Resin Reviews: Establishing a Benchmark

One of the most frequent question that gets asked on various 3D printing community pages is “Does anyone have a good filament supplier?” or “What sort of resin should I use?”

For wargaming (where colors become less of a thing), I think the answer to the former is pretty straightforward (and answered in our article on getting started with FDM 3D printing HERE). And for the most part, as long as you’re using a decent quality PLA, everything is fine. But for resin, it’s a little trickier, because “resin” is actually a broad swathe of different products with different features and considerations.

Which means when we’re reviewing a resin, there’s a critical question: compared to what?

What we need is a comparator group.

Why?

First, I’ll assert that there is no such thing as an objective review (and indeed, I think the idea that there should be such a thing is both flawed and why reviews in the PC gaming space have become weirdly fixated on super-human FPS figures). But there still needs to be something to compare to as a benchmark to distinguish things.

For example, without it, the detail on all resin is “good”. Why? Because resin prints are detailed. That’s what happens when you can fabricate something with layer heights of 0.02mm. So a resin that isn’t detailed is just “Has abjectly failed at doing its job” – which while useful, might not be the only data you want when making a decision. Similarly, all resin is sort of a pain to use, what with being toxic and all, but “Ease of Use: Bad” again, isn’t useful.

So we build a baseline.

The Comparator Product

For the actual resin being used for comparison, I chose Elegoo ABS-like Grey resin. Why? Because I think it’s a good middle ground resin. It’s relatively affordable, it’s relatively available (I have, for example, never seen it out of stock on Amazon). It works with most standard consumer-level 3D printers. There’s nothing exotic or proprietary about it. The “ABS-like” asserts that it is trying to be durable-ish, but by and large it’s just sort of a standard, run of the mill resin.

I also have a fair amount of it, and have used it, and my feelings on it as “It’s okay”. But it’s not *so* okay that I haven’t felt the urge to shop around.

That feels like a good baseline to me.

So by and large, it gets 3/5 in pretty much every category, but what I’m going into next is what categories I’m thinking about for resin, and how it got to 3/5.

Cost: 3/5. At $40 with free shipping via Amazon Prime, coming out to $0.04 per gram when ordered in the 1 kg bottle, Elegoo ABS-like is a little bit spendier than some of the lower end entry level resins, but not so much that it’s really going to sting.

Smell: 3/5. The smell of resin is an important thing. Note that “Doesn’t Smell” doesn’t mean a resin isn’t toxic – the two aren’t necessarily correlated. But smelly resins result in smelly and unpleasant work environments, which can matter if you don’t have a garage or workshop to keep your resin printer in, or if it ends up requiring you to rig up an elaborate ventilation system. For me, Elegoo ABS-like had a faint, but distinct, somewhat “musky” odor, that was most noticeable when you opened the door after a print had finished printing, or weirdly toward the end of when my cleaning buckets needed to be emptied. Not particularly unsetting, but definitely there.

Durability: 3/5. (See below)

Ease of Use: 3/5. The container itself wasn’t bad, either for pouring, or having leaking afterwards once you closed it back up. I did notice it tends to separate pretty aggressively, requiring the occasional mix if you keep a lot of resin in your resin tray (like I do).

Detail: 3/5. Detail at 0.02mm layer heights is pretty solid – I think the light grey color helps here visually. But small details, like the braiding on the test model, or small ridges, etc. come out nicely. One of the negative points here is that the resin is fairly rigid once cured, which while strong means that long, thin detailed structures tend to snap irrevocably, rather than bend or flex. This was what happened with one of the buttresses on this Battlefleet Gothic ship.

Speed: 3/5. Elegoo-ABS like is expressly not marketed as a fast resin, but it’s also not terribly slow. I ended up settling at 3.5 – 4 seconds/layer at 0.02mm exposures.

The Comparison Models

To get a fair look at detail, durability, etc. we need a uniform test model. I chose Marshall Wilhelm from The Makers Cult.

There’s a couple reasons I chose this model. First, it’s very wargame-esq. There’s a lot of miniatures out there more oriented towards RPGs, and there are some slightly different considerations, in my opinion, with design. Given it’s a single infantry model, it also doesn’t take a tremendous amount of resin to print, and there’s lots of details to be able to make out – or not – depending on the resin. It’s also a single piece (no gluing), there’s a good pre-supported version, and the sword provides a good point of vulnerability for breakage during both printing and testing.

This is what he looks like printed in Elegoo ABS-like Grey:

The detail is reasonably solid, and reasonably crisp. It’s a solid miniature, and I’m happy with it, but I’m sure some of the finer details could be captured better.

I’m also going to use a number of ship models designed for Battlefleet Gothic (but no particular ship), because the details there are different enough that a resin may excel at one and not the other.

The Durability Test

I’m actually doing a small test for durability, since “I played with these for a year” isn’t really an option. First up, can you survive a drop from my arm being held out straight to the side of me onto the concrete floor in my garage, which is a slightly worse than expected fall during your average session of gaming. If you fail that by just shattering, we move to a somewhat more reasonable drop from a kitchen counter onto a laminate floor. If you don’t, the next step is to see how far I can bent the Marshal’s sword, pulling from the tip, before it breaks.

For the record, on the drop test we did lose the handle of the Marshal’s sword, and Elegoo ABS-like made it to about 10 degrees, and the break was a clean and repairable one.

Final Thoughts

So there we go – we’ve established a baseline for future resin reviews, one of which should be coming shortly. This was, as far as articles go, a rather dry one, and I get that, but I think it will be useful to link back to for testing methodology in the future.

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