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3DPrinting 28mm Fantasy Figures

Dragonlock: Lizardfolk Set 1 (5)
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Suggested Retail Price
$4.99 USD

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DMoody writes:

Bill mentions 2 hours for printing a single lizardman in the article. For those of you who have some experience with various systems, does that sound normal?

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27 June 2016page first published

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian writes:

Today's question: Can a low-end 3Dprinter – at a price around $300 USD and a resolution of 100 microns – print usable 28mm miniatures?

From what I've read, the answer should be no – you need a resolution of at least 20 microns, or five times better. But let's put it to the test!

The Werewolf

Let's start out with a free figure I found at the website for my 3dprinter. Like most manufacturers, XYZprinting offers a gallery where customers can share their 3Dmodels. The good news is that there are over 1,000 models in the Toys category… and the bad news is that I can't seem to find a search function!

Werewolf listing

Mojay989 uploaded this Werewolf 3D model, which was apparently inspired by The Elder Scrolls videogame. According to the listing, it can be printed without supports, at standard speed, at 200 micron resolution, and one user claims it worked for him. The listing also claims the model is only 3mm by 3mm by 3mm, but that can't be right!

So I download the model, and load it into my 3Dprinter's software:

Werewolf model

The model is too large for 28mm, but the software makes it easy to resize the model downwards. I set it to print at high resolution (100 microns), slow speed, high density. And about an hour later, I get this:

Werewolf print

The figure has come out pretty good, but he's got Cthulhoid hands! What went wrong?

Werewolf print

It's the same problem we discussed before – the arms are spread out wide from the body, the 3dprinter prints from the bottom up, and the arms look like spaghetti because the 3dprinter printed plastic into the air.

So I tried again, this time with supports turned on:

Werewolf print

The bad news is that after the werewolf was printed, and as I was removing the supports, it broke apart, so I stopped removing the supports. But the arms look a lot better this time!

Werewolf print

What went wrong? Two things. First, when the software added supports to the model, it placed some of the supports between the model's legs. And second, perhaps because the model was designed for a larger size originally, the legs/ankles are very fragile.

I could try again, but let's move on to something else…

The Dragonlock Lizardmen

Fat Dragon Games is best known for their fantasy paper models, but they are also pioneering with 3D models which they offer for sale. They were kind enough to provide TMP with their first 3D miniatures set, Lizardfolk Set 1 from the Dragonlock range.

According to the company, these models can be printed on a 100-micron 3Dprinter without supports. But when I saw the tails on the Lizardmen, I was skeptical… so I tried with supports turned on, first:

Lizardmen #1

I printed one in white, and one in black. The one on the left still has the supports in place; the one on the right has had the supports removed, and has been cleaned up a little.

That worked out well, so I tried printing more of the figures, this time with supports turned off:


It worked!

The models need a little clean-up. In my experience, PLA (the plastic my printer uses) doesn't respond well to sanding or filing, but a sharp blade and some tweezers work well.

Lizardman with Spear

There are five models in the set. The one which is the most challenging is the one with a spear. A narrow, vertical part like a spear is delicate, and the nozzle of my printer left stutters as it moved back and forth from the spear and the body. I gently tried to clean the spear up a bit, but I was afraid to do much, and the spear still needed a superglue fix after it got bent.

A Funny Thing Happened…

An odd thing happened when I printed one of the models. The top of the model came out looking like some kind of insect nest, and the head was 'melty' looking. Since the figure was loose on the print bed when I took it out, and since I had just changed the tape on the print bed before the print job, I thought the problem was that the figure was simply slipping around on the bed. So I printed it again:

Two Messed Up Lizardmen

And I got two messed-up Lizardmen! My best guess is that this was caused by a problem in the software, so I reloaded the model on my laptop, and this time it printed without a problem.

Printing an Army?

Printing one Lizardman model takes about two hours for me. And, unlike a traditional printer, you can't queue up jobs in advance, because you have to be there to remove each job from the printer before you print the next one. So that means print one Lizardman, come back two hours later to remove that model and print the next one, and so forth.

But if you're in a hurry, can you load multiple models and print them all at once?

One limitation that I've run into with this printer is that if objects are printed too close together, the 'slicer' step of preparing the models for print will produce bugs: it will add extra planes to the model. I've found I need to keep the models at least 2cm apart.

Even with that limitation, though, you could theoretically print nine Lizardmen at once (my printer has a 6" x 6" print bed). Being cautious, I tried it with only five:

Five Lizardmen ready to print

The good news is that everything worked – I got five Lizardmen models printed. However, since the printer nozzle was moving now from model to model as it printed, this compounded the stutter problem. The worst-case came out like this:

Lots of stutters!

So in my experience, printing multiple models runs the risk of extra clean-up work.

Painting the Lizardmen

First, I did a clean-up pass with a sharp blade and tweezers. I didn't try to remove everything – on a Lizardman, a few extra 'details' add character. grin

I've read that PLA models do not need priming, and I've found that the striations do not respond well to spray priming (the paint collects on the ridges, and does not always settle into the crevices). So I simply basecoated the figures green, giving them two liberal coats. (The model printed in white needed two coats anyway to make it less translucent.)

After the basecoat, I did another quick clean-up pass.

I then brushed on a light green highlight, and washed the figure with a mix of brown and green inks. (I realize this may not be the best technique to use on a 3Dprinted model, as it may tend to bring out the striations, but it's my usual method.) I thought the figures needed more contrast, so I highlighted again with yellow-green, then washed with pure green ink.

I then painted the details in a similar manner. Loincloths were painted tan, washed with brown ink, then drybrushed with very light tan. Weapons were painted brown, then washed with brown ink; stone parts were painted grey, then drybrushed with light grey. Belts were painted light brown, then washed with brown ink; the buckles (and on some figures, what looked to me like necklaces) were painted gold. Some figures have 'turtle shell' armor: I gave this a blue ink wash, then highlighted with green. Straps were painted light tan. Eyes were dotted with yellow. One figure has a skull on his shoulder: I washed it with brown ink, then drybrushed with shades of tan.

A minor criticism is that some of the belts and straps should have been sculpted all the way around the backside of the model.

So here is how they turned out for me:

Painted Lizardmen

Painted Lizardman

Painted Lizardman

Painted Lizardman

Whoops! Missed a string…

What Do You Think?

Would you use these on your gaming table? Do they satisfy the 'arm's length' wargaming rule? Did your Lizardmen turn out differently? Or will you wait for the next generation of printers and models?

As for me, I think these Lizardmen need final basing…