3D printing miniatures of your favourite gaming or fictional characters is a hobbyist dream and one of the reasons why domestic desktop 3D printers have left their mark on the 3D printing market.
With the right 3D printer, anyone could learn to manufacture miniatures from scratch at very affordable overhead cost. But it is also worth noting that you may have to spend some time learning how to use a 3D printer to create the small and sometimes intricate patterns miniatures generally have.
So, have you chosen the path of a 3D printing hobbyist interested in developing miniatures? If yes, then the first step to actualizing your dreams and becoming an expert in miniature printing is choosing the right 3D printer to work with. In today’s post, emphasis will be placed on the features one must look out for when selecting a 3D printer for miniatures.
The Specs to Look For
Let’s first get this out of the way, the 3D printers you are most likely to consider for domestic use are the modest and more affordable devices will call desktop 3D printers.
Therefore, the specifications to be considered here will revolve around this category. Now that is out of the way, here are the specifications you must consider when searching for a 3D printer for printing detailed miniatures with.
The nozzle forms the extruding end of a 3D printer where the filament or material you use is extruded out in layers to create your 3D print. The average nozzle diameter that comes with most 3D printers is the 0.4mm nozzle but some printers come with changeable nozzles with pre-assigned diameters.
When looking for a 3D printer for creating your miniatures, it is best to choose one with swappable nozzles or go for the 3D printer with the smallest diameter which would be 0.2mm.
A smaller nozzle diameter actually slows down the 3D printing process—due to the rate of filament extrusion—but drastically increases the level of details that can be accomplished as well as the miniatures overall quality.
The XY Precision
3D printers extrude filament along the XY plane or the Z-axis. Printing along these axes determine the level of quality that can be gotten although the XY axis is built to provide the most precision/resolution. Therefore, choosing a 3D printer with a high resolution and precision rate is encouraged when looking to work on miniatures.
There are a couple of ways to test out the precision of your 3D printer and one of them is printing a benchmark model—also known as a 3D Benchy—to test your 3D printer’s capabilities. You can download the 3DPC Benchy to check out how precisely a 3D printer functions.
The layer thickness of a 3D printer defines the height of every layer its nozzle extrudes. When 3D printing miniatures, it is recommended that you select one that can 3D print layers of 0.1mm or even less.
This is because the ability to 3D print with lower layer thickness determines the quality of the details and intricate parts on a miniature. Therefore, it is important to note that the lower the layer thickness, the more details you will be able to produce on your miniatures.
Choosing a versatile 3D printer that can print with different filament types is definitely great for miniatures. This is due to the fact that you can directly imbibe the texture and quality of a material into your 3D prints without the need to do much post-processing such as applying paint.
Therefore, we recommend choosing a 3D printer that can print with wood, ceramics and other types of thermoplastics aside from ABS and PLA.
3D Printer’s Structure
Stability is a very important part that determines how well a 3D printer prints. A 3D printer with weak and unstable parts—bearings, belts and motor—that vibrate or shake during use affects the entire details and precision level of miniatures.
This means your best choice will be a durable and stable 3D printer with structures made from metal instead of mainly plastics. This will give you the stability required to 3D print the fine details that come with miniature characters.
Choosing a 3D Printer According to what You Intend to Print
Now let’s go into design specifics and the best 3D printers to consider for 3D printing them. Starting with:
Miniatures with Fine Facial-details
If you are one of those who classify themselves as perfectionists, then now is definitely the time to introduce yourself to resin printing with DLP 3D printers. Unlike FDM where layers are extruded, Digital Light Processing 3D printers make use of UV light to cure liquid resins to form a 3D print.
The DLP process provides you with much more control than an FDM printer when 3D printing miniatures with fine facial details. A great example of a 3D printer you can use is the Wanhao Duplicator D6 which uses DLP technology and prints at layer resolutions as low as 0.05mm.
Miniatures with Medium Details
When 3D printing miniatures such as desktop items, trucks and other objects where detailing is not overtly required, then choosing an FDM printer with excellent layer resolution is recommended.
The Creality CR – 10s4 works with multiple filament types which could be important for your miniatures and 3D prints at a resolution of 0.1mm which is also great for items without fine-facial details.
Miniatures with Minimal Details
If 3D printing miniatures for Cosplay, props and nature’s terrains, not much details or intricacy is needed during the printing process. Therefore, one can consider purchasing an FDM 3D printer with a larger build volume to accomplish the work in record time.
A great option for this is the Creality CR – 10 s5 for it offers the build volume and stability needed to 3D print miniatures with minimal details.
3D printing is a form of art for it allows you design and bring creative pieces to the physical world. And like every other art form, the effort you put into mastering your craft will determine how quickly your abilities are developed. So keep plugging and playing till you unlock the level of professionalism you desire.