3D Printing Gaming Miniatures: A Helpful How-To Guide

3D printing is changing tabletop games. Many people are printing their own miniatures for games like Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, Test of Honor, etc. Besides tabletop gaming, you can also take up 3D printing as a hobby and join the thousands of people worldwide who are printing their favorite characters from the comfort of their homes. Some people have even made sustainable careers out of 3D printing.

However, printing miniatures can feel overwhelming to a beginner. With so many features and settings to play with, it’s very easy to make mistakes or underutilize your 3D printer. 

Here are some of the top tips that can help you print gaming miniatures like a pro.

1. Tuning Your Printer

You could have the best printer and software, but if you do not tweak it properly, then the final product is likely to be busted. So, after investing in a good 3D printer for miniatures, make sure the bed is leveled properly, and the nozzle stays clean at all times. Bed leveling issues are especially common, but you can solve them using automatic sensors. 

Cleaning the nozzle is essential in preventing under-extrusion and blobs from ruining your miniatures.

2. Understanding The Scale

Understanding how 3D printing scales work and using them correctly makes the process so much easier and ensures your final models look stunning. 

The scales of the most popular miniatures are available online. For instance, the commonly used Warhammer scale is 1:28. So, to create a detailed model, start by converting the height of the hero to mm since the ratio is in mm. Then divide the height by 28 ( from the scale) to know the exact height you need to print. 

Follow the scales keenly to maintain the details of your miniatures.

3. Monitoring Printing Speed

Print speed is one of those things that you simply cannot afford to mess with. It may take time and practice to get the correct speeds for your miniatures and specific printer. 

When your prints are rushed, the risk of poor layer adhesion, ringing, and blobs is immense. Extremely high speeds can even go as far as shaking the printer off the bed. 

On the other hand, slowing your prints for too long can lead to frustrating failures, especially if you live in an area with power surge issues.

Retraction speed determines how fast the filament is withdrawn into the print head before traveling. The speed needs to be perfect to stop the filament from dripping onto your miniatures. 

Make sure you monitor the travel speed of the printer head as well.

One hack that most people use to get incredible models is printing the first layer at a low speed. This can be anything between 20 and 25mm/s, depending on the printer you are using.

4. Use Supports

Support is necessary, especially when you are printing models with parts that tend to overhang, e.g., wings. But the supports should be used appropriately lest you ruin your model with visible pockmarks. 

So, how do you integrate the perfect support? Well, instead of up and down supports, use tree supports to reduce contact points. This will give your overhanging upraised arms and wings the support they need without leaving behind unpleasant marks.

You can also install a custom support plug-in for printing software like Cura. This allows you to provide support only when necessary, e.g., if the angles are deeper than 70-degrees, then the support overhang settings kick it.

5. Monitoring Temperature

Bed adhesion is very helpful in keeping your model in place during the printing process. Too much adhesion results in various issues like the infamous “elephant feet.” Therefore, you must maintain a perfect bed temperature to avoid deformities. 

You should also keep a close eye on nozzle temperatures. Hot temperatures melt layers leading to deformations. Extremely low temperatures also produce faulty models.

Cooling assists with shrinking miniatures to their final model in FDM printing. You should know that the level of cooling varies depending on the plastic you are using. For instance, ABS and PETG require minimal cooling, whereas PLA may need continuous cooling throughout the printing process. 

You can always find the recommended cooling temperatures of each material on the manufacturer’s website.

3D printing is a fun activity, but it has a bit of a learning curve. It takes time and practice to master the art, so don’t feel defeated after the first few tries. You should also take advantage of the amazing 3D printing online community to tackle technical issues and learn how to better your skills.

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