A Foray Into 3D Printing

I’ll preface this post by saying I am most definitely a beginner in this realm, so if you’re here for anything but one guys first week with a printer and getting to grips with what that means, you may want to check elsewhere!

I’ve been seriously considering a 3D printer for some time, as the prices drop and quality improves of home printing it has become more and more tempting. A recent episode of the Independant Characters podcast and a voucher for £100 off a printer I’d had my eye on pushed me over the edge into making the purchase…

The Anycubic Photon

I won’t go into too much detail on the differences between a resin printer and a filament printer, because honestly I don’t know enough about the two. From my research it seemed the resin printer was going to give me better results at printing small scale things, so it seemed like the obvious choice to me.

There are downsides to a resin printer; the resin can give off a smell, it can be messy to clean, but ultimately the learning curve seemed about the same for both and the benefits of the resin printer were obvious to me as someone interested in miniatures. If you wanted to apply your printing to other projects then you may want to consider your options more carefully than I.

The Anycubic Photon has many glowing reviews and is available at a (relatively) affordable sub £400 price point. I got mine with a £100 off voucher on Amazon, which is a thing they seem to do quite often – at the time of writing there is a £50 off voucher available.

The Setup

Next day delivery is a wonderful thing. I ordered the evening before with 7 minutes to spare on next day delivery and it arrived at work in time for to take it home with me and setup that evening.

Setup was really easy, screw in a couple of bits and then level the build plate.

Levelling the build plate is something that needs to be done carefully, and I am not 100% convinced mine is perfect currently as I’ll mention further on – but overall setup was done in under 15 minutes.

Printing

On to the good stuff…

First off, I did the test print that comes with the system. It told me it was going to take about 6 hours so I left it and went off to bed.

In the morning the print was complete and successfully attached to the build plate at the top – which is what we wanted.

The post processing for resin is important and everything I read said to have a set process and stick to it.

You need to dip the model in Isopropyl for anywhere between a few minutes up to 20 minutes depending on the type of model and resin, this comes with trial and error it seems to find what’s right for you and what you’re printing.

Then you wash off the Iso, and have to let the resin set fully by leaving it in the sun (or a UV box, which I don’t have) – there are many opinions on how long to do this for as you want the resin to get hard, but don’t want it to become brittle. Again, trial and error.

I’m still working out the best timings on these for me.

I did continue to do a few more test prints, which I had various success with. Between getting scales right, models not sticking to the build plate, and me letting them cure too long in the sun I’m probably on a 75% success rate currently.

Print Quality

I can’t really fault everything I read online prior to purchasing, the print quality is really, really good. The Photon can print up to 0.025mm layer thickness, which is crazy.

The first test print was an angel to make into a statue for some scatter terrain, this was printed at 0.05mm layer thickness.

You can make out the print layers here, but they are not going to be a problem once primed – especially for terrain.

I did another print at 0.025mm thickness, and the results were actually very impressive.

Once the supports were removed and I got primer and a base coat on I would challenge anyone to know it was a 3D print…

The downside of the 0.025mm layer size compared to the 0.05mm layer size is that it literally doubles your print time. You’re printing twice the number of layers. If you’re leaving your printer overnight though, does it really matter if it takes 6 hours or 12 hours? Probably not.

I’m going to print off a plinth for this guy to stand on and paint him up for the display cabinet.

I need to do some test prints of smaller components for miniatures to see how they come out, so check back for those soon enough.

Summary

There’s a lot to take into consideration regarding 3D printing, so I would say do your own thorough research into what you need and go from there.

I’ve had a lot of success with it so far, but am still fine tuning things such as getting miniatures to stick properly to the build plate, sometimes builds come away entirely, other times they peel away slightly – see the right hand side in this photo:

However, there are solutions to all these problems – you can sand the build plate to give it better surface area to adhere to for example. I am going to give that a try.

For all the little niggles though, the majority of the time it works smoothly and with excellent results.

For me, these are the major pros and cons of the Anycubic Photon:

Pros

  • High quality output for miniatures
  • Can print multiple miniatures at once
  • Super easy to setup and minimal on-going configuration

Cons

  • Resin is toxic and requires careful handling and clean up
  • Small build area compared to filament printer
  • Resin is relatively expensive compared to filament, my average print cost is £0.50-£2 depending on model size. Still cheap enough to me.

Overall, I don’t regret my purchase – infact quite the oposite – it has exceeded my expectations.

I’ll do a follow up post in a few weeks once I have had a bit more time to get to grips with everything and have some more photos of the output.

Until next time!