Tom’s Hardware is supported by the audience. When you make a purchase through a link on our website, we may receive an affiliate commission. Learn more
Anycubic Photon Mono is an MSLA resin 3D printer that provides fast printing speed, highly detailed models and a seamless user experience at a very affordable price.
Based on its specifications alone, Anycubic Photon Mono is an impressive MSLA resin printer, and when you consider the retail price of approximately $230, it becomes a knockout. The curing time for each layer is about two seconds, Photon Mono can quickly print tall, highly detailed parts, while providing a seamless print preparation experience through the accompanying Photon Workshop software. Quality of life features, such as the inclined build platform to prevent resin accumulation and the pour spout on the resin bucket, make this machine easy to use and easy to use.
The resin storage bucket and build platform are included in the package, but are not assembled on the printer. In addition to the components required to assemble the printer, Anycubic also includes many common consumables used in resin 3D printing in the box: several paper filters for filtering unused resin, and one for surgery to wear when handling resin A mask, a bag full of blue nitrile gloves (you will experience many of these gloves) and a pair of scrapers to remove parts from the build platform and resin bucket.
Photon Mono uses an LCD with a resolution of 2560 x 1620 to selectively shield the 405nm UV light source, which can cure the liquid resin in the tank. The LCD is accurately affixed to the upward-facing surface of the base to keep it level with the top and prevent any resin from leaking into the machine. The base of Photon Mono is made of injection-molded plastic, which is slightly less sturdy compared to the solid metal base on Elegoo Mars 2 Pro.
The resin tank is held in place by a pair of easy-to-tighten thumbscrews that clamp into a recessed circular feature to maintain rigidity when the build platform is lowered onto the FEP film.
The Z movement is controlled by a threaded rod, which is kept rigid by a linear bearing that moves along the Z axis. The build platform is suspended from an arm, which appears to be a solid piece of aluminum that feels firm and does not bend much during the printing process. This means that the build platform will be completely separated from the FEP film on the barrel after each layer is exposed, making the printer more reliable.
The resin barrel itself has some surprises that caught me off guard, but compared to the typical featureless rectangular barrel I expected, this is a welcome change. First of all, a scaled volume legend is directly imprinted on the wall of the barrel, so you can determine the rough amount of resin in the container at a glance. It also has a pouring spout (and a lip) in one corner, which means that the process of pouring the resin is cleaner than hard edges, and the liquid will overflow and reach the bottom of the FEP film.
Unlike other resin 3D printers such as Elegoo Mars Pro, FEP film cannot be replaced with universal substitutes and requires the use of Anycubic’s proprietary FEP film sold in pairs at a price of $11.99. This is a reasonable replacement price, but it is worth noting that if you use the machine frequently, you may need to keep some extras. If Anycubic stops manufacturing them, your printer may become useless.
The setup process of Photon Mono is fast, simple and suitable for beginners. The included power plug was inserted into the back of the device, and it took me less than an hour to calibrate and fill the build platform and vat respectively. The transparent yellow anti-ultraviolet cover was flush with the base. The accompanying user manual is well written and easy to follow, and I have no problem setting up the machine during the follow-up process.
Anycubic Photon Mono requires you to level the build platform with the mask LCD to ensure that the layer is evenly exposed during curing. The build platform also needs a very slight offset to compensate for the FEP film at the bottom of the cylinder that exists during the printing process. In order to accomplish these two tasks in one step, Anycubic provides a piece of paper with Photon Mono, which can be used to protect the LCD, and it will also cause a slight offset during the leveling process.
“This paper can be used for leveling” is the included 210mm x 150mm paper written on it in two languages, so this is how I use it. After loosening the four bolts holding the build platform to the bracket, I lowered Z to 0, tightened the screws, and reset the homepage. The whole process took me about three minutes, and the calibration was on time. I have some problems with Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K. It uses a similar leveling process, but some parts are not flush. In contrast, it makes the calibration of Photon Mono a breeze.
Photon Mono uses 405 nanometer UV resin, which requires safe handling in the uncured state to avoid injury. Resin can be harmful when it comes in contact with the skin, so be sure to wear gloves when pouring, cleaning, or handling uncured resin. I also make sure to wear gloves when removing the build platform after printing, as the resin tends to collect on the top of the platform and may drip when the platform is removed. The build platform on Photon Mono has a triangular profile that allows any resin on the top to drip slowly during the printing process.
Make sure to use Photon Mono in a well-ventilated room to minimize the risk of inhaling fumes. Any spills or uncured resin sticking to the surface should be cleaned with 99% isopropyl alcohol, and the resin container should be kept closed and fixed when the material is not actively poured.
The included USB memory stick contains a sample test print, which is ready to be printed on Photon Mono. I was impressed by the ambition of this part and the performance of the printer. I used Elegoo Ceramic Grey Water Washable Resin in all the prints in this review. The sample test print (descriptively named TEST.pwmo) is a cubic lattice structure with two floating bars, read ANYCUBIC PHOTON.
Due to the rigidity of the machine, this cube highlights Photon Mono’s ability to print complex parts. The construction platform is suspended on a gantry made of solid aluminum sheets, and the linear guides on which it runs provide highly accurate and repeatable movement. I did not see any bending, bending or other defects in the test part, and the overall accuracy of the printing is impressive.
As the text printed on the base shows, the average diameter of the circular features is approximately 35 mm, and most measurements are slightly higher than 0.02 mm to 0.04 mm. Anycubic did not announce the XY tolerance of Photon Mono, but the XY accuracy of the machine is declared as 0.051 mm, which seems reasonable for the measurements performed.
Anycubic includes its Photon Workshop software to prepare .STL files for resin printing for Photon Mono, Photon Mono X and other Anycubic MSLA 3D printers. Organizing the printing workflow in order at the top of the software (importing models, hollowing out, adding drainage holes) makes the file preparation process fast and simple.
When you select the printer configuration in Photon Workshop, the exposure time and other related settings will be automatically adjusted to the default values of the machine. These settings work well with Elegoo Ceramic Grey Water Washable resin, and I don’t need to make any adjustments to the exposure time.
After preparing the model and slicing it for printing, Photon Workshop will export a .pwmo file, which can be read by Photon Mono and Photon Workshop. Opening the file will present a print preview layer by layer, allowing you to see which pixels will be displayed on the LCD screen. The layer parameters (exposure, Z boost, etc.) are also listed. If you want to switch the settings of different resins, you can edit them directly. The total amount of resin used is listed at the bottom, so if your vat starts to shrink, you know how much resin to add.
I have used the slicer Chitubox on Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K in the past, so this is the stage in the process where I usually check islands in printing; small individuals not related to the subject or isolated exposures. These may cause problems because it may stick to the FEP or float during printing and later stick to the print. Photon Workshop did not provide an easy way to search and delete these islands, which prompted users to use a third-party software called Photon Validator, which can view and edit .pwmo files. Given the practicality of this feature and its inclusion in the popular slicing application Chitubox, adding it to Photon Workshop will be a great benefit for users who want to simplify the printing process.
I used the Griffin model of digital artist Sishir Bommakanti as the first test of the preparation process for Photon Workshop. The file is easy to handle, and supports are automatically generated after adjusting the printing angle of the file.
This model is not particularly thick, so I didn’t bother to hollow it out or add drainage holes, and print it as a solid. I tilted it on the build platform to create support under the base and increased the support density to provide more build platform anchor points for the model. These settings (listed below) are the default settings of Photon Mono in Photon Workshop, and as you will see, they are very suitable for this model.
The Griffin model was printed out in less than five and a half hours, and I did not encounter any accidents in the process. Although 100 milliliters of resin was used in the printing process, the supporting structure still held the model in place. After printing, I rinsed the model with warm water and removed the automatically generated support structures. These structures are easily separated without leaving any obvious marks on the surface. The curing of the model is also very simple, and the model does not warp or crack during this process.
There is a small hole in the wing, which is the result of the thickness of the model being close to zero at certain points. This means that the feature width is below the minimum XY resolution (.051mm) and will not be printed. An interesting defect is seen on resin prints, because most FDM 3D printer slicer software can automatically detect thin walls and increase the thickness to prevent this type of defect. I searched the Photon Workshop documentation, but I didn’t see any ability to solve this problem.
The speed of Photon Mono is something I want to test, so I printed a Verdant King mini with a scale of 75 mm from Loot Studios. This model has support materials generated by the original artist, and the total height of the model is 118.73mm. The file can be printed in about 6 hours, and when printed with a layer height of 0.05 mm and a two-second exposure, the build speed is about 20 mm/hour.
The model shows quite a lot of details, and I can easily remove the support structure without damaging the thin features on the helmet and fingers. Due to the large number of internal and external details captured in the prints, the hollow part of the ribs is very impressive.
Anycubic Photon Mono left a deep impression on me. The rock-solid gantry combined with the thoughtful design on the resin barrel and the build platform clearly aims to make the printing process as simple as possible. The parts I print have a very high level of detail, and Photon Mono can easily create organic and complex shapes, which may be encountered with FDM filament printers like Creality Ender 3.
By including their Photon Workshop software in Photon Mono, Anycubic has clearly provided new users with an out-of-the-box experience. However, I did find that the software has some limitations. I prefer to use the Chitubox software that runs natively with Elegoo Mars 2 Pro.
I also found myself wanting the USB input to be on the front of the printer, like Elegoo Mars 2 Pro instead of on the side, because that means anyone who wants to set up machines side by side needs to add a buffer between them. For starters, these differences may not justify the $100 price difference between Photon Mono and Mars 2 Pro, but if you want to learn more about the more advanced slicer settings provided by Chitubox, then consider the more expensive Mars 2 Pro might make sense.
When you consider the typical retail price of $230, this machine is absolutely cheap for anyone who wants to dive into the world of resin printing, while still providing enough features to attract professional users looking for a small-volume machine.
Tom’s Hardware is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Visit our company website.