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Anycubic Photon Review

If you want to print high-quality display models, then the Photo should be your first choice
Anycubic Photon
Credit: Jenna Ammerman
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Price:   $280 List | $200 at Amazon
Pros:  Exceptional print quality, helpful customer support
Cons:  Much harder to use, mediocre capabilities
Manufacturer:   Anycubic
By David Wise and Austin Palmer  ⋅  Nov 27, 2018
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61
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 12
  • Print Quality - 40% 10
  • Ease of Use - 30% 2
  • Print Capabilities - 20% 5
  • Support - 10% 5

Our Verdict

If you are looking to create highly detailed models with a 3D printer, then the Anycubic Photon is definitely worth your consideration. This resin printer can create exceptionally high-quality models that come out looking amazing, easily handling models that would have almost certainly failed on an FFF/FDM printer. However, this model is certainly much more difficult to use, with the amount of work setting up the Photon, cleaning it, and post-processing prints being exponentially more than other printers. It also has a smaller build area and a higher cost per print. However, if you want top-notch miniatures or other high-quality models for display, then it's hard to go wrong with the Photon.

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Pros Exceptional print quality, helpful customer supportCompact form factor, excellent prints for FFF, easy to useGreat value, large build areaEasy to use, intuitive interfaceGreat value, braces minimize Z-axis wobble, Large build envelope
Cons Much harder to use, mediocre capabilitiesSupport could be better, a bit more assembly than other printersNonexistent support, little harder to useNot the best prints, limited capabilitiesPrint quality could be better, limited customer support
Bottom Line If you want to make highly detailed prints for model making or table top gaming, then the Photon is a fantastic choiceThis printer is a highly capable machine that offers excellent print quality at much more affordable price than the top-tier modelsOffering solid print quality and a large build area at a great price, this is a great choice if you are shopping on a budgetThis printer is relatively compact and easy to use but didn’t impress us all that much when it came to print qualityWhen you look at performance per dollar, the Creality 3D CR-10 V2 is a good option
Rating Categories Anycubic Photon Creality 3D CR-10S... Creality 3D CR-10S Dremel Digilab 3D20 Creality 3D CR-10 V2
Print Quality (40%)
10
7
7
6
6
Ease Of Use (30%)
2
7
6
7
6
Print Capabilities (20%)
5
8
8
6
8
Support (10%)
5
5
2
7
5
Specs Anycubic Photon Creality 3D CR-10S... Creality 3D CR-10S Dremel Digilab 3D20 Creality 3D CR-10 V2
Build Volume (XxYxZ) 115x65x155mm 300x300x400mm 300x300x400mm 230x150x140mm 300x300x400mm
Maximum Extruder Temperature N/A 260°C 260ºC 230°C 260°C
Layer Cooling Fan? N/A 1 2 1 1
Heated Bed N/A Yes Yes No Yes
Build Plate Material Aluminum Aluminium build plate with an adhesive printing sheet Glass Plastic with adhesive printing surface Tempered Glass with mesh covering
Maximum Bed Temperature N/A 110°C 135ºC N/A 110°C
Compatible with Third-Party Materials? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Included Nozzle sizes Not applicable 0.4mm 0.4mm 0.4mm 0.4mm
Print layer Height range .025mm - 0.1mm 0.1 - 0.4mm 0.1 - 0.4mm 0.1-0.3mm 0.1 - 0.4mm
Filament Size 405 nm resin 1.75mm 1.75mm 1.75mm 1.75mm
PLA? N/A Yes Yes Yes Yes
ABS? N/A Yes Yes No Yes
Network Printing No No No No No
Standalone (SD card or USB drive) Printing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Anycubic Photon.
The Anycubic Photon.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Performance Comparison


To figure out which 3D printer is really superior to the rest, we conducted tons and tons of research, then bought all the best printers to test out head-to-head. We ranked and scored dozens and dozens of different models to assess the print quality of each product, as well as graded the printing capabilities of each model, the ease of operating them, and how helpful the customer support was in solving any technical issues we had. We grouped all these different assessments into four weighted metrics, with the Photon's results outlined below.

Some of the high-quality prints produced by the Photon.
Some of the high-quality prints produced by the Photon.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Print Quality


For our first set of assessments, we compared the quality of the actual models produced by each printer. This metric is worth 40% of the total score for each product and is based on how well each printer printed our set of test models, each selected to thoroughly challenge each printer — at least, every FDM/FFF printer. As the Photon is a resin printer, we had to change up our test plan a bit, as it prints in a totally different way than the rest of the group. We ended up printing a handful of our test models to compare the quality to the other printers and when it was clear that the Photon was far superior, we printed a handful of detailed figurines and other models to really see what this printer can do. Needless to say, the Photon merited a 10 out of 10 for its superb results.


The sample model included on the machine is a wireframe cube with the name of the printer inside. After printing it, it was clear that you can achieve finer details that almost any FDM printer can. This is because the liquid resin is actually cured by light from a projector, allowing much more precise control than a physical nozzle moving around squirting out plastic.

The sample print pre-loaded on this printer.
The sample print pre-loaded on this printer.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

To start off judging this printer, we decided that the ubiquitous 3D printer torture test, the 3D Benchy was a good place to start. The Photon did an excellent job, handling all of the bridges and the overhangs with ease and delivering an exceptionally smooth surface finish — when there weren't any sources of vibrations, like another 3D printer running next to it.

The difference in surface finish between a resin and filament...
The difference in surface finish between a resin and filament printer is quite obvious.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

If there is a source of vibration, the liquid resin will actually slosh back and forth, which will present itself as tiny ridges on your part. We moved on to try some of our other standard evaluation models, such as a bridging test, a model of the Eiffel Tower, an overhang test, an articulated elephant, and a handful of high-resolution figurines.

The Eiffel Tower created by this printer is far superior to almost...
The Eiffel Tower created by this printer is far superior to almost any other that we have seen.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

This printer handles bridges exceptionally well, largely helped by the entire layer curing at once, rather than being laid down a strand at a time. Our spiral bridge test was printed without supports, though there was a tiny deformation on the underside of one of the bridges where excess resin was cured.

The spiral bridging test came out almost perfect, with only one...
The spiral bridging test came out almost perfect, with only one deformation on the underside of the longest bridge.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The overhang test was also superb, though there was also a small abnormality on the underside of the steepest overhang. We realized that this is from the print actually flexing as it moves up and down through the resin and probably could have been mitigated with a much slower rise and lower time.

This resin printer handles overhangs far better than the filament...
This resin printer handles overhangs far better than the filament models.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Eiffel Tower created is by far the best of the entire group, with minuscule features omitted by the other printers entirely printed perfectly by the Photon. In fact, some of the railings were so spindly that we accidentally broke them off by essentially just touching them in the post-processing of this prints.

The practically flawless Eiffel Tower created by the Photon.
The practically flawless Eiffel Tower created by the Photon.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The figurines we printed came out great, with almost all of the model detail reproduced even when printing on a small scale.

Even small figurines exhibit fine details.
Even small figurines exhibit fine details.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The articulated elephant unfortunately fused and broke when we tried to snap the legs free, so there are definitely better printers out there if you are hoping to make print-in-place articulated models.

We did use support when printing these — this is where the 3D printing software will add a sacrificial structure to support islands or extremely overhanging parts. However, the support structure with the Photon is a bit different than other printers — much more spindly and tree-like.

The tree-like support matrix used by the Photon.
The tree-like support matrix used by the Photon.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The surface finish on the figurines was impeccable, for the most part.

The small blemishes are where the support structures connected to...
The small blemishes are where the support structures connected to the model.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

However, there were tiny blemishes left behind after we trimmed the support material away, though some of these would probably be minimized by extreme precision when removing the support material and careful sanding after the print is post-processed and cured. As we have mentioned, the post-processing and post-curing of resin prints can be a bit more labor intensive than other types of printers, which leads us to our next metric.

The Photon definitely takes a bit more time and energy to operate.
The Photon definitely takes a bit more time and energy to operate.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Ease of Use


Following our print quality evaluations, the next most important round of tests focused on how easy to use this printer is, which accounts for 30% of its overall score. We again had to tweak our testing plan for this printer slightly, basing the Photon's score on the difficulty of changing and cleaning the resin, leveling the build platform, the initial setup, the interface on the printer, and the connection method to send files to the printer. Additionally, we also took into account all of the post-processing and other resin-specific tasks required to keep this printer operating properly. Unfortunately, the Photon is undeniably a much bigger hassle to operate than almost any other printer we have tested, earning it a 2 out of 10.


It definitely takes a bit more effort to change out resins than to swap filaments with the other printers. However, it is faster and easier to load resin into a clean printer than to load filament — simply by pouring it into the vat until it is about ⅓ full.

The screen on the Photon displays basic data when your model is...
The screen on the Photon displays basic data when your model is being constructed.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Unfortunately, it is recommended that you clean out the printer if you aren't going to be using it within the next two days, which is where all the effort comes in. You need to filter the resin using one of the included ones or a similar one before putting it back in the bottle, to ensure there are no cured fragments floating around. We found using some silicone measuring cups was the easiest way of doing this, pouring the resin from the tank through the filter held over the measuring cups, then using that to pour it back into the opaque bottle it came in. The resin — cured or uncured — won't stick to the silicone, making cleanup a breeze.

You then need to carefully wipe out the tank and the build plate, making sure you don't drip resin anywhere inside the printer. Additionally, you should also be wearing proper protective equipment while doing this, such as eye protection and nitrile gloves.

Fortunately, it is very easy to level the build plate — faster and easier than the FDM/FFF printers — with easy to follow instructions and there is almost no setup required, with the Photon arriving essentially fully-assembled. Unfortunately, you cannot print over WiFi, instead you use an included USB thumb drive.

You can either print via USB cable or use the included thumb drive...
You can either print via USB cable or use the included thumb drive for standalone printing.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Having a reliable connection is especially important, as the resin is quite a bit more costly than PLA or ABS, so failed prints can be quite frustrating. The Photon does have a solid display, showing some basic info while it is printing and a relatively user-friendly interface.

The interface on the Photon is fairly intuitive and easy to navigate.
The interface on the Photon is fairly intuitive and easy to navigate.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Finally, you aren't quite done when the printer is finished printing. You still need to remove the print, carefully pop it off the build plate without stabbing yourself or making a giant goopy resin mess, then wash the part. We used two tanks, one full of warm — not hot — water and one full of isopropyl alcohol to clean the part. We tested with 70% isopropyl, as it is easily available and a bit safer than higher, lab-grade solutions and found it worked fine. Finally, you need to post-cure the part to let the resin reach its maximum strength. You can do this by leaving it outside on a sunny day to soak up some UV rays or you can use an artificial UV source. We elected to use the latter and got a small box originally designed for curing UV nail polish to place the prints in.

Some of the various other materials and tools necessary to make full...
Some of the various other materials and tools necessary to make full use of the Photon.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

These can be found at quite a low price at most major retailers and there are plenty of resources online for modifying a pair of these to get an even better and more consistent post-cure using a UV turntable.

The print area on the Photon is quite small.
The print area on the Photon is quite small.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Print Capabilities


Next, we moved on to judging the various capabilities each of these printers has, such as what software you can use with them, the build volume, and what materials they can print with — especially if they are restricted to proprietary materials or if they are compatible with third-party products. The Photon did about average, earning a 5 out of 10.


This printer has a relatively small build area — 115mm x 65mm x 155mm (4.53" x 2.56" x 6.10") — so you should definitely consider a different printer if you want to make giant models. However, we didn't really have any bed adhesion issues with the anodized aluminum build platform.

The build platform and the resin vat are both removable for easy...
The build platform and the resin vat are both removable for easy cleaning.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Most of the common slicers aren't compatible with this printer, including Simplify3D, but we found the Anycubic software to be quite easy to use. This printer can only print in resin, no other materials, but it is compatible with any 405 nm curing resin.

The Photon prints each model inverted.
The Photon prints each model inverted.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Support


For the final 10% of the total score, we compared the quality of the customer support, the included documentation, and the warranty for each printer. The Anycubic finished out our tests with a strong showing, earning a 7 out of 10.


There are a fair amount of videos that explain how to use this printer on the manufacturer's website — something we highly recommend going through when you get this printer, as it can help prevent making a giant resin mess. You can contact Anycubic through a contact form or email, but there is only a Chinese phone number and no customer support chat available. However, they did respond quite promptly and were very helpful with our questions, even offering to slice a model that we were struggling to print properly and correctly place the supports.

The UV LED and the LCD screen have a 3-month warranty, while all the other components — with the exception of included tools and the FEP film at the bottom of the resin tank — have a 12-month warranty.

Value


While this printer retails at a more economical price than many of the others, it is quite a bit more costly to print with, making it an alright value option if you care about quality of each print, rather than printing a ton.

Conclusion


If you need precise parts or detailed models, then the Anycubic Photon is a great choice. It's a little more involved to use, so it can be a bit daunting for the novice and isn't a great printer to use with kids, but once you get the hang of it, be prepared for some seriously exceptional prints.

David Wise and Austin Palmer