Best 3D Printing Liquids

Updated December 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
12 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best 3D printing liquids

Not too long ago, most people regarded 3D printing as something either futuristic or reserved for multimillion-dollar manufacturing plants. But that's not the case. If you can imagine it, you can make it real using affordable technology that’s compatible with your home computer. The best 3D printers are finely tuned instruments that can manufacture models with laser-point precision. However, for these devices to work, you need 3D printing liquid.

This special resin hardens when exposed to certain types of light. It’s important to note that each 3D liquid is formulated to harden in a specific way. In order to achieve the results you desire, it’s essential that you purchase the right 3D printing liquid for your project.

If you know what you're looking for and would just like a few recommendations, consider the 3D printing liquids that we've spotlighted in this article. If you'd like to learn more about this fascinating printing process so you can better understand how to shop for the proper supplies, keep reading.

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Stereolithography isn't a new technology, Chuck Hill first applied for a patent on the process in 1984.

Key considerations

How does resin 3D printing work?

The first step to understanding 3D printing liquids (photopolymers) is understanding how resin 3D printing works. Stereolithography (SLA) is the term for the process of creating three-dimensional objects out of a photopolymer. Currently, there are three types of resin for 3D printing: SLA, inverted SLA, and digital light processing (DLP). All three employ the same basic technology: a light source is used to cure a photopolymer resin into hardened plastic.

In stereolithography, a build platform either descends into or is raised from a vat of 3D printing liquid. As the platform moves, a computer-guided laser traces an image, point by point, layer by layer, gradually building a solid 3D model. In DLP, the entire image of each layer is projected at once into the photopolymer resin (instead of drawing it one point at a time), which means the process is faster. On the downside, since DLP uses voxels, points represented in three-dimensional space, instead of pixels, points represented in two-dimensional space, the finished printed model often has a slightly boxy look to it.

Types of 3D printing liquid

The functionality of what you want to print ultimately determines the type of 3D printing liquid you require.

Standard: This 3D printing liquid is the most affordable. It offers a smooth surface and fine detail, but it can be brittle, so it’s best reserved for nonfunctional pieces such as artwork.

Durable: This 3D printing liquid cures into a material that offers greater resistance to wear. It’s relatively flexible and offers a high resistance to impacts, but it isn’t suitable for objects with thin walls. It has similar properties to polypropylene, which makes it better suited to functional prototypes.

Tough: When cured, this 3D printing liquid is comparable to ABS plastic. It’s rather stiff and relatively brittle, but it can be used for functional prototypes.

Rigid: This type of 3D printing liquid is reinforced with glass or ceramic particles to create an extremely rigid model. It’s heat resistant but brittle. It’s best used for fixtures and electrical housings.

Heat-resistant: As it sounds, this type of 3D printing liquid is designed specifically for items that will be exposed to high temperatures. It offers a smooth finish, but it is brittle and not meant for designs that require thin walls.

Flexible: Although it isn’t rubber, when cured, this 3D printing liquid offers great flexibility and impact resistance. However, the material will degrade over time, especially when exposed to sunlight, and it isn’t suitable for thin structures.

Because 3D printing liquid can be used in such a wide variety of applications, it’s essential to thoroughly research which resin is right for your needs.

Staff
BestReviews

Features

Color or clear

If you desire your finished product to be a specific uniform color, it might be possible to purchase 3D printing liquid in that color. Alternatively, if the liquid is for art, look for a resin that cures in a lighter color and has a paintable surface.

A special type of 3D printing liquid can cure clear, but it costs more. If a transparent model is what you need, there is no workaround. You'll have to purchase this type of resin.

Level of detail

Some types of 3D printing liquid are formulated to offer greater detail in the finished product. These also come at a higher price. You may need this type of resin if you want to produce items with fine detail, but it’s important to note that if you have a low-quality printer, especially if you’re using DLP technology, the higher-priced 3D printing liquid won’t help you achieve greater detail.

Odor

Some 3D printing liquids have a powerful odor; others are formulated to be less overwhelming. Although you want to wear a respirator in a well-ventilated space when working with any 3D printing liquid, a product with minimal odor is desirable.

Quantity

Most 3D printing liquid is available in 500-milliliter or 500-gram containers, and some are available in larger sizes. Be sure to read the product description so you know you’re purchasing the amount you need.

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Did You Know?
PolyJet printing has been used in Hollywood for years. Films ranging from Star Wars to Iron Man to Coraline have all used the process in some manner.
Staff
BestReviews

Accessories

Nitrile gloves: Ammex GlovePlus Industrial Nitrile Gloves
These black latex-free gloves come in a box of 100 and have a textured grip. They’re both puncture and chemical resistant and available in five sizes.

Safety glasses: 3M Personal Protective Equipment Safety Glasses
The wraparound design of these safety glasses helps provide extended protection and unobstructed viewing. The UVA/UVB-absorbent, antifog lenses and foam lining offer additional protection and comfort.

Respirator mask: tesyyke Dual Respirator Mask
Manufactured of durable, high-quality rubber and utilizing a dual-filtration system, this mask is designed for protection against chemical fumes while offering easy breathing.

3D printing liquid prices

Most 3D printing liquid is available in 500-milliliter or 500-gram sizes that cost between $20 and $30. If you need clear resin or high-resolution resin, the cost is roughly between $30 and $40. However, in most instances, once you move above $35, you’re getting a larger quantity, usually 1 liter or 1 kilogram.

A 500-milliliter bottle of 3D printing liquid can print roughly 150 average-size dice.

Staff
BestReviews

Safety tips

It’s important to point out that uncured resin is hazardous. There are a number of precautions you must take whenever you’re working with it.

  • Keep 3D printing liquid out of reach of children.
  • Store the liquid properly. It should be in a dry, well-ventilated location at 50°F to 77°F. This range may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so be sure to check the label on your resin.
  • Wear protective gear when using uncured resin. The liquid should never come in contact with your skin. Wear nitrile gloves whether you’re pouring resin into a vat, cleaning printed models, or cleaning your printer parts. Wear safety glasses, ideally with UV protection, when working with 3D printing liquids and isopropyl alcohol. Since hazardous vapors and gases are emitted during the printing process, always wear a respirator mask and make sure your workspace has adequate ventilation.
  • Make sure your vat has sufficient resin to complete the task at hand. You don't want to be forced to add more 3D printing liquid in the middle of printing.
  • Use up all the resin before changing colors. Getting the 3D printing liquid back into the original container can be rather challenging. The process involves purchasing additional equipment, such as a very fine mesh strainer to keep tiny bits of cured resin out of your container.
  • Place your 3D printer in an aluminum tray to help contain spills.
  • Dispose of the resin properly. Uncured resin is hazardous waste and must be handled as such when disposing of it. Consult with your local municipality for guidelines on how to do this. Cured resin does not pose a safety issue. It’s possible to leave leftover 3D printing liquid in a container in the sun until it completely hardens. You can then dispose of it with regular waste.
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Stereolithography can produce models with incredible detail, printing layers that are four times finer than a human hair.

FAQ

Q. What’s the benefit of using a resin 3D printer over a fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printer?

A. A liquid 3D printer is superior to a printer that dispenses molten materials from a nozzle because it offers much higher resolution and produces parts that have a smoother finish.

Q. What’s the difference between SLA and inverted SLA?

A. The difference between stereolithography (SLA) and inverted SLA technology is simply the direction in which the build platform moves. In SLA, the build platform containing the object descends into the 3D printing liquid. With SLA, the size of your object can only be as large as the container of 3D printing liquid. In inverted SLA, the platform rises from the 3D printing liquid during the printing process.

Q. What is PolyJet printing? Is that a form of SLA?

A. Although PolyJet printing uses a photopolymer, it is more closely related to FFF 3D printing. The liquid is sprayed, much like an inkjet printer sprays ink on paper, only it’s immediately hit with a UV light to instantly cure it. After curing each layer, a new layer is sprayed on top to gradually build the 3D model one ultrathin layer at a time. Using this method, it’s possible to print full-color models.

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