Let’s take a quick trip back in time. The year is 2020, the month is December, and yours truly has found himself stuck indoors with a lot of time on his hands and a tasty government stimulus check. Being a good, patriotic citizen of these United States, and wishing to stimulate the economy, (the fact that the company I ordered my printer from being based in Taiwan will be conveniently excluded from this narrative) I decided to take the plunge and try out 3D printing.
Initially, I wanted to find a printer that was large enough to create both miniatures and terrain. If forced to pick one, I leaned toward miniatures and thus decided to get a SLA printer. At the time the pre-orders for the Elegoo Mars were constantly sold out and being impatient I instead heard about the upcoming Phrozen Mighty 4k and ordered a device. The following thoughts come from my 4 months of experience and I hope they will prove useful to you if you are considering taking the plunge.
1. 3D Printer is a hobby unto itself, not just another tool for your current hobby.
This is something I had heard other people mention, but hadn’t fully grasped until I got my printer. While the technology behind the printers is complex, mechanically they are still simple enough for you to disassemble and replace parts on your own. This is important because you will quickly find it is very easy to break or damage the printer through the course of your operations. One of my early mistakes was using a putty knife on my FEP (the thin sheet of plastic on the bottom of the vat). This caused it to leak (replacements can be around $20 each for my device) and eventually damaged my LCD screen ($200). All this to say is that these printers can be temperamental and you may find yourself spending as much time troubleshooting your printer as you do actually printing miniatures.
2. Small Changes can make big differences
Occasionally after printing successfully for a number of weeks you will find that one of your prints has failed for no obvious reason. And every time it fails there is a litany of things that could be at fault: were my supports set incorrectly? Is my plate still level? This is one of the things I am currently dealing with. For quite a while I have been using the same type of resin but switched after discovering another option. However, since the change I have yet to be able to print anything. I believe the issue is with the exposure settings but I can’t for the life of me find one that works (as an aside if anyone has the proper exposure for the Elegoo Ceramic Grey Water-Washable resin hit me up). Even things such as temperature or bubbles in your resin can affect your print quality.
3. The community can make a big impact
As war-gaming players I think this is something we all understand on a basic level. With 3D printing having a group of people to give you ideas and tips for your prints can be lifesaving. One of my regrets about my current printer (while I am happy with its quality) is that it has been a bit of a struggle to find resin settings and troubleshooting help. Additionally you can learn helpful things such as: using Water-Washable resin doesn’t mean you can pour your used cleaning water down the drain (something that surprised me). Since it can be hard to find people in your local area who print I recommend looking up groups based on your brand of printer or even specific pages on print problems or getting started. Some of these groups can even save you money. When I first started I thought I would need an expensive curing chamber until a Reddit group gave me helpful directions on how to build my own.
4 months into my journey of 3D printing I can safely say that the process has been more frustrating, expensive and somewhat smelly then I had anticipated. That being said, I have no regrets. There is a sense of freedom you have with the knowledge you have countless awesome models at your fingertips. Furthermore you can get a profound sense of accomplishment for successfully repairing your device or resolving an issue that has bugged you for weeks. I am sure I have a lot to learn about 3D printing but the past few months have taught me the highs outweigh the lows.
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!