or something. No need to get a Prusa unless you just can't get what you want out of your Ender, and think FFF/FDM can be better. I've seen great prints out of those Ender 3.

      SLS is just not to consumer level yet, AFAIK. Plus, it's hazardous handling is even worse than resin.

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      • #4
        The Ender is OK but not giving me the print durability I require from my designs. I know I'm cramming a lot in there and if SLA can give me cleaner stronger prints then I can live with some additional cleaning work. The Elegoo Mars looks good, I'll have to do more research. Thanks Greg.

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        • #5
          There are lots of materials you can try with your Ender, though getting an all metal hot end will open the doors to other materials. I'm sure there's an upgrade you can do on your Ender 3 for that, if you want to give higher temp materials a try. Also, depending on your failure points, there are some things you can do to enhance that in your prints.

          SLA is strong. Cured resin, like the cast stuff, and there are similarly a variety of materials you can try. The resolution will certainly be better. If I got one, I'd be cranking out figures for my track.

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          • #6
            Kevan,

            I have replied to your post, but it won't appear until an administrator declares it NOT spam. Arrrggghhh!

            Short version -- you have GOT to try printing in PETG! Your problem isn't the machine, it is the material.

            Ed Bianchi

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            • #7
              Approved. Sorry. It's annoying for us, too.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post

                Short version -- you have GOT to try printing in PETG! Your problem isn't the machine, it is the material.

                Ed Bianchi
                I know you're right...but I'm warming to the idea of a resin printer, the Elegoo Mars Pro and Anycubic Photon S are much less financial outlay than I realised.

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                • #9
                  ...one thing I hadn't fully appreciated was the cost-per-print, resin parts are going to cost much more than FDM printed ones.

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                  • #10
                    Kevan,

                    What are the issues you are having with your printed parts? Why are you so down on your Ender 3 Pro?

                    Again, I don't think your machine is to blame. I have the same machine, and I have been producing really strong, durable parts with very fine detail that I am quite satisfied with. The only issues I have with my PLA parts is the material itself. It doesn't hold up very well as a highly stressed part. But that is not the fault of the machine. It could be the fault of poor parameter settings, but it isn't. My parts are dense and properly fused. But if I try to hold a printed part in place with a set-screw, the retaining force soon goes away due to plastic 'creep'. PLA just won't stand up to high stress for very long. It distorts.

                    Forgive me for continuing to harp on this, but there are better materials available, and your Ender 3 Pro can print many of them. One of the best I have found is PETG. I have been printing it in layers as thin as 0.04mm! And frankly it is as easy to print as PLA.

                    Yes, PETG costs about twice as much as PLA. About US$55 per kilogram. But you get an awful lot of parts out of a kilogram. I'm still on my first reel.

                    My greatest frustration with printed parts is my own design screw-ups. Too often, once I have parts in hand, I realize I have designed-in features that either are too large, too small, or in the wrong place. Or an 'improvement' I was all hot for, when I see it in reality, leaves me cold.

                    That is why I am burning through a whole stack of revision numbers on some of my designs. The good news is I can make changes and produce new parts so very quickly. But more importantly, I am getting huge doses of humility dumped on me. Humility is a huge part of good design.

                    Ed Bianchi

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                    • #11
                      Ed, I do like my machine and fully realise that PETG is what I should be using as a minimum. I'm at the stage whereby I'm balancing spending money on the Ender against putting that money into a better machine that could open the door to even more desirable materials in the future. Besides the usual printed upgrades the Ender is still stock.
                      I bought this because it was the best low budget printer and didn't know whether I'd like 3d printing or not, now I love everything about 3d printing especially designing from scratch, I just want to be able to get the best out of that process.
                      Yes there are better materials to print with but there's also better machines to do it. I'm thinking long term here whilst I have the opportunity.

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                      • #12
                        Kevan,

                        I am not sure what you might gain from a 'better' machine. Finer resolution? Reduced backlash? Better temperature control? Greater temperature range?

                        Yeah, well, greater temperature range is definitely available. Although replacing the hot end of your Ender 3 Pro printer will achieve that and only set you back maybe US$100. I don't see anything to gain in those other areas. Tiny fractions of a millimeter is all you can hope to gain, and I have to wonder what that would be worth.

                        Yes, you can get automatic bed leveling out of the box. But you can go weeks without ever needing to level your bed, so is it that painful to do manually?

                        The other thing is printer technology is galloping ahead -- probably not in terms of mechanics, but in software and user interface. What was unobtainable a couple of years ago is standard issue today. And what cost thousands of dollars quite recently now goes for hundreds.

                        Is there new tech bubbling below the surface, soon to erupt and change everything? Probably.

                        Take a lesson from what happened to personal computing in our own lifetimes. Remember floppy disks? Memory measured in kilobytes? Dot-matrix printers? Cathode-ray-tube displays? Command-line interfaces? Mechanical mice?

                        We have come such a long way!

                        I think you'd be much better served by saving your money, at least for now, and learning how to make the most of your existing machine and all the materials it can process. It is still very much cutting edge.

                        At the very least, when you do decide to buy a new machine it will be cheaper and have a few useful tweaks. But there is a good chance that, if you wait a year or three, your new system will be worlds ahead of what is available now.

                        What new tech are we waiting for? Dang. If I knew that I'd mortgage my house to invest in it!

                        What I would put money on is there is something coming at us that is worth waiting for. A lifetime of watching tech evolve makes me certain of that!

                        Ed Bianchi

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                        • #13
                          For someone who does not have a 3D printer, I'm talking about myself here - the #1 reason I don't is because of the TIME it takes to print something. I've been an AutoCAD professional for a good part of 20 years and can easily create any part I would ever think of for any of my hobbies or other. Just recently with the advent of newer electronics are printing times coming down for some technologies. This is the one thing left out of this discussion thus far. Time It Takes To Print something.
                          Ed - would you buy a new Ender or whatever if it printed items you normally print in Half the time? With all the same qualities you mentioned. Of course you would! The elephant in the room is that it takes days sometimes to print a quality body on a filament machine - and that doesn't include the clean up of the part to get it to a level that qualifies it to be painted and finished with decals!
                          Time to print is the #1 reason I would get a resin printer today. Cover your skin while handling the parts and you have nothing to worry about, so the fact that people say they aren't good because of health reasons is a cop out IMO. Like with anything else, handle the materials Safely and Properly and you have no worries. Molten glass is extremely dangerous to work with but that doesn't stop us from making some of the most beautiful things with it.
                          ...Just my two bits worth...

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post
                            Kevan,
                            Yes, PETG costs about twice as much as PLA. About US$55 per kilogram. But you get an awful lot of parts out of a kilogram. I'm still on my first reel.
                            YEESH! Heck no! Unless you're overpaying for something so-called "premium" or infused with some other material (CF, for example), then PETG is about the same as PLA and ABS. You should absolutely NOT be paying more than $30 for a "normal" 1kg spool of PETG. I usually don't pay much more than $20.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by dinglebery View Post
                              The elephant in the room is that it takes days sometimes to print a quality body on a filament machine...
                              You might want to look back into it. If you're talking about a 1/32 body at highest quality (0.05mm layers) on a typical FFF machine (0.4mm nozzle, etc), then it would take less than 16 hours, depending on a variety of other factors, and could be much faster if your printer has an appropriately stable frame and good mechanics. Start it the night before, and you've got a finished body by the time you're moving around the next day. ;-)

                              A resin print of the same model, at 0.025mm layers (which would be pretty much invisible since SLA layers are smoother than FFF) would be less than 6 hours.
                              Last edited by MrFlippant; 06-28-2020, 08:25 AM.

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