A while back I received a discount on a Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K resin printer. Since I was considering starting a small business selling printed things, I figured the extra throughput might be worthwhile. I also figured it would a good opportunity to test 4K printing and one of the more well-known printer brands. Now, when I say discount, I paid $350 for the printer and a bottle of resin. Considering there’s an identical bundle on Amazon for $430, I guess I saved about $80.
This is the printer in question, with the cover taken off. It’s pretty standard, all things considered. The bed leveling system is pretty quick and easy, using those four bolts on the side. It seems a little more secure than the single set screw my other printer had. I’m also less concerned about resin getting into the upper section and causing problems. Four bolts clamping down on a plate is going to tolerate taking a bath much more than a ball and socket joint. I still actively try not to do that, as I’d risk overflowing the vat, but I like the mechanical simplicity.
It’s also easier to home out and level. Loosen the screws, put a piece of paper on the LCD, tell it to home out, hold down and tighten, check the paper. My other printer had to be manually driven down 0.1mm at a time, which leaves a lot more room for error and was rather time consuming by comparison.
Where printing itself is concerned, I had overlooked the fact that the display is a mono as opposed to an RGB. I can only assume that the mono display allows more UV through or otherwise interferes less than RGB, because it cures at least twice as fast as my other printer. Running about 2.75s/layer instead of 6s. They also (allegedly) last longer than the RGB displays.
Where the 4K nature is concerned, I personally have a hard time telling any real difference. I’m sure it’s there, but to the naked eye on something as small as a miniature, it didn’t seem to matter. It’s probably more noticeable on the Mighty 4K, as the DPI would be markedly lower due to the larger screen area, but we’ll get to that later on.
One thing that I do dislike about the Phrozen Sonic Mini is the single rail in the back. With that narrow single rail right behind the screw drive, there can be a pretty significant amount of flex as the surface area of a print goes up. My Shadow has that wider support with two rails, one on each side of the drive, which was for more robust. I haven’t seen any failures as a result, but it did cause a small amount of alarm the first time I noticed it.
I was, on the whole, impressed by the performance of the Sonic Mini compared to my other printer. In order to print some of the somewhat larger models I have access too, I picked up a Phrozen Sonic Mighty 4K. This one is somewhat pricier at $650. It’s pretty much the same thing, but much larger. The upper cover for this will actually fit pretty much completely over the Mini, cover and all. Setup and operator are exactly the same, but with many mechanical improvements. I can only assume this is so it can withstand the greater force from a larger print area.
It looks almost deceptively small due to how I chose to frame the shot, but is quickly becoming fun to work with. While a large model might take several days to put out on the smaller printer, I can put more than one or two parts on this one. I actually managed to get nearly two dozen standard sized models off of it in a single job, and a really nice large model in another.
The print area is 250 sq cm (38.75 sq in) compared to the Mini’s ~97 sq cm (15 sq in). It doesn’t quite look like that much extra space in person, but once you’re in some software loading models, it’s quite obvious. It also has a higher ceiling, but I’ve never found that to be much of a problem.
A couple of problems apply to both printers. Seems to be something of a consistent choice across the brand. I’m also not a huge fan of the side-load USB port, visible on the back of the Mighty in its picture and adjacent to the Mini above, because it’s annoying and awkward to deal with. This seems pretty common for reasons I can’t quite grasp, and I have acquired some right angle usb extension cables to deal with it.
Related to this, the Phrozen firmware cannot navigate sub-directories on the thumb drive. This means all prints must be stored in the root directory which feels like organized chaos at the best of times. I would much rather be able to keep known good slices on the thumb drive in a semi-organized fashion instead of constantly having to move files around to keep the list manageable. I can only hope that these issues are dealt with in a firmware update, but I’m not holding my breath.
Something I touched on briefly before is perhaps easier to communicate with the following chart. A typical consumer display that is rated for 4k is 3840 pixels wide. If you use a very large screen at 4k, the pixels themselves will be quite large compared to a small display with the same number. This is generally represented using the metric dots per inch (DPI). A notable impact of this is that a machine like the Mighty 4K, while having the same resolution, has a larger screen area and larger individual pixels. When dealing with a large format printer, the 4K can become a much more critical feature. The Shadow, which actually runs slightly above the 2K spec, actually has finer detail than the Mighty 4K. If you had a large format printer with a 2K display, it would likely have noticeably decreased detail by comparison. By using the 4K display, it can pull close to the Shadow and is technically higher than the standard Sonic Mini 2K. I was personally unable to see much difference between 540 and 722 DPI, I am curious about the 488 v 722. I have some models printed on each one, and I’m not entirely sure which set is which, so it’s a nice semi-blinded test.
|Printer||Display Type||Print Volume||DPI*||Vertical Rails|
|Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K||Mono 4K||97 Sq cm||722||1|
|Phrozen Sonic Mighty 4K||Mono 4K||250 Sq cm||488||2|
|Qidi Tech Shadow 6.0||RGB 2K||91 Sq cm||540||2|
All things considered. I like the Phrozen printers. They’re extremely quick and have held up well so far. They’re a bit pricey though, and not nearly as quiet as the Shadow. The Minis in particular are a bit noisy while running. Enough that I wouldn’t want to sleep in the same room with them. The Mighty, for reasons I have yet to figure out, is much quieter.
Y’all take care out there.