Guest Post: 3D Printing

For this week’s Blog Post I asked my friend Dave who we've talked about many times on the podcast to tell us a bit about his latest hobby which has been getting into 3D Printing.

3D printing miniatures!? The future is here.

For those of you who don’t have experience with 3D printing it is becoming the next big hobby tool for miniatures. The price point is lowering, and the detail is increasing. Personally, I see this being the next “airbrush” for hobbyists.

The questions I get asked are the same I had to answer myself before I bought in. Why a 3D printer? What are the limitations? How will this fit me hobby? Which one? Where do I get files?

Why? Well right now additive manufacturing as it is referred to, is still in the Wild West stage. If you like interacting with a largely positive community of people forging their own way. If you want to be part of a revolutionary new in-home tech boom. With the large Facebook groups dedicated to many different categories you will find the support you need.

What limits? No limits! Budgetary limits are really the biggest hurdle (as with most gadgets). Material, Size and “finish” are the three ways I evaluate 3D printers. The most common printer is the FDM variety. These use plastic-based filament to create the object. While fine for our hobby they can have rougher detail. DLP is the second most common and it uses liquid resin. Like the resin some models are cast is this stuff is more toxic then plastic. It is messy and is light sensitive. While the most problematic it offers better detail. Size is purely looking at the total build area you have to work in, simple. Last “finish” is looking at how complete the printer is. Will you have to calibrate it often? Is it just plug and play? A lot to consider. FDM printers are cheaper and start as low as $200, while DLP is normally $500+.

I bought in shortly after looking at a Kickstarter for modular dungeon tiles. For a 6 room pledge is was around $400. As much as I wanted it I knew that steep price was more then I should spend, and I was getting barely a dungeon. For a little more I was able to buy the means to make nearly unlimited amounts of dungeon! Templates, terrain and even dice are all easy to print and the cost of the material per part is often pennies. It didn’t just fit into my hobby, it gave me the means to fill out areas I had no time for or couldn’t execute myself.

The printer I chose was the Creality CR-10. One of the most popular FDM printers on the market. Price ranges from $300-$500 depending on sales and sellers. For that price you get a large build volume roughly 1’x1’x15”. That was the biggest selling point for me. With the size I can print helmets and masks complete. You absolutely could go cheaper and scale down the size if you are focused on miniatures, but as they say, “Go big or go home!” 

Finally, the files question. Yeggi is a great start. It is a search engine just for .STL files. The format used for 3D prints. Thingiverse and My Mini Factoryboth have an ever growing catalog of free files. There are great sites for some pay items as well as Kickstarters from time to time. Even without making any files yourself there is enough out there to keep you printing.

As they become cheaper and more common, this conversation will gain momentum. The question is, when will you buy in?

David Dickey