I’ve had the AnyCubic Photon for a few days now and have done a few prints and have gotten comfortable with the AnyCubic slicer. The Photon is a new low cost resin printer that sells for around $530 USD shipped - depending on where you purchase it. It is one of the new crop of masked LCD, or direct LCD style SLA printers which works on the contact print principle, rather than a focused laser or DLP projector. The Wanhao D7 and Micromake L2 also fit into this category. I chose the Photon because it seemed to have a more solid and professional build. The proprietary (but freely downloadable) slicer also promised faster slicing than the free version of Creation Workshop which I believe is what the other two use.
The machine itself is very robustly built. The build platform is quite impressive - being machined from solid aluminum billet and nicely anodized. The pivoting leveling adjustment works well, but heed the advice in the manual to make the locking screw REALLY TIGHT with the Allen wrench! Use the wrench with the short section inserted into the screw so you can really get some leverage on that screw when tightening it down. I underestimated the peeling forces on my first print and the build platform worked loose and ruined a 4 hour print. Once properly adjusted and tightened, I found that I did not have to re-level the platform after removing and re-installing it for new prints. You will still have to re-adjust the zero point if you’ve turned the machine off.
The operation of the machine is straight-forward, although I do find the operating menus a little cluttered. The display is very small and it isn’t helped out by the fact that it uses thin and tiny serif fonts. Some of the text is extremely hard to read. Why do Chinese made products always seem to use these hard to read fonts? There are places where text wraps around in the middle of words - which gives a somewhat unpolished appearance.
The operating manual (and online videos) warn about pressing the Move Z-axis button multiple times before the current move is completed. The danger here is that button presses can get queued up and the machine might crash into an end-stop or the LCD display. Fortunately, a stop key is provided which will instantly override any queued up z movement and will stop it immediately. I believe from a safety standpoint it would have been a good idea to prevent z axis moves from being queued up in the first place. Any button press should be ignored while the axis is in motion.
Another nit-pick I have about the machine is the choice of acrylic window color that was used. I like the fact that windows were included (the two competing machines don’t have them), but I can’t fathom why blue tinted windows were used. They transmit shorter optical wavelengths rather than blocking them. This is exactly opposite to what should have been used. Amber colored windows should have been used to shield the inside of the machine from ambient UV light. The problem and solution was clearly documented in a Youtube video by user studio rs501. In practice, the blue windows haven’t caused any problems with unwanted resin curing, but since the cost of amber vs. blue acrylic should be the same, why not use the correct color in the first place?
As far as print quality is concerned, it is right on par with what you would expect. If you are coming from the world of FDM printing you will be very impressed. One small concern I have is with the uniformity of the UV light source. In practice this will probably not have a noticeable effect for the average user.
The slicer is simple and easy to use. It does slice very quickly and it generates a single file (a “photon file”) instead a whole folder full of individual .png files for each slice like Creation Workshop does. I like that. Overall the slicer works just fine, but lacks intelligent methods for generating automatic supports. You have to go in and add supports manually in most cases. Fortunately, it does give you a tool to help identify “islands” so you can add supports in those areas. Proper support at the tip of every “island” is vitally important in SLA printing.
If you are at a more advanced level you will probably want to get another program like Mesh Mixer for part hollowing and maybe something like B9 Creator for better control when adding supports. If you are a beginner, definitely just stick with the Photon slicer at first. It’s actually pretty good
If you are coming from the world of FDM printing, there are a number of new things to learn (or un-learn). Supports serve a different purpose in SLA printing than FDM printing and they are even more vital in their correct use to get successful prints. With SLA printing you are not fighting gravity - you are fighting peeling forces and identifying all “islands” that occur and giving them an anchor. Proper part orientation is also different when it comes to SLA printing, and new users who are coming from the FDM world may find the part orientation angles that are required for successful SLA printing to be very counter-intuitive.
In summary, I think the Photon is a very good value for the price. It looks professional (except perhaps for the GUI on the tiny display) and is solidly engineered and built from a mechanical standpoint. It uses a drum-head FEP vat design which is still somewhat experimental, but gaining popularity quickly.
Resin printers are messy and smelly to use - be prepared for odors which are worse that those from ABS in FDM printing. Some people may find that it can actually cause their eyes and nose to burn when up close to the machine.
Resin printing is also more expensive. It uses more expensive consumables and several types of them. In addition to resin, you will also need resin filters, gloves, and replacement FEP film.
It is also unknown how long the LCD display will last before being degraded by the UV light source. I believe it should also be considered as a consumable.
If you are willing to put in the extra effort to setup, post process and cleanup afterwards, the Photon may be for you. Just don’t expect it to take the place of your FDM printer. It’s really best suited to those special cases where you need highly precise, but small parts.