Welcome to ZDNet's DIY-IT project lab, where I'm testing resin 3D printers for your entertainment and edification. Today, we'll be looking at the Anycubic family of washing and curing stations. The accompanying video shows those devices in action.
Let's put this project into context. Resin printers are different from filament printers. Filament printers extrude filament through a hot end, melting the filament to form layers. Resin printers create layers by exposing a chemical compound, which hardens where light hits the resin.
Resin 3D printing, known as SLA or stereolithography, is a substantially messier process than the fused deposition modeling process that fuses layers of filament on top of each other. The resin itself is toxic, as are often the cleaning chemicals. Worse, IPA (isopropyl alcohol) has been in relatively short supply due to the pandemic.
When I last looked at the logistics of resin cleanup, we were still using ultrasonic cleaners (definitely not advisable with the flammable IPA) and pickle jars to clean the finished parts. Since then, two innovations have made the process no less messy or toxic, but definitely less difficult: water-soluble resins and washing and curing stations.
Water-soluble resins, like this from Elegoo, almost completely eliminate the problems associated with sourcing, handling, smelling, and breathing in IPA. There is still an issue when it comes to the disposal of the dirty water, but that's a discussion for a different day.
The curing stations eliminate a lot of the hassle involved in cleaning prints. They provide both a washing action and a UV light source for curing prints after they've been washed.
Let's not bury the lede. These are not particularly expensive devices and have become, in my mind, essential accessories if you use a resin 3D printer. They transform resin 3D printing from a thoroughly annoying and noxious process to one that's actually reasonably tolerable.
Anycubic sent me two devices. Packaging for both was solid. They both arrived in good condition. I've been testing the original Wash and Cure for a few months now and have been very happy with it. It's designed to work with the smaller resin printers like the Elegoo Mars and Anycubic Photon that have become hugely popular over the past few years.
These printers have build volumes almost twice as large as their smaller counterparts, and the larger Wash and Cure Plus is designed to support that larger capacity.
The workflow is pretty straightforward and nearly identical for both machines. Once an object has completed printing, it needs to be removed from the build tray. At this point, it's full of resin, so be sure you're fully PPE'd up.
I like to remove supports before washing because I want all the places where the supports used to be also cleaned of resin. I wear a full-face pair of goggles and a lab coat for this process. The goggles are because the supports tend to fire off like little arrows, and I don't want them going into my eye. I wear the lab coat to keep resin off my regular clothes. It's just an easy option.
Once the supports are removed, the model goes into the Wash and Cure. Each Wash and Cure model has the ability to hold the build plate, but I found I preferred putting the model in the basket.
With the wash tank in place, I select "wash" and set it to run for six minutes. On the smaller device, the agitator changes duration halfway through the run. On the larger device, the agitator seems to change direction every two minutes. In both cases, the models get a very thorough cleaning.
Once clean, I take the model out of the bucket and dry it off as best as I can. I also remove the bucket from the Wash and Cure. There are times I've been too impatient to get it fully dry before curing, and that leaves these little white spots on the model.
Wash and Cure Plus
In addition to the larger capacity, the Wash and Cure Plus adds four relatively minor features that, while not game-changers, are welcome additions.
The first added feature is a rack that allows the wash basket to drain over the water tank. Dry prints cure far better than wet or damp ones, and this is a quick and easy way to help get those prints dry.
Once the model is dry, I put the round curing table onto the Wash and Cure. I then place the model on the table, put the lid back on, and set the curing time for six minutes.
The second welcome addition of the Wash and Cure Plus over the original is a little mirror that fits under the rotating platform and helps project the UV light under the prints, as well as around the back and top. Previously, you had to flip the object over and cure it a second time to be sure you reached the bottom.
The mirror is made of a flexible material and I'm not sure how long it will survive. It would be nice to see Anycubic offer replacements as consumables that can be purchased when needed.
Anycubic does offer $22 replacement tanks for the original Wash and Cure. This is great, not just because the tanks can become clogged over time, but also because it would be nice to have a tank filled with IPA and another filled with water, to accommodate cleaning different resin types.
The third added features of the Wash and Cure Plus over the original Wash and Cure are the little dots on the rotating table. These dots hold the print up a bit, allowing the resin to drain. Finally, the fourth added feature is this: the Wash and Cure Plus UV bar tilts down at the top, helping UV light to shine more effectively on the top of prints.
Pricing and availability for this class of machine tend to vary. The post-processing stations have a tendency to show up on Amazon and the vendors' site, sell out, and then become available again later. Pricing appears to range from about $129 US to about $250 US, depending on when and where you're buying the devices.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, having a washing and curing station can be a game-changer for resin 3D printing. Resin printing will never be entirely mess-free, but the Anycubic Wash and Cure stations make the process of resin 3D printing easier, cleaner, and far less annoying. I'd go so far as to say that if you're going to get a resin 3D printer, you should just go ahead and get a washing and curing station with it.
Are you using resin 3D printers? Do you have a washing and curing station? Does the mess get to you? If you're using a resin printer, what are you printing? Let us know in the comments below.
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