Guest Editorial: 40k in the Third Dimension!

Captain A here to talk about something cool! Have you ever wanted to just push a button and have something be created right in front of you? Have you had a vision for a piece of terrain or accessory for a model and wanted to see it become reality? Well my friend, you are in the age where your every dream can (almost) become reality! Welcome to 3d printing!

3d printing as a concept has been around since the 80’s, but it was in the early 2010’s that it ramped up in popularity. As with all things, the initial machines were extremely expensive, but as more entrepreneurs entered the field, the costs came down and now you can buy a 3d printer for under $200. The community is large and growing, and the technology is advancing and changing at a rapid pace. It is no longer for the rich or the business owner, but can be a hobby in and of itself, giving people the option to bring something out of next to nothing.

I, Captain A, have recently launched into the 3d printing world and have been thoroughly enjoying myself. It is a hobby that, like many others, has its ups and down, but has the potential of allowing creators to fabricate some very cool things that will level up your 40k gaming experience.

What is 3d printing?

If you don’t know what 3d printing is, let me (a 3d layman), put it in 3d laymen’s terms. Most current 3d printing involves a spool of plastic “wire” that is fed into a machine that can read 3d files and then heats it up in a nozzle at around 200 degrees, then is shot through said nozzle in layers part of a millimeter thick onto some kind of flat surface and then builds up the model layer by layer, adding supports where needed, until the model is finished and you can pull it off of the machine. You are only limited by the size of your printer, your imagination, and the 3d files available.

40k in 3d

I’m loving what I’m able to do now with my printer. The community of free files is immense, and you can find all kinds of items on the internet to print. It has allowed me to create very cool prizes for my events and to create a lot of unique terrain that will elevate my gaming tables for our league and tournaments in Boise, Idaho.

One of my favorite sites for finding 3d files is, which is essentially a search engine of other 3d file sites. Type in what you are looking for and you will find a lot of material out there.

There is also a growing trend of businesses doing 3d Kickstarters and/or have websites selling 3d terrain files. This growing trend gives hobbyists a lot to chose from and are able to create a vast array of terrain and kits for their games.


This has been one of the more exciting aspects of my 3d printer. Just trawling through the available 3d files and you can get inspired to create themed tables that also work for competitive 40k. I’ve been printing stuff for many tables as of late, such as a Greek ruins themed table, a future fish people table, a space fungus warrior table, and one of my favorite ideas so far is a Chernobyl themed type table filled with ruined industrial equipment and foliage covered ruins. Some of the industrial pieces I found are excellent and came out with a great level of detail. I’m also cooking up an Ork Pirateship themed table for the water FAT Mat that I’ve had for a bit. I’m working on putting pirate ships onto islands such as the basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Probably too much to work on at once, I know, but it has certainly been fun dreaming up all this stuff. We’ll see how much I can get to by the Boise Cup!


Another big thing I have been using my 3d printer for is prizes for events. Printing out bolt pistols, adeptus mechanicus cogs, space marine trophies, and more to give away as the prizes for events has added a unique and cool feel to the events I do and go to. People love getting a 3d printed item in lieu of a medal or traditional trophy and it has been a blast finding and printing them. I’m astonished at what this little device can do and just create a whole thing out of thin air. Or at least it feels like that.

Conversions and Modifications

This is where; with some inspiration, imagination, and help from 3d friends – you can come up with some ultra cool conversions or have the ability to take your models to the a whole notha level.

Sites like Shapeways, which were at the LVO, are a great place to find custom 3d printed accessories in as simple as a thing like shoulder pads. Having a 3d shoulder pad with your icon on it just brings that extra level of cool factor to your hobby. People love seeing unique and unknown chapters showcased with 3d heraldry on your models. Just that chapter symbol alone will draw attention to it.

You can even design or get someone to design your own idea and get it printed. While it may cost more, it can make your army really stand out at an event. Go nuts.

My 3D Printer

I went a bit whole hog, after selling a high end painted army, and bought a Ultimaker 2+. It has been a workhorse and a super solid machine, that continues to print time and time again. Sure, there has been some hiccups – if the bed is not leveled properly you will get misprints, but overall, it has been very dependable. It is very easy to use and comes with custom software called Cura. You simply find the file you want, save it to the SD card, plug that into the printer, select it and sit back….sometimes for days.

I also pretty much use PLA plastic that comes in 1000kg spools for $24 on Amazon from a company called eSUN. With prime, it comes in 2 days so I just need to order when I’m on that last spool of filament. Very easy to use. There are lots of different ideas on filaments, so just find what works for you. This makes it to about 2 cents per gram and is fairly affordable to print with. The turbine above costs about $8 to make. Not bad in my estimation.

If I were to suggest a printer to someone, I’d certainly recommend my printer as a great one, but a more budget minded and highly rated one is the Prusa i3. It has the capability of doing 4 filaments (4 colors) at the same time. It is only about $600 and is on many top lists as one of the best machines. The company is backed by Josef Prusa, a pioneer in the 3d industry.

One of the other programs I use is a website called Tinkercad. It is a simplified cad program this is free to use and makes working with many 3d files a snap, I’ve used to to add text and numbers to existing files, and have also used it to slice models in half for larger printing. It’s a great entry into the world of 3d printing and will help you get your feet wet for launching into other applications down the line.

Things to Think About

One thing to think about is the time that goes with printing. The turbine above will take about 1-2 days depending upon your printer and infill settings. I printed the turbine at about 20% infill, which means it is 80% air and the inside is a honeycomb type structure as seen below.

At 100% infill on the turbine will take almost 7 days to print and will cost about $27 dollars, meaning you will need to change out spools mid print. The benefits of a larger infill is that it is stronger and more resistant to damage, but is heavier and way more expensive. A lighter infill is cheaper and takes less time but is more susceptible to damage and can even warp in direct hot sunlight. Don’t leave it in your car!

If you are saying the good devices are still too much money, then find a way to work around it. Get together with your hobby club or buddies and pool some money together. Do some events to raise money for a machine that will support your group. Sell off extra models or just save up the old fashioned way and you could land yourself a great 3d printer. You can also find 3d printers are libraries or STEM facilities and get your file printed.


The time is right for many of you to jump into 3d printing. The software is easy to use and makes sense for beginners but has the capability to be mastered by pros and allows you to generate just about anything you desire. I’m still a novice and I’m having a great time finding and printing things that will make my events, tables, and games more exciting and interesting to play in. If you are already into printing, shout out in the comments below! What are you printing or what do you suggest for people new to the 3d market?

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

10 Responses to “Guest Editorial: 40k in the Third Dimension!”

  1. Dakkath February 17, 2018 4:09 pm #

    Kinda surprised you didn’t address the elephant in the room regarding 3d printing and wargames: making your own models.

    • Sad Rubric Spammer February 19, 2018 3:15 pm #

      The main issue with models is most printers don’t have the resolution to make good models. You can make things that look like models, but if you wanted to print your own army, people would notice and it will look bad. The picture of the house is a good example. The lines are the layers and they stand out like a sore thumb. They also limit feature resolution and look ugly on a small model. You can get around this by buying a more expensive printer but then you are investing a thousand bucks to have decent looking printed models versus just buying the things and having great looking ones.

      If you go to places like shapeways or other online places that can provide that resolution, the price is good for single custom models, but you can still tell they are printed it will usually be cheaper to buy a box of marines instead of printing them anyway.

      • Reecius February 19, 2018 3:23 pm #

        Yeah, that has been my experience, too. The finished product, without a LOT of work, looks really crappy compared to say, a GW model.

        • Dakkath February 19, 2018 9:26 pm #

          I dunno, that wolf knight head looks pretty dang good.

          • Sad Rubric Spammer February 19, 2018 10:43 pm

            It does. Up close you can barely tell what parts are printed and what parts are not. (They had it at NOVA) But the entire knight isn’t printed. Just the head, frost cannon and claws. That is where 3D printing shines. Small scale prints for custom parts.

            But printing entire models (what I assumed you were talking about) at that resolution is expensive as hell and time intensive. Printing with desktop FDM is cheaper but you pay in quality.

            Both cases, it’s cheaper and easier to get the injection molded stuff.

            If you are talking about custom conversion bits, and you are willing put the time in to design them and to pay for them, you can get some really nice stuff, but expecting to hit crtl+p and get a whole army for cheap is dumb.

          • Dakkath February 19, 2018 11:25 pm

            I was actually thinking more along the lines of printing pieces or larger models, or even scans of sprues.

          • Dakkath February 20, 2018 5:50 am

            *pieces OF larger models

  2. WestRider February 17, 2018 5:04 pm #

    Two things: 1) I’m pretty sure you meant 1000g for $24, not 1000kg. $24 for a literal ton of plastic seems a bit on the cheap side 😉 2) You talk about a turbine in the final section, but I don’t see any pictures of a turbine.

    • CaptainA February 18, 2018 10:36 am #

      Reece went off to a bachelor party without me being able to get the right pictures in. Sad face.

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