Prusa SL1 3D printer and CW1 bundle review: A premium printer at a premium price

When Prusa says it's making a new printer, you stand up and take notice.

Front facing
(Image: © Windows Central)

Prusa CW1 and SL1

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Prusa Research is one of the biggest names in 3D printing, so when it announced that it was building a resin printer, everyone was excited to see what it could create. The SL1 was the result of Prusa Research's ... well, research and it is a masterclass in how to make a superb printer.

But with such a high price tag and a print quality that only equals, not surpasses, other, more affordable machines, can you justify the price? Prusa sent us an SL1 kit with the CW1 curing station to try and give you our thoughts. I've been using it for a few months now and have some ideas to share.

What you'll love about Prusa SL1 kit/CW1 bundle

Source: Windows Cental (Image credit: Source: Windows Cental)

If you have been in the 3D printing game for any amount of time, you'll know that Prusa doesn't make bad printers, and the SL1 is no exception. The build quality is beyond sublime, and the whole machine has a weight and gravitas to it that exudes class. From the thick, orange acrylic to the tiny hinges that connect it, the Prusa SL1 is lovingly put together and feels like it will last forever.

It's future-proofed, too, using an ethernet cable to allow you to connect multiple SL1 units to form a print farm. This kind of technology makes the SL1 great for businesses that are likely to produce more than one model at a time, such as a small prototyping company. Even the location of the power button and USB slot heighten the feeling of efficiency. By putting them on the front, they reduce the time it takes to get the printer up and running. Honestly, if you are still putting your buttons on the back, you need to think long and hard.

The print quality is, of course, excellent. The SL1 uses a UV matrix — like most MSLA printers — but with some helpful tweaks to make it the best it can be. Prusa designed the tilting FEP vat to release the print quickly and easily, which should speed up printing without reducing quality. As you can see from the pictures, the prints are beautiful, especially the Cheerful Pilot by bendansie. You can see each lash in her eye, and each stitch in her uniform is printed to perfection, with no layer lines visible at all.

The cheerful pilot (Image credit: Windows Central)

Printed, he is (Image credit: Windows Central)

A Josef army (Image credit: Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central

Even this model of the child by Inspyre 3D that required a fair amount of support came out well, with the ruffles on his little coat showing the sharpness that you can achieve with resin printing. The Josef Army is the print that comes with the machine, but I love that you can print something that small, with so many models, and still have each one perfect and detailed.

My favorite part of the technical additions is the resin sensor. Resin printing is always a little hit and miss when it comes to getting the right amount. The SL1 measures the amount of resin in the vat and works with Prusaslicer to give you an accurate measure of how much resin you will need to complete the print. It's a lovely touch and is a welcome addition. Some of the other additions are a little less welcome, however, and only serve to add cost.

What you'll dislike about Prusa SL1 kit/CW1 bundle

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The SL1 is made from premium materials and houses some impressive technology. The resin sensor is a great addition, as is the built-in air filter. Unfortunately, some of those technologies don't add anything to the quality of the print. Expensive machines like the Form SLA 3D printers have vat tilting systems, but numerous iterations of more affordable printers have proven that the tilt is no longer needed. All the tilting mechanism does is add cost to an already expensive machine. Prusa needs to work on finding a better balance between price and quality if it wants to win in the resin printer space.

The only real problem I have with the SL1 is the cost. On its own, the SL1 kit costs $1,400. That is a considerable outlay for an MSLA printer — most are retailing between $250 and $400 — and while the quality from Prusa is impressive, it isn't $1,000 more impressive than competitors. This bundle is a little better value for money, as it comes with the Prusa CW1 curing station. The CW1 retails for $700, so you are saving about $400 by bundling together, and the CW1 is definitely something you want in your life.

The CW1 curing station is the ace in the hole

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I have to make a special mention in this review for the CW1. Without a doubt, the CW1 is the hidden gem in the Prusa resin arsenal, and I can't recommend it enough. Yes, it's $700, and yes, you can DIY something almost similar for much less, but DIY doesn't hold a candle to the CW1.


Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Not only does the CW1 have settings to cure your prints, but it can also warm your resin before use, dry your prints before curing, and even clean them with the metal tubs and stirrer that come bundled with it. It's somewhat hypnotic to watch the IPA spin around your model and clear off the excess resin.

It's incredibly easy to use, as well. You put the tub of IPA onto the machine at it automatically senses the weight. You press a button to clean, then, once done, you remove the container and put the model on the spinning platform. Once you close the lid and press the button again, the CW1 will dry the IPA from the model and cure it, all in one go.

As someone who spent a lot of time and effort, making sure my prints are properly cured, the CW1 has reduced my working hours considerably. If you are print a lot of resin prints or you print to make a living, the $700 for the CW1 standalone is entirely worth it.

Should you buy Prusa SL1 kit/CW1 bundle 3D printer?

Let's leave the cost aside for a moment; we'll stick a pin in it. The SL1 is a superb printer made by a company that knows how to craft a compelling and efficient machine. The little finishing touches like the resin sensor elevate it above its peers, and the print quality is near perfect. The CW1 curing station in the bundle is stunning, and it makes working with resin a joy instead of a chore.

Now let's take the pin out. The SL1 is just too expensive for me to recommend to anyone who isn't a business. The additions it has over its competitors are great, but they aren't worth an additional $1,000. If you can afford to buy the SL1/CW1 bundle as a business — to keep in your showroom for customers to marvel at — then, by all means, do so. If you're a hobbyist with a limited budget, though, you should look elsewhere to maximize your investment.

I can recommend the CW1 though, that you really should buy.

James Bricknell

James built his first PC when he was 13 and has never looked back. He can be found on Windows Central, usually in the corner where all the 3D printers are, or huddled around the Xbox playing the latest games.