Most people prefer a resin 3D printer because it delivers higher quality prints than 3D printers that use filaments. But you will need to clean your resin 3D printer if you want it to last longer.
These are the steps you’ll need to follow when cleaning a resin 3D printer:
- Gather what you need.
- Prepare your workspace.
- Empty the resin vat.
- Make sure you get all the resin from the FEP film.
- Clean the sides of the vat with paper towels.
- Clean the build plate.
- Clean your tools.
Read on as we explain how to properly clean your resin 3D printer and get tips on how to do these things right.
1. Gather What You Need
It’s always a good idea to first gather everything that you need to clean a resin vat. For one, you might have your hands full holding the vat, handling the resin, and other stuff that you have to do.
It pays to have these materials:
Rubber or Silicone Scrapers
Silicone or rubber scrapers can help you speed up getting the leftover resin out of the vat. You can scrape the resin off the middle parts of the vat towards the corners or pour spout.
Some of the products we recommend are as follows:*
- Update International (RSC-14) 14″ Rubber Scraper: This one is easy to clean and heat-resistant up to 330°F (165.55°C).
- MOACC Silicone Spatulas: With this set, you give five multi-colored (which makes them easy to spot) spatulas for one low price!
- M KITCHEN WORLD Silicone Spatula Set: These give you a range of sizes and shapes from which to choose, so you can find the one that best suits your needs.
*Note: All product recommendations (these and those that follow) can be found on Amazon.com.
Funnel and Bottle
When you drain the resin out of the vat, you will need to store it somewhere. The good news is that you can buy some, such as the SZWENFA PE Plastic Bottles, to store the leftover resin in the vat. These bottles are excellent choices if you’re looking for something small with a tight seal.
Of course, you will need a funnel to get the resin into the bottle without making a mess. Check these products from Amazon.com:
- Teenitor Set of 5 Glass Funnels: This set gives you five different funnels to fit into any size bottle you might have.
- Norpro Plastic Funnel: There are only three of these, but they’re inexpensive and easy to clean.
- Lakatay Stainless Steel Funnels: Since they’re made from stainless steel, these are durable and dishwasher safe.
However, some people drain leftover resin into the same bottle from which it came. This would be a good idea because you’re sure that the bottle will have enough space to store the leftover resin from the vat.
Others do not recommend this, though, because they say that the resin from the vat will contaminate the unused resin that’s still in the bottle. So your mileage may vary, and you will need to decide whether you want to do this.
With this method, you don’t have to buy plastic bottles anymore. But you will need to filter the leftover resin to ensure that no big pieces of hardened resin are getting into the bottle.
You can use the Skophy 3D Printer Resin Filter, which combines a metal mesh that you can use as a filter and a silicone funnel.
Paper Towels and Microfiber Cloth
A 3D resin printer’s tank has an FEP film, which is two layers of transparent foil attached to the resin tank. FEP film allows the ultraviolet light through so that the resin can be cured without any problem.
While minor scratches and smudges on the FEP film will not affect your print’s quality, it’s still a good idea to use a microfiber cloth to wipe the FEP film down.
A microfiber cloth is soft enough not to scratch the FEP film. You can buy a microfiber cloth that’s made for glass, like the MR.SIGA Ultra Fine Microfiber Cloths for glass, which is designed to be soft and non-abrasive. It’s also lint-free.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly alternative, check out the AIDEA Microfiber Cleaning Cloths instead. They work well because they’re soft, lint-free, and come 100 to a pack.
You can use paper towels to clean up everything else, like an unwanted spill, or to wipe down the vat itself. But use only microfiber cloth on the FEP film.
Further, when using a microfiber cloth, you don’t have to use the entire piece. You can cut it into several smaller pieces and clean the FEP film with one piece.
When you do this, you should vacuum the edges of the cut microfiber cloth to make sure that no small pieces of cloth will be left behind on the film.
A glass cleaner can help you clean the resin vat without too much effort. What’s more, you can use the same glass cleaner to clean everything you use for this process.
You can clean not only the vat but also the funnel, filter, scraper, and just about everything else too.
Choose a streak-free and ammonia-free glass cleaner that will leave your resin vat cleaners without cloudiness. Hope’s Perfect Glass Cleaner is an excellent choice because it comes with a convenient spray bottle and a larger pour-spout bottle you can use to refill your spray bottle whenever you need to do so.
You Can Use Isopropyl Alcohol
Instead of using a glass cleaning product, you can dissolve the leftover resin with isopropyl alcohol. According to this site, isopropyl alcohol is excellent for cleaning your printer’s resin vat because of its high evaporation rate. The alcohol doesn’t pool, and it dries fast, so no moisture gets to damage your machine.
If you want to use rubbing alcohol to clean your resin vat, you can order this multipack of Solimo 99% Isopropyl Alcohol from Amazon. You get 12 16-ounce (473-ml) bottles for one reasonable price, and the company offers a 100% money-back guarantee.
2. Prepare Your Workspace
Now that you have all the materials together, you can start cleaning the vat. But first, you need to prepare your work area.
Cover the table with a plastic tablecloth so you can protect the surface just in case you spill something. Also, wear protective gloves to protect your hands from any harmful chemicals.
Further, you can prepare two to three sheets of paper towels and spray these with the glass cleaner. Doing this can make it easier and faster for you to wipe anything that gets in contact with the resin. You also get to avoid reaching out and touching anything that is contaminated with resin on your gloves.
3. Empty the Resin Vat
The first thing you should do is remove the vat from the 3D printer and then drain the leftover resin into the plastic bottles you have.
Use the funnel and filter to make this process easier. You can reuse the resin after you have finished cleaning the vat.
Be sure to use the corner with the pour spout to empty the vat. The pour spout is specially designed to make it easier to transfer the leftover resin to any container you want.
Lastly, make sure that you don’t pour the resin outside of the filter and directly into the funnel. This will only introduce unfiltered resin into your bottle.
4. Make Sure You Get All the Resin From the FEP Film
Once you’ve poured the resin out of the vat, get the rubber scraper and scrape the remaining resin towards the pour spout. Doing this will help speed up the process and ensure that there will be a very minimal amount of resin left on the vat.
Once that’s done, you can start wiping down the bottom part with a microfiber cloth and the glass cleaner. The bottom part is transparent.
This is the FEP film, and you should ensure that you don’t scratch it by using the microfiber cloth. You will notice how the microfiber cloth is not only soft but it can also absorb a lot of the resin.
Wipe as much of the resin from the FEP film that you can.
Cleaning the FEP Film
When cleaning the FEP film, it’s very important that you use the microfiber cloth not to scratch the film. If you scratch the FEP film, the print quality of your 3D printer will get worse and worse over time.
You can use three dry pieces of cut microfiber cloth to clean the film. One after another, the cloth will clean more resin than the previous one.
You can also use isopropyl alcohol. You can start by using two dry pieces of microfiber cloth, then one with alcohol, and then another dry piece to wipe it down.
If you don’t have a microfiber cloth, you can still clean the FEP film. Use absorbent paper towels that can sop up a lot of liquid.
However, do not rub the paper towel against the FEP film. Instead, gently dab the paper towel and let it absorb the leftover resin until it’s all clean.
5. Clean the Sides of the Vat With Paper Towels
Now that you have gotten most of the resin from the FEP film with the microfiber cloth, you should clean the vat itself with paper towels. It’s important to alternate cleaning the resin off the FEP film with microfiber cloth and the sides of the vat with paper towels.
This way, you’re sure you don’t clean the FEP film thoroughly, only to have the resin from the sides mess it up again. Doing this will also enable you to put the vat down when you need to without getting any resin on the surface.
Just continue cleaning the FEP film and the vat until there is no residue left.
6. Clean the Build Plate
After cleaning the vat, you should take out the build plate and clean off any of the remaining resins that you can find there. Most people find that using paper towels and glass cleaner for this purpose works just fine. Keep your gloves on, though, just in case.
7. Clean Your Tools
Once you have replaced the resin vat and the build plate, you should also use a paper towel and glass cleaner to wipe the resin off all the tools you used to clean your resin vat. If you have accidentally spilled on any surface, wipe them off as well.
How Often Should You Clean Your Resin Vat?
The general rule is to clean your resin vat every time your prints fail. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a big or minor failure; you should clean the resin vat. This is because you will not be able to see if there are cured resins on the FEP film until you take the resin out of the vat.
The problem with cured resins is that they stick to the FEP film or the vat itself. As you continue to print, it can get bigger and become more difficult to remove later on.
Or the cured resin might be floating around in the vat and get pressed down by the build plate. The cured resin will get pressed into the FEP film and onto the LCD screen when this happens.
The result is that there will be some dead pixels on your LCD screen. Your printer’s print quality will take a heavy blow until you replace the LCD screen.
LCD screens can be pretty expensive, so you want to take excellent care of yours so that you don’t have to replace it any time soon. In most cases, simply replacing the LCD screen costs almost a third or more of what it would cost to replace your entire 3D printer.
Cleaning Cured Resin That’s Stuck to the FEP Film
If you have cured resin that’s stuck to the FEP film, be very careful not to scratch the polymer sheet. You can actually use the plastic spatula that came with your 3D printer.
If that doesn’t work, you can use a finger to get it loose. You only need to gently push the stuck piece of cured resin from under the FEP film.
When doing this, wear nitrile gloves. Nitrile gloves are disposable, and they give you more protection when you’re handling chemicals than latex gloves.
Cleaning Cured Resin That’s Stuck to the Vat Itself
If you find that there’s some cured resin that’s stuck to the resin vat, you can pour in isopropyl alcohol and let it soak for a few minutes.
How long do you soak it?
It can be anywhere from five to 20 minutes, depending on how big the cured resin is, along with other factors.
IPA can help loosen up or dissolve the cured resin, making it easier for you to wipe down with a paper towel.
The thing with cleaning a 3D resin printer is that you can accomplish this using household items. The star of the show is the glass cleaner or isopropyl alcohol. With a bit of know-how and a microfiber cloth, you can avoid damaging the FEP film, which needs utmost care so that you don’t scratch it while cleaning.