The market for desktop resin 3D printers is booming — more and more manufacturers are offering compact devices. Earlier, this niche was firmly occupied by machines based on SLA and DLP technologies. Nowadays, however, there is a significant development of expensive 3D printing technologies, one of them is LCD, meaning printers with a liquid-crystal matrix. This is the technology that was used by the company that successfully received funding on Kickstarter twice — a Taiwanese company Phrozen, which is the main focus of this article.
Phrozen, founded by a group of Taiwanese engineers, has been around since 2013. In 2017, the company launched its first prototype - a 3D printer, which uses an LCD matrix to create an image on a layer of photopolymer resin. Phrozen was able to raise more than $375,000 on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, with a stated goal of $30,000. In 2019, the company repeated its success, raising more than $519,000, with the same modest goal of thirty thousand. In both cases, the sponsors were interested in getting a printer with unique characteristics at a reasonable price.
Phrozen stand at the Formnext Exhibition in Germany
The LCD printing process is almost identical to the DLP technology. In DLP, the three-dimensional product is created by curing layer after layer of resin with UV light. The main difference is that LCD-based 3D printers use a bank of UV LEDs to project light through a mask of the layer on an LCD panel. In DLP 3D printers however, a set of micro mirrors is used to selectively project UV light to create an image on the resin layer.
Phrozen product line includes:
What makes Phrozen 3D printers stand out from other manufacturers? The main distinguishing features are the ability to quickly print out several units simultaneously, a great variety of brand resins, and compatibility with materials produced by other manufacturers. In addition to that, other features such as easy maintenance of the resin vat with FEP film, a high-resolution LCD matrix that allows printing with an accuracy of 0.047 mm and low cost of the entire device as a whole are worth mentioning.
Another remarkable feature is the Phrozen’s signature UV engine - paraLED, which provides a perpendicular and uniform light flow in relation to the LCD matrix.The construction is made up of an array of LEDs with a system of concave glass forms. The printing platform moves along the Z axis on linear bearings on two rigid rails, which helps to avoid the usual printing errors for 3D printers of the same price category.
Phrozen Shuffle uses a 5.5” LCD screen with a resolution of 2560x1440. Phrozen claims XY resolution of 47 microns (0.047mm), which represents a very high level of accuracy. When scaled to an eight-inch screen, a printer with the same resolution provides a maximum XY accuracy of 85 microns (0.085 mm). To put it in perspective, the laser spot size for SLA printers is 70 microns.
Two large fans allow to cool down the printer’s matrix and electronic components. The printer is controlled by a Raspberry Pi microcomputer with three USB 2.0 ports. This feature makes it possible to connect to the printer via Ethernet. You can select the print object and adjust the printer’s parameters both via the touch screen and the web interface.
Shuffle Lite, which is based on Shuffle 2019, provides almost identical characteristics but at a lower price. In comparison with Phrozen Shuffle 2019, the Lite has an orange plastic cover that filters harmful UV radiation, along with a single linear guide path for the Z-axis, and a slightly smaller printing area.
The Shuffle XL is similar to the Shuffle, with the exception of a scaled up build volume in the XY-plane. In addition to that, XL offers an 8.9” matrix compared to Shufle’s 5.5" at the same 2K resolution, meaning 2560x1440.
In comparison with Shuffle, Shuffle 4K is a significantly redesigned device. Switching to a 4K panel (3940x2160) allowed to increase the X/Y resolution from 47 to 31 microns, while maintaining the physical size of the matrix at 5.5 inches. The higher pixel density also required changing the UV light source. ParaLED 2.0 - the source patented by Phrozen - is a set of UV LEDs with a unique arrangement of conclave glass forms. These forms refract light in such way that rays pass through the LCD matrix as perpendicularly as possible, making it possible to distribute the light evenly and with the minimum loss of luminous power.
In addition to that, the new device now has a standard air filtration unit, which helps to reduce the unpleasant smell of resin in the process of printing. Shuffle 4K’s Z-axis travel has become a bit shorter, making the device’s build plate 30 mm smaller. In this model, Phrozen changed the location of the boards inside the frame. This helped to make the design neater since in the previous devices the two internal boards - the Raspberry Pi and the printer controller - had to be connected with a cable outside the frame. On top of that, Phrozen added the possibility to connect to the printer via Wi-Fi along with the ability to upload files via SD-card.
As with some of its earlier models, Phrozen crowdfunded the release of Transform on Kickstarter. The model sparked so much interest that with the stated goal of $ 30,000, it was possible to raise almost $ 520,000.
Transform stands out from the majority of LCD 3D printers: the printer uses interchangeable LCD panels — it is possible to use either a single 13.3” panel or two 5.5” ones, which allows users to double the overall production output of the device. A 400 mm long Z-axis, with additional features for increasing stability, makes it possible to produce large and heavy parts.
In Sonic, Phrozen uses so called mono-LCD technology, which allows to produce a more transparent LCD screen than LCD displays commonly used in 3D printers. Greater transparency in the UV range makes it possible to increase the intensity of light exposure, which allows to cure a 0.05 mm layer of resin in just 0.5 seconds. Such speed is impossible in 3D printers with a traditional LCD panel. In addition to that, Phrozen claims that the new panel is four times more wear-resistant and durable than the usual, and promises a lifetime of 2000 hours. Sonic runs the Phrozen’s OS and uses the proprietary PZslice Pro slicing software.
James Brickell uses Shuffle XL for his hobby. He creates 3D miniatures of various characters and model parts.
James writes: "The biggest draw to the Shuffle XL is the build area though, it allows you to create far larger models than ever before. Phrozen Shuffle XL offers the same detail you get from these smaller printers but with a build area that is nearly double the usable space. You can use that space to print a lot of fantastic stuff, from full-size mechanical pieces to extra large models and sculptures. I was able to fit a full-face mask — 5.5 inches x 8 inches — on to the build plate”.
“The Phrozen uses something called a "ParaLED Optical Engine," which helps to keep the resolution high, and you can tell in every print that it far exceeds expectations. When you look at the Cheerful Pilot it's hard to know that the model is 3D printed, it could easily pass for an injection-molded piece. The mini Avengers by Wekster do show some layer lines, but I printed them at 50 percent their standard size at 0.5mm layer height, so it was inevitable. The layer lines are still almost invisible, regardless of the size of the model. It's very impressive”.
“I have had a lot of fun with the Phrozen Shuffle XL, trying to push the limits of what I thought I could do with resin. I have been able to print huge amounts of models all in one go — all those Avengers minis were printed at the same time — as well as much larger models. The cheerful pilot model may be my favorite from now on, and you can see in the pictures that all of the details are pin sharp. It doesn't matter that I printed her at 240 percent; she still looks immaculate”.
Matthew Himes from Ohio uses 3D printers to print layouts of architectural objects.
At first, he used FDM, but soon the quality of the models printed with filament ceased to satisfy: “I saw this printer and purchased it mainly for the large build area. SLA printers generally have much smaller build areas than FDM printers, so I was impressed by this large building area. For an SLA printer, 190 x 120 x 200 mm is a huge build area- this is even bigger than some FDM printers. But after a while of using it, I realize that this printer has much more than a large build area”.
“The printer is packaged nicely, ensuring none of the parts come damaged or scratched. One of the best parts of this printer is that it comes ready to print out of the box. The printer comes with many useful extra parts, such as a plastic funnel, gloves, 2 scrapers, and more. Another first impression was the linear rails: they definitely ensure stability", writes Matthew.
"The LCD screen is simple to use, and it’s touch screen is a useful feature. I put the flash drive in and used the LCD screen to access the print button. The printing began. I’ve only printed a few objects, but they have turned out wonderfully. The pictures attached don’t show the printer justice. But I am very pleased with the results - the prints come in high resolution with lots of small details”.
Luca printed this figurine of a Star Wars character using Phrozen Shuffle 2019.
Simon shares his latest work:
“Tribute to all the women pilots! Made in collaboration with Scientific Models, the 3D model was printed by my Phrozen Shuffle”.
The figurine after the colouring process.
Simon is a professional 3D sculptor; he is very excited about his new Phrozen Transform printer.
"This is my version of Hades. The model is 60 cm tall, it was designed in ZBrush and printed on Phrozen Transform using Monocore 3D resins," writes Simon.
Figurine after post-processing, assembly and painting:
The first thing that catches your eye when you go to the manufacturer’s website is that all of the models of Phrozen 3D printers are constantly sold out. The brand is so popular that they have to use the just-in-time approach to manufacturing — every produced printer is immediately sold. This level of popularity is self-explanatory: according to the all3dp.com magazine’s list of the “best resin 3D printers”, the closest Phrozen3D competitor in terms of technical characteristics - B9Creator v1.2 - is almost twice as expensive.
Some models have certain disadvantages, for instance, Phrozen’s questionable interface, the lack of ready-made profiles for materials from other manufacturers, or a high level of noise during the printing process. Nonetheless, users are willing to put up with these drawbacks for the sake of highly detailed 3D printed models. More than that, the company is constantly working to improve its products.
It’s safe to say that most existing resin 3D printing devices are in no way "entry-level" printers — they are intended for professional use. Models, which are printed out using these printers, require mandatory post-processing, but the resulting product is far superior in quality to the more common FDM printing.
You can get a Phrozen 3D printer at Top 3D Shop and take advantage of the highest quality service.