First thing you’re going to want to choose is a resin and this isn’t a lifelong commitment, but it helps you get a general idea of what resin you like. I break resins into three main categories- water washable, standard resins and engineering resins. I use a lot of engineering resins but depending on what you’re printing you might want to use one of the other two and that’s really going to drive a lot of the decisions you’re going to make going forward.
Number two is a washing solution. Once you print a resin 3D print, you need to get all the excess resin off of it. Again, this is really contingent on what kind of resin you’re using. If you’re using a water washable resin, you’re going to wash it in water and that’s going to have a different kind of washing solution than an engineering resin that only wants to be in isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol for 30 seconds. So if we’re using a water washable resin, you might be able to use something like an ultrasonic cleaner. It’s super easy and super convenient. Quick note about water washable resins, DO NOT do them in the sink. DO NOT wash uncured resin down the sink, that’s not what water washing means. You need to have it in a container and you need to dispose of it properly which usually means setting out your container in the sun, curing all that resin, filtering it out and throwing it in the trash.
If you’re using a standard resin that likes to be cleaned in 90 to 95 IPA then you can probably use a wash and cure station. These have a combination of a big bucket that goes in that has a magnetic stirrer on it and stirs it up and cleans the resin off that way. It also cures but we’ll get to that in a second. If you’re using an engineering resin, you probably was a large, airtight container. I use Siraya Tech Sculpt, Siraya Tech Build and Siraya Tech Fast. All of these are indicated by Siraya Tech to not want to be in your cleaning solution for longer than 30 seconds. Most of the washing machines I’ve seen have a minimum of 30 seconds on the timer. You could throw them in there and pull them out early but it’s just too much of a hassle in my book. You might as well dunk them in there, rinse them off, dry them and do it over and over again.
A Curing Solution
That leads us to the curing solution. Now, you can get a wash and cure station. I have a couple and I only really use them for curing like I mentioned. I use engineering resin but you can also go dirt cheap. You can even go basically free with the sun depending on the resin you use and on where you live. If you like in a place that doesn’t get a lot of sun, it’s probably not a good choice but at the beginning you can just pop this thing out in the sun, maybe put it on a mirror or something with a reflective surface. It’ll take a long time but it’ll cure eventually.
You can also cobble together your own curing box. I cobbled one together with UV LED lights and a CFL UV bulb. I put those inside of a box, mounted with some reflective tape and got a cheap little UV powered carousel rotator and it works great. You know the only reason I moved away from that to a normal curing station is that I would just walk away and forget things were curing and I would cure them for 24 hours and it was a total mess. You can easily put it on a timer if you wanted to and it cures just fine, you just want to make sure your UVs are in the 395 to 405 nanometer range. That’s what’s going to cure your resin and away you go. Curing stations are pretty cheap now, the curing stations are also very nice too. Some have rotating trays and have a timer. They generally work really well and generally have high quality UV lights and they’re not terribly expensive. You can get them for around $200-$295. The one I have is around $300 and it’s great.
Now we get into the safety zone- gloves. You do not, under any circumstances, want to handle uncured resin or get it on your skins or eyes. The first defense of that is gloves and I actually have two different kinds of gloves. I have some very large, long sleeve nitro-chemical resistant gloves that I use for, what I call, bulk operations. Those are things that don’t require a ton of dexterity like when I’m getting things off the build plate, or pulling the build plate out of the printer when I’m done. You can usually use these big, bulky gloves when you’re doing those sorts of things and they’re going to be okay. They’ll also last forever, you can dunk them in your cleaning solution, rub your hands together to wash them off and they last a long time. I’ve had mine for like eight months now and they’re still going strong. The second type of glove you want to get is what you see a lot of people using which are the nitrile gloves. These are the exam gloves that you see at a doctor’s office. These are great but the cost really adds up so I only use them when I’m doing something that requires a little bit more dexterity, a little bit more fine control. Generally, if I have a screwdriver in my hand and I’m unscrewing the build plate to level it, I’ll have these gloves on. It really just depends on what you’re doing and how much dexterity you need and how much cost you want to incur over the life of your printer. I usually pick them up at Harbor Freight, they have the best deals but of course you can also order them on Amazon or wherever you typically shop.
Eye and Respiratory Support
Next up is eye protection. So I really can’t see up close so I’m generally rocking my glasses which aren’t the greatest eye protection but still decent. You don’t want to get uncured resin on your skin, you definitely don’t want to get it in your eyes. That’s going to be a trip to the ER which is not good. So goggles glasses, general eye protection is something you definitely wear. Resin tends to splash sometimes, removing things from the build plate, things pop up or pop off. I’ve dropped entire bottles of open resin on the floor, it’s easy to make a mess with resin, trust me.
Another thing you’ll need is some sort of respiratory support. You can use a respirator in this case, you want to use one that’s rated for organic chemicals. I have a link HERE to one that I just picked up. It needs to have vapors and activated carbon to get out all of the chemicals coming in. You can also use a variety of venting solutions, I have a 1600 CFM vent fan in the ceiling up here. When I’m moving around a lot of prints, when I’m printing a ton, I have that thing running. It’s very loud which is why it isn’t running right now. So that fan will evacuate the air in my space oncer every two minutes. One of the things that I use, specifically if I’m dealing with bulk resin (especially my soft plastic lures) is I take out these bad boys for proper eyewear and ventilation. I know some of you are thinking that’s total overkill. But, we’re doing this for fun, the last thing you want is to feel like crap afterwards because your eyes or nose is burning or you’ve sucked in some cancer-causing chemical. It’s not cool, stay protected.
Next up, I really love these silicone mats. Now, there’s companies that make 3D printer silicone mats but at the end of the day, it’s still a silicone mat. I ordered these either triple or double XL pet food silicone mats that are fantastic. They have a lip around the edge and this is great to contain any resin spills you have. They’re much easier to clean up than most tables, since I have stainless steel prep tables it doesn’t have a lip so it makes a mess if it spills. With the mats having a lip, the spilled resin is contained inside the mat and makes it super easy to clean up.
Last, if it wasn’t already clear you don’t want to have a resin 3D printer in your house or anywhere you’re going to be hanging out a bunch. You need to have that printer outside in an unconditioned space. Most resins like to be a little warmer when you print them, some of them have very specific ranges. Again, engineering resins that I use (Sculpt Build Fast from Siraya Tech) like to be at least above or at 25 degrees Celsius. To get optimum print results, that probably means that you need some sort of heating solution.
Everyone enjoy your resin 3D printer and make some awesome stuff.
Take Care- Tight Lines.