I am not paid by Anycubic, EmanG, Function_Follies_From_Formless_Failures, or RedMakers. All file design credit goes to the creators.
When the Age of Darkness box was released a lot of people in my area were buying into the Horus Heresy. I was all in, the game looked fun and was a more engaging historical game for me when compared to real-history games like Team Yankee or Pike & Shotte. The major issue with Horus Heresy was that the majority of models were, and still are, Forgeworld exclusive. Even the models that have been transitioned to plastic have either mostly been tanks or have massive supply issues. I like the aesthetics of the Forgeworld units, but Peter doesn’t pay me enough to cover those prices.
Enter the Anycubic Photon Mono 4k.
Against Games Workshop’s wishes, I found a way to build my army without having to sell one of my kidneys. This quickly turned into its own hobby. I have spent the past year with the printer running nearly 24/7.
Other than the cost savings?
Let’s focus more on the ratio of work to payoff that printing can bring. I consider myself a hobbyist first and a player second. I find painting relaxing, and I spend almost every morning making some progress on my models. Printing allows me a nearly infinite supply of new models on demand, assuming I still have resin on the shelf.
Printing isn’t fast, by any means, but it allows for regular models for testing paint schemes or adding more unique sculpts to my army. The Skarbrand proxy I recently printed took nearly three days to finish, but the final result is, in my opinion, so much better than the original GW model.
This model brings me to my second point: printing gives creators the opportunity to interpret models in their own way. There are plenty of one-to-one printables out there for GW’s models. GW puts a lot of effort into removing these, and I can’t blame them, it’s a direct theft of their IP. But interpretation of these models through a different lens by creators gives life to the units that you wouldn’t normally see.
Take this big dreadnought, for instance. This fits with the aesthetic of the Adeptus Custodes but is not a carbon copy of the Telemon. Or these guard models that are great proxies for the Solar Auxilia without being complete reworks of the Forgeworld models.
There are a handful of things you should consider before getting into 3d printing. Your printing experience will be affected by your expectations and the amount of work you want to put in.
Printing is very much a hobby by itself. Don’t expect to come in and have zero work on the front end. A poorly calibrated printer will cause no end of frustration from failed prints. There are safety hazards present from handling resin. The cleaning process involves a lot of consumables. You need to be ready to support your models. You need to be prepared to clean your printer when your FEP inevitably gets a puncture.
Safety is paramount when dealing with resin. There are articles upon articles describing why you shouldn’t handle resin bare-handed, why you shouldn’t breathe in the fumes, and why you shouldn’t just pour your spent cleaning fluid down the drain. There are ways to safely deal with all of this, some more eco-friendly than others, but it all comes down to how much you’re willing to invest in safety equipment.
Boxes of Nitrile gloves are the best way to protect your skin from the resin. Keeping a pair of gloves on while you are handling the uncured resin is mandatory to keep from being exposed to toxic chemicals. Even once a part has been cleaning and dried, you still should not handle it bare-handed until it is fully cured.
Fumes are a bit easier to deal with. We’ve all been wearing masks for the past few years, but the mask you wear makes a difference. Most printers are shipped with a small paper surgical mask in the box. This mask does nothing for printer fumes, and you should probably save it for the next time you get the flu. Personally, I have a re-useable P100 respirator that I use. It does a great job of cutting back on the smell, but the level of protection is probably overkill. A standard N95 is sufficient, but you should try to find a reusable one. It’s also worth noting that facial hair can disrupt the seal of your respirator, so be sure that you are forming a tight seal before handling resin. I have to tuck in the points of my mustache in order to get a proper seal.
Finally, and this is important for your water supply, your neighbors water supply, and your local wetlands: DON’T POUR YOUR USED CLEANING FLUID DOWN THE DRAIN. It’s toxic to you, and it’s worse for local wildlife. If you do that you’re a bad person, and you should feel bad.
Instead, find a solution for curing the resin particles in the fluid before disposal. The best method I’ve found is to pour your cleaning fluid into a bucket or large jar, allow it to settle, then set it in direct sunlight to let the sediment cure. This process will probably evaporate a lot of your liquid, but I find that I only have to replace this fluid every few months. There are ways you can find online to save your alcohol for reuse, but I haven’t tried any of these, myself.
Once you have your safety equipment assembled and ready, you need to calibrate your printer. Your calibration is going to be unique to your setup. The ambient temperature of your room, your printer screen, and the material you’re working with can all have an impact on your print quality. I recommend a quick-read calibration print that will help identify where your problems might lie. The Amerilabs Town is a good example that shows off the possible specs, but I found that the Cones of Calibration make for a very quick study of how well your supports will stick to your model. TableFlip Foundry has made an excellent video explaining how to use and interpret the cones.
Cleaning your prints is straightforward, assuming you have the right equipment. I clean using a two-stage method. First, I wash the bulk of the resin in a pickle bucket. You can buy these from Amazon for around $10. It makes a great way to get an initial alcohol bath with some good agitation. For the second stage I use the Anycubic Wash and Cure station. It provides agitation similar to a washing machine, forming a small vortex in a large tank. Using it as a second stage keeps the alcohol cleaner, and won’t let sediment jam my agitator blade.
Speaking of alcohol, you’ll need some on hand. My pickle bucket has about 1.5l of fluid, and my Wash and Cure stores about 2.5l. I use 99% IPA, but you can get away with 90+%. I used water-washable resin for a long time to save cost, but I’ve found that washing that resin in alcohol leaves a nicer surface finish than washing in water. The alcohol also evaporates off the surface of the resin much quicker, which is a nice bonus.
Not all models are pre-supported. Most of the time if you’re pulling models that creators list for free on sites like cults3d or thingiverse you’re going to find that you need to support them yourself. Even if you are paying for files, there is no guarantee that they are pre-supported. Even if the files are pre-supported, there is no guarantee that the creator test printed with their supports and the prints will fail (I strong feelings on this).
Learning to add supports to your prints, and how to identify when supports have been done poorly, is vital in the printing process. There are lots of videos on how to create supports for models, but I highly recommend watching these two to get a basic idea.
For the creators out there: there are plenty of people that will add supports and test prints for your models for a cost. If you are going to sell your files, you really should have pre-supports, Lychee or Chitubox files, and test prints before you sell. No one wants to pay $10 for files, only for it to fail. That $10 file can become a $100 screen.
I have been supporting my own files for more than a year, and I would be happy to discuss supporting yours. You can contact me on Instagram @poots_paints.
I’ve found my printer to be mostly maintenance-free. Once it’s set up an calibrated it runs without issue. There are a few modifications I have made over time, notably a magnetic build plate and all-metal resin vat, but these are purely optional. I recommend regular cleaning. Even if your printer looks perfect, sometimes a small resin spill from an over-full tank can cause stickiness if it isn’t cleaned properly.
I’ll cover replacing punctured FEP and heavy-duty screen cleaning in a future article.
Don’t let the above few sections scare you. This is an extremely rewarding hobby. I’ve found a huge amount of satisfaction in taking a model from liquid resin to game table. With some investment of time and money, you can find a near-infinite number of new models to bring to your painting booth.
Happy printing, friends!