Tobold's Blog
Sunday, July 01, 2018
3D printing thoughts - July 2018

I had a couple of different things to say on my 3D printing experience of the last weeks, so I thought I'd group them together in one post. Not sure this will become a regular column, but it might.

My dungeon tiles project has reached the point where I stopped printing, waiting to use the tiles in various games before seeing what else I need. I used 4 spools of filament to print two boxes full of tiles: One with straight wall "regular dungeon" tiles, one with cavern tiles. The regular dungeon tiles are good to faithfully reproduce most classic dungeon maps. Cavern maps however are too irregular to be fitted with any accuracy with a standard set of tiles. Still that box of cavern tiles can be used to create quickly on the spot random cavern encounters for my campaign in the Underdark, or for set encounters where mapping accuracy isn't an issue.

I did create two dungeon tiles myself, by modifying the dungeon tiles .stl files I bought. So, theoretically, I could take a cavern dungeon map and create all the tiles accurately, one by one. I'm not going to do that, because it would take more hours to create the tiles for a cavern dungeon than it takes to play through that dungeon. The one dungeon I was tempted to do, Cragmaw Hideout (the first dungeon of the D&D 5E Starter Set), has the additional complication that it isn't flat, but works with different elevations. That would be even harder to build with tiles, although some people have done it, it just took them forever, and then still deviates from the original map.

For the dungeon tiles I used a slightly more expensive material, ABS from the same manufacturer as my printer. The printer software has optimized parameters for that material, and there is a guarantee that I will be able to buy the same color of filament in the future when I need more tiles. Now I'm back to a somewhat cheaper ABS from a lesser known brand. But I had some surprises with that material. The first figurines I printed with it were very fragile, breaking easily along the layer planes. I fixed that by printing at a higher temperature to improve layer-to-layer adhesion. The other surprise was the color: I had bought a mauve filament, but once printed the objects came out looking rather pink. It turns out that this was related to the surface roughness: Fused filament fabrication 3D printing creates objects whose surface isn't very smooth. And the rough surface acts like a "white" layer on top of the original color, turning mauve into pink. As ABS is soluble in acetone, putting my prints into acetone vapors for 15 minutes smoothed the surface, and turned the color darker, back to the mauve of the filament. Still, I will avoid that color in the future.

My previous printer would *only* accept filaments from the manufacturer of the printer. My current printer is much better in that regard, allowing me to use any brand of filament. That means that I have a far wider range of colors available to me now, which I didn't have before. For example I found a nice silver filament which makes printed parts look nearly like metal. I'll probably print some "metal" doors and bars for my dungeon tiles with that, as well as figurines like heavily armored knights. The only problem is that if I switch colors frequently, I end up with a large collection of partially used spools of filaments. I don't have so much storage space, and if I wanted to do it right I would need to store the spools in special containers with a desiccant, to keep them from swelling with humidity, which would ruin them for printing. So my solution is to just keep printing with the same spool until it is empty before switching colors. The downside is that some of my figurines are not the best color, e.g. air elementals in red instead of blue. I'll have to live with that.


Hey Tobold. Long time, no comment. I have also gotten into 3D printing alongside our D&D group. I have found PLA to be the better option for printing. It is more cost effective and forgiving in my experience. You cannot use acetone vapor baths to smooth out prints, but in my use case I paint my minis. I use gesso as my primer (same primer used on canvas for paintings). A couple layers of gesso and a light sanding gives a good result for miniatures (28mm equivalent prints). For terrain I am finding there is no need to sand after priming; things look good as is.

My current dungeon prints are the free Rampage castle pieces from . However, I am finding that the full height walls are not ideal when you get to playing a session. Half walls are the way to go as it makes for a better visual picture then having to peak over the full height walls. Also figures tend to exceed their base width and the full height walls make it hard for characters to be on spaces next to walls and corners are out of the picture.

I'd be a fan of more 3D printing posts. Hope things have been good in your blogging neighborhood; miss the old days of MMO blogging.
Yeah, that is why I went with True Tiles: Low walls, big squares.
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