Tobold's Blog
Sunday, May 21, 2017
3D printing examples

As requested, here are some examples of stuff I printed with my 3D printer.

First example isn't a miniature, but a box with a slide-able lid. It is bigger than the miniatures (the grid under the box is 1" hexes), so apart from some detail on the decorations the quality is smooth enough:
Next example is the "2.5D" miniatures I wrote about earlier. The stirges are not great quality, because they are supposed to be small, and printing small is a problem. However I do like the hippogriff and the giant vulture, both as mounts with a hole in them to place a rider miniature:
Next photo is a bit blurry (I told you I wasn't good at photography), but shows two characters I created with the Desktop Heroes software. They are holding their weapons close to their bodies to avoid problems with printing those:
Larger monsters frequently have to be printed in parts for "flat" printing and then assembled. This manticore was printed in 5 pieces and then glued together with superglue:
Likewise the ankheg is glued together from 5 pieces:
I don't usually paint my figurines, because I'm even worse at that than at photography. However this nothic really required me to paint an eye on to work:
If I print a figurine in one piece, I frequently have to print it with supports. The supports can be removed, but that does leave traces on the base:
Some monsters are ideal for printing, because they don't have fine parts and have a shape with nothing needed to be printed with supports. As an added bonus this ochre jelly can easily be printed in different sizes, for his ability to split into smaller parts when hit:
None of these are of a quality where I would go out and try to sell them. But for a tabletop role-playing game they do quite nicely. A miniature like the spider is unmistakably a spider, regardless from which angle you look at it and under what light conditions. Last night we played a game with a different DM who was using 2D printed miniatures stand-up with bases, but then some of the players around the table automatically end up looking at them sideways, where they can't be told apart.

Let me know what you think, and whether there are questions about specific 3D prints that you have.


The Manticore is nice. Looks like an endboss :)

How does the material react to smoothing down a bit with sand paper?
That does work, but A) it is a lot of work and B) it only really works well for bigger surfaces.
Tobold first of all thank you for the pictures, they really add a LOT of depth and info to your blog. A post with pics makes the difference (be it 3D or not). You're not bad at all with pics, come on. You did it (+1 skill point in audacity).

I'll be honest, some of those prints look... very ugly and raw :-( sorry to say so. I wouldn't trade 2D detailed stuff for the convenience of "understanding" the 3D npcs without moving left/right to see them (as you may do with a 2D counterpart). I think that details, color, poses and variety add a lot to any encounter. A good set of 2D characters/npcs with a good map make a ton of difference in my opinion.

Thanks for the photos and... give us more. Keep it coming!
I'm just curious: did you calculate the breakeven quantity of figurines you have to print? I would guess it is somewhere in the 200-250 range.
Probably not a bad guess, but it depends what comparison point you choose. You can get a Reaper Bones assortment package with "over 250" random miniatures for $775. Printing 250 figurines at 30 mm scale would cost the price of the printer (mine cost below €500) plus two rolls of PLA at €30 each. The quality of the Reaper Bones miniatures is superior, but you don't get to choose. If you buy them one by one, you pay at least 50% more.

If instead you compare my printed miniatures with the Heroforge miniatures, I reach break-even much faster. The cheapest nylon Heroforge figures are only slightly nicer than my PLA printed ones, and cost $15 each.
I think they look quite nice. The roughness seems to mostly affect the base. It would be nice if the base and the creature were different colours - the spider in particular would stand out much more. Maybe they could be done in two parts.
I've found some 3D prints with a decent/good painting, which helps masking the roughness and adds more immersion, of course: . You may notice they're bigger than yours but I suppose the choice was due to the "lack of detail" when printing small stuff. Even if they still don't look "amazing" I think they're a pretty good start. Time to try some basic painting, old Tobold! come on you can do it. Blogger first and photographer, printer and painter next :-)

p.s. on a serious note... painting is VERY easy. There is a "super trick" that I've learned when I was 20 and used to build and pain lots of buildings/humans for my train models. Paint your miniature with the chosen basic colors (skin, shirt, trousers, weapon, etc). Then get half glass of water and put some black to make a dark/smoky water. When your painted miniature is dry, use a clean brush to apply the dark water over the model: the water will flow over it, darkening the parts with an effect similar to SSAO (example here) and adding a LOT of depth.
It's called "washing", didn't know about that:
That noticeable banding happens due to the layer below the layer being printed not being cooled enough and thus does not support the layer being printed correctly and deforms with the weight. This is why you will sometimes see people modify their printers with fans blown towards the filament nozzle to cool it quicker.

I know you didn’t want to make modifications but the fans mod is probably pretty easy, maybe you could point a small desk fan towards the print to see if that improves the quality?

Here’s an excellent video explaining and showing the difference with fans on and fans off.

@Keith: I did a test and printed the little Marvin from the video. Comes out perfectly, so I don't think I have a cooling problem.
I love these 3D prints especially ochre jelly. You surely can start selling them in the future once you get perfect at it and its how i believe all the 3D printing service firms start their journey.

Best Regards,
Shab Bhat
Custom Prototypes
Very cool!
I read Cory Doctorow's book "Makers" recently and daydreamed about printing miniatures, drawer pulls, and bits & bobs for repairs or augments. I like using LEGO for miniatures and terrain if we're going more tactical in an RPG, but it can be hard to suspend disbelief if the bricks don't fit the setting. Usually someone is sketching the scene as we talk through it (this worked really well in Dungeon World).
Thanks for sharing these photos, Tobold.
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