Hello there Folks of the Mortal Realms... Well. We finally made it, the final episode of my series on 3D Printing. I really didn't think this one was going to happen after killing my last printer, standing back and throwing out multiple choice words at it. Before shutting my eyes and ordering a brand new printer in an attempt to prove it was just user error the whole time.
Thats right Kids, This time around we are talking purely about Resin Printing and my rocky 12 months of trying to learn this part of the hobby. Like last time, this won't be a completely detailed "How to", more of a representation of the start to finish process of a print to help you see what's involved if this is something you want to spend your hard earned dollar on.
So refresh. What is Resin Printing?
A Resin Printer is essentially made up of 3 main components. An LCD screen, a Vat (container) to hold the Resin and a Build Plate.
The basic concept is the Resin used to create the models held in the Vat which is cured by UV light from the LCD (underneath the vat) of which the hardened resin sticks to the build plate which slowly raises out of the Vat (upside down) until you have a final model. This sounded like witchcraft to me until actually seeing it, of which it then seems pretty straight forward. (The cover you see on Resin printers helps keep light off the resin to stop it hardening when you don't want it to, along with helping keep fumes down.)
Best uses for Resin Printing?
Resin printing really has 2 main applications in my mind. Alternative Models and "Bitz" for conversions. The detail whilst not modern GW plastic kit quality, however is more then reasonable once you have your settings dialed in although I have found the bits quite brittle, so handle with care.
Whilst alternative models as a huge cost saving over GW's kits is an obvious benefit, I've found its actually more of a backup plan to the long list of backorders we've been seeing of late. (Dragon Ogors for example). As per my last post I'm using websites like thingiverse, myminifactory and Cults3d to find most files for printing.
Negatives to Resin Printing.
Take this with a grain of salt, as I can't say I've had the greatest experience with this style of printing.
- You cannot see the print as it happens, so you cannot cancel a failed print the moment it goes ugly. - You need to store and handle chemicals, you will need to budget for a LOT of gloves, potentially mask/respirator equipment depending on your workspace/sensitivity. - Uncured Resin WILL get everywhere - Little pieces of cut off supports will get everywhere (Think stepping on Lego)
- You will need to budget for several litres of 90% Isopropyl alcohol for washing both the models as well as your equipment (This will need to be replaced/disposed of occasionally)
- If you don't enjoy removing models from Sprues, You are absolutely going to loath removing the supports from prints
- Consider changing your name, phone number and local hangouts. The moment people know you have a Resin Printer you'll become popular quickly with requests for special projects.
Lets look at an example print assuming we have already found ourselves an STL file as detailed in the previous episode. I'm using an Elegoo Mars 3 now (I started and killed a Mars 2 Pro) which uses Chitubox as its primary Slicing software. I'm going to print a Goblin and Squig model deigned by Emang.
On that note. Shoutout to Emang who has a large collection of models on Cults3d from various armies/races, they are all high quality and they are free. If you ever read this, I owe you a beer, you really should be charging for these. They are worth it.
As with Cura that I used on the FDM printing guide, all the primary concepts are the same. Build plate is shown with our file sitting on it, we can resize, rotate, adjust layer heights etc. There are some key differences though, We will need to tweak some settings to do with our light exposure times based on the resin we are using (trial and error using test prints or some resins will have recommended settings on the bottle)
The other major difference is supports, there is an auto support option although it's seen as a less optimal option. This is absolutely critical to get right as if pieces detach during the print then they will end up floating around the resin tank causing more and more failure points and will require the tank to be drained and cleaned to prevent damage/failed prints the next time you use it. Personally, I like finding prints where the designer has done the supports already, otherwise I'm still a sucker for the old auto support.
Again. Once we are set, hit the slice button and save to the USB stick, then it's off to the printer we go. Note in the pictures above. If you want you can actually set up a cost of the resin (I haven't actually done this), so with a bit of effort you can actually have a crack at calculating the cost of a print.
Printing is pretty straight forward. Again requiring bed levelling, making sure the build plate sits just the right distance away from the bottom of the resin tank and the screen underneath.
Once we've levelled our print bed, filled our tank with resin it's time to hit the Go button, and wait. As the following picture will show. The screen shows the part of the screen that's lit up, what layer the prints up to as well as duration timers
As mentioned earlier, if something goes wrong, we are not going to see it for a while so we won't see the result until its almost done.
And once the time is up, the cover comes off to see we have a model. Woohoo. Next step is to throw it in a bath of 90% Isopropyl Alcohol to wash off any residual resin that hasn't cured and get it ready to start chopping those supports off. I use an Elegoo wash and cure station which stirs up the alcohol mix to help the process, which after the models cleaned up also acts as an LED lit turntable to finish curing the model.
Once the washing is complete, and the Supports have been cut off (My least favorite part of the process), we can finally inspect our newly created model properly and make sure there is no defects. In the following pictures I have only cut off the supports but not gone to the effort of really cleaning up the piece using a hobby knife to scrape off all the little odds and ends. I've done this to help show the importance of setting up supports, as you'll see the front of the model is pretty clean, however the back is a bit rougher. The supports we use have a huge impact on how much tidy up will be required. (It's a tough balancing act between having a model that won't print from lack of support, to having a huge amount of cleanup from unnecessary or poorly placed supports.
Reflection on my 12 months of Resin Printing
So there you have it, We have a model, which realistically didn't take long to produce, was quite cheap to manufacture, with a bit of additional cleanup and some paint will be able to do everything it needs to do.
So 12 months in, I've printed a Beasts of Chaos Army, a bunch of Spiders and a variety of other odds and ends. I've killed 1 printer (user error) and spent quite a bit on it trying to get it working again replacing part after part having 20+ failed prints in a row and wasting around $100 of resin and $150ish of parts to achieve absolutely nothing. Its definitely been a year of highs and lows, with the lows outweighing the highs and being absolutely ready to give up on multiple occasions.
However, writing this Blog convinced me to try again having picked up the Mars 3 and try again with the added experience from previous failures, and since pushing the power button for the first time, It hasn't missed a beat, all the old failures I once had are a thing of the past, prints are coming out cleaner, trying to clean out the resin vat of all the little pieces that could damage the film (FEP) on the bottom doesn't even seem to be a factor.
So at time of writing this, I'm the happiest I've ever been on my 3d Printing journey. The resin printer has definitely turned into the version I'm using the most, and if people are looking to give it a go, I will definitely recommend it. Just make sure you do your research first, and remember that it will be a hobby that you will need to study and play around with.
Results will take a few failures, but that's okay, just take your time, talk to people who've done it before and you will get through it.
Next time around we'll be back painting models, I've been working on a Gloomspite Gitz army getting it to table top level but leaving it setup to be able to go back in and push it much further, along with started work on a large scale non gaming piece which will be a long term project.
Until next time, Cheers for now. Spooky Luke