3D PRINTING TECHNOLOGY
3D printing has become very accessible over the past few years. With support from a very active community of both makers and sculptors this technology has greatly impacted the miniature and gaming hobby.
3D printing is basically divided into two main technologies FDM and Resin (also called DLP or SLA) in the next section we will explore both:
This is the most common and cheapest option if you want to get into 3d printing. It uses fused plastic and prints in layers, meaning that the model gets "sliced" into sections of the resolution you decide to use, and places layer on top of each other until a solid object is produced.
The summary for FDM is:
Big build plate
Less definition than resin
Cheap parts and consumeables
This process has some caveats, for example overhangs result in places where there is no material underneath, and that area will require support to print correctly, you can change your support settings directly on your slicer and this will be vital in order to achieve the best result.
There are many options for printable material (filament), however for both miniatures and terrain I deeply recommend using only PLA, not only are the fumes less toxic (and actually smell nice) but it is an easier material to use in general, has less warping and needs lower temperatures to print. There is no reason to use ABS, and if you feel you need a tougher material definitely go for PetG.
3D printers are amazing machines, but they are not quite plug and play, you will need to fiddle with it in order to achieve the best results. Here is a video where it explains the process and some settings specifically for miniatures. Even with this you should get to know your printer and eventually fine-tune the settings so they are the best for the results you want and the equipment you are working with.
Want to buy an FDM 3d printer?
These are printers we know and have worked with and can vouch for their quality, depending on your budget you can get any of them, they are all great and have some pros and cons. If you need more info there are a lot of reviews for ALL of these printers so search for them and decide what best fits your needs.
Printers that cure resin in layers to create a final solid model, the quality of resin will ALWAYS be better than FDM; however, this comes at a cost:
Reduced build plate size
Lengthy setup and cleanup for every piece
Smelly and toxic material
Even with all of those, resin is great. The results are near plastic or resin casts, and if you can get over the hurdle of cleanup you will have awesome miniatures.
Resin printers use supports as well, they are a bit harder to set up correctly and you will probably need to learn to correctly arrange them for best print results.
Just as with Filament there are many resins, here the choice of resin is mostly because it saves a bit on the process and consumables, if you can, get Water Washable resin, since then you won’t need to deal with IPA. If you choose to use another resin you will need to buy IPA to properly clean your miniatures.
Here are some Resin printers we recommend:
Again these are printers that are tested in the community and have good results, all our minis vary in print size, our largest dragons are 200 mm tall and won't fit on a resin printer, but most 32 mm miniatures will, so it is up to you to see what you want, maybe you prefer the larger monsters, or maybe more detail, they are both great options and to me there will never be a “winner” between the two technologies, each has its merits.
If you are looking into 3d printing there are a lot of resources available to make your decision easier, research a bit and go to groups and forums to find what better suits your needs and budget, nowadays you will probably find a perfect fit to get started on your 3D printing journey in no time.