Resin Printing with Donatello: Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K

So even when I was buying my Sidewinder X1, I was dreaming of also owning a resin printer that could do miniatures in high detail and now Wallace has a friend in Donatello.

I wanted to buy a medium sized resin printer, something that could print large, high detail busts, or bigger space ship models, so when I heard about the Elegoo Saturn, I was pretty sure I was going to wait for that printer to be available in Canada either through Amazon or another trusted source. It had a nice large build plate with its 192mm by 120mm by 200mm build volume, which would be similar to the larger things I had printed on Wallace since getting it (despite the Sidewinder having a 300mm by 300mm by 400mm build volume, I never seem to need to use it’s full volume).

But as July turned into August and August into September, I was no closer to having an Elegoo Saturn printer. See, the Saturn wasn’t available to anyone but the few hundred pre-orders that they sold out of in under ten minutes, so I started looking at other options and that’s when I stumbled upon the Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K.

The Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K has a slightly larger build volume than the Elegoo Mars, the original Phrozen Sonic Mini and a few other small resin 3D printers at 120 mm by 68 mm by 130 mm. With it’s 4K screen, I was going to get a XY resolution of 35µm versus the more typical 50µm of other printers around the same price.

And since the primary thing I wanted to do with a resin printer was to print miniature models, something that Wallace struggled with, I didn’t need a huge build volume, just something reasonable, and when I realized that the resolution/pixel density on the Sonic Mini 4K was higher than the Elegoo Saturn that I was previously considering, then I really started to consider what the most important thing was for my first resin printer.

I Wanted Detail!

Left: Sonic Mini 4K, Right: Sidewinder X1

There was also a noticeable potential price difference between the two printers, and I also rationalized the smaller build volume by deciding that this is my first resin printer and not necessarily my only resin printer.

So I looked for a Canadian distributor of the Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K and found Creative CADWorks, a company in Toronto that has printers, resin, and more. Their pricing seemed reasonable at under $600 and their timeline for getting me a unit actually beat many people that were ordering it directly from Phrozen around the same time that I did (and I only know that from the Facebook group with many complaints about impatiently waiting for their units to arrive).

I also ordered a wash and cure station from Amazon to limit the mess, especially in the increasingly cramped quarters of my office, and once I received the printer, I was off to the races.

Since getting it around a month ago, I’ve printed around one hundred miniatures including fantasy minis, sci-fi minis, minis of my wife and I created on Hero Forge, some fighters from Babylon 5, and a Wonder Woman bust for my mom to paint.

I’ve had to learn a ton to be able to do this though…

Learning Curve

Where the biggest learning curve of Wallace has been temperatures, speed and retraction, the learning curve of printing with Donatello has been focused on setting up proper supports. Many models aren’t pre-supported, and the automatic supports that come with the slicing software doesn’t catch everything, which can lead to failed prints. And since you can’t see if the print is working or not for as long as an hour or two into a print attempt, making sure you reduce failures is important!

My workflow has been to primarily print models that have been supported by 3DPrintingPro as his rarely fail with the otherwise noobish settings on my printer.

Outside of that, I typically take a model, tilt it back between twenty and thirty-five degrees, run the medium auto-supports, and then replace a few of the lowest medium auto-supports with heavy supports, add in some light supports in detailed overhangs/islands and then run the sliced file through the Photon File Validator.

I use that to find issues which I then try to fix in the CHITUBOX slicer. Then I re-export, and check again. If there are still some, I use the Fix tool in the file validator to try to resolve some more of them.

Any that can’t be resolved automatically by the software can be fixed by clicking on them and using the file validator’s pen tool to draw in one or two pixel wide lines to support the islands. I haven’t noticed this cause any issues on my prints, nor am I certain that it increases my successes, but it makes me feel good to have a print without any issues showing on the application.

Then I open the fixed file in CHITUBOX, re-slice it so I can save it as a .ctb file and then print it on my printer.

My CHITUBOX Settings

My first prints were all using 2KG of Phrozen Aqua-Grey 4K resin which was amazing. As soon as I can get my hands on more, I will.

I found a 0.03mm layer height to give me a great amount of detail, and a low number of failed supports. I think lowering the default lift speed also helped reduce support failure. Both of these options of course increase printing time, so I average five to eight hours per print run, but I can typically get three to five minis on a build plate without an issue, especially if they’ve been pre-supported by 3DPrintingPro like I mentioned above.

Donatello has been a work horse and while I did have an issue with a small hole in my FEP film which slowed me down, otherwise the process has been amazing. So far, it doesn’t require the same level of tinkering as Wallace does to produce prints that I’m happy with. Sometimes, I even think about abandoning FDM printing all together and using the space taken up by that equipment for more resin printing fun! But then I look at my shelf of minis and realize that I probably don’t need to do that right now and FDM still has its uses, sometimes…

I mean, this fall Phrozen will be releasing their Phrozen Sonic Mighty 4K with a larger build volume…

2 comments

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    • Malcolm Peralty

      I have not been learning how to do 3d modelling. I’ve been printing models that others have created. There are millions of them for just about any interest. I could do minor customizations on them using different software, but beyond that is beyond me (at least right now)

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