I decided to finally get a 3D printer. A popular model was on sale and I’d been frustrated with the difficulty of finding commercially available (and affordable) terrain as well as mecha designs. I wanted to be able to print my own mecha miniatures, primarily to one day run the Lancer RPG.
I also want more options for terrain – I realize resin might not make a ton of sense for terrain due to cost and resin being hard to work with at scale, but I’m looking at smaller scale terrain (12 mm vs 28 mm), and adding small details to bigger pieces.
I went for an Elegoo Mars 3 4K resin printer, because it was discounted, and because my friend who’s really into both miniatures and 3D printing told me it’s a great deal on a machine that should work well for me.
Overall, 3D printing is easy and fun. I’ve had way fewer issues than I expected to have. Preparing files for print is somewhat technical, but the automation of software is so advanced now that you have to do very little of it manually. Looking at tutorials, looks like things like adding supports was a lot more fiddly up until a couple of years ago, but I’ve been able to work with just the automated tools for a while now with zero issues.
Things I did wrong
- There’s a plastic film on the print plate. I didn’t realize before my initial test print didn’t work and I was cleaning up for another go. Take off the plastic film.
- Scaling big miniatures (75 mm scale) down to tabletop scale (54 mm) doesn’t really work. The details become so small that the result is fiddly and brittle.
- Chitubox (pre-print software you need with the Elegoo printers) asks if you want to see STLs as thumbnails on Windows 11. I shouldn’t have said yes, because even after reverting the choice, uninstalling the software, and fixing the registry, my Win machine still can’t touch an STL file without Explorer crashing. So that’s great. Considering how widely used Chitubox is, this can’t be a common situation, but at the same time, my Win machine is very vanilla – it’s a store bought gaming build without any weird customization or software installed.
- Move the printer with the filled resin vat inside. Don’t do that. You’ll splash resin everywhere, and it’s difficult to clean up. Just remove the vat if you need to move the machine at all.
- I didn’t know how important it is to let the leftover resin drain from the completed plate before washing. Your quite expensive isopropyl alcohol bath will get murky fast if you don’t. You want to get something to hold it at an angle. A friend printed a piece for me for this purpose (you don’t want to do it with a resin printer, though – it’ll be too brittle)
- You shouldn’t eyeball miniature scale. Get something to measure against – a 3D model of a ruler will do, but even better, get the model of a printed miniature you like the scale of, and use it to measure how your minis should be scaled. Being off by just a few mm will make them look odd next to your correctly scaled minis.
- Cure (bathe in UV light) my minis before removing supports. Instead: drop them in boiled water for a few seconds and the supports come off almost by themselves. Let dry, then cure. Much less damage on the final model.
Things I did right
- Watch a bunch of tutorial videos on resin printing before starting. Important things: model orientation and how supports work. I recommend 3DPrintingPro.
- I got a washing & curing station combo, Elegoo Mercury Plus V2.0.
- Figured out the disposal of waste isopropyl and resin in advance. I happen to live close to a disposal facility, and have plenty of space to store the hazardous material until then. I’ve read terrible stories online of people struggling with massive vats of hazardous liquids because they didn’t know what to do with them beyond not pouring them down the drain (please don’t do that – this stuff is seriously dangerous to nature). What I’m doing: pour the waste back into the containers they came in, and take to the hazardous waste disposal facility for processing.