Why I Chose the Wanhao Duplicator 7:
I have to admit I felt a bit tentative about jumping into resin printing, but it’s something I have been fascinated with for a long time. I was captivated back in 1998 when I watched the movie “Small Soldiers” as they created 3D models and used light [lasers] solidify layers from a liquid (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSu4Z9V8YEg). For the last few years I have seen high-end printers doing something similar, but on a public school teacher’s salary, I knew that was far from my budget. When I saw what the much more affordable Duplicator 7 from Wanhao was capable of, I was really curious if it could live up to the hype and to my high expectations — but I also just really needed to see a printer pull a solid model out of a shallow vat of liquid. It would be like magic, but also the realization of one of those “movie dreams” we have growing up. Not quite getting a working lightsaber or teleporter, but not too far from that. And at $495 at the time of writing this review, the D7 was something worth checking out.
Concerned about dealing with overseas companies…
I checked into Wanhao because I was concerned about dealing with another overseas company in my search for a Wanhao Duplicator 7 SLA printer, but I discovered that the new official North American Dealer is Ulitimate 3D Printing Store, and that they were stateside. [See this article: Ultimate 3D Printing Store Becomes Wanhao Master North American Distributor]. I also learned today that U3DPS is also the official North American dealer for the CraftUnique Craftbot printer line, so they are a 3D printing reseller to watch, for sure. (Check out Chris Garret‘s review of the Craftbot XL if you are interested)
About the D7 and Resin Printing:
With a build area of 120x70x200mm (4.72×2.75×7.87 inches), models will be small, but they are also beautiful. They have a layer resolution of 35 microns (smaller than the diameter of most human hairs) so it has the potential for extremely detailed prints. That is if I can wrap my brain around the technology and the new terminology. It’s vastly different from filament printing, although the basics are the same. You still have an X, Y and Z axis, you still print in layers, and you still work with 3D models (STL’s, OBJ’s, etc.).
So what is a “resin printer”? While a standard 3D printer uses filament which melts in an extruder [similar to a hot glue gun] to build layers of molten plastic into slice shapes on a build plate, resin printers utilize Digital Light Processing — or DLP. In this method, a vat of liquid resin sits on top of an HD LCD screen with a resolution of 2560×1440, and a UV projector. The internal HD LCD screen serves as a second monitor to your PC, so you will need an HDMI out on your video card to operate the printer. As a layer/slice is built, “white” UV light projects through the LCD screen and onto the thin layer of resin under the build plate to cure it, making it solid. The printer then lifts the build plate slightly to coat the cured resin with more liquid and lowers itself again to take the UV for the next layer. This process continues as the build plate moves higher and higher, eventually lifting a full model [upside down] out of the liquid resin. The D7 offers a build speed of 15mm-35mm/Hour depending on settings.
Note: Because the printer itself serves as a “second monitor”, you will need to adjust settings to the monitors don’t go to sleep after a period of inactivity, and if you start a game on the computer the D7 is connected to, it may change the resolution and kill your print. You may also have some issues with folders opening off-screen while your printer is connected — presumably being sent to the 2nd monitor. It does not seem to affect the print, but it is maddening to have to wait until the print is done so you can disconnect the printer and open your folders. I think a good workaround may be to hook up to a Raspberry Pi and use NanoDLP. That will free up your computer and allow you to print in a more ventilated location.
This printer uses the 395-405nm wavelength of UV, so it is compatible with most resin materials currently found on the market. For this review, however, I used only Wanhao brand liquid resin in white, black, gray, and clear.
Unboxing and Setting Up:
Upon opening the box, I was happy to find solid packaging holding the printer neatly in place, heavy-duty straps holding things together,
and well-positioned cardboard and spacers to keep everything in place. The only thing I had out of place was the red seal band that runs around the base of the lid, but that pushed easily back into place. A few straps snipped off, some cushioned packing material removed, and some very simple assembly and the printer was [physically, at least] ready to print. It came with a box of accessories/parts that included a really nice hex driver that fit the screws perfectly and was comfortable in my hand, a plastic scraper which should be used for gently scraping the vat and not to pry off builds from the build plate, a jar for alcohol to rinse completed prints, and two pairs of nitrile gloves — which you will definitely want to utilize. The few parts that needed to be put together were simple and the instructions were clear.
About This Printer:
The completed Duplicator 7 is a sleek, powder-coated, black metal printer that stands 33.5cm tall (35.5cm tall including the top handle), 20cm wide, and 20cm deep. It’s a sturdy printer at 12kg [about 26 pounds] without the resin. The version I received (1.4) is black with a red seal band at the base of the lid. This version offers an internal 70-watt power supply as well as an additional cooling fan, a larger heat sink, and larger UV cooling fan than earlier models. It is also the “Red” edition which includes the anti-wobble kit. I have to say that I was extremely happy with the sturdiness and quality of the pieces. I felt like it was built strong and would hold up for years of printing, and seems to be a quality well worth the money. The only potential weakness I see is the plastic on the bottom of the resin vat. They provide an extra sheet of plastic, but I’m thinking this will probably be replaced fairly regularly — especially if you have some difficult builds. If something doesn’t adhere to the build plate, for example, the printer continues to run and the solid resin sticks to the plastic sheet and gets progressively larger as layers are added. When you realize this, you have to pry the resin off the plastic, which has the potential for some damage. I suggest emptying your resin back into the bottle before you take this step on, because a hole or tear in the plastic will mean any resin in the vat pouring out the bottom and into the printer — or onto your table. Please note that this has not happened to me. Everything has been strong and has taken a beating through my clumsy attempts at printing.
As far as the overall build went, we had one minor parts problem which caused some major issues… until I began troubleshooting. When printing, no light was projecting onto the build plate, so the resin stayed liquid. I looked for loose wires, bad connections, checked my Windows display settings, and finally thought, “What if the HDMI cable isn’t working?” It wasn’t. When I replaced the cable, did some partial test prints, adjusted my settings, and worked it out, the next attempt was a beautiful print of the moon from a Thingiverse model [https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2531838]. The image shows the Moon print sitting atop a separately printed base. Okay, so it was supposed to be a goblet, but I hate throwing away failed prints.
Now, because of this non-UV issue, I would recommend doing a test-print before you put the resin in the vat. You will have already homed your Z-axis and set everything up, but a test print will let you see if the patterns being projected [or not]. I ended up taking the vat off the printer and doing a test print [which is how I found the aforementioned problem], but this method can be messy. The manufacturer should suggest this step [test print to see if the UV is projecting properly] in the setup instructions.
I did have various other issues getting my first prints to work, but to be honest, those were mostly due to my lack of understanding of resin printer settings, forgetting that I unplugged the HDMI or USB Printer cable, forgetting to click the “CONNECT” button, or forgetting to home the Z axis before clicking PRINT. To my defense, the illustrations suggesting what numbers to put in the settings were very small [and some not in English] so I had some difficulty, but after seeking some guidance from the D7 communities on Facebook, I happened upon the “Wanhao D7 DLP Resin Printer Support” group [https://www.facebook.com/groups/WanhaoD7ResinPrinter/} where they shared “resin profiles”, a Quick Setup Guide, and offered immediate help to help me get moving. I’m sure with a lot of trial and error I could have figured out what I was missing, but they saved me days of time and energy and foul language.
I was pleasantly surprised that the printer didn’t have any beeping, music, or sound effects. The motors were quiet and the only noise that really comes from the printer is the hum of the fans when you turn the unit on. I was also happy that there was really no vibration to speak of — even as it was sitting on a cheap, plastic card table. The machine seems to be finely tuned.
The Software: Creation Workshop:
The software [Creation Workshop] was not included with the kit but is available at the manufacturer’s website. They had a temporary outage (3 days) when I was setting up my printer, but I found the most recent software on the D7 Facebook group. I am told that NanoDLP is another software that works with the D7, but I have not tried that. A direct link to the D7 version of Creation Workshop can be downloaded here. I’m not sure how long CW will be supported as their main site (Envision Labs) says that “Creation workshop and Envision Labs now has a new home at: http://www.datatree3d.com/“. I’m looking into this, but at this time I do not have answers.
Creation Workshop is fairly easy to use but seems to lack the ability to resize, scale, or move an object with the mouse. It’s a manual setting (i.e. 123%). Having used a variety of 3D printing software, being able to drag something on the build plate is a feature I would like to have, although I do understand that CW is not made by Wanhao, it is the software the company instructs you to use. While we are on the subject of Creation Workshop, one of the steps in the instruction manual tells you to press the Home Button to home your Z-axis [put the build plate down at the bottom of the vat]. What I didn’t see [and maybe I missed it] was the instruction to click “Connect” on the top menu of Creation Workshop. If you aren’t connected to the printer, it will not “home”.
These are some of the specs of the system, resin, environment, etc.
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home
- System: x64-based PC
- Processor: Intel(R) Core(™) i5-7500 CPU @ 3.5GHz, 3401 Mhz, 4 Cores, 4 Logical
- Installed Physical Memory: 8.00 GB
- Printer: Wanhao Duplicator 7 (1.4)
- Software: Creation Workshop (v.220.127.116.11)
- Resin: Wanhao White (250ML)
- HDMI Port / Cable
- USB 2.0 Port / Printer Cable
- No fans or enclosure.
- Room ambient temperature: 73°F (23°C)
The Printing Process:
I was actually very impressed with the printing quality, but as I said at the outset of this review, resin printing is a different beast altogether. For example, when you begin printing with a filament printer, you can see immediately if the filament is sticking to the build plate, and you can cancel the print accordingly. With the D7, the build plate is submerged and you can’t see progress for a while — maybe an hour. When you carefully lift off the lid to peek in and you see nothing but air between the build plate and the resin, you know you will have to cancel the build and scrape the bottom of the vat for what is stuck to the plastic.
The other thing to consider is the steps involved in finishing a print in resin. With a filament printer, you break the print loose from the build plate and you’re done. With the Duplicator 7 you have some work ahead of you. As I understand the process, you:
- let the excess resin drip from the print [and build plate] into the vat
- put on your nitrile gloves
- detach the build plate with the attached print
- put the build plate in a dish so you can use a scraper or razor blade to peel the build off
- reattach the build plate to the printer
- put the finished print in the jar of alcohol to clean off excess resin
- wash the finished [cleaned] print off with soap and water
- snip off support material before it’s cured
- put the finished print in a jar of water and sit in the sun for 10 minutes to finish curing
- clean your work area, scraper, tools, etc.
- discard gloves
What I found by following that process is that it may take longer for your resin to cure than documented. I ended up keeping my pieces sitting in the window with sun exposure for a couple days until I didn’t feel the slimy resin [especially inside a piece]. Now, I may not have cleaned that piece good enough, so again… that may have been my fault.
My Final Thoughts:
So with all of the work, why would you choose resin over filament? Well, it prints beautifully, it is not susceptible [as far as I can tell] to humidity, does not create a giant “spaghetti monster” on your build plate, doesn’t seem to have the problem of layers peeling off, and it’s something new to play with.
Drawbacks of resin printing include not being able to watch it build, having to learn new design techniques [especially for supports], the odor [at least for the resin I have used] seems too pungent for me, and I really don’t like the potential mess being that close to my computer. Because it runs as a second monitor, it doesn’t work off of an SD / MicroSD card and has display problems (as mentioned above).
Overall, I am very happy with the Wanhao Duplicator 7. On a personal level, I want at least one DLP / Resin printer in my workshop, and with what is out there as far as quality, pricing, availability, and a supportive user base, the D7 gets my vote. I would like a larger build area for sure, but I think this is going to keep me modeling pieces to test its’ limits for a while.
You can purchase the Wanhao Duplicator 7 at this link. The Ultimate 3D Printing Story is currently [at the time of writing] offering a free 250ML bottle of resin with purchase.
I did a couple videos to show the unboxing, setup, troubleshooting, first print, post-print/curing, and cleanup:
For the sake of openness and transparency, this printer was provided free of charge from The Ultimate 3D Printing Store for review purposes. As I am sure you can see, I review things honestly — praising quality or critiquing where I see potential improvements. I am grateful for the opportunity to review this printer, and I am looking forward to continuing my series on using the Wanhao D7, exploring resins, creating models for this printer, etc. I will say (in all honesty) that even if you choose another printer, I still recommend The Ultimate 3D Printer store.