Cornixt's Adventures in 3D Printing

Here is a miniature that I printed on my Ender 3 for my son’s friend. They designed it on HeroForge. It took about 3.5 hours with tree supports. My son has put a very crude base coat on the top and you can barely make out the layers at all. He really should have cleaned up the model before the paint, but he was too excited and I was at work. It’s going to be fully painted at some point.

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Got a 3D printer (Ender 3) for my son for xmas (well, we were going to but then his grandma stepped in and technically she got it for him so we bought all the upgrades instead). Originally it was going to be a present for me, I’m not even sure how it became for him. I made sure I got myself a reel of printing material so that he wouldn’t get upset at me wasting his stuff on my experiments. First prints came out really good so we moved on to more challenging stuff and had some issues that would be expected. Some models didn’t have the appropriate supports. We added supports to other models, only to find that they were really hard to remove. Some models are just not possible to print in the one piece that they come as, usually in the stl file. There is a lot of judgement needed in working out what needs to be done, and you don’t find out some of it until you experience failures. So many settings that can be tweaked in both the slicer and the machine itself, but the default ones work so well for a lot of prints.

It’s an FDM printer, so it doesn’t have the high resolution that you can get with resin printers that cost only a little more. The advantage is that PLA is far easier to deal with than resin, no toxic chemicals involved. I never intended to use it for printing miniatures, but it does a remarkable job of it. You can see the layers easily and the very fine detail can be lost, but the few I have picked have come out well. 20c for a Space Marine Librarian is somewhat cheaper than the $35 it costs from GW, although it doesn’t take five hours to buy one like it does to 3D print one. PLA can be cut and filed like the styrene plastic used by most miniatures companies, but it is more flexible - if you are familiar with the Reaper Bones models then I would say it was midway between that and styrene. You can treat it in very similar ways; I’ve pinned models, melted joints together, glued them, painted them.

Time is the biggest annoyance factor (apart from the beeping and squeaking sounds the machine makes) and you can’t really leave it unattended due to fire risk. Sometimes a print will fail partway through for no real reason, so the more often you check on it the less material and time you waste if that does happen. I’m really hesitant to do big prints so I will chop larger stuff up into smaller separate prints if I can. Chopping up models with large overhanging parts is also a good idea since it saves time and wastage that would be used on supports. I plan ahead with the models I design to avoid this (mostly custom cosplay items and pokemon card storage so far).

I would not recommend the Ender 3 for anyone wanting to print a full army. It will take forever or look a bit crappy - you are better off using cardboard standees or counts-as models if you want to play wargames with something cheap. If you don’t mind low def models than you can print in ABS (needs a container around the printer to keep everything hot, plus ventilation) and use a vapor method to smooth out the layers. Either way, in my opinion it’s more effort than you should bother with for such a result, and getting a resin printer would be better if you want the better quality although the printer and materials cost a bit more.

For the odd custom piece for your army it can work great, and for scenery it can do really good things especially if you cover up the layers with texture. Designed and made a clip for my laptop stylus so it doesn’t get lost. I need a phone holder for my car that hangs off the vent but doesn’t block the vent - so I’m just designing one that has holes in all the right places for the sockets and buttons of my phone. Well, technically I’m copying someone else’s design and modifying for my own purpose. Some stuff you can buy online for not much more than cost of printing it, but being able to so completely customise it first is very useful, and endless replacement parts is good too.

We used the printer almost non stop for the first week we had it, and now we are down to once every few days. It’s a fun new hobby that is easy to split time between the different areas for only a few minutes at a time and has no setup or clear-up time required like painting.

Here is a picture:

Learnt a few things. The Link model legs were so thin that they snapped when removed from the build plate, so I repaired with a paper clip. My kids insist I leave it like a robot leg. I didn’t add supports, so the sword didn’t print properly at all.

The door was an experiment. It swings open both ways, but one layer messed up near the top. I think that side may have shifted on the build plate. Since then I have fixed it with greenstuff.

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I almost got a 3D printer years ago, and I’m sort of glad I didn’t. Your experience arms like the average to me. Some cool stuff, but a lot of hassle.

Of course, now I actually want a 3D printer, so that I can print Zone Mortalis terrain for Necromunda and other games! I think terrain pieces are a good use case for where the technology currently sits.

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Here’s a better pic of the miniature now that it is painted (not my paintjob).

Now that I have gotten used to the printer, I’ve barely had to fiddle with it at all. Prints only fail if I am careless and I rarely have even minor issues. Haven’t had to recalibrate for weeks.

I tried printing a CD model today to see how it would turn out, and it came out at about 80% of the correct size - I guess I misread the default. It looks very funny.


Really pleased with how this looks after painting. Might do a few more. The door swings open both ways.

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This guy in the middle is my 3D printed Apothecary in Blood Bowl. You can’t see the layers much at all. The little guy is because I didn’t check the settings before printing and the sculptor set it to be that size. File is on thingiverse.

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Awesome! Layer lines make the beard look nice :smile:

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Alchemist’s desk for/from Heroquest.

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That looks great. My reasoning for not even considering a 3D printer (beyond income vs cost, of course) has always been that the layers are so horrendously prominent. On larger items, such as props for cosplay, filling and sanding are very possible and how people make the best of it.

But that’s never really seemed doable for detailed minis on our scale (not the scale of the mini-Chaos Dwarf you did from Thingiverse :stuck_out_tongue: ). I’ve seen nothing but really obvious layer lines even in fully painted models so far, which may just be because of the proximity and scale of pictures when it’s no issue from a gaming distance in person, and it’s really put me off.

Until seeing this. I can’t particularly see the layer lines, even blown up and looking hard. Fantastic job and making me reconsider their viability now, @cornixt!

I’d still only recommend resin 3D printers if you are doing mostly miniatures and want stuff that looks good, even with my surprisingly good results on an FDM printer. But if you don’t mind models that are a bit rough around the edges, FDM printers are much safer and easier to use.

I’ve posted a few of my prints to thingiverse
https://www.thingiverse.com/cornixt/makes

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