DLP technology not only means less power consumption, minimum operating volume and less resin smell – it also means finer and more detailed surfaces. We tested the Photon D2 DLP printer.
Anycubic and Texas Instruments announce their second DLP resin printer for the hobby market – the Photon D2 – in early September 2022 . The predecessor Anycubic Ultra was a flop. With the successor, the two manufacturers have done everything right.
In contrast to the well-known SLA printers, the new printers work more precisely and consume significantly less energy. Due to their more complicated system structure, however, they have so far been too expensive for the end user. The cooperation between Anycubic and Texas Instruments is changing that. This test is about the Anycubic Photon D2, which is available today and works with DLP exposure technology.
This test is part of the 3D printer theme . Here we show filament printers like Artillery Sidewinder X2 (test report) , Creality Ender 3 S1 (test report) or Flsun Super Racer (test report) , test resin printers like Aycubic Photon M3 Max (test report) or Elegoo Saturn S (test report) . We also show filaments in comparison or show where free print templates are available.
Differences SLA and DLP
Stereolithography apparatus: SLA resin printers have a light matrix of UV LEDs arranged in a grid pattern below the mono display. In between there is a plate made of acrylic glass balls, which ensure a more even distribution of light. The mono display filters the UV light. Where it darkens, no light comes through and therefore no resin is hardened in these places. Where UV light comes through, the resin hardens.
The large number of LEDs in SLA printers generate enormous amounts of heat. For this, the devices require a large heat sink system, which causes noise and costs electricity. This simple system now works very error-free and can be produced inexpensively. But the efficiency of this technology tends more in the direction of the light bulb from 1990. Inside, large aluminum heat sinks and loud fans dominate. On top of that there is a lot of unused UV light, which only shortens the life of the mono display.
Digital Light Processing: DLP printers work completely differently than the common SLA printers. The combination of micromirrors and lens assembly manufactured by Texas Instruments is the heart of the Photon D2. The UV light is encoded directly via these micromirrors. It is then enlarged using a lens and projected directly onto the transparent underside of the resin tank via a mirror reflector. Highly complex technology, which unfortunately did not lead to market maturity with the first model of the Anycubic Ultra. There, users had to struggle with scattered light and so strange tree fungus structures grew on the printed parts. With the improved version of the Photon D2, we did not find any misprints or tree fungus structures and are accordingly satisfied with the successor.
SLA printers are clearly tried and tested and cost-effective thanks to their many years of market maturity. For 649 euros you get the current flagship, the Anycubic Photon M3 Plus (test report) . It offers fully automatic resin monitoring, short print times and a huge build volume of 197 × 122 × 245 mm. The aging evergreen Anycubic Mono X (test report)costs 449 euros. An inexpensive classic. However, due to the high energy consumption of the light matrix and its cooling system, SLA printers can consume up to five times more electricity than DLP printers. To illustrate: The D2 needs about 15 W – the SLA printer Mono X does not come with a 140 W power supply for nothing. Added to this is the short service life of the mono displays of a maximum of 2000 hours.
Our rising energy prices put the benefits of DLP printers in a whole new light. The DLP technology simply eliminates the vulnerable mono display, the strong UV light matrix and the loud cooling required for it.
The Photon D2 is equipped with a highly sensitive micro-mirror lens unit from Texas Instruments. This creates trust, as Texas Instruments is one of the leading American manufacturers of video projector technology. DLP technology has four times the light output. The enormous reduction in the amount of light also eliminates the entire internal cooling system. This enables very quiet operation and also reduces annoying resin smells to a minimum. And that at around a quarter of the operating costs.
First we unpack everything carefully and then connect the printer with the included power cable. Now you can switch on, place the level paper on the glass plate, remove the protective film from the construction platform and mount it on the handle with the screws provided. However, the screws should only be tightened loosely. Then you can attach the platform to the printer arm and use the home button to lower it. Thanks to the loose screws, it straightens the slide. Then you have to press the platform lightly onto the lower chassis with one hand and fix the screws firmly with the other hand. The platform is already aligned with the glass plate. Now it’s time to set the distance Z=0 correctly. The leveling paper should be difficult to slide back and forth at the ideal distance.
Now you move the leveled, aligned and fixed construction platform upwards, the resin tank can be inserted and screwed on in the next step. After filling in the resin, the test file can be ordered directly. The steps are also explained in detail and well illustrated in the supplied operating instructions.
The printer is operated via a blue illuminated 2.8-inch LCD. The print data can only be transferred to the printer via a USB stick. The logical menu structure can be used to level the printing platform or carry out a tank cleaning.
On the USB stick we find the in-house slicer software Anycubic Slicer Workshop for Mac and Windows. The software works decently on the whole. With larger support structures, however, she likes to hang up. That’s why we mainly work privately with the programs Lychee or Chitubox .
The technique has already been sufficiently explained above. Compared to its predecessor, the exposure chamber in the lower chassis has now been completely encased. Now there are no more disturbing light reflections. The Photon D2 has also been given a slightly larger installation space. The Anycubic Ultra only managed 102 x 58 x 165 mm. After all, the Photon D2 has already grown to 131 x 73 x 165 mm. A comparably large SLA printer is the Halot One 130 x 82 x 160 mm 2k, which we have already tested . This is already available from around 180 euros.
All in all, the Photon D2 looks simple yet solid. The construction platform is guided reliably via a one-armed guide of the Z-arm. The laser-engraved construction platform offers ideal support for the pressure pieces. A little tip: If the pressure pieces do not detach from the construction platform at all, a spatula can be placed on the edge of the pressure. Now you have to release the object from the platform with a firm tap on the end of the spatula.
In terms of hardware, we believe it is an enormous achievement to be able to offer such a precise and reliably functioning DLP printer at a manageable price.
Anycubic claims that the Photon D2’s xy resolution is 51 microns. Put simply, the Photon D2 is comparable to the most common SLA printers with 4K resolution. The mono displays of the SLA printers have pixels, this xy pixel resolution comes more or less to the fore with certain details. With the SLA printers, the xy resolution is a good benchmark for good print quality. The smaller the pixels of the mono display, the finer the gradations in the three-dimensional layers of the model.
With DLP technology, many individually directed UV light beams are guided by the micromirrors, so the typical mono display grid does not result, but a kind of grid is created due to the digital conversion and control of light via motor-controlled micromirrors. However, as a trend, DLP printing is more in the direction of a drawing.
Anycubic Photon D2 – print quality
To our eyes, the prints from the Photon D2 look more like those from a 6k SLA printer. The edges, curves and the finest details also appear more precisely and smoothly printed to us. In the model of the fighter, the curves of the body have a velvety sheen. In contrast, smoother surfaces and edges are more precisely cut.
For this test, we reduced the Notre Dame model to a quarter of the usual test size and then also reached its limits with the Photon D2. The finest struts on the handrails, for example, are no longer possible in the print size of 5 x 3 x 2.5 mm. Not even with DLP technology.
The print quality conclusion is: After the first tests, the technology now appears to us to be mature and very exciting! A real improvement that we will continue to monitor. In any case, the next nasty 3D models will now all be tested first with the Photon D2. DLP technology could be a real plus for structured, fine surfaces.
Starting today, the Photon D2 is available directly from Anycubic . As soon as it can be found at German dealers and in the price comparison, we will submit it here. The price for the product launch is still a whopping 729 euros. It’s expensive, but justified. Nevertheless, there is hope that the price will fall in the medium term.
The Anycubic Photon D2 is almost silent in operation and without the internal fans there is almost no smell of resin. In addition, it consumes significantly less electricity and generates no waste heat. However, small parts on large objects that were previously difficult to print and filigree surface designs benefit most from the precise DLP technology.
The only downer is the currently comparatively high purchase price. In terms of the hardware and the great print results, this is justified, but still significantly more expensive than SLA printers. The Creality Halot One (test report) , which was also awarded , is already available for less than 200 euros. Our top 10 best resin printers show alternatives from the individual tests .
General advice on the subject, tests on filament printers or consumables can be found in our 3D printer theme world .