Adventures in 3D Printing: The ELEGOO Saturn 2

3D Printing Products Reviews

Last Spring, I reviewed the ELEGOO Saturn printer, an excellent mid-size 4K MSLA machine. Now ELEGOO has preorders open for their latest iteration, the Saturn 2. Read on to learn the features of this new printer, and why you very well might want this to be your next 3D Printing purchase.

SLA vs FDM: The Two Types of 3D Printing

Briefly, for our readers who aren’t that familiar with 3D printers but are thinking about dipping their toes in the water:

There are essentially two types of printers available, stereolithographic (SLA) and fused deposition modeling (FDM). FDM models use a heated filament (most frequently PLA plastic) to build up a model, adding layer after layer until the model is complete. SLA printers use light to solidify a layer of resin at a time, creating the model. In the case of the Saturn 2, which is a masked stereolithographic (MSLA) printer, it uses light specifically from an LED array combined with an LCD photomask.

Both types of printers use their own type of “slicer” software to prepare a 3D model for printing, allowing you to adjust for the type of material you’re printing, how much detail you want to put into the final product (the finer the detail, the longer it takes to print), and if you need to add any “supports” into the model to help ensure that the model doesn’t break or deform during the printing the process.

If you’re new to 3D printing, this can all seem a bit overwhelming. Don’t worry, I’ll be explaining more as I describe my experiences with the Saturn 2. In the meantime, think about it this way: SLA printers like the Mars 3 and Saturn 2 are best if you want to print smoother, more detailed figures such as tabletop miniatures for Dungeons & Dragons, while FDM printers excel at printing larger, less detailed parts and objects, such as cosplay armor pieces and weapons.

What Is the ELEGOO Saturn 2?

The ELEGOO Saturn 2 is an 8K MSLA printer, employing a 10-inch LCD screen for printing. It has a host of features that are improvements over the original Saturn, including an air purifier, a larger print plate, a larger print volume, and more. It is currently available for preorder at the ELEGOO webstore, at a $50 discount off of the MSRP of $600.

The Saturn 2’s features, as compared with the original Saturn. Image by ELEGOO.

Unboxing the ELEGOO Saturn 2

As these boxes will likely be traveling a long way to you, ELEGOO wants to make sure your printer is packaged securely. Much as the capabilities of their printers keep improving, so too does their packaging. When you open the shipping box, this is the sight that greets you:

Your printer is safely nestled inside. Image by Paul Benson.

As you can see, ELEGOO has used plastic corner protectors and rigid cardboard pieces to prevent any crushing of the box. Nestled inside of the top layer of foam is the power cord. And underneath that:

The printer in its Styrofoam coffin. Image by Paul Benson.

Taking out the Saturn 2 and removing the lid, you’ll find more foam, which holds the tool kit, resin tank, and build plate.

The rest of the printer pieces are inside the foam. Image by Paul Benson.

If you’ve seen any of my other reviews of ELEGOO printers, the contents of the tool kit will look familiar. I appreciate that ELEGOO always provides a kit, as for some buyers, this may be their first foray into 3D printing.

Contents of the tool kit. Image by Paul Benson.

One distinctly different piece in the tool kit is the new air purifier. It plugs into a port behind the resin tank on the printer, and uses an activated-carbon filter to absorb the resin odor while the printer is in operation. While I didn’t find the smell completely absent when printing, I definitely noticed it was greatly reduced. Yes, for those of you that have never used an MSLA printer before: all resins smell, some worse than others. Something to be aware of when choosing where to set up your printer.

The resin tank and air purifier in place. Image by Paul Benson.

The resin tank is surprisingly deep compared to any of the previous ELEGOO printers that I’ve worked with. This is, I’m sure, to accommodate the greater build volume available with this machine. It has the added bonus of being able to go through more prints without having to refill the tank.

Adventures in 3D Printing With the ELEGOO Saturn 2

Much like any of the other ELEGOO resin printers, setting up the Saturn 2 was a breeze. You just follow the instructions on the leveling card to level the printer, which takes only a minute or so. Afterwards, plug in the air filter, replace and fill the resin tank, and then you’re just about ready to print. For my test prints, I’d decided to try out the ELEGOO ABS-Like resin (more on this later).

Both the instructions AND the leveling card. Image by Paul Benson.

I chose to start with the test rook file, which comes on the included USB drive. I inserted the drive, selected “print” on the menu, and found the file. I pressed start, and away we went.

Unfortunately, once the print had completed, I discovered that only one of the rooks had printed. I had a bit of a mystery on my hands as to what had exactly caused a partial failure of the print, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Nevertheless, the one rook that did print correctly looked very sharp. Compared to the rooks I’d printed in the past, this one had the crispest detail by far, and you could already see the benefits of the 8K screen at work. I took the rook, and ran it through an alcohol wash and, after it was dry, it went for a couple of minutes in the curing machine.

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When a print fails, the first thing you’ll probably have to do is clean the FEP film at the bottom of your resin tank. This entails running a cleaning cycle, and then using your plastic scraper to pop the cured rectangle of resin off the screen (which should also remove any other resin that had stuck to the screen, as had happened in the case of this failed print).

Following the cleaning, I decided to repeat the leveling process, just in case the machine hadn’t leveled properly the first time. I chose to next print a 3D design I’d recently acquired in a Kickstarter that was a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees.

Setting up the model with supports in CHITUBOX. Image by Paul Benson.

This was going to be a larger print, so it ended up taking just under 13 1/2 hours. And, at the end, I discovered that whatever problem I was having with the printing, the leveling was not the answer.

The supports pulling away from the printing plate. Image by Paul Benson.

As you can see from the photo above, the base for the supports had partially pulled away from the printing plate. At a quick glance, it looked like the print was fine, so I was hoping that had happened after the print had completed, rather than during the process.

After washing and curing the print, the power of the 8K printing was evident in the amazing detail that came out with this model.

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Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the supports had indeed come free during the printing process. Looking on the side of the model where the supports had pulled free, parts of the print were just missing, such as the figure’s toes, and part of the monster’s tusks.

Some missing pieces. Image by Paul Benson.

With another failed print, came another tank cleaning. This time, I went back into CHITUBOX and adjusted the settings, increasing the bottom exposure time from 30 to 35 seconds. The bottom exposure time determines how well the print sticks to the build plate, so I was hoping that this would do the trick.

Rather than retry this particular model, I thought I would print out a miniature Mjolnir. ELEGOO, as part of a “print and paint” contest, had shared the stl files with the public. Though I wouldn’t be entering the contest myself (the grand prize being the very printer that I was printing on), I still thought it would be fun to attempt the model myself.

Getting the end pieces ready to print. Image by Paul Benson.

I started with the end pieces. Given the greater size of the Saturn 2 build plate, I was able to print out both pieces at the same time. And they seemed to print out fairly well. There was a little warping at some of the base edges, but that may have had more to do with the angle I printed the pieces at than a problem with the printer itself.

The elaborate details of the Mjolnir endpiece. Image by Paul Benson.

Next came the handle for Mjolnir.

The handle with supports. Image by Paul Benson.
Mjolnir handle, post-printing. Image by Paul Benson.

The handle came out fine, but I groaned a bit when I saw that some of the supports had failed during the printing.

Handle and end pieces. Image by Paul Benson.

Time to clean the tank and try again, this time with the main body of Mjolnir. I even tried thickening the supports in the model, to prevent them from falling off.

The main Mjolnir model. Image by Paul Benson.

When this model printed, the base was firmly attached to the printer plate, but as with the handle, some of the supports had failed. Again. And, as a result, the model had failed as well, with warping of the print.

Another partially failed print. Image by Paul Benson.

A Conundrum

OK, so the print issues I was having weren’t because of the leveling. And judging by how the bases were staying attached to the print plate, it wasn’t the bottom exposure time, either. So what was causing my problem? I was wondering if I had damaged the FEP film, and figured I’d replace that. But before a replacement film arrived, I had an epiphany.

What if my problem was the resin I was using?

I had never used ABS-Like resin before. Could that have been the issue all along?

I turned to Google with my question, and soon found that other people were indeed having issues with the ABS-Like resin. The answer seemed to lie in lowering the lift speed of the printer, as the greater flexibility of the ABS-Like resin was the cause of the print failures.

A Solution

I was testing out the capabilities of the Saturn 2, not the ABS-Like resin. So, I cleaned out the resin tank completely, and ordered a bottle of standard ELEGOO resin. Keeping my fingers crossed, I poured in the new resin, set the body of Mjolnir to print again, and went to work.

The redone Mjolnir body, with the rest of the pieces. Image by Paul Benson.

And success! The body of Mjolnir printed perfectly, with all the supports intact. The end pieces and handle fitted easily into the body, creating the hammer you see above.

To just to make sure that the problem had indeed been solved, I continued printing. And printing. I printed quite a bit, it turns out.

The Horus Heresy Project

Not only had fellow GeekDad Robin Brooks covered Games Workshop’s new edition of The Horus Heresy, but several hobby friends of mine were jumping onboard the Warhammer 30K train, as well. 3D printing is a great way to customize models for a game like The Horus Heresy, where you can create individual pieces to add uniqueness to your force.

In my case, I was planning to do a force of the Egyptian-themed Thousand Sons. Having picked up my own box set of Warhammer: The Horus Heresy – Age of Darkness, I set about finding and printing models that I could use for that purpose.

Lots of shoulder pads. Image by Paul Benson.

A printer like the ELEGOO Saturn 2 is great for printing large models. But the large printing surface also allows you to print a lot of smaller models at the same time. When you’re talking about printing up pieces for an army-scale game, that becomes a serious time-saver.

A very crowded build plate. Image by Paul Benson.

I printed up a wide variety of pieces to use to give my miniatures flavor. Besides shoulder pads, I printed up heads, backpacks, torsos…

A few of the many Egyptian-themed bits I printed. Image by Paul Benson.

Vehicle doors…

Land raider and rhino doors. Image by Paul Benson.

And even some Egyptian-themed bases, for all the infantry.

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I even created an “apothecary” figure completely from different parts.

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And while you technically could 3D print an entire army, it’s much more ethical to only print out pieces to add flavor to models you’ve purchased for a game that you’re playing. Here are my first few models for an infantry Breacher squad, where I’ve only added some shoulder pads, a “vexilla”-type backpack, and shields to customize the plastic figures.

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ELEGOO Saturn 2: The Verdict

First off, I should remind readers that 3D printing is a hobby, and you will often find yourself tweaking settings to get models coming out right. In my case, I initially had a bit of a mystery on my hands as to what had exactly was causing my print failures. I had to try different approaches to solving my problem, until finally I had correctly deduced the culprit. Had I just started with regular resin, I likely would have been printing flawlessly from the very start. But hindsight is 20/20.

Once I switched resins, I fell into an easy rhythm of printing models, popping them off the build plate, washing, and curing. This gives you an idea of just how much I was quickly producing with the Saturn 2 for my Horus Heresy project:

Lots and lots of bits. Image by Paul Benson.

I had been very impressed with the original Saturn printer, and even more so with the 4K Mars 3 I reviewed last year. With each iteration of their printers, ELEGOO keeps making better and better machines.

The ELEGOO Saturn 2 produces spectacularly detailed prints, thanks to that 10″ 8K screen and fresnel collimating light source. There are a host of quality of life features new to this printer, including the air purifier and a 9H hardness screen protector over the LCD screen to protect it should you get a rip in your FEP film.

ELEGOO has really hit it out of the park with the Saturn 2. If you’re looking to get into MSLA printing, or want to add another resin printer to your stable, then you should jump on the preorders for the Saturn 2. They’re currently expecting to deliver on those in September.

ELEGOO provided a unit for evaluation, but had no input in this review. As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a small commission on qualified purchases.

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