I know this might come as a shock, but it's probably safe to assume that most artists are finicky when choosing their mediums of choice. We generally demand high quality tools that let us freely create without sacrificing quality.
3D Printing quality is no exception. We want the best surface detail and smooth finishes from our 3D Prints.
A Material World
A key element in creating quality 3D prints depends largely on what materials are used for printing. A material choice determines changes in structural integrity, surface quality, and less print failures.
In fact, material development is so important to 3D printing innovation that this year there has been a number of new startups venturing into the alternative materials market.
Among these new startups is MadeSolid, a YC-backed company out of Emeryville, CA. MadeSolid(MS) creates materials for both FDM and SLA type printers with the intention of advancing the capabilities of 3D printers through better materials.
Now, we wouldn't normally brag about “perks of the job,” but MadeSolid(MS) was kind enough to send Mold3D some black and red resins to put through the wringer.
For our tests, we used the Form1 SLA printer and compared the results against the Formlabs (FL) black and grey resins. We figured our audience might be interested in seeing how the MS resin holds up in comparison to some of our previous artistic prints… So let’s get into it!
For our tests we used a Mako Shark model (provided by our good friend Adam Ely), a female character bust (sculpted by Robert Vignone), and a Mold3d Print Detail Cube (Free Download Here) - a tool designed to test a variety of surface textures on a single 2 inch cube. For the testing, we ran the MadeSolid resins through our Form1+ 3D Printers.
The first trial was a comparison of the red resin (at 25 microns - µ) and black resin (at 100µ) on the Mako Shark - we chose the shark due to the combination of fine details, large smooth forms, and thin appendages.
The results for the 25µ red resin were impressive! The shark turned out very smooth with incredibly sharp detail. (The macro photo reveals a fabric like pattern in the resin, but the detail is so fine that it’s actually not visible to the human eye.)
The 100µ black model produced some noticeable striations, but overall great quality with very sharp detail. A distinct advantage of the black resin was the photographic quality, it looked absolutely beautiful in ideal lighting situations - the red resin proved to be quite tricky to get photographs of the same caliber. We decided that this was due to the black resin’s more matte-like surface, as opposed to the translucent qualities of the Formlab gray and white resins.
Since the “real test” generally comes down to a final product, we decided to finish up photographing the raw prints and move on to the fun stuff. We rarely let a 3D Print go unpainted, so we did a quick spray with some Timiya Gray Primer to get a better look at the surface.
Right away you could see how amazing the red model came out. It was not only the most smooth and artifact-free print we did, but also extremely sharp in the mouth and eye areas.
Texture and Surface Tests
For the second set of tests we developed a M3D Texture Cube to test texture and surface details. ( Free Download Here)
The cube is divided into 4 quadrants, each with a unique fine surface detail. We chose the type of textures that would be generally found in common character sculpture.
Surprisingly, after printing the two cubes side by side, one with MadeSolid(MS) black and one with FormLabs(FL) black, the details came out nearly identical - given that no two prints come out exactly the same. (Under bright lighting the prints both looked a tad bit course, however they are actually impressively smooth.) The MS black proved to be consistently smooth and perfect all the way around.
The surface details on the MS Black cube ( at 25µ) held up very well and produced a sharp, clean surface finish. If you inspect the photos it might appear that the FL version is slightly sharper over the MS print, but under general inspection one would be hard pressed to find an obvious difference in quality.
Next we repeat the process of spraying the raw prints with Timiya Gray Primer (pictured above). A coat of primer usually brings out hidden surface details and as you can see the FL resin came out a tad sharper in the nooks and crannies. While the differences might look extreme under these lighting conditions, under natural light they are very comparable.
A common problem with many 3D prints are the layer lines that are visible across the surface of the object. This is where the MadeSolid black resin really shines. The FormLab black resin produced lager layer lines that were visible even after the paint of coat while the MS print painted beautifully.
What does an FDM printed cube look like?
Just for fun, we decided to print out a 100 Micron cube on a Makerbot. The results were decent, not bad considering this is a 2" cube!
Sometimes a print calls for a delicate and subtle finish, so we decided that the perfect subject would be a human female face.
Pictures say a thousand words, and as you can see both prints came out pretty good. No big surprises here and the results are similar to the previous tests.
One thing we did want to mention is the difference in viscosity between the two resins. The MS resin is significantly more "water-like" which makes it much easier to clean up. This is helpful especially when you are performing post print washing.
Improper washing means that extra resin can stay behind to cure/harden.
This is evident in the photograph of the FL print which shows some unwashed and cured resin between the teeth of the character.
Using a tip of a pencil as reference, you can see just how detailed and small these prints really are. Both heads printed out with great precision but the MS black had a better feel and more consistent in quality than the FL print.
As previously mentioned a common problem can be visible layer lines. As shown below, you can see that one side of the FL print had significant visible layer lines while the opposing side of the same print was perfect. The Form Labs resin has a tendency to sometimes produce these harsh layer lines and in comparison, the MadeSolid Resin has performed consistently with smooth finishes throughout.
Now, back to the good side.
The details in the face were almost identical, but the MS print seemed just a tad sharper. You can see this a bit more clearly in the painted version below.
While the FL looks "smoother" overall, it does seem to sacrifice some details in the eyelid area. Also, note the unwashed resin in the mouth area.
The primer paint helps visibly remove layer lines on both prints and are not noticeable when photographed.
Well the tests are in and the proof is undeniable, the MS resin produces impressive detail and consistent surface finish. A contributing factor is the lower viscosity of the MS resin that seems to aid the printer's peeling process, resulting in less failed prints and cleaner layer lines.
Both the black and red MadeSolid resins are also calibrated to print on the Formlab's Pre Form software's 'Grey resin setting', which is nice because this setting puts less stress on the laser than the 'black resin setting'. In fact, the black resin's laser setting was strong enough to burn into the resin tray just after 2 prints. Suggesting that a lower setting can add shelf life to your resin tray, which is a good thing.
Another unexpected plus is that the MS resins do not seem to suffer from pigment separation, unlike some of the FL resins. The Formlab black does seem to hold a uniform pigment consistency, but we have noticed significant pigment separation with the Grey and White resins in the past.
Two additional colors (red and blue), a lowered price point ($100 vs the FL $149) and great surface quality make these resins a competitive alternative and welcome addition to the material options for SLA printers!