A few years ago, resin 3D printers were expensive, small, and intimidating. But several models released in the recent past make resin 3D printing suitable for general purpose hobbyist use. The Anycubic Photon Mono X is one of the most popular of the bunch and we reviewed it along with the Wash & Cure Machine Plus.
Full disclosure: Anycubic provided me with the Photon Mono X and the Wash & Cure Machine Plus for this review. But, as always, this review is as honest and unbiased as possible.
Throughout this review, I will be comparing the Anycubic Photon Mono X to the ELEGOO Saturn and UNIZ IBEE. These three models have very similar specifications and all utilize 8.9" monochrome LCD screens. If you're in the market for a large MSLA (Masked Stereolithography) resin 3D printer, you are probably considering these three models.
The Anycubic Photon Mono X looks nice and is well-built. It has dual Z axis linear rails mounted to solid aluminum extrusion with a precision leadscrew. That Z axis is 25mm taller than the UNIZ IBEE and 45mm taller than the ELEGOO Saturn. X and Y dimensions are identical between all three machines.
The build platform removes with a quick twist of a knob and levels with four screws. I prefer the ELEGOO Saturn's ball mount design, but never had any issues with the Photon Mono X's setup. The only downside is that some resin can get into the screw heads holding the plate to the leveling mount if the resin tank is very full.
The tank attaches to the machine using two thumbscrews, just like the ELEGOO Saturn's. Like all other resin printers, replacing the FEP vat film is a pain, but that is a necessary inconvenience. On the plus side, the Anycubic Photon Mono X's resin tank has a built-in spout that makes it easier to empty.
Like the ELEGOO Saturn, the Photon Mono X has a 3.5" color touchscreen for configuring settings and starting prints. It is easy to navigate and provides all of the status information you could want. It even lets you adjust settings, like exposure time or UV power, on the fly during printing. That is a great feature which can help you save prints if you make a mistake when slicing a model.
That leads us to what I believe is the Photon Mono X's biggest advantage: it works with a range of slicers. You can use Photon Workshop, which is basic but works well enough. But you can also use Chitubox, FormWare, and others. That is great, because it means you aren't forced to use a specific slicer which may lack features that you want. I ran a few prints sliced in Photon Workshop, but ended up using Chitubox for most of my testing.
I performed my tests with a variety of resin brands at the standard 0.05mm layer height. Other than headaches caused by weak supports resulting in failed prints — an issue solved by increasing support contact point size or reducing lift speed — all of my test prints turned out very well. The quality is almost identical to that of the UNIZ IBEE and ELEGOO Saturn, which isn't surprising given the similar specifications.
Thanks to the 4K screen, the X/Y resolution is so high that the human eye cannot pick up any aliasing. You need a microscope to see the voxels. At 0.05mm, layer lines are visible on very shallow angles (where anti-aliasing can’t compensate much), but the printer is capable of finer layer lines if you need perfection and have the time to spare. In test prints, even the tiniest details came out looking clear and defined.
Because most printers in this segment use identical or nearly-identical LCDs, the biggest factor is the UV light engine. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to compare one printer’s UV light array to another. Not only does the UV light need to be strong, it has to be consistent and as parallel as possible to avoid uneven exposure and light bleed. All of my tests suggested that the Photon Mono X’s UV light engine is well-designed and at least the equal of the ELEGOO Saturn and UNIZ IBEE.
One feature of the Anycubic Photon Mono X that I was excited to try was the companion app. The machine has a built-in WiFi adapter that should let you monitor and control a print job from a smartphone app via your wireless network. Sadly, I was unable to get this feature to work. The Photon Mono X simply wouldn't connect to my home WiFi network.
If you buy an Anycubic Photon Mono X, you have the option to purchase a matching Wash & Cure Machine Plus. This handy machine will both give your printed parts a thorough cleaning and cure them. No need for Tupperware containers full of isopropyl alcohol or the hassles of leaving parts out in the sun.
The Wash & Cure Machine Plus is large enough to handle any part that comes off of the Photon Mono X. It comes with a large watertight wash container with a stainless steel metal basket. Put your printed part in there, place it on the machine, and set the timer. A motor with a magnet will spin an agitator inside of the wash container, giving parts a thorough cleaning. But be careful with delicate parts, as it creates quite a whirlpool.
After washing your part, pull it out and dry it off. Put the machine's turntable in place, sit your part on the turntable, put on the cover, and then set the cure timer. In 2-5 minutes, a large UV LED array will finish curing your part. The top of the UV LED array is adjustable, so you can tilt it down to point at your part. Underneath the transparent turntable is a mirrored surface, which ensures every surface of your parts gets UV light.
You can purchase the Wash & Cure Machine Plus on its own, without buying the Photon Mono X. It is pricier than many competing wash/cure machines, but it is also larger and seems to be better built than most others. You can also purchase the Photon Mono X alone if you don’t want the Wash & Cure Machine Plus.
This brings us to the big question: which of these three printers would I recommend? They're priced similarly, all print very well, and have almost identical specifications. The exception is the taller Z axis on the Anycubic Photon Mono X. Combine that with the ability to use a variety of slicers and I would recommend the Photon Mono X over the others.