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3D Printing Resin vs Filament: Strength, Quality & Cost

Last Updated: June 15th, 2022

The strength, durability, and temperature resistance of resins and filaments are similar provided you are using the correct material for your application. The price of a small resin printer is less than most FDM printers, but the additional equipment needed for resin makes the price of the entire setup similar. The material price of consumer resin and filament are nearly the same, $20-70/kg and $15-100/kg respectively. FDM printers are safer than resin printers when using entry-level filaments such as PLA.

Table of Contents

Should I Use FDM or Resin?

When to use Resin:

  • High-detail
  • Complex geometry 
  • High-temperature parts
  • Batch printing small parts
  • Creating molds for jewelry casting etc

When to use FDM:

  • Large prints
  • Quick, low-cost prints
  • Ultra-stiff parts
  • Low-density parts
  • Minimize safety concerns

Quality of FDM vs Resin

FDM Quality

FDM 3D printers are best known for their visible layers lines. This can be minimized by using smaller layer heights, printing at higher temperatures, sanding the print, and using chemicals to smooth the surface (ie: acetone on ABS or ASA). Parts printed from filament can also suffer from issues such as stringing, which can be minimized through slicer settings.

Resin Quality

Resin 3D printers are best known for their high-detail and transparency. You should not be able to see the layers on most resin prints. The supports for a resin print can leave small craters along the print but these are usually not noticeable, especially if you plan on painting. Another common issue with resin is overexposure (too high of a cure time), which can cause issues for toleranced parts and models with intricate details. Due to ultraviolet (UV) light, clear resin prints can yellow over time, some brands and formulations more than others.

Filament vs Resin Minis

Filament vs Resin Quality Example

The FDM miniatures were printed on a Prusa MK3S with the default quality settings and Hatchbox PLA. This showcases what your smaller filament prints will look like starting off. While the settings can be optimized to reduce issues such as stringing, it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate the quality defects.

The resin miniature was printed using Siraya Tech Simple Smoky Black with the universal resin default of 0.05 mm layer height. Resin printers can usually go down to 0.01 mm but even just the default provides an amazing level of detail. On the resin printed hand you can see webbing between the fingers - this is caused by overexposure and is easily fixed by reducing the exposure time per layer.

Strength & Properties of Filament vs Resin

It is a common misconception that FDM prints are always stronger than resin but this is simply not the case, as you can see in the graphs below - multiple properties need to be examined in order to get the whole picture. Which material you should use is entirely dependent on your application.

Filament Properties

Carbon fiber infused filaments allow FDM printed parts to have a high modulus (stiffness). Carbon fiber filaments also allow for lightweight, high-strength parts from materials like PP-CF (Polypropylene). Filaments materials like OBC (Olefin Block Copolymers) and TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) excel at flexibility. Materials such as PETG, PP, ABS, ASA, Nylon, and PC have fairly high tensile strengths and fracture elongations, so parts printed from these filaments will be more durable than PLA or budget resin.

Resin Properties

There are multiple resins, such as SuperHDT, that can withstand temperatures above 200°C - some filaments can match this if they are glass fiber infused or a higher-end material such as PEI or PEEK. There are a few high elongation resins from Resione and 3D Materials but they have lower tensile strength than TPU or OBC. A large percentage of budget resins have low strength and fracture elongations, which explains why they are brittle.

Affordable engineering resins such as SuperPP, Blu, Tenacious, Anycubic Tough, and Beige-Flex can match or exceed the durability of PETG - these are the type of resins you will want to use for impact resistance. However, tensile strength and fracture elongation alone only gives most of the picture - the Izod test is used to determine how much energy a material can absorb under high-impact. Unfortunately, manufacturers do not conduct this test for all resins, as it allows us to see that a resin like SuperPP can absorb 120 J/m whereas Anycubic Tough can only absorb 55 J/m.

Filament vs Resin 3D Printer Cost

FDM Printers

The FDM printers that we recommend for most people, like the Anycubic Kobra or Genius Pro, start around $300. There are a few reliable models near $200 but these lack quality of life features. These printers can use materials such as PLA, PETG, PP, OBC, and TPU right out of the box. If you want to use ABS, ASA, HIPS, Nylon, and PC then the printer's PTFE-lined hotend will need to be upgraded to an all-metal version.

The Prusa Mini is the cheapest printer that can use these filaments without major modifications. Filament printers such as a Qidi X-Plus or Prusa MK3S are above $700 but will let your print most materials under 300°C.

The size is the other major factor that determines the price of the printer. Most budget FDM printers are near the build volume of 220x220x250 mm. Affordable options for large printers are the Sidewinder, SV03,  X5SA, and Chiron. The Voron is a project printer that will cost ~$1,000, and its pre-assembled version, the Troodon, will run $1,500+. One of the super-sized printers we are looking forward to is the Prusa XL, which will be 360x360x360 mm and packed full of features such as 5 independent tool heads.

Resin Printers

Resin printers themselves are usually cheaper than the FDM printers but the cost of the entire setup can be similar or moderately above. We usually recommend the ≈$200 Photon Mono or Mars 2 for most people to start with, but it looks like these are starting to be phased out. The Photon Mono 4K and M3 series are the newest generation. If you need a larger build volume, then the Mono X, Saturn, or Mighty 4K for $380+ is ideal. There are large resin printers such as the Photon M3 Max or Mega 8K but they cost $1,100+.

Most people purchase a wash & cure machine or an ultrasonic cleaner with their resin printer in order to streamline post-processing, and these can add an additional $100-200 to your budget, depending on the size you pick. You will also need PPE and some other equipment that we have listed out with prices, descriptions, and if they are required or optional.

Filament vs Resin Material Cost

Cost of Filament

The cheaper types of filament like PLA, PETG, and ABS will typically run $15-30 per kg. Engineering filaments such as PC, Nylon, and ASA blends can go for $50-100 per kg. Most consumer filaments max out around $150, while industrial filaments like PEEK can cost upwards of $500 per kg. You can explore brands, prices, and properties with our filament tables.

Cost of Resin

Budget resins typically stay between $20-35 per kg, especially with the promos. Engineering resins can be $40-70 per kg. Formlab's resins are $175-300 per kg and they are the typical ceiling for pricing - the exceptions to this are ceramic resins like those from Tethon that are designed for research.

Filament & Resin Printer Safety

FDM Safety

3D Printing with PLA is as safe as it gets. When you start using PETG, ABS, Nylon, and etc then you should at the very least have an air cleaner near the printer - it should have a MERV/HEPA filter for the nanoplastics and ideally carbon granules for the VOCs. If possible, placing the printer outside the residence (ie: garage) will eliminate or minimize the need for ventilation or filtration.

Resin Safety

Resin printers should ideally be placed outside the residence (ie: garage, shed, or balcony) but they can be indoors in a separate and sealed room if they are being vented out a window. Filtration can be used as mitigation and a secondary defense. Using an enclosure like a grow tent will increase the efficiency for ventilation, and it helps keep the heat in for when the temperature drops below 20°C - a small temperature controlled heater is a reliable method to keep the resin up to temp.

When interacting with the resin printer you should wear disposable or reusable nitrile gloves, and while not absolutely necessary, it is a best practice to wear eye and clothing protection. If you get any resin on your skin, wash it off with soap and water as soon as possible - do not use IPA. You can visit our FAQ page to find more safety guidelines and tips.

To compare resin printers, browse resin, and get equipment inspiration visit our Ultimate Resin Guide.

To compare FDM printers via an interactive table, side-by-sides, and in-depth articles.

Application & Safety FAQ answers common questions about resin.

Ventilation Simulations has animations for common DIY venting setups, and Heating Resin Printers during winter provides data for specific heat sources.

Our Resin Print Settings Table has associated images, mixes, and does a resin giveaway.

To browse resin properties and find your ideal strong, durable, flexible, or high-temp resin visit our Resin Properties Table. To find properties of filaments, visit our FDM Properties Table.

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