Miniature modeling and painting are a really popular hobby and people of all ages enjoy it all over the world. Whilst previously, miniature enthusiasts were limited to assembling pre-made models and then painting them, 3D printers have totally revolutionized the miniature world. Now, anyone with a 3D printer can print out any miniature that they like in just a matter of a few hours. Especially during the CoronaVirus pandemic when so many of us have been stuck inside, more and more people have been investing in 3D printers to take their miniature hobby to the next level. Miniature painting is a great way to expand your miniature collection but there are some important steps that you need to take when 3D printing miniatures. This article is a guide to 4 things you should know about miniature printing.
1. Different Types of 3D Printers Have Different Capabilities and Limitations
This is a very important thing to know if you are looking to start printing miniatures because it may affect the 3D printer that you decide to buy. Generally speaking, the best quality print is going to come from a resin 3D printer which is going to need little to no special set up to deliver fantastic miniatures straight away. These printers perform with incredible precision and are able to print miniatures with the most intricate detail. SLA printers are the most accurate but FDM printers can also give you a highly detailed miniature as long as you take the right steps with setting up the layering, and cooling times. Whilst resin is the best material for intricate printing it is quite messy to work with and can be more susceptible to snapping as resin models tend to be more brittle than models made from PLA. Take this into account during the miniature design process and try to avoid miniatures with particularly thin components.
2. The Details Make the Model
Every miniature lover knows that the details are what makes miniatures so amazing and the level of detail that you plan in your 3D printing is the most important consideration when printing a miniature. Miniature figures are incredibly intricate and require an enormous level of precision from the 3D printer and there are some great tips online to help you achieve the most detailed miniatures possible. Think about a popular miniature like a Warhammer Space Marine and just consider the details on the figure’s face, weapons, and armor. These details would be hard to achieve on a model ten times larger, but on a miniature can be next to impossible to capture perfectly.
The real skills in miniature 3D printing are to work out which details are the most important and which can be added later during the painting process. As well as the type of printer, there are various other factors which will determine the level of detail that you are able to achieve. It can be very tempting to print your miniatures as fast as possible but the best way to get a highly detailed miniature is by printing slowly. When 3D printing larger models and components the print speed usually doesn’t matter but in the case of miniatures it makes a huge difference. Set up your printer to between 20mm per second and 30mm per second for the best result.
3. The Right Layer Height is Vital
Another important factor to consider is the layer height and for the best results, you should set your printer to a smaller layer height. Different 3D printers have different layer height customization capabilities and so you will need to check exactly what your model of 3D printer is capable of doing. Cheaper 3D printers often cannot be set up to do exactly what is instructed on the miniature specification sheet and so you will just have to experiment. The initial layer is actually consecutive layers on top of each other so make sure that you gradually increase the size of the layers as you build up the miniature. You really need an infill of no less than 0.5mm before you start reducing the layer height. Make sure that you adjust your printer accordingly because ordinarily the default settings are only programmed to print around 0.2mm of infill. Your initial layers create the foundation for the later, more detailed layers and so it is really important that you get them right.
4. Cooling Times are Really Important
Another important factor that you need to get right when doing any 3D printing is the cooling times but it is especially vital when printing miniatures. Because miniatures are so intricate the filament can easily ooze or drip into the cracks and crevices and so it is extremely important that you make sure that the filament, whether that be resin or FDM, cools instantly. In order to ensure this, you will need to fit an additional cooler or fan onto the nozzle. Many people try to increase the cooling time of each layer by increasing the minimal layer time but the problem is that the nozzle ends up dripping onto your miniature between layers which totally ruins the miniature. Try increasing the minimal layer time but print multiple miniatures at one time. That way, while each layer is drying the nozzle is printing another miniature so it’s not just there dripping on your models. Test out a few different layer times and see what gives you the best printing results.
3D printing miniatures is an amazing innovation and has transformed miniature hobbying. It is so important that you adjust the 3D printer settings in order to get the most precise miniature print outcomes. Try to invest in a quality resin printer that has customizable print speeds, layer heights, and cooling times. The layer heights make a huge difference to the robustness of your miniatures and print speed and cooling times are a major factor in the intricacy of the details. If you have recently started 3D printing miniatures or are looking to start out, make sure that you take things laid out in this article into account when choosing your printer and setting it up.