Prusa Research has been a leader in 3D printing for the last 10 years and only recently released its first resin printer, the SL1. While the SL1 was a decent machine, it didn’t wow me, as it had no big selling point compared to other, more budget-friendly choices on the market. The new SL1S, however, has something no other resin printer I’ve used has: absurd speed.
- Superb build quality
- Fast prints
- Incredible detail
- Wash and cure is simple and easy
- Price is very high if you’re a hobbyist
Resin printing is already faster than printing on a standard 3D printer, but the SL1S takes this to the extreme. Resin uses an LCD screen to cure resin one layer at a time, rather than a standard 3D printer that has to draw each layer in plastic. This means that whether you print one model or 10, the print time is the same for resin printers.
Generally, on a printer like the AnyCubic Photon Mono, the print time per layer is around 2.5 to 2.8 seconds. While that may sound fast, the 1-second print time of the SL1S puts it to shame. I’ve printed models the full height of the printer in less time than the Mono can print a model one-quarter the size. It’s truly an impressive experience. Part of that speed comes from the settings, but most of it is in the design of the printer itself. Each of the moving parts is made with precision, and all of the removable parts feel great in the hand. It has a premium quality that you don’t find in a lot of resin printers. The Prusa SL1S is not cheap, but more importantly, it doesn’t feel cheap.
Before we go too much further, I’d like to offer a word of warning: Resin 3D printing is both exciting and daunting. While it’s possible to make exquisitely detailed models using UV light and resin, it is also far messier than its filament-based brethren. Resin 3D printing requires safety measures such as nitrile gloves, respirators and safe storage to make it an enjoyable hobby. That being said, it’s a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.
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Details are everything
If you’re looking to use your 3D printer for business, or if you’re aiming to make exquisitely detailed models, then you really need to opt for resin over filament. It can capture details like no other, and the Prusa SL1S delivers wholeheartedly on that front. As you can see from this dark dryad by Fotis Mint, every crack in the bark skin is captured brilliantly and the details make it feel like it is alive.
It helps that Prusa can control the entire stack when it comes to your resin printer. Prusa makes every level of the 3D printing system, from the slicer that preps the model to the resin you put in the machine, you can optimize the experience if you use all of the company’s products. That’s not to say you have to use them, but it works best if you do.
To give you an idea of the level of detail the SL1S is capable of, these minis (above) are just 2 inches tall, and each tuft on the barley has printed perfectly. I don’t even have a tool to measure how small they are, but I know they are challenging to print. Even the small pen in the OSHA goblin’s hand has printed well.
The Prusa SL1S seems built with the business user in mind. Rapid prototyping has always been essential in manufacturing, and being able to iterate on 3D printed models in a few hours rather than half a day allows you to bring your product to market that much sooner. If you’re an Etsy user selling jewelry or Dungeons & Dragons minis, then the SL1S lets you print more of your product faster, saving you the most precious commodity: time.
There is a lot of mess associated with resin 3D printing. To make a resin print safe to handle, you have to wash it in isopropyl alcohol and cure it under UV light. Before the birth of the wash-and-cure machine, we used to clean our prints in a random bowl and then leave them in the sun to cure. This resulted in a lot of prints over-curing, under-curing or just looking bad in general.
The CW1S washing and curing machine fixes those issues by being as self-contained as possible. It has a metal tank with a magnetic spinner to clean your prints and strong UV lights to cure them all over. It works very well, although, for some reason, the washing container isn’t quite big enough for a full-size model. The top of the dryad, for example, hits the propeller inside, which could potentially break it. That being said, there is a basket that lets you wash multiple minis at the same time, speeding up the whole process.
The only limiting factor to buying a Prusa SL1S is the cost. At $2,600 for the bundle — this includes the CW1S and the SL1S printer — it might feel like a huge investment, but if you’re buying for a small business or if you’re someone looking to rapidly prototype a product, that investment is undeniably tempting. The sheer speed at which the SL1S can print detailed models makes the initial outlay seem less of a burden and more of a belief that your business can succeed.
When it comes to my own workshop, I use the SL1S consistently as my small-scale 3D printer of choice. When I can make a model in less than half the time of another printer this size, why would I use anything else? I would recommend buying the bundle rather than the standalone printer if you have the money to do so. The difference in price is $600 extra for both the wash-and-cure unit and the 3D printer – $2,000 for the SL1S and $2,600 for the CW1 And SL1S together — but the extra money is worth the time you save by having an efficient workflow.