So you’ve finally bought your very first resin 3D printer and are about to finish your first print project. A job well done, right? Not quite, because now you’ll need to wash and cure your print job. The post-printing process is essential and doing it correctly will help improve the quality of your final product.
Here’s what you need to know when it comes to washing and curing 3D resin prints, along with a few recommendations for dedicated washing and curing machines.
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Why do you need to wash and cure your resin prints?
In short, washing and curing your print job is an integral part of ensuring it will be of high quality. If you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on a printer and untold hours running a print job, the last thing you want to do is half-arse it.
Washing your print job is important because it’ll help to remove any excess resin from the surface of it. While resin printing lets you create some highly detailed print jobs, at the end of the day you’re handling toxic chemicals and touching your unwashed models with a bare hand is best to be avoided.
As a safety precaution, you should be wearing gloves, a face mask and goggles in a well-ventilated area when using resin – both in the pre and post-production stages of your print job.
By curing your print with UV light, you’ll be improving the overall quality of your print job. It’ll feel less soft and tacky. As a loose comparison, not curing your resin prints is like underfiring pottery. Curing helps complete the resin’s polymerization process, which increases your job’s overall hardness and strength on a chemical level.
How do you wash resin prints?
When it comes to cleaning uncured resin from your print jobs, the easy method is to just dunk your prints in a bath of isopropyl alcohol (IPA). Give your print a bit of a swish, pull it out, rinse it off and then repeat this process about two to three times (depending on how finely detailed your print job is).
If you have an ultrasonic cleaner, like the ones used to clean jewellery, you can fill it up with IPA and drop your print jobs in there. Let it sit in there for a few minutes, pull it out and then rinse it off.
Again, it’s very important that you’re doing this in a well-ventilated area while wearing a face mask, gloves and goggles. If you do happen to get some IPA on your skin, be sure to clean it off as quickly as possible. Safety first, everybody.
How long does it take to UV cure resin prints?
The amount of time it’ll take to post-cure your prints depends on two things: how big is your job and how much UV light are you exposing it to? The bigger your print and less UV it’s exposed to, the longer it’s going to take for the resin to properly cure all the way through.
The best way to cure a print is to use a dedicated UV curing station. These chambers are designed to give your print jobs a consistent UV exposure cure all the way through, thanks to multiple lights and a spinning turntable. These chambers usually also feature a wash function, so you can take care of all the post-production work at once.
If you don’t want to shell out the extra cash for a station, you could go the budget route of using a single UV lamp. However, you’ll need to move your print around to ensure it’s getting a consistent cure throughout.
If you don’t want to pick up a curing station or UV lamp, you’re able to cure your prints in direct sunlight, but this process will take much longer and is dependent on how constant that exposure is. A cloudy day or a spot in your home that only gets some sunlight isn’t going to do you any favours. If you do plan on using sunlight to cure your resin prints, don’t do it behind a window as the glass can block those essential UV rays.
If you are using a dedicated UV light, make sure you’re wearing protective goggles or sunglasses and don’t look directly into the light. Most curing chambers come with a coloured cover, to diffuse the UV light when you’re looking at it.
Can you over-cure a print?
Yes, it’s possible to over-cure a print, so it pays to keep an eye on how long your job has been exposed to UV light. By over-curing a print you can cause it to over-harden, which will weaken its structural integrity and cause it to become brittle. It’s a great way to flush hours of work down the drain.
If you’ve finished curing a print with a UV station you should avoid putting your resin prints anywhere that will put them in direct sunlight, as this could cause them to over-cure too.
What wash and cure stations do we recommend?
ELEGOO Mercury Plus 2-in-1 Washing and Curing Station
ELEGOO is one of the biggest brands when it comes to resin 3D printing, so it’s a safe bet to grab one of its washing and curing stations. The Mercury Plus is an easy to use washing and curing station, which uses 405nm UV lamp beads for a quick curing process. It’s designed to be noise-free and uses a sealed washing chamber to help avoid any chemical spills. Its curing case can also block up to 99.95% of UV light, so you’ll be able to check on your print job’s progress without harming your eyes.
Where to buy it:
Creality UW-02 Washing and Curing Machine
In general, washing and curing stations have fairly simple interfaces. Select a mode, select a time, press start and job done. The Creality UW-02 fits this description to a tee. It has a washing capacity of 240 x 160 x 200mm, and a curing size limit of 200 x 300mm.
The UV lights in the Creality UW-02 use two wavebands, 385nm and 405nm, when curing and its anti-UV cover blocks out up to 99% of light. As a safety precaution, the machine will instantly stop curing if the hood is lifted while running. When washing your resin print job, you’re able to place it directly into the wash basket or dip it in while it’s still attached to the 3D printing platform.
Where to buy it:
ANYCUBIC Wash and Cure 2.0
The ANYCUBIC Wash and Cure uses a set of 405nm UV lights and a rotating turntable for full 360-degree coverage and uniform curing. It has a pretty simple interface, consisting of wash and cure functions, and then an adjustable timer for 1 to 60 minutes. Its washing tank is enclosed, so you don’t have to worry about being splashed by your cleaning agent. Its yellow cover blocks 99.95%, so you’re able to monitor your print job while it’s curing without blasting your eyeballs.