The Phenom is the latest in a line of MSLA (Masked Stereolithography) printers from Peopoly. MSLA is a relatively new advancement to resin printing that adds an LCD screen over the existing LED screen to decrease print time, increase print accuracy, and extend the overall life of the screen. This technology by itself is a game-changer, but what sets the Phenom apart isn’t just its fancy screens…IT’S MASSIVE. And it’s not just massive for resin printers, which are noticeably smaller than their FDM counterparts, it’s one of the largest build volumes in all commercial printers. With a build volume of 276 x 155 x 400 mm it can encapsulate almost any design you can throw at it. You can check out here. If you think you need an even larger printer, go check out the Phenom L.
Enough with the specs, you’re here for my personal experience with the phenom so you can convince yourself that it’s worth the $2,000. (Side note, it is)
1. Buying, Mailing, Unboxing
If you gain nothing else from this article remember this, it has a 2 month lead time (as of Aug. 2020) which means you’ll be relentlessly checking your order history to see if the status has changed to “shipped” for weeks on end! This is because Peopoly is based in China and there’s a global pandemic going on. It’s also a huge printer as mentioned before, and the shipping weight is over 100 lbs, therefore, making it difficult for normal mail carriers to…well…carry. Once you finally see the package has shipped, you’ll want to verify the delivery date because a signature will be required. There is no way that a delivery driver is going to take this off their truck, carry it up to your door, hold onto it waiting for you to answer only to find you’re not home. Then upon realizing there will be no signature, hoist it back on the truck only to try again the next day. Let’s be plain about it, you know you’ll be waiting by the door anyway.
OK, so the package has been delivered and you have it in your living room and you can hardly hold yourself from ripping the box open like an ape, but you notice its dinged up and possibly even ripped in some areas. You start getting worried you might have to send it back and wait another 2 months for a replacement. Don’t fret, the printer is double boxed and has enough Styrofoam to float the Titanic. If you’re not overly strong or don’t feel like throwing out your back, grab a sharp box knife and cut all the edges and let the printer lay on its back. It’s much easier to tilt it and you can use all the packaging as safety mats. Bought, mailed, unboxed, on to the next step.
2. Set-up, Resin, Print
Set-up is pretty straightforward unless you’ve never bought a resin printer before, in which case I am greatly encouraging you to stop reading this and go buy an Anycubic Photon or Elegoo Mars. Seriously, stop reading this. I’m trying to save you $1,800. You do not need to ruin a great machine like the Phenom because of your ignorance of resin printing. Alright, we got rid of those beginners. The resin vat comes with the FEP film already installed and with a few extra sheets which are a nice bonus. The build plate will need to be leveled, but as we already decided beginners are not reading this anymore and you know how to loosen a few screws and tighten them back up. Now before we start pouring in our favorite resin, you’re going to have to do some research on which resins you’ll be able to use. Peopoly sells its own “Deft” resin which is designed specifically for the Phenom, but non-beginners like yourselves know that most resins work on most printers. You can find an ongoing Google sheets document with various resin settings here that should help you get started.
I can’t stress this enough; TEST SMALL OBJECTS…and not all at once. You’ll remember that I said this is an enormous build volume. Resin is costly and the Phenom can slurp it up in a hurry. Siraya Tech Blu resin was my first attempt with the Phenom and I didn’t heed my advice. Ehhh, not so good. I later learned that most users have trouble with this resin and often don’t achieve the proper plate adhesion which is what I ran into. So let’s use the suggested resin for now and move on the printing finally. You have your model, you slice it using Chitubox (or whatever your favorite slicer is) and you press print. Phew, what a journey so far. Now let’s walk away and come back in the estimated print time…wait seriously? Heck no, you waited so long and you finally have this monster working! You’re gonna sit here and watch every layer cure like its the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen. Or maybe for at least a few minutes.
But wait- you see that hugely huge build plate is holding a lot of resin on top of it. Not good.
3. Adapt, React, Re-adapt, Apt
OK, so you realized this build plate wasn’t entirely thought out by the folks over at Peopoly. Its a whopping 428 square cm and it just scooped up a 3 mm layer of resin (math says its roughly a 1/8th of that 1-liter bottle you just poured in). Fortunately, roughly have of it will drip back into the vat but that means you’re wasting resin which is never desirable. Good thing you read this article first. So what I suggest you do before ordering your amazing printer (slightly less amazing if you don’t do this) is adding this new and improved build plate to your cart. I have strong feelings about the fact that Peopoly knows about this utter blunder of their own doing and hasn’t made the new plate standard. Nevertheless, the new plate is available for 80$ which may seem pricey, but just think how quickly you’ll save 80$ worth of resin by not having a flat plate scoop it out (Again, my math says that will be in roughly 30 prints for cheap resin). OR…in true 3D printing style you can print an attachment that will be much cheaper and be rid of the annoying flat-plate-scooper-outer (pending trademark).
4. Results & Opinions
In my opinion, which is why you’re all here, the Phenom is an extraordinary value and can be a great asset for small businesses or possibly even a very adamant hobbyist. With a build volume larger than the industry-leading Form 3, it can encompass almost any design you throw at it. While it isn’t quite as plug-and-play as the Form 3, a few minor tweaks will allow you to obtain results competing with the best 3D printers out there.