Safe 3d printer

The Essential Guide to Food Safe 3D Printing

3D printing offers unparalleled design freedom to produce custom parts and complex or organic shapes that would be costly or impossible to manufacture with traditional manufacturing methods.

These benefits can be compelling for a range of food-related applications. However, if 3D printed parts are intended for food contact items, you‘ll have to consider safety practices and regulations to avoid contact with toxic substances and prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria.

Food safe 3D printing is possible and the variety of materials approved as food safe is increasing, but there is a high degree of ambiguity around the workflows and finding the appropriate applicable regulations can be a challenge.

Read on for an introduction to food safety, food safety considerations for 3D printing, and a variety of methods to produce food safe products with common 3D printing processes, including stereolithography (SLA), fused deposition modeling (FDM), and selective laser sintering (SLS).

Please note

No Formlabs resins are food safe unless users take additional steps.

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To begin, it’s important to clarify a few key terms:

  • Food grade means that the material is either safe for human consumption or permitted to come in contact with food.
  • Food safe means that a food grade material meets the requirements determined by the intended use and will not create a food-safety hazard.
  • Food contact surfaces include any surface that may come into direct contact with food. These surfaces must be made of nontoxic materials and designed to withstand the environment of their intended use, including exposure to cleaning compounds, sanitizing agents, and cleaning procedures.

Food grading and food safety concern a specific way to ingest parts, called migration. Particles as small as a few nanometers and up to several hundred nanometers may get transferred each time various materials encounter with each other, for example from components of the 3D printer to the 3D printed object, and from the object to the food.

Because migration levels are very low on occasional contact, food grading typically concerns items that are in prolonged contact with food such as containers, straws, utensils, plates, and food molds. Different testing institutions will adhere to different government-imposed risk tolerances and approved substances, which for the US is described by the FDA CFR 21 and for the EU in guidelines 10/2011.

Look for these labels indicating FDA and EU approval. Beware that a material being ‘compliant with’ doesn’t mean that it is explicitly approved by the institutions, so always check the technical datasheets for a certificate.

To be considered food safe according to the FDA Food Code, a material has to meet the following requirements:

  • No migration of deleterious substances
  • Does not impart colors, odors, or tastes
  • Safe under normal use conditions
  • Durable, corrosion-resistant, and nonabsorbent
  • Sufficient in weight to withstand repeated washing
  • Finished to have a smooth, easily cleanable surface without breaks and sharp internal angles
  • Resistant to pitting, chipping, crazing, scratching, scoring, distortion, and decomposition
  • Accessible to inspection

Any FDA or EU approved material includes not only the raw polymer but also the additives or masterbatch. These might contain components such as plasticizers, impact and heat distortion modifiers, UV-stabilizers, flame retardants, anti-fouling, anti-static, anti-slip, foaming and clarifying agents, anti-oxidants, aromatic nucleators, carbon alloys, phosphorescents, fillers, thickeners, chain extenders, metal deactivators, dyes, and a carrier resin.

A 3D printed part can turn into a petri dish squirming with bacteria within weeks. Even though some materials will survive the dishwasher, so will dangerous bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella that live in the little nooks and crannies. Some toxic molds find favorable growth conditions on several types of plastic and are hard to remove. Neither cleaning with bleach nor microwaving your polymers is an option for eliminating germs. 

While bacteria buildup might not be an issue for disposable items, if you’re planning to create a part for long-term use, using a food safe coating is highly recommended.

The best option to reduce the risk of particle migration and bacteria buildup is by dip coating the 3D printed parts with a food grade epoxy or polyurethane resin, such as Masterbond’s EP42HT-2FG or ArtResin or an FDA approved PTFE (known as Teflon®) to seal their surface.

However, note that coating also doesn’t guarantee food safety for prolonged use as not all of these coatings are dishwasher safe, and they may degrade over time, exposing the original, potentially non-safe surface.

Most 3D printing materials have a low heat deflection temperature (HDT), which means that the 3D printed parts might become brittle and crack, or deform and warp at elevated temperatures. If you’re planning to clean a 3D printed part in a dishwasher, make sure to double check that the material is dishwasher safe and if there are any specific recommendations for washing temperature.

As particles might migrate from components of a 3D printer to 3D printed parts, it is crucial that any components that might come in contact with the 3D printing material or the part are food grade and do not contain or leach harmful chemicals. 

This includes taking precautions when using multiple materials, as some materials previously used in the 3D printer might have contained toxic particles and made contact with some components.

Many 3D printing materials are not food safe and might contain toxic chemicals. Only use materials to 3D print parts intended for food contact that are certified for food safety.

As may be expected, the risk of migration is higher if the food is exposed to the 3D printed part for an extended time period. In general, try to limit food contact time and take further precautions for parts that will be in contact with food for longer periods of time.

Think about the reason why you’d like to use 3D printing for a food contact item. If it’s to create custom shapes and forms, in most cases, there are indirect ways to use 3D printing to create these custom parts, for example with molding. See an example in the next section.

SLA 3D printing uses a laser to cure liquid resin into hardened plastic in a process called photopolymerization, resulting in parts that have the highest resolution and accuracy, the clearest details, and the smoothest surface finish of all plastic 3D printing technologies.

Is resin food safe? The answer is no. Substances may migrate from SLA parts which makes none of the resins and printed parts food safe by default. While some resins for dental and medical applications are certified biocompatible, that doesn’t mean that they’re food safe. These materials are certified for specific applications and should not be used for food contact products.

SLA parts have a smooth surface finish that makes it easier to use coatings to seal their surface and prevent the buildup of bacteria. The factors which affect the ultimate smoothness of a part include resin type, layer thickness, build orientation, mesh triangulation resolution of the 3D model, and the curing profile of the SLA resin. Printed parts require washing and post-curing according to the manufacturer's instructions before the coating is applied. However, note that coatings don’t guarantee food safety, as the coating may interact with the resin or degrade over time, exposing the original, potentially non-safe surface.

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Creating custom molds is a common way to leverage the benefits of SLA 3D printing to produce highly detailed custom parts without having the 3D printing parts come into direct contact with food. While SLA 3D prints aren’t suitable for directly molding foods, SLA 3D printers are perfect tools to create mold negatives, which can be vacuum formed using food safe plastic.

The tools and techniques for creating 3D printed food molds are easy to master, and the results are often stunning.

3D printed molds for thermoforming and silicone enabled the creation of unique shapes and designs.

Learn more about creating molds for vacuum forming in our in-depth tutorial.

Electroplating is the process of coating parts with metal using an electric current. The process is most commonly used for decorative purposes or to prevent corrosion by creating a durable surface.

SLA parts are ideal for electroplating due to their smooth surface finish. However, as plastics are nonconductive surfaces, SLA 3D prints have to be rendered conductive by coating with graphite, conductive lacquer, electroless plate, or a vaporized coating.

Food safe metal coatings are available, but as the process involves various chemicals, making sure that the workflow is approved for food contact is the developer’s own liability.

SLA 3D printing offers the unique possibility to produce ceramic parts. After 3D printing, parts can be fired in a kiln to burn out the resin and form a true ceramic part that is strong and heat-resistant. With subsequent food safe glazing, the parts will become more hygienic and resistant to most chemicals.

A variety of food safe glazes are available on the market, but make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions in accordance with food safety guidelines.

3D printing in ceramics is ideal for fabricating complex geometries that wouldn’t be possible by hand.

Learn More About Ceramics

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FDM is a 3D printing process that builds parts by melting and extruding thermoplastic filament, which a print nozzle deposits layer by layer in the build area.

The extruded material is circular in cross-section, which leaves very narrow crevices in between layers with a depth directly proportional to layer height. It is recommended in any case to print at the lowest feasible layer height for food safe parts.

Consequently, the main challenge with FDM parts is avoiding the buildup of bacteria. To be truly food safe in the long term, an FDM 3D print needs to have a smooth surface. Chemical smoothing with solvents like acetone, d-Limonene, or ethyl acetate removes many of the irregularities of the print resulting in a smooth, glossy appearance. However, applying a subsequent food safe coating is still highly recommended.

Layers showing on FDM (left) and SLA (right) 3D prints.

Food grade filaments do not contain any composite particles so will not wear down the nozzle into the print. Nevertheless, avoid brass nozzles that contain lead and use a dedicated stainless steel nozzle instead for all food contact items.

Always check the compatibility of your 3D printer’s components with the filament. For example, PEI is a material that is FDA compliant and offers great mechanical benefits but needs to be processed at over 300 °C, which requires a specific printer solution.

The most common questions around FDM food safety concern two popular materials. Is PLA food safe? Is ABS food safe? The answer is, it depends.

Food safe 3D printing filaments include PLA, PP, co-polyester, PET, PET-G, HIPS, and nylon-6, as well as some brands of ABS, ASA, and PEI. Having to run parts through the dishwasher rules out PET, nylon, and PLA because these plastics soften and distort around 60–70 °C. For applications involving hot liquids, co-polyester, High Temperature PLA or PEI are most suited.

While not reflected in the regulations, some studies suspect that polystyrene may leach styrenes, co-polyesters might cause health concerns and that food grade FDM filaments might lose their safe status due to oxidation and thermal degradation from the printing process.

FilamentBrandFDAEUSmoothableDishwasher safeHot liquids
ABSAdwire PROApprovedNAYes, acetoneYesYes
Innofil3DApproved except red, orange, and pinkApproved except red, orange, and pinkYes, acetoneYesYes
BendlayOrbi-TechNACompliantYes, brake cleanerNoNo
BiocompoundExtrudr GreenTECNACompliant
Co-PolyesterColorfabb XTApprovedCompliantNoYesYes
HIPSEasyfilCompliantCompliantYes, d-limoneneYesNo
FillamentumNACompliantYes, d-limoneneYesNo
InnoFil3DApprovedApprovedYes, d-limoneneYesNo
NylonTaulman Nylon 680CompliantNANoNo
PEIULTEM® 1000CompliantNAYesYes
PETInnoPet EPRApproved except red and orangeApproved except red and orangeYes, ethyl acetateNoNo
RefilApprovedNAYes, ethyl acetateNoNo
Taulman T-GlaseApprovedNAYes, ethyl acetateNoNo
VerbatimCompliantNAYes, ethyl acetateNoNo
PET-GExtrudr MFNAApprovedYes, ethyl acetateNoNo
HDGlassApprovedApprovedYes, ethyl acetateNoNo
PLAFilaments. ca TrueFSApprovedNANoNoNo
Innofil3DApproved except red, orange, pink, apricot skin, grey, and magentaApproved except red, orange, pink, apricot skin, grey, and magentaNoNoNo
Copper3D PLActive AntibacterialApprovedCompliantNoNoNo
Purement AntibacterialApprovedApprovedNoNoNo
PLA-HTMakergeeks RaptorApprovedNANoYesYes
Makergeeks RaptorApprovedNANoYesYes
SBSFilamentarnoNAApproved only in RussiaYes, d-limoneneYesYes

Selective Laser Sintering is a 3D printing process that use a high-powered laser to fuse small particles of polymer powder. The most common material for laser sintering is nylon, a popular engineering thermoplastic with excellent mechanical properties.

While some SLS powders are graded food safe, the particles on the surface of printed parts might not fuse completely, resulting in parts that are inherently porous and do not deal well with moisture and mold growth. Even though the nylon 12 powder can be steam cleaned in an autoclave, it is best to coat SLS parts with food safe coatings to seal their surface.

A common post-processing step for SLS parts is dying. But note that after an SLS part has been dyed, the dye may leach into the printed part which renders the item not food safe.

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Food safety with 3D printing is not a simple matter that will boil down to a clear yes or no answer. Producing 3D printed parts for food contact items requires careful consideration of the risks depending on their intended use.

For further information on food safety and 3D printing, we recommend reading the following:

  • FDA Regulations CFR 21
  • EU Guidelines 10/2011
  • Risk Assessment of 3D Printers and 3D Printed Products
  • The Tricky Business of Choosing Plastic for Food Contact Applications

Is a 3D Printer Safe to Use? Tips on How to 3D Print Safely – 3D Printerly

When it comes to 3D printers, there are many complexities to it which can make people wonder whether they are safe to use. I’ve been wondering this myself, so I’ve done some research and put what I found out together in this article.

Will I be safe after I use a 3D printer? Yes, with the right precautions and knowledge you will be fine, like most things out there. The safety of 3D printing comes down to how competent you are to minimize potential risks that can arise. If you are aware of the risks and actively control them, health risks are minimal. 

Many people use 3D printers without knowing the necessary information to keep themselves and people around them safe. People have made mistakes so you don’t have to so keep reading to brush up on your 3D printer safety.

Is 3D Printing Safe? Can 3D Printers Be Harmful?

3D printing is generally considered safe to use, but it’s a good idea to not occupy the space where your 3D printer is operating. 3D printing uses high levels of heat which can emit ultrafine particles and volatile organic compounds into the air, but these are found in daily life regularly. 

With a reputable 3D printer from a good brand, they should have built-in safety features that prevent certain things from happening such as electric shocks or your temperatures rising too high.

There are several millions of 3D printers out there in the world, but you never really hear about safety issues or dangerous things happening, and if so, it was something that was preventable.

You probably want to avoid buying a 3D printer from a manufacturer that isn’t known or doesn’t have a reputation since they might not put those safety precautions in place within their 3D printers.

Should I Worry About Toxic Fumes with 3D Printing?

You should worry about toxic fumes when 3D printing if you are printing high temperature materials such as PETG, ABS & Nylon since higher temperatures usually emit worse fumes. Try to use good ventilation so you can tackle those fumes. I’d recommend using an enclosure to reduce the number of fumes in the environment.

The Creality Fireproof Enclosure from Amazon is very useful, not only for toxic fumes, but for increased safety for fire risks which I’ll talk more about further in this article.

3D printing involves the injection of material in layers at high temperatures. They can be used with many different materials, the most popular ones being ABS & PLA.

These are both thermoplastics which is an umbrella term for plastics that get soft at high temperatures and hardens at room temperature.

Now when these thermoplastics are under a certain temperature, they start to release ultra-fine particles. and volatile organic compounds.

Now these mysterious particles and compounds sound scary, but they are things you have already experienced in the form of air fresheners, car emissions, being in a restaurant, or being in a room with burning candles.

These are known to be bad for your health and you wouldn’t be advised to occupy an area filled with these particles without proper ventilation. I’d advise to incorporate a ventilation system when using a 3D printer or one with built-in features to minimize respiratory risks.

Some commercially available 3D printers now have photo-catalytic filtration systems which breaks down harmful chemicals into safe chemicals such as H²0 and CO².

Different materials will produce different fumes, so it’s been determined that PLA is generally safer to use than ABS, but you also need to consider that not all of them are created equal.

There are many different types of ABS & PLA which add chemicals for better print quality, so this can affect what kind of fumes are released.

ABS and other 3D printing materials do emit gasses such as styrene which will have adverse health effects if left in an unventilated area.

Dremel PLA is said to produce more hazardous particulates than, let’s say Flashforge PLA, so it’s a good idea to research this before printing away.

PLA is the 3D printing filament deemed most safe and least likely to be a problem in terms of fumes, mostly emitting a non-toxic chemical called lactide.

It’s good to know that most PLA is completely safe and non-toxic, even when ingested, not that I advise anyone to go to town on their prints! Another thing to note is, using the minimal temperature for a print can help to minimize exposure to these emissions.

The Center for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease (CREOD) found that regular exposure to 3D printers do result in negative respiratory health effects. However, this was for people who work full-time with 3D printers.

Researchers found full time workers in the 3D printing field:

  • 57% experienced respiratory symptoms more than once a week in the past year
  • 22% had physician-diagnosed asthma
  • 20% experienced headaches
  • 20% had cracked skin on their hands.
  • Of the 17% of workers who did report injuries, most were cuts and scrapes.

What Are the Risks in 3D Printing?

Fire Risks in 3D Printing & How to Avoid Them

The risk of fire is something to consider when 3D printing. Although very uncommon, it is still a possibility when there are certain failures such as a detached thermistor or loose/failing connections.

There were reports that fires have started from Flash Forges and electrical fires due to faulty solder jobs.

Bottom line is you need to have a fire extinguisher on hand, so you’re prepared for such an event and make sure you know how to use it!

The possibility of 3D printers catching fire doesn’t actually depend on the manufacturer of the printer, as manufacturers use very similar parts.

It actually depends on the version of firmware that is installed. Recent firmware has developed over time and have additional protective features against detached thermistors for example.

An example of this is being able to enable “Thermal Runway Protection” which is a feature to stop your 3D printer burning if the thermistor comes out of place, something more common than people realize.

If your thermistor comes off, it actually reads a lower temperature meaning that your system will leave the heating on, resulting in burning the filament and other nearby things.

From what I’ve read, it’s a good idea to use flame retardant foundations such as a metal frame rather than a wooden one.

You want to keep all flammable materials away from your 3D printer and install a smoke detector to alert you if anything does happen. Some people even go so far to install a camera to keep a close eye on the active 3D printer.

Get yourself the First Alert Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Detector from Amazon.

The risk of a fire is very low, but doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The health risks are marginally low, so there hasn’t been any industry-wide warnings against using a 3D printer as the risks are hard to analyze.

In regard to fire safety issues, there are issues with 3D printer kits as opposed to a standard 3D printer.

If you put together a 3D printer kit, you are technically the manufacturer or the final product, so the seller of the kit doesn’t have responsibility for electrical or fire certifications.

A lot of 3D printer kits are actually just prototypes and haven’t been through the testing and problem-solving from hours of user testing.

This just unnecessarily increases the risk to yourself and doesn’t seem worth it. Before buying a printer kit, do some thorough research or avoid them altogether!

What are the Risks of Burns in 3D Printing?

The nozzle/print head of many 3D printers can exceed 200°C (392°F) and the heated bed can exceed 100°C (212°F) depending on what material you’re using. This risk can be minimized by using aluminum casing and an enclosed print chamber.

Ideally, the hot ends of the nozzle are relatively small so it won’t result in anything life-threatening but it can still result in painful burns. Commonly, people burn themselves trying to remove melted plastic from the nozzle while it’s still hot.

Another section which gets hot is the build plate, which has different temperatures depending on what material you are using.

With PLA the build plate doesn’t have to be as hot as, say ABS at around 80°C, so this would be the safer option to minimize burns.

3D printers heat materials to very high temperatures, so there are potential risks of burns. Using thermal gloves and thicker, long sleeve clothing while operating a 3D printer would be a good idea to minimize this risk.

3D Printing Safety – Mechanical Moving Parts

Mechanically speaking, there is not enough power that runs through a 3D printer for moving parts to cause serious injuries. Nonetheless, it’s still good practice to lean towards enclosed 3D printers to minimize this risk.

This also reduces the risk of burns from touching a printer bed or the nozzle, which can get up to very high temperatures.

If you want to need to reach into your 3D printer you should only do this when it’s turned off, as well as unplugging your printer if you’re doing any maintenance or modifications.

Hazards can arise from moving machinery, so if you are in a home with children, you should buy a printer with housing.

Enclosures are sold separately, so you can still buy a 3D printer without one if it has certain features which enclosed printers doesn’t have.

Gloves should be worn when operating your 3D printer to avoid any cuts and scrapes that can happen from moving parts.

Safety Precautions from RIT for 3D Printing

The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) have put together a list of safety precautions when using a 3D printer:

  1. Enclosed 3D printers are going to be a lot safer than other 3D printers.
  2. In order to minimise inhaling dangerous fumes, people should avoid the immediate area as much as possible.
  3. Being able to mimic a lab-like environment is ideal for using a 3D printer. This is because there is a lot of emphasis on ventilation, where fresh air exchanges with particle-filled air.
  4. When a 3D printer is in operation, you should avoid day-to-day tasks such as eating, drinking, chewing gum.
  5. Always keep hygiene in mind, making sure you wash your hands thoroughly after working around 3D printers.
  6. Clean up using a wet method to collect particles rather than sweeping the potentially dangerous particles around the room.

Extra Safety Tips for 3D Printing

It is advised that you should only have one 3D printer per standard-sized office or two in a standard-sized classroom. There are also recommendations on ventilation, where the volume of air should be replaced four times per hour.

You should always know where your closest fire extinguisher is and are advised to wear a dust mask when accessing the printer area.

Get yourself the First Alert Fire Extinguisher EZ Fire Spray from Amazon. It actually sprays 4 times longer than your traditional fire extinguisher, giving 32 seconds of firefighting time.

Some people complain about respirator problems after a few months of using their 3D printers such as a sore throat, feeling out of breath, headaches, and the smell.

It’s always advised to use a fume extractor/extractor fan whenever using or cleaning up your 3D printers as there are nanoparticles released which your lungs cannot clean out.

Conclusion to 3D Printing Safety

Knowing and controlling your risks is paramount to your safety when operating a 3D printer. Always do the necessary research and follow guidelines and advice from the professionals. Keep these things in mind and you will be printing away knowing you’re in a safe environment.

Safe printing!

Safe 3D Printer - MC7 printer update

3D Safety Printer - MC7 printer update

3D Safety Printer - MC7 printer update

extruder E3D V6, which prevents the contact of fingers with the hot end of the extruder. And in order to eliminate the possibility of touching hot parts and forcefully cool them, an air-cooled housing for the electronics unit was developed.

The new modular 3D printer-designer MC7, which we described in the last article, is intended primarily for to master the principles of 3D printing for everyone interested in this most popular area of ​​technology, including children.
The ability to quickly and cost-effectively translate the intended forms, products and engineering solutions into the material makes a 3D printer an extremely attractive acquisition. The development of models in computer graphics editors develops spatial imagination, and the process of fine-tuning print parameters allows you to delve into the intricacies of this process.
With its compact size, the MC7 printer will not take up much space even on a desk, and the stability and print quality will please the user for a long time.
The base model of the MC7 modular kit does not have the protection of the only unsafe part - the extruder hot end. The operating temperature of this element can reach 250 degrees C. For thermal insulation of the hot end, adhesive Kapton tape is often used, which is wound around this part of the extruder. This method, in addition to thermal insulation, reduces the likelihood of burns if the hotend is accidentally touched.
To almost completely eliminate touching the hot part of the extruder, we have developed a protective cap for the E3D V6 extruder used in the printer, which prevents the fingers from contacting the hot end of the extruder. The nozzle replaces the standard plastic part of the X-axis drive module, and at the same time serves as a mount for the extruder and its protection. The following photographs show the X-axis drive module installed on the printer with the extruder wrapped with Kapton tape and in a protective cover.

Trial operation of the printer with protection showed that the possibility of contact with a hot hot end is practically reduced to zero, and the design of the nozzle allows you to use the printer for a long time without any deformation of the nozzle, although it is in close proximity to the hot end.

Less critical, but also requiring attention in terms of safety, is the electronics unit. The 12V DC voltage used in it is not dangerous for humans, but the stepper motor driver microcircuits heat up to 50-70 degrees during continuous operation. In order to eliminate the possibility of touching hot parts and forcefully cool them, an air-cooled housing for the electronics unit was developed.
40x40 mm fan with 12V power supply, installed in the case, cools the drivers to a temperature not higher than 35-40 degrees. It is convenient to connect the fan to the free END STOPS “-“ and “+” contacts of the RAMPS 1.4 board. Cooling, among other things, helps to increase the life of the driver chips.
The case also allows you to hide most of the wires from stepper motors, limit switches, etc., which has a positive effect on the appearance of the printer, and reduces the possibility of accidentally breaking or disconnecting any wire.
The developed housing has a convenient hinged cover to provide access to the elements of the electronics unit, the ability to install an additional 50x50 mm fan on the side wall, as well as a slot for outputting cables for connecting Smart Controller units with a display and an SD card reader for autonomous printer control.
Of course, both the body and the protective cap are printed on the MC7 printer!

Which 3D printer to choose for home and hobby use

A few years ago, 3D printers were bulky industrial machines, but now 3D printing is becoming more accessible for home use. When buying their first printer, many are disappointed. This may be due to the unsatisfactory quality of the resulting models or the complex setup and maintenance of the 3D printer.

In the reviews that are found on the Internet, printers are often shown after a lot of upgrades or a long selection of settings for printing. This is not at all the result that a beginner who first got acquainted with 3D printing will get.

In order not to be disappointed, before buying, you need to understand which model is suitable for your tasks. First of all, it is worth deciding what the printer will be used for. What is the main property that finished products should have? What is more important, the physical properties of the model or the ideal surface and detail? Not only the model depends on this, but also the technology by which the 3D printer will work.

Which technology to choose? FDM or LCD?

If you need to make a small detailed figurine with a perfectly smooth surface, you should pay attention to models that work on LCD technology (LCD works on a principle similar to DLP - Digital Light Processing or “digital light processing”).

LCD prints using a photopolymer resin that cures under UV light. This makes it possible to produce without deformation, even small and thin products that cannot be manufactured using FDM technology.

Model made on photopolymer printer

Now on sale there are many photopolymer resins with different properties. A few years ago the choice was not great. Basically, finished products were not strong enough for use in functional models. Now engineering resins have begun to appear on sale. Products from them are not inferior in strength to models made using FDM technology from ABS or even nylon.

If it is necessary to produce large products with different properties, or the tasks will be very diverse, then the choice is with FDM technology. But it is important to understand that finished products will not have a perfectly smooth surface. Of course, you can polish the model, but this is additional time and labor costs.

FDM technology builds a model using molten plastic filament, which is fed from the print head. The print head (extruder) “grows” the model layer by layer on the printing table.

FDM Models

FDM technology became widespread much earlier than DLP. Thanks to this, a wide variety of 3D printers and consumables for them has appeared. You can find many decorative plastics that mimic various materials, or engineering plastics for making functional models or mock-ups.

Choosing an LCD printer

Photopolymer printers work on one of 3 technologies - DLP, LCD or SLA.

As home printers, devices based on LCD technology are usually used due to their availability and low price.

Printer design

SLA technology appeared the very first among photopolymer printers. With the help of a point-focused beam, the desired areas of the resin are gradually illuminated. This is repeated layer by layer.

How SLA 9 works0042

Since the surface of the model is perfectly smooth, SLA has become used in the jewelry and dental industries.



DLP technology appeared later than SLA, but it is very similar to it. The main difference is that the light source is not a focused beam, but a projector. This made it possible to illuminate the entire layer at once, which significantly accelerated the production of models. The quality of the surface was slightly inferior to SLA, but modern DLP printers, in terms of the quality of models, are almost as good as SLA technology.

How DLP works


  • Faster production of models due to the illumination of the entire layer

  • Consumables are slightly cheaper than SLA

  • High surface quality (although may be inferior to SLA)


LCD technology is the youngest of all. The DLP principle is taken as a basis, but an LCD display is used as a matrix or illumination pattern. LEDs are used as a source of UV light in LCD technology. Thanks to inexpensive components, we managed to get a simple, but high-quality and affordable photopolymer printer.

How the LCD printer works


  • small cost

  • Cheap parts


  • Low accuracy compared to SLA and DLP (for jewelers and dentists, the quality of LSD prints may not be enough, although more and more accurate models appear with the development of technology)

  • Possible stray light

  • The quality of models may decrease at the edges of the printable area (this can be corrected programmatically)

Resins that are used as a consumable for photopolymer printing can smell strongly and unpleasantly during operation. Try to use the printer in a well-ventilated area, or choose a printer with a sealed cabinet and filter.

When choosing an LCD printer, pay special attention to the rigidity and positioning accuracy of the platform along the Z axis. If there are poor quality guides along the Z axis or even a slight play, then the surface quality of the finished model may turn out to be sloppy or the model will turn out to be unevenly striped.

Rating of the best LCD 3D printers for home

Anycubic Photon Mono

This is an LCD printer with a matrix that allows you to increase the speed and accuracy of printing. Anycubic Photon Mono will be a good helper for hobbyists and modellers.

Anycubic Photon Mono SE

Anycubic Photon Mono SE has an unusual parallel light source. This minimizes distortion at the edges of the printable area. You can effectively use the entire working area of ​​the machine and produce many small models at a time.

Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K

Model with high resolution LCD display and large print area. The monochrome display transmits UV rays better and allows you to print much faster than similar devices with a conventional display. The manufacturer claims a screen life of more than 2000 hours. Phrozen Sonic mini 4k is suitable for almost any task.

Wanhao GR1

Wanhao GR1 has high precision and large print area (140x78x200mm). The manufacturer tried to reduce distortion at the edges of the display, this allows you to make the most of the entire work area. High precision and large print area make Wanhao GR1 not only for hobby use, but also for production.

Anycubic Photon Zero

Small and very budgetary LCD device. Its resolution and small working area (total 97x54x150 mm) is enough for printing small miniatures, figurines or small engineering models. Anycubic Photon Zero is a good choice for beginners who want to get into photopolymer printing without spending a lot of money.

Choose FDM printer

If you plan to produce large and diverse functional models or experiment, a 3D printer that prints using FDM technology is an excellent choice.

First, decide on the size of the printable area and the properties that the finished model should have. After all, some materials require a closed chamber or good airflow to work.

Some printer models can be “upgraded” in the future. For example, if necessary, purchase spare parts for a closed case, put a nozzle of a different diameter, or change the thermal barrier to an all-metal one. But not all manufacturers provide for the possibility of such upgrades.

Printer design

Despite the same principle of operation, there are several different mechanics, which have their pros and cons.

Kinematics “Prusa” (Prusa)

Perhaps the most popular kinematics among home FDM devices. Mainly due to its simplicity and low cost. The main feature is the table that moves along the Y axis, while the extruder moves along the rest of the axes. Because of this, such kinematics was nicknamed “dragstol”.

Prusa kinematics



  • Slow print speeds. A massive table with a model is forced to constantly move along the Y axis, because of this, print quality will be worse at high speeds.

  • Some models have design flaws (for example, insufficient frame rigidity), they can be fixed, but for this you have to be a little inventor. Or find a ready-made solution on the Internet.

This category also includes 3D printers with console kinematics. The same prusa, only halved. Because of this, the frame is less rigid, but the printer itself is more compact.

Kinematics Ultimaker

The extruder moves along the X-Y axes, and the table only along the Z axis. All motors are trying to be fixed on the body to lighten the weight of the moving mechanisms, thanks to which it is possible to achieve high print quality at high speeds.

Ultimaker kinematic diagram



H-BOT or Core-XY

These are 2 similar but more complex kinematics - the table moves only along the Z axis, and the extruder along the X-Y. But to move the extruder, 1 or 2 long belts and 2 stepper motors work in concert.

Example Core-XY kinematics


  • High print quality

  • High print speeds without loss of quality.

  • Can be easily closed completely


MakerBot Kinematics

Similar to Ultimaker kinematics, but one of the motors is located on the Y or X axis carriage.




Deltas do not have the usual XYZ axes. There are 3 columns in the deltas, along which the carriages move, and the position of the extruder in space is calculated using a complex formula. The table is usually statically fixed to the body.

Delta printer example



Nuances of choosing an FDM 3D printer

In addition to kinematics, when choosing a printer, it is important to take into account some design features.

One or two extruders?

Two extruders can be used for dual color printing, but most commonly the second extruder is used for solvent support printing. If you need to print complex parts with internal cavities, then you should choose a dual extruder printer.

Closed or open printer?

Printing of functional models and parts uses plastic, which usually requires a closed chamber. If you plan to print functional prototypes or various models, you should look at printers with a closed chamber.

Bowden or direct?

There are 2 types of material supply to the print head of the printer - bowden and direct.

In a bowden, the feed mechanism motor is located on the printer body. This allows you to reduce the weight of the extruder and print at higher speeds without losing quality. But because of the long tube, printing with very soft plastics can be problematic.

Bowden Feeding Diagram

In direct feeding, the motor and feed mechanism are located on the extruder. This increases the weight of the print head, but allows you to print with any kind of plastics.

Scheme of operation of direct feed

Heated table or not?

The heating of the table improves the adhesion of the first layer of the model. And engineering plastics cannot be printed without a heated table.

Many manufacturers add useful additional features. They do not affect the quality of the print, but save time and nerves. The most useful additional functions are the filament presence sensor and remembering the print location after a power outage.

Filament sensor.

It will automatically pause printing if the plastic runs out. When there is a little plastic left on the spool, this feature will allow you not to stand over the guard printer until the old spool runs out in order to have time to push in a new bar “on the go”.

Power outage protection.

Remembering where to print when the power goes out can save you a lot of nerves when printing large models. You won't have to worry that after a power outage, you will have to run the model again for many hours or cut and reprint a piece of the model. It is especially disappointing to throw away a complex underprinted model with supports due to a one-minute outage.

There are also many extras. features that make using the printer more comfortable. For example, automatic calibration, touch screen, Wi-Fi and others.

Rating of the best FDM 3D printers for home

Anycubic Mega Zero 2.0

Inexpensive model with Pryusha kinematics. Good for getting started with 3D printing without a big investment. Despite the low cost, Anycubic Mega Zero 2.0 has a heated table and a resume function after a power outage. Thanks to direct feed, printing with soft materials should not be difficult.

Creality3D Ender 3 Pro

A very popular device due to its low price. But despite this, the Ender 3 Pro has a heated table and a decent print area. Can be sold assembled or as a DIY kit.

Flash Forge Finder

Small home appliance intended for children or educational institutions. The Finder doesn't have a heated table, but it does have a calibration assistant, a Wi-Fi module, and other extras that make getting to know it a lot easier. All moving and heated elements are hidden as much as possible in the case so that the child cannot get burned.

Wanhao Duplicator 6 Plus

Wanhao Duplicator 6 Plus was based on Ultimaker kinematics, but instead of bowden feed, they made direct. Because of this, it will not be possible to print super fast, without quality loss, but there will be no problems with printing with soft types of plastics. There are 2 trim levels - with a closed case and without.

Flashforge Dreamer

The Dreamer is a closed body dual extruder printer with MakerBot kinematics. Thanks to this, he can cope with printing models of any complexity. Using a second extruder for soluble support, models with complex geometries can be produced. A good choice for engineers and those who like to experiment with different materials.

Flying Bear Ghost 5

Most commonly sold as a kit (assembly kit). Assembly usually does not cause any great difficulties, even for people far from electronics or mechanics. Flying Bear is equipped with a filament sensor, a function to resume printing after a power outage and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Flying Bear makes a great first printer for the novice user who is ready to build their own printer.


In order for the printer not to become a useless toy, you should clearly understand what it is for.

For a fan of miniatures or detailed figurines, a photopolymer printer is a good choice. A small work area is more than offset by the detail that cannot be obtained using other technologies.

For an engineer or a fan of experiments, an FDM machine with a closed chamber and two extruders is well suited. This will allow you not to limit yourself in the choice of plastics and comfortably experiment with any materials.

For a beginner who has not yet decided whether he needs 3D printing, you can opt for inexpensive machines with slick kinematics. Due to their great popularity, you can find a lot of upgrades and reviews on them.

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