3D printing is more accessible than ever. Just a decade ago, the only commercially available printers cost four figures, and their use was primarily by prototyping companies or by university STEM departments. Nowadays the price has dropped significantly, but the products are still as complicated as they were when they were operated by scientists and professionals. Elegoo wants to bring 3D printing to the masses, but are the masses ready to learn?
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Elegoo’s Saturn 3 Ultra is the company’s fanciest printer, but will only set you back $600, a little more than a PS5. That seems like a lot of money, but for a printer with 12K resolution and 150mm/h print speed, it’s an incredibly competitive deal. It’s also frequently offered, so you can get a decent discount if you’re willing to be patient. If this seems like too much for you, it’s probably time to stop reading, because over the last few months I’ve realized that 3D printing is not just a means to an end, but a hobby in itself.
Setting up the Saturn 3 Ultra is surprisingly easy. The instructions are clear, the process is simple, there is nothing to complain about. However, things get much more complicated when you actually start printing.
The first hurdle was the software. The Saturn uses the Voxeldance Tango Slicer, which you load your STL into to support it. This software is not particularly user friendly and was more difficult to learn than anything else in the printing process. However, it appears that the Saturn will work with other software if you have a preferred program. The software side is something Elegoo co-founder Kevin Wong wanted to improve when we spoke to him earlier this year. “In the future we will work more on the software side,” he told me. “Because the slicer and the overall system that is integrated into the product can really do it [put off] Customers.”
However, once I figured out cutting, I printed numerous models on the Saturn. I immediately felt the wrath of countless misprints as I learned to use the slicing software and dial in my perfect settings. I don’t know how much resin I wasted on countless rookie mistakes, none of which were particularly well explained, despite the hours of YouTube tutorials I watched. Keep in mind that I’m new to this hobby and after a few months I’m far more comfortable with the countless settings that need to be checked before printing.
Note the small areas where coat lines are visible, even after priming and painting.
Once my bed was perfectly leveled and the settings adjusted enough to get the best results, printing was a joy. The Saturn 3 Ultra is surprisingly fast and the level of detail is extremely impressive. The interface was easy to use and the ability to ping your supported files over Wi-Fi is much easier than models that require wired connections or USB ports.
After printing, washing follows. If you don’t rework your miniature, it will create a sticky mess of toxic resin and eventually the unhardened model will explode. Luckily, Elegoo’s range of mercury washing and curing stations make this stage a breeze. I had no problems at all at this stage of printing.
It should be noted that 3D resin printing produces dangerous fumes as a byproduct. Therefore, it is extremely important to wear appropriate PPE protection and print in a well-ventilated area. The Saturn 3 Ultra has a built-in air purifier that helps combat the pungent odors emanating from the printer, but if anything, that made me even more paranoid because the fumes were still seeping into the room, just that the smell had been removed. Personally, I’ll probably avoid printing until I have a garage or shed to work from.
As one of Elegoo’s flagship printers, you’ll notice a few things missing. The most glaring absence is automatic plate leveling, something the competition offers that would be a big quality of life improvement.
Overall, the Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra is a great printer. The detail on the prints is nothing short of astounding, and if you’re willing to put in the effort to learn the intricacies of the hobby, this seems like the perfect place to start. Elegoo has made the printing process as easy as possible, and if the software can be improved (something that can be updated after purchase) it will only get better.
Elegoo has provided the Saturn 3 Ultra for testing.
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