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Krefey

Which printer is the best to get?

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This is a common question I see in regards to 3D printers.  The answer depends on a variety of factors.  The main ones are cost, build volume and desired quality.

The next thing a prospective 3D printer should know is that there are two main types of 3D printer available that suit tabletop gaming. 

- The first type is the FDM printers (or filament printer).  These printers work by feeding a spool of plastic into a nozzle, which heats up the plastic to melting point, then deposits it upon the build plate of the printer.  These printers tend to be cheaper than the second type of printer and are cleaner to use.  These printers tend to leave more obvious layers which require fillings / sanding to get a nice smooth surface. I generally see these used more for larger terrain pieces than an actual miniature. The FDM printers can take a variety of materials for printing, the most popular are PLA and ABS.  PLA is safer to use in general, but ABS tends to be sturdier post print.  ABS produces noxious fumes when it gets melted and needs the printer to be in an appropriate enclosure to help keep a stable temperature while printing, so appropriate care should be taken when using it for printing.

Some issues with FDM printers are they are a bit more fiddly to get setup and require more maintenance than the resin printers below.

 

- The second type of printer are the resin printers (SLA and DLP), which use a liquid resin that is cured by a laser (SLA) or by an LCD screen (DLP).  The build plate is lowered into the vat of resin, then light is used to cure the resin as the plate gradually lifts up.  These printers have a much better resolution, and can produce some pretty decent miniatures with decent levels of detail without the obvious layer lines.  The downside is the resin used tends to be toxic and requires special handling and the prints need to be washed in isopropyl alcohol then left out in the sunlight or under a UV lamp to fully cure the resin. Resin printers tend to have smaller build volumes compared to FDM printers.

Resin for these printers does tend to be more expensive than running filament, which can be mitigated to a degree by the slicing program, but in terms of running costs for consumables, these printers will tend to be more expensive.

 

Recommended printers (note that these are printers I've seen recommended or have been recommended by various community members. this is not a hard and fast list as other printers may suit your requirements better):

- FDM

- Ender 3 - budget printer, but pretty good for an entry level printer with a solid FB community for support, decent build volume.

- i3 mega

- SLA

- Tend to start around the $5k price point

- DLP

- anycubic photon - budget printer which seems to generate decent results for its price point

- elegoo mars

 

Please comment below with anything you think should be mentioned above or if I've gotten something wrong.

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I've been looking at a cheap 3D printer I can get through work and thinking Ishould save some pennies for one. Not too stressed about quality, just want to dabble and use it for terrain etc. 

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3 hours ago, Magos Kasen said:

I've been looking at a cheap 3D printer I can get through work and thinking Ishould save some pennies for one. Not too stressed about quality, just want to dabble and use it for terrain etc. 

It is a lot of fun to mess around with, ends up being a bit of a hobby in itself. It is really hard to go past the Ender 3 as an FDM printer though, as you'll find so much information online about them. You can get extremely good results with the Ender 3 with a bit of googling and it'll set you back about $300 for the printer and a few upgrades.

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5 hours ago, Krefey said:

- The second type of printer is the SLA printers, which use a liquid resin that is generally UV cured.  The build plate is lowered into the vat of resin, then UV light is used to cure the resin as the plate gradually lifts up.  These printers have a much better resolution, and can produce some pretty decent miniatures with decent levels of detail without the obvious layer lines.  The downside is the resin used tends to be toxic and requires special handling and the prints need to be washed in isopropyl alcohol then left out in the sunlight or under a UV lamp to fully cure the resin. SLA printers tend to have smaller build volumes compared to FDM printers.

 

Recommended printers (note that these are printers I've seen recommended or have been recommended by various community members. this is not a hard and fast list as other printers may suit your requirements better):

- FDM

- Ender 3 - budget printer, but pretty good for an entry level printer with a solid FB community for support, decent build volume.

- SLA

- anycubic photon - budget printer which seems to generate decent results for its price point

 

Please comment below with anything you think should be mentioned above or if I've gotten something wrong.

There are actually at least 3 types of printers - FDM, SLA and DLP (as well as a few other industrial types)

FDM Krefy got spot on. SLA and DLP both work in a similar way, in that the build plate lowers into the resin, is then cured, then the build plate moves to allow the next layer to be printed. Where these two differ is in how they cure the resin:

SLA uses a laser to cure the resin by moving the laser around the pattern for that layer in the piece - typically these printers are $5k+

DLP uses an LCD screen to print the entire layer at once, and this is the format typically seen for hobbyist printers (such as the Photon).

The Resins are harder to handle than filament, however there are fewer moving parts and no hot-end, so there are less things to go wrong (and because the build plate only moves on the z-axis you rarely need to relevel). When they do go wrong though they are more fiddly to fix and get right.

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15 hours ago, Oceanborn said:

There are actually at least 3 types of printers - FDM, SLA and DLP (as well as a few other industrial types)

FDM Krefy got spot on. SLA and DLP both work in a similar way, in that the build plate lowers into the resin, is then cured, then the build plate moves to allow the next layer to be printed. Where these two differ is in how they cure the resin:

SLA uses a laser to cure the resin by moving the laser around the pattern for that layer in the piece - typically these printers are $5k+

DLP uses an LCD screen to print the entire layer at once, and this is the format typically seen for hobbyist printers (such as the Photon).

The Resins are harder to handle than filament, however there are fewer moving parts and no hot-end, so there are less things to go wrong (and because the build plate only moves on the z-axis you rarely need to relevel). When they do go wrong though they are more fiddly to fix and get right.

Thanks, I've updated my OP.

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I've got an Elegoo Mars and only have good things to say about this.  Yes it is definitely a smaller build plate than the filament printers I've been exposed to, but realistically if you're using resin to make large terrain something somewhere has gone horribly wrong (that or you have pockets deeper than Jeff Bezos).

Which brings up another point actually: COST.  A spool of filament will be cheaper than a bottle of resin.  A good slicer will keep the cost down to a minimum but ongoing material pricing is a factor.

So this probably sounds like a rant against resin printers, and it's not.  I love my Mars.  For a simple reason: MAINTENANCE.  Filament printers have a lot of mechanical parts and by extension there will be mechanical problems (bed screws, hot end clogging, filament organising). This isn't a downside, just something to be aware of.  Resin printers also have their faults but the maintenance on faults is a lot easier (usually of the plug & play variety due to the electrical & electronic components).

I hope this has been an interesting insight 🙂

Cheers!

Borzag

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8 minutes ago, Borzag said:

I've got an Elegoo Mars and only have good things to say about this.  Yes it is definitely a smaller build plate than the filament printers I've been exposed to, but realistically if you're using resin to make large terrain something somewhere has gone horribly wrong (that or you have pockets deeper than Jeff Bezos).

Which brings up another point actually: COST.  A spool of filament will be cheaper than a bottle of resin.  A good slicer will keep the cost down to a minimum but ongoing material pricing is a factor.

So this probably sounds like a rant against resin printers, and it's not.  I love my Mars.  For a simple reason: MAINTENANCE.  Filament printers have a lot of mechanical parts and by extension there will be mechanical problems (bed screws, hot end clogging, filament organising). This isn't a downside, just something to be aware of.  Resin printers also have their faults but the maintenance on faults is a lot easier (usually of the plug & play variety due to the electrical & electronic components).

I hope this has been an interesting insight 🙂

Cheers!

Borzag

Thanks mate.  I'll add those details to the OP too :)

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Elegoo Mars for me. I'm still learning, but yes the resin is expensive. But considering you can print minis, and even the cheapy ones can print at 0.01mm layer height... Not that you need to at 0.03mm is really nice. Basically smooth, and I'm fussy.

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I have a Flashforge Inventor II that I'm quite happy with. I got it free through family but i believe they're around $935. It uses PLA and fits 500g rolls in it. It has automated levelling, on board storage and supports connections via USB or Wi-Fi. My cousin sells them through his business Picokit (based in Brisbane) https://www.picokit.com.au/3d-printer/FlashForge

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