3D Printed Tabletop Miniatures
To start off with, I am well aware of 3D printers and what they can do, I am in the Industrial and Graphic Design department at work so I see 3D printers at work daily. But somewhere in the last year or so I missed the excellent SLA printers becoming so much cheaper (I mean relatively speaking, as they are still pricey).
However a friend of mine, Ray, recently mentioned that he had been printing some amazing 3D models and while I was somewhat skeptical, I couldn't resist when he offered to print me a few as a test. I have purchased 3D printed miniatures in the past from ebay and also shapeways. The results were always fine, but the print lines really take away from the detail on such small miniatures (10mm to 15mm). Also some of the material had proven difficult to clean and have paint adhere to.
Ray sent me a list of tanks to choose from and I had him print me some Hungarian tanks in 15mm. The list was from Thingiverse, a place where you can download free 3D files for about everything under the sun, and as fate would have it, someone had put together a huge collection of WWII vehicles.
Ray is using a Formlabs Form II 3D printer, which shoots a laser into a vat of liquid resin to harden it. It almost appears as if the printer is pulling your model out a vat of liquid. Here is a neat video review that shows the process!
Fast forward a week and Ray brings me two Turan tanks and two Toldi tanks, that are amazing! You can see them below. There were no visible print lines even in 1:100th scale and the resin is tough and light. The barrels were not warped and are just a strong as any plastic. This resin is not brittle at all, as a matter of fact you really can't tell that the miniatures are not plastic once they are printed. The blue material that this first batch are made of is a strong dental resin so are nearly unbreakable, yet still clean up easily with a hobby knife.
That does bring me to one big point, there is a lot of clean up with these printed tanks. More on that in my second post.
|A 15mm Hungarian Toldi I tank.|
|Hungarian Toldi IIa tank.|
|Hungarian Turin I tank.|
|Hungarian Turin II tank with sideskirts.|
|A painted Turin II tank!|
|Even painted up quickly, these came out great.|
So after this first batch of tanks I was hooked! Just imagine a print on demand catalog of nearly every tank and vehicle you can imagine. I talked with Ray and agreed to buy a container of resin material and he would print tanks for me, the container is around $150 US dollars but with that he is able to print around 100 tanks, depending on the size of the vehicles! I bought a slightly cheaper grey resin that holds detail at an amazing level.
So far I've had Ray print everything I needed to finish my early war German tank force (10 Panzer 38t, 4 Panzer IV's), then 10 French FCM 36 tanks, some late war Japanese tanks (see below), and the great thing is I can pick and choose. For example I've been able to buy some French Char D2 tank miniatures online, but the turrets are pretty bad. What I did was just grabbed a file for the Somua S35 turret from Thingiverse and added a peg in a 3D program I have, then Ray printed just the turret and now I have the perfect D2's I wanted!
|A German Tiger I tank.|
|A Japanese Type 3 Chi-Nu tank.|
|A huge Japanese Type 5 Chi-Ri.|
|Look at the 37mm and MG on the front. It printed that, no problem.|