Photon Mono X 3D printer: Specs
Size: 18 by 11.4 by 10.6 inches
Print Size: 9.6 by 7.5 by 4.6 inches (331 Cu. in)
Type: SLA Resin
We’ve seen the 3D printer market change over the past few years, with prices falling and the quality of the prints improving. The AnyCubic Photon Mono X continues this excellent trend by offering SLA printing for $599. That’s not the cheapest price we’ve seen for an SLA printer, but it’s definitely an attractive one for a devicer that produces high-quality prints and has earned a place among the best 3D printers we’ve tested.
As part of our AnyCubic Photon Mono X review, we also tested the Anycubic Wash and Cure Plus machine, a separate device that can wash the prints the Photon Mono X produces and cure them to harden the resin with a series of UV lights.
Photon Mono X 3D printer review: Price and availability
The Photon Mono X is available now for $559 from Amazon. The Wash and Cure Plus costs $249.99 from Amazon.
Photon Mono X 3D printer review: Design
The Photon Mini X is a Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer, which means it uses a light source to turn a liquid resin solid. This solid material then sticks to the metal print bed, which is raised, lowered, and the process repeats, creating the print layer by layer.
It’s a bit more complex than the FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) type of 3D printer, which uses melted plastic to build the layers, so SLA printers have generally been the more expensive option. (Our favorite SLA printer, the Form 3 from Form Labs, costs $3,499.) However, SLA printers produce more complex prints with finer detail because they produce finer layers. The default layer height for the Photon Mono X is 0.01mm, ten times smaller than a typical FDM printer.
At 18 inches tall and 11.4 inches wide, the Photon Mini X is a small printer for the size of prints it produces: It’s capable of producing 9.6 x 7.5 x 4.6-inch prints — a total of 331 cubic inches. Most of the volume of the printer is the hood that fits over the printing area, made of see-through plastic that shows you the printing process, but blocks UV light from getting in or out.
Many SLA 3D printers use a laser to zap the resin, but the Photon Mono X goes another route, using a panel of ultraviolet (UV) LEDs with an LCD screen above, right below the tank that holds the resin. This works like the backlight on your HDTV: the light shines through the LCD screen where each pixel is turned and blocked where each is turned off. The screen has a 4K resolution (3840 by 2400 pixels), which means that each pixel translates into a space of less than 0.01mm on the final print. The bottom of the resin tank is a sheet of clear film made of a material called Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP) that lets through the UV light to solidify the resin.
Both the screen and the FEP film require replacement after heavy use, as the UV light damages them over time. AnyCubic claims that the monochrome screen used in this model will last for thousands of hours of printing, while the FEP sheet needs to be replaced every 20 to 30 prints.
The other advantage of a monochrome screen is speed: while the color LCD screens that are used in most SLA printers have three filters to let through red, green, and blue light, monochrome screens don’t have any filters. That means more light gets through, so the printing is quicker. AnyCubic claims a printing speed of 6 vertical centimeters (about 2.3 inches) per hour, and we wouldn’t disagree: this is a fast printer.
The Wash And Cure Plus is the same size and shape as the printer, with a similar design. Instead of the print head, there is an arm covered in UV LEDs which bends at the end to cover the entire print. A removable vat for washing is also included; it includes a built-in agitator to stir the liquid.
Photon Mono X 3D printer review: Print process
The prints that the Mono X produces are set up in the Photon Workshop software, available as a free download for Windows and OSX. It’s a decent if slightly quirky 3D slicer that allows you to load one or more 3D models and set them up for printing. The models can be moved, multiplied, and scaled up and down, the saved for printing. You can’t create new models in Photon Workshop, though.
The Photon Workshop can automatically add the supports, the tree-like structures that hold the print in place while it is being produced, and which are removed later. This didn’t prove to be too successful, though: several of our print failures were caused by incorrectly placed supports, and I found that I would usually do the automatic supports, then go through and manually add more to the places on the print that might have issues.
One interesting feature here is the ability to divide models. If a model is too big to print at once, Photon Workshop can divide it into pieces. Each piece is then printed in turn and stuck together. That’s a nice trick that would be good to see on other slicer apps.
There is also an Anycubic app available for Android and iOS that you can use to start a print or monitor print progress from your phone. You can’t upload a print file from this app, but it is nice to have a way to see how far a print has to go before it’s done. Even nicer would be a camera to show you if the print is working properly, but that isn’t present on the Photon Mono Xr.
Once the print is complete, you use the Wash and Cure Plus to — as the name suggests — wash the print to remove any liquid resin and cure it to solidify the resin with UV light. Firstly, you wash the print in isopropyl alcohol, which can be done either after you remove the print from the print bed or mount the entire print bed onto one of two slots in an included basket. This large container holds a lot of liquid — up to 8.5 liters (2.25 gallons). You won’t always need that much, but you will need enough to cover the print completely. At the moment isopropyl alcohol is not cheap, as it is one of the main ingredients of hand sanitizer.
When the print is in place, you select how long you want it to be washed for, then press the control dial in to start. The agitator stirs the liquid, changing direction every 2 minutes to make sure that all of the cracks and crevices of the print are washed.
Once your print is washed, you remove the print and let it dry. After that, it is time to cure the print, which you do by replacing the alcohol container on the Wash and Cure Plus with a rotating platform. Again, you use the control dial to select how long to cure for: typically, this would be 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the size of the print.
Once you start the process, the platform rotates exposing the print to the UV light from the LEDs on the arm that towers over the print. The process won’t start until you replace the plastic cover, which blocks the UV light from coming out. That’s a good precaution, as this intensity of UV light can damage your eyes.
Photon Mono X 3D printer review: Print speed
The Photon Mono X is a speedy printer: our 4-inch high Thinker test model took 7 hours and 35 minutes to print, which is significantly faster than most printers in this class. The Peopeoly Phenom, for instance, took just over 13 hours to print the same model at the same size.
We usually print the Thinker model vertically to make it fair for printers that don’t have enough space on the build plate to print the Thinker lying down horizontally. The Photon Mono X has plenty of print space large enough to handle this, so we also tested this and found out that it was much, much quicker, taking just 3 hours and 56 minutes to print in this direction.
Photon Mono X 3D printer review: Print quality
I was impressed with the quality of the prints that the Photon Mono X produced. My prints had clean, sharp edges and smooth, organic curves and surfaces. We test using three models that test the ability of the printer to reproduce details: a scan of Rodin’s Thinker, a set of planetary gears, and a geometric sculpture.
The Thinker statue was generally well reproduced, with fine details and smooth, organic curves that looked like the real thing on the head and shoulders. The Geometric sculpture had sharp, clean edges with nice points and accurate interlocking surfaces. The Gears were easily assembled and ran smoothly, although the grey resin we tested with this printer produced a lot of dust and residue (the white material) when we screwed the various parts of the gears together.
We did notice some problems on prints, though: sometimes, some of the layers seemed to come loose, leading to loose flaps of resin. Look, for instance, at the keg in the horizontal print of the Thinker: the inner calf of his right leg has a few layers that didn’t stick to the ones above. Likewise, one of the points of the geometric sculpture seems to be flattened because the layers were pushed down by the liquid resin as the print was produced.
Most of these issues can be corrected by tweaking the print, though: the loose layers and the squashed point indicate that the print required a few more supports to hold it in place while printing, or that the object might be better printed at a different angle.
All of this indicates something that is true of most 3D printers: they still require a lot of tweaking to get the best quality prints out of them, and much of this tweaking relies on working out why a print failed and trying again.
Photon Mono X 3D printer review: Verdict
The AnyCubic Photon Mono X breaks new ground, pushing down the cost of SLA printing to a new low. It does so without making too many compromises: printing remains a slightly messy business that occasionally fails, but once you get used to the Photon Mono X (and buy a mask and a big box of disposable gloves), it is generally hassle-free and fast.
SLA printing is definitely still a process that requires patience, though, as some prints from the Photon Mon X failed and require alteration and re-printing. I would also recommend that you buy the Wash and Cure Plus, as it makes the rather icky business of cleaning and curing SLA prints much easier.
Combined, the two cost less than $800 and can produce large, high-quality prints at a faster speed than most of the competition. The Form 3 remains the SLA printer to get for professionals who need to do a lot of heavy-duty printing, but the Photon Mono X is an excellent option for at-home work by hobbyists or those curious about 3D printing.
Richard Baguley has been working as a technology writer and journalist since 1993. As well as contributing to Tom's Guide, he writes for Cnet, T3, Wired and many other publications.
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Compare prints from an FFF (fused filament fabrication) and a SLA (Stereolithography) 3D printer and you'll instantly see why model makers, jewelry designers, engineers and even dentists look to SLA as their printer technology of choice.
There's no doubt that the SLA technology enables prints that are a level up from what is achievable by a standard FFF printer, but that quality comes at a cost.
Surprisingly that cost is no longer financial, with the likes of the AnyCubic Photon Mono X coming in at considerably less than a grand. The real issue with SLA is the resin used as the 3D printable material. Why? Well, resin is messy, and at present, there's no way around that.
Once you print your SLA model, it needs to be cleaned and cured, and while AnyCubic hasn't come up with a one-stop solution, they have created a bundle with the resin printer and washing station.
The two machines complement each other perfectly and aim to streamline the usually messy process of washing and curing.
Both the LCD-based SLA printer and the wash and cure machine follow the same design style, making them a perfectly matched pair. Setting up both on the work surface and it has to be said that they look great with the bright yellow protective shield and only the simple touch screen LCD on one and dial on the front differentiating the look of the bases.
The design is simple and straightforward, helped in part by the excellent AnyCubic set-up guide that truly reflects the machines function.
The printer's design is simple, with the main print area and resin vat at the top covered by the large yellow UV protective screen, then on the front of the base is the touch screen LCD that enables you to navigate all the settings.
Power, USB and on / off switch are all located on the sides and back. It's all very neat and simple.
Likewise, the Wash and Cure follows a similar design ethic. The main washing and then curing station, once the tub is removed, are on top with a button to switch between wash and Cure with a dial used to adjust the timings.
The design is smart, simple and in using highly effective.
System: ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X
Operation: 3.5 inch Touch Screen
Software: ANYCUBIC Photon workshop
Technology: LCD-based SLA
Light-source: high-quality filament (wavelength 405nm）
XY Res.: 0.050mm 3840*2400（4K）
Z Axis Res.: 0.01mm
Layer Res.: 0.01-0.15mm
Printing Speed: MAX 60mm/h
Rated Power: 120W
Printer Size: 270mm(L)*290mm(W)*475mm(H)
Build Volume: 192mm(L）*120mm(W）*245mm（H）
Material: 405nm UV Resin
Net Weight: ~10.75kg
The UV light used by resin printers is dangerous to human eyes, and therefore the print area must be covered by some protective shield.
AnyCubic has come up with a simple lift on and off solution, it's not the most elegant solution that I've seen, but there's no faulting its effectiveness.
It may be simple, but sensors detect whether the shield is in place or not; if not, the machine will sit idle until the shield is in place.
Software for 3D printers is essential to the success of the print, and here AnyCubic has designed a relatively simple and easy to understand solution.
The AnyCubic Slicer Software enables all the adjustment, supports model splitting, slicing and previews you could need.
While SLA printer is generally faster than their FFF equivalents, the Mono X picks up the pace with Print speeds up to 3x faster than the Photon.
Looking inside the machine, you can see that AnyCubic has carefully looked at the robustness of the design with dual linear rails and solid lead screw to help reduce the risk of layer shift.
At the heart of the machine is the new matrix UV light source that delivers 4K resolution for higher detailed prints. The 8.9-inch Monochrome LCD enables short layer exposure times, helping to boost those print speeds and detail.
A feature that is becoming increasingly popular is Wifi and App integration, and here the AnyCubic App Remote control offers a convenient way to monitor prints and their progress.
Using UV to expose prints is a technical process, and any fluctuations in temperature can affect the success of the print. Within the machines base is a complex cooling system to help regulate the machine and extend its usable life.
Finally, what makes the Mono X stand out is the size of the print area. AnyCubic has designed the printer and resin vat in such a way to maximise the print area while keeping the amount required in the vat to a manageable amount.
AnyCubic has a reputation for providing solid 3D printers that require only the slightest set-up. Set-up of the Photon Mono X case follows AnyCubic's usual slick approach, remove the packaging, set the printer on a level surface and switch it on.
Once powered up, the four screws around the build plate are loosened before being attached to the vertical column.
Then the resin vat is then bolted in place, and it's just a case of following the brief instructions on screen, making sure the build plate is flat and then tightening the screws. You're now ready to print.
The process takes less than five minutes, even for an inexperienced 3D printer.
AnyCubic supply a single print cube sample for you to test the printer, this takes around an hour to print, and the quality is instantly impressive.
Wash and cure
The build plate is held to the vertical axis with a single large screwing knob, undo this, and the build plate easily slides off.
This plate is covered in resin which is not the nicest stuff, so best transferred straight into the wash and Cure.
The wash and Cure machine features a large Tupperware style tub with a drop in metal cage and an agitator at the bottom.
Over the month or so of testing, I found that dropping the whole plate into a water solution with detergent did a great job cleaning the prints up.
If you can get hold of it, then Isopropyl Alcohol, about 5 litres, is an ideal solution. Recently the price of this has rocketed as people use it for hand sanitiser, but the price is coming back down, so expect to pay around £20 for 5l.
Washing the prints in the Wash and Cure takes 2 minutes in Isopropyl and 10 minutes in water and detergent. The Isopropyl wash gains a far superior clean and finish.
Once the print is washed, everything is removed from the wash and Cure and set aside while the washing tub is removed and the curing disc and mirror installed.
The curing disc is essentially a platform where the print sits as it's subjected to direct UV rays.
But, before the curing process, the prints need to be extracted from the build platform using the provided scraper. The extraction is a challenge first, but once you get the knack, the prints pop off with a bit of effort.
Once the print is free, it's then placed onto the curing disc; yellow shield popped over the top, Cure selected on the front and the curing time. Curing times vary, but 2 minutes does most prints with a little more for larger prints. Once cured, the print should be set aside to finish hardening.
The hardening process depends greatly on the environment.
I've tested quite a few of these LCD SLA printers last year, and all have produced excellent results. However, they're not as straightforward as FFF printers, and you do need to invest time to ensure the best quality print and success rate.
The Photon Mono X makes things as simple as possible, and after the first print success, I looked at printing a selection of my 3D models.
Importing into the Photon Software was easy enough to navigate all the functions and features, density, position and punching holes for drainage etc.
The only issue I found was with the supports, as the auto support feature was a bit random, and it took a few goes to even out the support amounts.
Eventually, I found adjusting the settings and got the desired result; after this, the models started printing without issues.
Checking over the models after they printed, and the quality is excellent. Lines and surfaces are smooth, and while you can see some small blips on the edges, these are small and easily removed.
Overall the print quality is exceptional, and comparing a print from this against an FFF 3D Printer and the print quality difference is easy to see. Layer markings are far less defined, and you can print much more complex models.
Printing out a series of test models and the quality was universally good.
However, there are a few notes to the prints. Firstly supports are key to the success of your prints, so spending time ensuring that there are enough of them and that they're all in the right place is essential.
While the applications auto supports are good, the settings need quite a bit of adjustment to get them right.
When it comes to support removal, they're best removed after washing and before curing; the resin plastic is extremely hard once cured.
Next, after each print has finished, I found it's essential that you scrape the vat base to check that it's free of hardened plastic residue.
Probably the most important thing to do is to sieve the resin every three to four prints to take out the flecks of plastic that can form in the resin, it's a messy business, but once you've done it a few times, it is relatively quick and easy.
It's also worth doing this if you leave the resin sat in the vat for more than 24hours. More than 48 hours in the open and I found the resin should be disposed of.
The AnyCubic Mono X with the Wash and Cure is a phenomenal LCD-based 3D printing kit.
While small print sizes limit other similar LCD-based SLA 3D printers, the Mono X brings print sizes that we're come to expect from FFF and higher-end SLA printers.
There is little to fault when it comes to ease of set-up and use, and you can get up and running with your first print within an hour of opening the box.
While, for the most part, it's plane sailing, there are a few quirks and a step learning process compared with FFF printing.
Firstly, the build plate level is incredibly important; if you're just a little out, you won't succeed. Likewise, it's worth checking the resin for bits after each print, either by straining or using the scraper for fishing bits out. Again if there's any hard residue in the resin Vat, then the build plate will not lay flat, and your print won't work.
Next, resin printing gets better with experience, and the more you use the software and learn the best way to apply supports, the more success you will have.
Tilting models, adding rafts and supports is all required to gain the best results, but there's also an element of experimentation which for those new to resin printing, means that there's a steep learning curve.
Ultimately, once you learn to work with the resin, keep things clean and work out a logical workflow, there's little that can go wrong.
The result for the initial mess and experiments is more than worth it; the quality of the prints is exceptional, being as close to injection moulded as you can get from home.
If you want to take the step from FFF to SLA, I would highly recommend the Photon Mono X.
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Imaging Lab Manager
Ali Jennings is the imaging lab manager for Future Publishing's Photography portfolio. Using Imatest Master and DxO Analyser he produces the image quality tests for all new cameras and lenses review in TechRadar's cameras channel. Ali has been shooting digital since the early nineties and joined Future's Photography portfolio back in 2003.
Anycubic Photon Mono X
4K monochrome LCD
The Anycubic Photon Mono X is one of the first 8.9 inch LCD printers to have a newly developed 4K monochrome LCD display. With this new technology, the Photon Mono X prints at unbelievable printing speeds so that it only needs 1-2 seconds per layer - compared to conventional LCD 3D printers with 7-8 seconds per layer.
The monochrome LCD is also thermally stable and has a much longer service life than conventional LCD displays. You can print up to over 2000 hours with it!
Despite the large installation space, the Anycubic Photon Mono X has a very high precision of up to 50 microns, which is achieved thanks to the high 4K resolution. In combination with anti-aliasing, you can create large and very detailed works of art.
New matrix light source
The new matrix light source has been redesigned and consists of several UV LED lights that have a more even exposure. This not only improves accuracy but also enables faster exposure times and better heat dissipation.
Anycubic App Remote Control
The Photon Mono X has a WiFi module, so you have much more convenient connectivity than conventional 3D printers. You can also connect your Photon Mono X using the Anycubic app, where you can monitor your printing process or adjust the print settings.
Dual linear rail
With the enlarged building platform, increased stability is also a very important addition. Following the trend of its smaller LCD counterparts, the Photon Mono X has two linear rails on its vertical axis to ensure that the build platform remains level throughout the printing process.
Own slicing software
The self-developed slicer software from Anycubic is far more superior in speed and operation compared to various other slicer freeware. The software also supports anti-aliasing for nicer printouts.
UV cooling system
An integrated cooling system for the UV exposure unit to increase printing performance and service life.
- Qualitative power supply
- Automatic shut down when opening the top cover
- 3.5-inch touchscreen
- Details down to 50 microns
- Wifi module
- Stable Z-axis
- Structured platform for better adhesion
- Marking in the metal resin tank for max. Capacity
The Anycubic Photon Mono X is the largest printer in the Photon family of printers and offers a lightning-fast, 2-second per-layer cure time thanks to the included 4K Mono LCD used for masking. An impressive printer that doesn’t compromise between speed and size, the Photon Mono X offers the best of both worlds while remaining at the sub-$600 price point. The XY resolution of .05mm is comparable to smaller 3D printers that use lower-resolution screens such as the Anycubic Photon Mono or the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro. Despite a few quirks that require some attention to get the most out of the Photon Mono X, the included Photon Workshop software is relatively easy to use.
Anycubic Photon Mono X Specifications
|Machine Footprint||10.63" x 11.42" x 18.7" (27cm x 29cm x 47.5cm)|
|Build Volume||7.55" x 4.72" x 9.84" (192mm x 120mm x 245mm)|
|Resin||DLP Photopolymer Resin|
|UV Light||405nm UV LED|
|Masking LCD Resolution||3840 x 2400 px|
|Masking LCD Size||8.9-inch|
|Interface||3.5-inch LCD Touchscreen|
|XY Axis Resolution||.05mm|
Included in the Box of Anycubic Photon Mono X
The Anycubic Photon Mono X ships in a reinforced box with all of the included accessories nested inside the printer. All of the accessories required to use the printer as well as enough consumables to get you through a couple of prints are included in the box. This includes a bag with several rubber gloves for handling the resin, a hospital-style fabric mask, a plastic scraper for stirring resin, a metal scraper for removing parts from the build platform, a few paper funnels for recycling the resin after printing and a few extra screws. I appreciate that Anycubic includes a paper copy of the assembly instructions with the printer, which is always a nice touch when first getting the print up and running.
Design of Anycubic Photon Mono X
The Anycubic Photon Mono X looks like a standard resin 3D printer from a distance, but take a closer look and you’ll see a machine that is built with high-throughput in mind. A bright and distinct yellow color, the UV-resistant lid feels solid but not brittle, and the base of the machine has a groove that runs along the edge which mates up perfectly with the lid. The metal base of the machine feels sturdy and bottom-heavy, which inspired confidence that this machine was made with high-performance components.
The large build platform of the Photon Mono X means that the amount of force required to pull the build platform up will be higher than machines that cure smaller cross-sections of material. To avoid bending or any wobbling in the Z axis, Anycubic has built a rigid Z-stage that uses a threaded rod and a pair of linear rails to move the build platform up and down between layers. This is a solid mechanical system, and I was impressed with the overall fit and feel of the all-metal gantry.
The build platform has a taper on two sides which is designed to allow resin to drip back into the vat after it has lifted clear of the resin. It works reasonably well, but the resin has a tendency to pool around the edges and has to be scraped back into the vat manually with the plastic scraper between prints. The surface of the build platform has a brushed aluminum surface which has a high level of adhesion and is easy to clean.
Unfortunately, the design of the build platform includes four upward-facing bolts which can submerge into the resin vat during printing. The build platform bracket also has a slot cut in the center which fills with resin during printing and is difficult to clean. This is a poor design choice, as the flooded area drips uncured resin into the groove cut between the bracket and the platform. This build platform design is difficult to fully clean manually, and requires a lot of scrubbing to get into the various nooks and crannies to remove uncured resin when switching materials or colors.
The Photon Mono X uses a resin vat with a removable FEP film liner on the bottom, unlike the proprietary FEP assembly found on the Photon Mono. This means you can replace the FEP film (a consumable) with either a direct replacement from Anycubic or any number of aftermarket replacements. The FEP film is held in place with 14 rear-mounted bolts and 22 smaller bolts that keep tension on the film after mounting. My favorite feature of the resin vat on the Photon Mono X is the four small studs at the corners of the vat which elevate the FEP film above whatever surface it’s sitting on. Puncturing the vat can be a messy experience, so keeping it suspended above a flat surface will keep it above anything that might make an indentation.
The base of the Photon Mono X has four locating holes which the vat uses to click into place. This means the vat is held in place while it’s being tightened down with the two included thumbscrews. The vat also has a pour spout integrated into one of the corners, so draining resin back into a bottle doesn’t result in a mess.
Included with the Photon Mono X is a small antenna to enable the built-in WiFi capability, which attaches to the base of the printer on the upward-facing surface directly behind the resin vat. The WiFi on the Photon Mono X was a disappointing experience since the connection isn’t actually used by the Photon Workshop app. Using the WiFi requires a complicated set-up that involves putting your password into a .txt file and manually uploading it to the printer. The WiFi is only used to communicate with a mobile app that lets you monitor the print, view the printer history, and adjust a few parameters while printing.
I was able to get the mobile app working, which felt like a major victory after the half hour I spent fiddling with the .txt file to get the printer to recognize my network. The Anycubic 3D iOS app currently has a 2.5/5 rating on the iOS App Store and multiple complaints from users who weren’t able to get it working with the Photon Mono X.
Despite getting it working, I had a hard time finding any real reason to use this app instead of just checking on the printer directly. Without a webcam, a progress bar doesn’t actually inform you how much of the print has finished, only how much of the print should have finished. In addition, the lack of an ability to upload, process, and send a file to the printer means that this app isn’t likely to see a lot of use.
The Photon Mono X uses a 3.5-inch color LCD touchscreen as a primary interface. The UI feels a little dated (it reminds me of the default WinAmp skin), but it contains all of the functionality required to calibrate the printer and start a print. You can also use the LCD touchscreen to pause, stop, and monitor the parameters of the print during a print job. The printer has the USB input, power switch, and power input located on the side of the machine which makes it easier to access than reaching behind the machine to turn it on and off between jobs.
Leveling the Build Platform on Anycubic Photon Mono X
Like most resin 3D printers, the Anycubic Photon Mono X requires a manual calibration process to ensure the build platform is perfectly level with the masking LCD. This allows each layer to cure evenly between the build platform and masking LCD while only adhering to the platform. The included printed user manual and the digital .PDF included with the USB drive cover this process in detail, and also include pictures to show the calibration process step-by-step.
This calibration process is the same as the process used by the smaller Anycubic Photon Mono, and it works about as well. I’m not a fan of the four bolt process, as over-tightening the bolts can cause the build platform to shift slightly during leveling. The two bolt ball-and-socket build platform leveling used by the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro and Elegoo Saturn is easier to use, and provides a very consistent leveling experience with less manual input required.
Printing Safety with Anycubic Photon Mono X
The Anycubic Photon Mono X uses 405nm UV resin, a material that you need to handle safely when in an uncured state to avoid injury. The resin can be harmful when making contact with skin, so make sure to wear gloves when pouring, cleaning up, or handling uncured resin. I also make sure I’m wearing gloves when removing the build platform after a print, as the resin tends to pool on top of the platform and can drip off while the platform is being removed.
Make sure you use the Photon Mono X in a well-ventilated room to minimize the danger from inhaling fumes. Any spills or uncured resin stuck to a surface should be cleaned using 99% Isopropyl Alcohol and the container for the resin should be kept closed and secured when not actively pouring material.
Anycubic sent a bottle of their Plant-Based Eco Resin for testing this printer. This material is advertised as being made from soybean oil and is a biodegradable eco-friendly alternative to other thermoset resins. The exposure times for this resin are similar to standard photopolymer resins, so I didn’t make any modifications to print settings for this material. Another advertised feature of this material is the low odor; something I did notice and appreciate during printing.
Printing the Included Test Print on the Anycubic Photon Mono X
The Anycubic Photon Mono X includes a prepared test model on the USB thumb drive, and it’s the same model that is included with the smaller Anycubic Photon Mono. The model is a thin lattice structure in the shape of a cube with the Anycubic Photon logo suspended internally. I opened the file in Photon Workshop to see what settings were used, and I was surprised to see a 1.5-second per-layer cure time and a 45-second bottom exposure time, as opposed to the default 2 second per-layer cure time and 40 second bottom exposure used by the Photon Workshop.
The leveling of the printer wasn’t dead-on for this first print, and you can see the bottom few layers of the cube have been compressed together and formed a ring around the base. Despite this slight compression, the base of the model measured 35.05mm in diameter at various points, which is within the advertised .05mm / 50 micron accuracy of the machine. Printing a lattice structure like this is always an ambitious test for most 3D printers due to the thin walls and lack of support structure, but the Photon Mono X printed the model without any defects or issues.
Preparing Files for Printing with Photon Workshop
The Anycubic Photon Mono X is compatible with Anycubic’s slicer app, called Photon Workshop. Photon Workshop allows users to import 3D models, hollow them, add support structures, export 3D printable files, and more. Interestingly enough, the USB drive included with the Photon Mono X doesn’t include any software, so I downloaded the latest version (2.1.24) from the Anycubic site. While I appreciate the fact that this would encourage a user to download the latest version of the software, it might be an issue for anyone who is expecting the printer to ship with the software already loaded on the drive.
Adding a support structure to a resin 3D print is a critical step, and the overall experience of generating support structures with Photon Workshop left me underwhelmed. Unlike the support structure on an FDM printer where the support keeps the model from collapsing, the support structure on a resin printer keeps the part suspended from the build platform without falling. Resin printers lift the part between layers, so the thicker the cross-section of the part, the more force is required to separate it from the FEP film on the bottom of the vat.
To combat these peel forces, adding a tilt of 45 degrees or so will minimize the cross-sectional width and make a part easier to print. Unfortunately, Photon Workshop doesn’t lift the part after this tilt is added, so models will typically need to be manually raised on the Z axis to add supports underneath the model. This operation is performed automatically in Chitubox, a similar slicing app used by the Elegoo resin 3D printers like the Saturn and the Mars 2 Pro. This seems like a small step, but the lack of support generated on those initial layers can be the difference between a successful print and an unsuccessful one.
I used the 32mm miniature Throne 3D model from Loot Studios as a benchmark piece for testing the latest release of Photon Workshop. I’m using the Anycubic Plant-Based Eco Resin, so I selected ‘Plant-Based’ as resin type in Photon Workshop. Changing this setting doesn’t seem to change any print settings and I’m not sure that it makes any impact in the finished print. With a per-layer cure time of 2 seconds and a bottom exposure of 40 seconds for the first 6 layers, the Throne model had an estimated print time of 3 hours and 42 minutes. After exporting the 3D model, I transferred the file via USB and started the print on the Photon Mono X.
The model printed perfectly, and the hybrid automatic/manual support structure held the model firmly to the build platform. After washing the model using the Anycubic Wash and Cure Plus, I easily removed the support structure and put it back in the Wash and Cure Plus for a cure cycle. Despite the small size of the part, the fine details and thin structures were strong enough to stay attached to the model while the support structure was being removed.
The detail on the model is crisp and in-focus, and the even the fine detail on the fabric of the seat of the throne is easily visible. This level of detail is what I would expect from a printer with an XY accuracy of 50 microns, and it is equivalent to the results I’ve seen from other resin 3D printers with a similarly advertised accuracy.
Washing and Curing Models with Anycubic Wash and Cure Plus
The Anycubic Wash and Cure Plus is an accessory designed to complement the Anycubic Photon Mono X and make post-processing resin 3D prints a clean and easy process. After printing a model on a resin 3D printer, there are three important follow-up steps. First, the part has to be rinsed of excess resin using an isopropyl alcohol solution. Second, the support structure must be manually removed from the model. Third, the model must be cured in a UV chamber to fully polymerize and solidify the resin. This can be a really messy process, and the Wash and Cure Plus provides a clever solution to this problem. Anycubic sent us the Wash and Cure Plus along with the Photon Mono X, so we could test the full workflow from liquid resin to finished part using these two machines.
After a print is finished on the Photon Mono X, the build platform will lift clear of the vat. This allows you to remove the build platform and clean the part, and also gives any accumulated resin time to drip back into the vat without spilling onto the printer. I printed the bust of Alexandra Uthgrade from Loot Studios, which prints in two pieces and is also hollow to reduce the amount of resin required for printing.
The Wash and Cure Plus uses a plastic basket with a magnetically-driven impeller at the base and a metal basket that safely holds the parts above the impeller. After placing the parts in the basket, I ran the wash cycle for 4 minutes, which created a vortex in the basket and did a thorough job rinsing the excess resin from the part. The magnetic impeller ramps up in speed and changes direction during the wash cycle, so the part is evenly rinsed of excess resin.
The basket can be lifted from the tank without touching the isopropyl alcohol, which is something that I really appreciate Anycubic designing into the machine. After letting the alcohol air-dry from the parts, I removed the support structure from the part by peeling it off. The support structure wasn’t difficult to remove in the semi-cured state, and the alcohol wash got rid of the film of resin on the part.
Once the model has been rinsed and the support structure has been removed, the model needs to be cured before it can be safely handled. The Wash and Cure Plus features a strip of LED lights that fully cure the resin and the very top of the strip can be angled down to cure the top of the model as well as the sides. The Wash and Cure Plus uses a reflector strip underneath the transparent spinning base to cure the underside of the model, which means the model is being cured fully as the plate rotates.
Once the curing process is complete, the model can be painted, sanded, coated, or simply left as-is. The grey color of the Anycubic Plant-Based Eco Resin is a favorite of mine because it shows a lot of detail and contrast without being difficult to photograph. The completed bust looks impressive, with a high amount of detail visible on the armor and even individual hairs visible on the eyebrows.
Printing a Full Build Platform on the Anycubic Photon Mono X
With an 8.9-inch 4K masking LCD, the Anycubic Photon Mono X has a strong advantage when compared to most resin MSLA 3D printers due to the large XY footprint of the machine. Resin MSLA 3D printers operate by curing a single layer at a time, so for the most part, printing one part or 10 parts takes about the same amount of time. The large build volume of the Photon Mono X is ideal for printing multiple parts, so I printed 11 parts simultaneously to test out the throughput of the machine.
Photon Workshop easily handled all 11 models and didn’t slow down during slicing, despite the ~20 MB file size per part. Photon Workshop gave an accurate estimate of 3 hours and 26 minutes to print all of these models simultaneously. This type of throughput is beneficial for anyone printing large quantities of parts. The Photon Mono X is capable of making lots of small parts in a short period of time, especially when compared with an FDM 3D printer like the Elegoo Neptune 2 which has a print time that is tied to the amount of material usage (doubling the number of parts roughly doubles the amount of time).
Another benefit of using a post-processing station like the Anycubic Wash and Cure Plus is that the parts can be processed as a batch. I put all of these parts in the wash basket of the Wash and Cure Plus and rinsed them as a single batch, which offered substantial time savings when compared with rinsing each model individually. After removing the support structure, the parts could also be cured in a single batch, which again reduces the overall amount of time from liquid resin to finished part.
Printing 32mm miniatures can be a challenge due to the amount of detail present on the models and the difficulty in removing the support material typically present. For instance, one of the models had a shovel on his back, which had a handle that was about the same thickness as a column of support. The Anycubic Plant-Based Eco Resin separated easily from the model and I didn’t have any issues with the models being too brittle or breaking during printing. There are some small marks left on the model from the support removal process, but they didn’t seem to be any better or worse than similar marks left on models printed by the Elegoo Saturn.
Comparison of the Anycubic Photon Mono X vs. Elegoo Saturn
X anycubic photon
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