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"3d printing fantasy miniatures, what they don't tell you" Topic

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31 Jul 2020 1:43 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "3d printing fantasy miniarues, what they dont tell you." to "3d printing fantasy miniatures, what they don't tell you"

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Albus Malum30 Jul 2020 8:42 p.m. PST

Want to 3d resin printing fantasy miniature? So here is the deal (what they didn't tell you)

I have been using my new Epax x1 for 3d printing now for a couple of months now, no issue at all the the Epax- great machine… BUT…. if you are considering getting into 3d resin printing, there are a few things to be aware of…….

After you spend hours and hours trying to figure out how to use the thing successful ( I Highly recommend watch Greg Kourakos' youtube channel- 3dPrintingPro, if you think your going to hit auto-support and start printing…. think again.

So you think your going to just download your STL's and start printing? Think again, There are 1000's of cool looking models to print on Thingiverse, ranging from low quality sculpts with low poly counts to high quality sculpts with high or low poly count. Could keep your printer printing day and night.. BUT…. not so easy. They are not supported for resin printing. Want to print 100 different mini's off of Thingiverse… well your personal time will be at least 100 hours (maybe triple that time)trying to add supports to each miniature so it will print. Many come with bases already that get in your way to support the miniature. Many STL's the designer has never even 3d printed them on any machine- resin or fdm. Hmm… think again,

So, you then turn to patreon looking for things to print, Start shelling out money for models… some presupported, many not. Many of these people have never used a 3d printer either, only they are good at 3d sculpting. But…Pre-supported models… some are… many arnt.. and some of the presupported models still fail… because they never tried printing them themselves. There are a few patreons that have great supported 3d models, some even professionally supported be the youtuber 3dprintingpro- great guy… but some of the sculpts while very artistic, are just that… how would you use them in a wargame, or tabletop game. Some have to much detail to paint in a reasonable amount of time. Some have just way to many spikes or weapons that are too thin. You think Scale creep is bad with metal miniature manufacturers… well you aint seen nothing yet. I get the impression many of the 3d artists have never even heard that wargamers/rpgers use miniatures that have a certain scale- 28mm which has grown to 32mm and so on. So you look on Patreon, find a presupported patreon and find out that they supported all of the STL's for printing 40mm models,(who games with 40mm figures??) so you try to reduce the supported model, and now it won't print, because the supports are tooooooo thin.

Kickstarter…. Same thing as above…. Only a larger cash outlay for the same problems. Think again!!!

When people say, if you want to get into resin printing, it's a completely new hobby, just know, it' a understatement.

Maybe in the future, when the 3d artist actually start printing their models and solving all of the problems, that people are going encounter when using their STL's and when they start actually thinking how their models will actually be use, by the most people who are going to want their models, more people will be interested into jumping into the market.

The problem is not what machine you want. But are you going to be able to find properly supported STL's for what you want and need, so you don't have to spend hours and hours in front of your computer trying to prepare a STL for printing.

NOW!! YOU STL PROVIDERS…. WHETHER YOU SELL YOUR STLS OR DONATE THEM TO THE GENERAL COMMUNITY… Considering that hundreds or potentially thousands of people are going to want to printyour minis. YOU NEED TO learn the ins and outs of 3d printing. learn what people want and need, and Support your models so they print properly for the most amount of people, so that 100's and 1000's of people don't have to spend 100's and 1000's of hours trying to prep your models for printing. If YOU CAN"T get it to print, dont put it out there, and DO NOT TRY TO SELL IT.

Ironically, the files designed for FMD printers, are much better(as in easier) then the ones most people are providing for Resin, most easier to support, most are not so wild in design. sometimes simple is better..

ALso.. Have a specific goal in mind what you want to print. You can easily have a bunch of really nice 3d printed object that have no practical purpose. another pile of unpainted minatures

UshCha31 Jul 2020 12:05 a.m. PST

Ranting about what you want from a free print is well, just not cricket. The folk have provided you with a file for free, demanding that they do much more work is frankly unreasonable!

All owners of printers needs to look at a foreign file and check its dimensions BEFORE you do anything. If the sections are too small its not for you. Similarly if its 40mm scale be aware that scaling it down will make diameters smaller and so may make it unprintable.

To me it seems you have not done your homework before you started what is apparently a massive job on resin printers.

If you have paid for a print and got a prior agreement on the minimum dimensions and that is wrong you have a case to claim your money back.

Personally I run FDM printers and have no problems like yours as I check files first and for FDM printers software such as such as Simplify 3D make supports easy. Perhaps you bought the wrong sort of printer.

TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP31 Jul 2020 1:17 a.m. PST

I have both a resin and Several FDM printers and thankfully not had as many issues as the OP. I also double check all my files before printing and run a 3D file checker on every model before printing to make sure there are no issues or to resolve issues before printing. I grab a fair bit of stuff off thingiverse and have had a lot of success.

It is a learning curve and you will have bad prints from time to time. However, once you start getting the hang of it, it goes pretty well.

altfritz31 Jul 2020 5:13 a.m. PST

I think the OP is spot on. UshCha is being a little harsh; the OP stated clearly that the time to get things going smoothly *might* be more than people expect. I agree with him that designers are flooding the market with stuff which may or may not work. Look at all these Patreon drives or Kickstarters for "99 miniatures" or whatever. I know some people are coming up with good stuff, but other stuff is doubtful. Some of the Architectural pieces are just a hodge podge of fantastical elements. Stick a gear on it and it becomes steampunk, etc. etc. I also remember some failed KS were in the end it turned out the designer didn't understand the requirements of production.

The OP is spot on about what people have to be aware of. IMO, of course. YMMV.

Sgt Slag31 Jul 2020 7:16 a.m. PST

I've done some research into 3D printing. I learned from many posts I found, that it is much more involved than buy, download, click, and print. I have not purchased anything related to 3D printing because of what I learned. I don't have the time it seems to require, to get satisfactory results.

I was not aware of many of the issues he brings up. His post makes me happy I never took the plunge!

I will say, however, that Tom Tullis, owner of Fat Dragon Games, has done his homework: he has tutorials, on YouTube, on how to 3D print his STL files, on both specific FDM printers, and on specific Resin printers. Tom is highly regarded by his customers of his STL files. He is the only person I know of who does print his files, and shares how to print them properly, supports and all.

I am a war gamer, with over 1,000 figures ready for the tabletop. If I were just starting out, I would dive into 3D printing, and I would be lobbying Tom Tullis to offer STL files for the creatures/armies I wanted to print!

Alas, I have 1,000+ mini's, already. I can't justify a 3D printer, and the incredible time-sink it would require. Cheers!

UshCha31 Jul 2020 8:38 a.m. PST

Ihave never had the OP's problem. I have never had to spend great length of time on supports. It was never going to be plug and play if th3e stuff is free. Neither in my experience is it a Vast timesink.

Personal logo Bashytubits Supporting Member of TMP31 Jul 2020 11:11 a.m. PST

UshCha you are using FDM printers, the OP is actually using MSLA which is similar to DLP printers. It does not use the same materials and Chitubox is software that is different from Simplify 3D. So it is not the same application at all. I have a DLP printer that I just purchased and it also uses Chitubox for generating support structures of STL files. I have yet to use it so cannot comment on how difficult it is, but 3d printing is not so simple as plug it in and pushing a button. There is a steep learning curve to print 3D files to an acceptable standard. SLA, DLP and MSLA has a very different and more complicated cleanup than PLA spools require. The point being they are a different beast than FDM printing.

Yellow Admiral31 Jul 2020 12:34 p.m. PST

This thread confirms two things I've thought all along (so far) about 3D printing:

  1. 3D printing is a whole hobby on its own – at least as big a project as starting a new period from scratch, and bigger than many.
  2. There is still room for a market of finished miniatures.
The potential of 3D printing is vast, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on all those miniatures that were too niche for anyone to carve and cast and stock in inventory.

However, 3D printing isn't as easy as "get printer, make miniatures". Like any hobby, it requires a lot of research, a big initial investment, a lot of time getting familiar with the techniques and components, a lot of trial and error getting results worth keeping, it's own specialized storage space, etc.

I have so far been unwilling to make this investment, and instead consider 3D printing to be just another material/technique for getting high quality miniatures I'm willing to pay money for, like casting in metal or resin or plaster. Good designs, high levels of detail, good proportions, historically accurate appearance, and good business practices are all a lot of work, and a burden on somebody. There is still a lot of room for these traditional value-adds to be part of purchased 3D miniatures, and it doesn't bother me in the least to pay for them. I've been extremely happy (ecstatic!) with my purchases from WTJ, for instance.

Unfortunately, the ease of getting into 3D printing has also flooded the market with bad quality miniatures. An awful lot of the 3D printed stuff I've received has been just crappy – blobs of extra material, stringy bits that have to be cleaned off, print lines and striations, unwanted textures (e.g. Shapeways grainy white vinyl material), sharp angles where there should be curves, missing detail that wasn't obvious in the on-line pictures (Shapeways "test renderings" are especially notorious), and other results of bad designs or poor print quality. It still pays to invest in a sample or two from a particular source before sending off for a big order.

- Ix

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP31 Jul 2020 2:06 p.m. PST

Thanks for sharing.

I appreciate the warnings over the complexity issues, and am glad I haven't taken the plunge, though there are a lot of things I'd like to be able to have and print.

A pity those creating files and/or selling them don't address some of the concerns prior to doing that.

Clearly, there's a market for those to print and sell to others in these materials, that is a bit more affordable than Shapeways, since some of those can be horrifically expensive even for very small miniatures.

I hope some will step up to fill that niche.

Lacking that, someone that can produce a "plug and play" printer that makes it simple for amateurs to use them will be rich.

captaincold6931 Jul 2020 6:52 p.m. PST

I almost took the plunge into the 3d resin printing, but after a CRAP ton of research I realized it's a hobby in itself and I don't have the time for it.

I'd rather just buy the mini's I want and if I can't find what I want I'll pay someone who can make it. I get what I need and they get a little extra scratch in their wallet….a win-win.

Albus Malum31 Jul 2020 10:47 p.m. PST

After saying what I did though, I do believe in the long term these resin printers are going to put most of the Miniature manufacturers out of business. The quality is just so great.
If you want to mass produce miniatures for a army, and you can find the files you want, you really can save a bunch of money.
Like you could print foot soldier (orc, elves, whatever) for about 25 cents each, so if you want like a unit of 100 28mm soldiers, it becomes a no brainer.

Also, its still early in the game, hopefully with time, the 3d Artists will learn, and then its a whole new ball game.

Just though I would put out a little of my experience though, which few people seem to mention. For people on the fence about getting a resin printer, just know that the prints can be great, but for now anyway, It is DEFINATELY a new hobby, and a time commitment. After getting my printer, I am still glad I did. but some people definately may not like the amount of time required to run these things at the current state of the hobby.


altfritz01 Aug 2020 5:30 a.m. PST

Time. The time to print and clean off the supports. Did you account for that? ATM 3D printing, based on what I've seen, takes too long. How many miniatures would one print at a time on a printer? For the majority of affordable printers the number is one thing at a time, correct? So your 100 figures is a queue 100 items long. So 100 x time to print plus 100 x whatever the time between prints is, plus 100 x whatever the clean-up time is for each figure, plus whatever the initial setup time is.

altfritz01 Aug 2020 5:33 a.m. PST

Also, only the high-end printers give the really good quality, or so it seems to me. Divide their set-up costs by 100 and how much are your soldiers now?

Albus Malum01 Aug 2020 8:42 a.m. PST



I dont count hobby time as money, and then think that is the price, and then think that it is lost income. If I did, then I would have to abandon every hobby type activity I do in my life!!!! At Roughly $30 USD a hour, about what my job pays, my painted miniatures collection would be prohibitively expensive, and I would think the time to play a game using my miniatures as lost income also??? This is a hobby to me, If I were doing this as a business, I would likely have to sell the miniatures for roughly the same retail price as most miniatures sell for now, if I was trying to do this as a business, which I am not. ( You do know that the cost of a soda (syrup+water+ice+electricty etc only costs maybe 5 to 10 cents) but the the retail vendor has to sell that soda to you for 1 to 2 dollars in order to stay in business.

In the size of a epax X1, (or elegoo mars, or photon etc.) you could , depending on the miniature, expect to fit somewhere between 4 to 8 miniatures on the build plate, assumeing 28mm standard foot soldier. (I often only put 1 or 2 on, especially if I not know if the miniature will print or not. I dont like to waste resin if I dont have to, and I am not running this as a business)

Any of the above printers should give most excellent results, I think the mars and photon retail for about 250 dollars, the epax about 470 is what I payed (price higher due to Corvid).

The quality of miniatures printed on any of the above (inexpensive)resin printers will blow away the quality of print you get on a FDM printer (I detest layer lines).

Removing the supports on a resin print if properly supported may take anywhere between 15 seconds up to maybe 1 minute, with little to no damage to the miniature, way easier then my experience printing any FDM miniatures, although many FDM models nowdays are being designed better then they were before, for less effort in support removal.

But back to my original topic, what I originally posted is for those people who may or may not be on the verge of getting a resin printer, to help them understand a little of what they may be getting into, which few people have brought up in there discussion of resin printers. Everybody seems to only talk about the smell, or the need for gloves and so forth, which to me, isnt that big of a deal. My printer sits in the my garage, but come winter, its likely going in a back room in the basement, at first I had concern about using it in my house, but im am now not that concerned about it now being in my basement back room, (and I have kids). Would I run the resin printer in my bedroom? No way.


Personal logo Bashytubits Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2020 9:28 a.m. PST

Altfritz that is only true for FDM type printers, a SLA/DLP printer can print 6 figures at the same rate as 1. The limiting factor for the second type of printers is the build area.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2020 12:14 p.m. PST

Resin printers do seem to be the way to go, since I detest print lines as well.

I'm not sure though, from what I've seen, that these will replace well sculpted and cast resin and metal minis anytime soon, if ever.

altfritz03 Aug 2020 6:12 a.m. PST

Time. A spin caster can do 15 x 28mm figures with one spin. That is more than double the rate of the SLA/DLP printer referenced above.

I would like to order 100 figures. How long is it going to take to fill a traditional metal order vs 3D printed?

Time is going to prevent printers from supplanting traditional methods.

Off on a tangent, a few weeks ago I saw a reference to printed foods; specifically vegan printed salmon. So in the future we might get edible miniatures as novelty items.

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