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The beauty and horrors of home 3D printing

Recently, I was lent a 3D printer by a very generous friend (thank you Wolfie!). It is a basic Creality CR-10, but it is still a fine printer. I'll be honest, I stared at it for a long long time before attempting to get it to work. I started with no knowledge of 3D printers, but by asking some friends and watching numerous Youtube videos, I have built my knowledge base and am now relatively ok with them.

Vauban wall by Laser Dream Works.

Vauban wall by Laser Dream Works.

3D printers offer a whole world of possibility but this is not without plenty of pitfalls along the way. My first prints were 50/50, half the time either turning into spaghetti, finding that the print I'd made was the wrong size or had failed at some point due to some fault or setting. There is a steep learning curve.

Printer work in progress. The models take shape.

You can find plenty of free STL files to print online (the 3D files you need, some better than others) but the decent ones (with better detail) you will usually have to buy. You could also design your own, but this also takes time and talent. Filament printers like the Creality CR10 are good at blocky models, such as vehicles and scenery, much less so for miniatures.

A resized Bergman 1-100 scale Morris. Slight print issue.

Resin printers are excellent for miniatures but are more expensive. They also use toxic chemicals and are more challenging to run. Most STLs can be easily resized to print in the scale you need. While having a 3D printer is incredibly useful, it is not without its pitfalls. They tend to break down, particularly if they are second hand. There's nothing worse than finding a fault halfway through a 3 day print.

A rescaled 1-100 Bergman Austin Tilly.

If you are thinking of getting into 3D printing, I'd recommend doing a cost-benefit analysis before buying one. I'm borrowing mine, but to buy you are talking about at least £200 for a filament printer to £400 minimum for a resin printer. Then there are the costs of the raw materials (roughly £20 per kg for filament, £45 for resin) and electric. That's a lot of miniatures you could otherwise be buying. The one area I think 3D printing does excel is making things you can't easily buy. More 3D 'adventures' in future blogs.

5 thoughts on “The beauty and horrors of home 3D printing”

  • Nicholas Caldwell
    Nicholas Caldwell July 18, 2020 at 1:22 am

    Great article. I've had this pros-and-cons discussion a lot in the past 2 years. You give a great summary.

    You left out one more cost in 3d-printing, although you allude to it earlier -- time! I have been telling people that it will cost you US$200 and a year of your life. You'll spend time calibrating, experimenting, fixing and cursing. And then at the end you might have a model that you could have bought for $5 or you might have nothing. Or you might have something unique that makes it all worth it.

    I already had experience creating my own 3d models so that helped my learning curve. But there's still lots to be learned. And there's a crazy satisfaction in designing something on the computer and then having something physical to hold.

    • Guy Bowers

      Good point! It is a great time eater, time which could be used on getting on with the wargaming hobby.

  • Tomas Ingvarsson
    Tomas Ingvarsson July 18, 2020 at 2:49 am

    It is indeed

  • Tomas Ingvarsson
    Tomas Ingvarsson July 18, 2020 at 2:55 am

    A hobby on it's own. I find that it really excels in the terrain area, I'm printing gamingtables that would have cost thousands in resin and weighed a ton.
    I also have a resin printer which is very good for printing bits like guns or wheels for conversions.
    Of course it prints a lot of minis as well ? ?

  • Kavinay

    Indeed, terrain is where even a cheap FDM printer really shines. Hex maps for example similar to heroscape but better suited to your particular ruleset are a huge leap forward on the table.

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