As the universe of 3D printers continues to expand, the new Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra 12K is the latest to bring ultra-high resolution and fast print speed to the sub-$600 price point. With an impressive 12K resolution, Fast Mode for lightning-fast prints, and an LCD interface that’s larger than the original iPhone screen, the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K is poised to be a very popular machine in the desktop resin 3D printer market. However, the Chitubox Wi-FI transfer process has some quirks and the four-point leveling system will be a disappointing miss for some users who are looking for a higher level of automation. If you’re interested in taking your prints to the next level of detail or just want to learn more about resin 3D printing, this review will help you to decide if the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K is the right 3D printer for you.
Table Of Contents
- Hardware Features
- Build Platform Leveling
- Printing with Chitubox
- Test Printing
- Fast Mode
- Compare to Other 3D Printers
- Conclusion and Pros & Cons
Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra 12K Specifications:
X Pixel Size: 19 micron (0.019mm)
Y Pixel Size: 24 micron (0.024mm)
Print Speed: Up to 150 mm/h
Build Volume: 219mm x 123mm x 260mm / 8.62” x 4.84” x 10.24”
Material: Standard, Water-Washable, ABS-like UV Resin, High-Speed Resin
Masking LCD Resolution: 11520px x 5120px (12K)
Masking LCD Size: 10” Mono LCD
Connectivity: USB, WIFI
Unlike the other printers in the Elegoo Saturn like the Elegoo Saturn S family that feature a curved red UV lid, the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K has a distinctly angled jet-black UV lid that looks like a tinted window on a sports car. The 4-inch HD IPS touchscreen is an improvement over the smaller LCD interfaces on previous machines.
The Saturn 3 Ultra 12K also has an integrated air filter located behind the resin vat which can be removed for cleaning and changing of the filter cartridge. The Z-axis uses a pair of linear rails and a ball screw for linear motion, a configuration that keeps the gantry rigid during printing as well as offering precise motion.
Like other printers in this price range, the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K includes common accessories such as a plastic scraper, paper funnels for recycling material, a metal scraper for removing prints from the build platform, masks, rubber gloves, and a sheet of paper used for leveling the build platform. The 4-inch LCD interface features an updated UI that adds an extra layer of excitement to the machine, and shows a colorful graphic during printing to show the status of the print. The USB thumb drive included with the printer was blank and didn’t include the typical loadout of slicer software, demo prints, and user manual. Elegoo provided me with a copy of the latest Chitubox software to use with this machine, as well as a license for VoxelDance Tango, another slicer program compatible with the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K.
Build Platform Leveling
In a strange twist, the Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra 12K uses a four-point build platform leveling process, similar to Anycubic printers like the Photon Mono X. This is a manual process that can be tricky due to the platform shifting slightly while the bolts are being tightened, as well as using upward-facing bolts which fill with resin during printing and are difficult and frustrating to clean.
Meanwhile, the Anycubic Photon Mono M5s has switched over to a completely automated build platform leveling process, an inclusion that makes sense for a more advanced machine. It’s unclear why the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K uses this manual leveling process, as the less expensive Saturn 3 12K model uses the two-point systems found on previous Saturn printers like the Saturn S, which is faster and less-error prone to calibrate as well as easier to clean in my experience.”
It’s a rare miss for Elegoo, a company that typically offers rock-solid hardware and incrementally more advanced technology with each new release. Considering the nearly identical masking LCD resolution and price point of the Photon Mono M5s, it’s surprising to see Elegoo change the build platform leveling to a more manual process instead of a more automated one.
Serving to punctuate this change, the first model I printed after leveling the platform did not fully adhere to the platform and began delaminating shortly after printing. This is one of only a handful of failures I’ve had on an Elegoo resin printer, despite printing hundreds of builds.
Printing with Chitubox
Elegoo has included a machine profile for the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K with the latest build of Chitbox, as well as normal and fast print profiles. The normal profile uses a .05mm layer height, a commonly used default for resin printers, while the fast profile uses a .1mm layer height.
Chitubox is a common slicer used for resin 3D printers, and the latest build of the Free version includes all the features you would expect (hollowing, supporting, etc.) as well as the notably exciting inclusion of Wi-Fi transfer.
Chitubox 1.9.5 can send sliced files via Wi-Fi to printers that utilize a Wi-Fi connection, which the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K can do. The feature works well for sending prints to the printer, but unfortunately, Chitubox can only send a file when the printer is idle. As someone who slices files in a different room than the printer is located, having to go check the printer status before sending the file via Wi-Fi defeats the purpose of sending files wirelessly. Ideally, the print could still be sent when the machine was running and added to the internal library which can be accessed after printing.
Printing on the Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra 12K
Using the included Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra 12K slicer profile in “Normal” mode (50 micron layer height), I prepared a 3D scan of a statue of Hercules I captured using Polycam. The auto-generated support structure looked sufficient to support the model, but I still added a few extra supports to help guarantee print success. Generating support structures is easy in Chitubox, and once the file was complete I used the new Wi-Fi feature to send the sliced file to the printer.
Printed with Elegoo Standard Photopolymer Resin in Grey, the model printed in just over 7 hours. The supports generated by Chitubox have a tapered point where they meet the model, so they can be easily separated and removed without damaging the model or leaving large unsightly defects.
After rinsing and curing the printed model, the detail really started to shine. The 12K resolution is able to reproduce even the finest detail on the model, and the veins present on the original marble sculpture can be seen even at this small scale. The 50 micron layer height and ultra-high XY resolution combined to make a print that could easily pass as a molded or cast model.
This level of detail translates over to smaller models like miniatures, like the Two Aliens in a Trenchcoat model from Loot Studios. Printed at both 75mm and 32mm scale, the printed models retain all the detail of the digital model and the overall quality is superb.
Fast Mode on Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra 12K
The Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra 12K features a “Fast Mode” which allows for significantly increased print speed to reduce the overall time used when printing a model. This mode is surprisingly fast, and reduces the print time of the Alva bust by Dante Zuck from 9 hours down to 2 hours and 46 minutes. From about a foot away it’s impossible to tell the models apart, and the differences are only apparent when viewing the models up close.
100 micron layers (left) are visible to the naked eye, while 50 micron layers (right) are difficult to see without magnification.
Printed with Anycubic Water Washable resin in Aqua Blue, the layers can be seen at the very top of the model on the shallow curved surface of the helmet. The 100 micron layers are visible to the naked eye, but the 50 micron layers are very difficult to see without magnification.
The overall level of detail on the models is comparable, and it’s easy to see what a compelling feature the Fast Mode is when trying to quickly print a draft model while still retaining a high level of detail.
Compare to Other 3D Printers
Compare to the similar volume resin 3D printers in the same price range:
Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra vs Anycubic Photon Mono M5s
The Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra 12K is a clear counterpart to the similarly spec’d Anycubic Photon Mono M5s, but the four-point leveling system is a confusing inclusion which prevents the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K from achieving a higher ranking. The resolution of both printers is identical, even down to the rectangular pixel size (19 micron on X, 24 micron on Y) and 100 micron Fast Mode. The ability to send prints via Wi-Fi is an excellent addition for anyone who runs the printer in a shop, garage, or studio, but the inability to send a print while the printer is running means it may not be useful to everyone. Aside from the 12K resolution on both printers, the Fast Mode on Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra is a compelling feature that will likely be of interest to anyone who wants to reduce print time as much as possible.
Compare to the Elegoo Saturn series resin 3D printers:
Conclusion and Pros & Cons
The Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra 12K has a list price of $550 and is currently available for an introductory pre-order price of $499.00 directly from the Elegoo site.
Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra 12K Review
As the universe of 3D printers continues to expand, the new Elegoo Saturn 3 Ultra 12K is the latest 3D printer to bring ultra-high resolution and fast print speed to the sub-$600 price point. With an impressive 12K resolution, Fast Mode for lightning-fast prints, and an LCD interface that’s larger than the original iPhone screen, the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K is poised to be a very popular machine in the desktop resin 3D printer market. However, the Chitubox Wi-FI transfer process has some quirks and the four-point leveling system will be a disappointing miss for some users who are looking for a higher level of automation. If you’re interested in taking your prints to the next level of detail or just want to learn more about resin 3D printing, this review will help you to decide if the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K is the right 3D printer for you.
– Wi-Fi transfer makes sending prints a breeze
– 100 micron Fast Mode is great for quick prints
– 12K masking LCD provides stellar print quality
– Native Chitubox functionality
– Four-point build platform is a step backwards
– Prints can’t be sent over Wi-Fi during printing