3d Printing – 16 Months and a Saturn later

In December 2020 I got my first 3D printer, the Elegoo Mars Pro and so began the trip into the 3d printing. I’ve written about it a few times before over the last year, as well as showing off some more models I’ve been working on that have been printed out at home. I’ve even managed to get some of the 3d printed pieces on the game table, allowing me branch out into entirely new areas of gaming or expand the stuff I’m working on.

The main thing though – what’s my current feeling on 3d printing? Honestly, I still think it’s the same as it has been since the start:


3D Printing is an incredible addition to the wargaming hobby (especially in smaller sectors such as Ultramoderns). But at the same time, it is a hobby all to itself – getting the machines setup and dialled in, preparing the prints (both supporting files and assembling the build plates), cleaning up and curing afterwards, dealing with any mistakes. All of this takes time – time which then can’t be used on other elements of the Wargaming hobby. Add to that, resin printing has the potential to be filthy, requiring careful cleaning of workspaces. For this reason, I still can’t suggest that everyone should get into 3d printing – if you’re already struggling to find time to hobby, you’re going to find yourself barely able to finish painting all the resin you’re adding to the collection.

On the other hand, with it being a useful tool, there is definitely an opening for a group purchase for a 3d printing setup. If you can gather a like minded set of wargamers, than having one person running the printer and providing for the rest of the group resin crack to paint, then it can make a lot of sense. I’ve already started printing items for other people, such as spare heads or small tanks.


Since the last main post, I’ve done one tweak – I’ve changed my layer height from 0.05mm down to 0.03mm. I find this gives a definite quality improvement without causing too much extra in terms of build time, as well as actually making some models print a lot more easily (I think Last Sword recommends 0.03mm as it’s preferred layer height as since switching, all of my prints from them have been much more successful).

The Saturn

At Christmas, I got the Elegoo Saturn to expand the possibilities. I’ve already mentioned in the past some of my reasoning – the larger print bed allowed for the ability to print vehicles and terrain with needing to stand completely vertical and therefore taking AGES.

Having now had it for a few months, the investment was 100% worthwhile. The larger print bed, as well as making vehicles easier, has also meant it’s easy enough to print large volumes of figures and bits – I managed to print off almost all of Combat Octopus’s modular pieces in a single go. The size increase also means a lot of scatter pieces which are just a touch too large for the Mars (I’m looking at you Vae Victis) obviously fit rather nicely onto the Saturn.

The combination of Mono and 4k screens does seem to make the details a little bit crisper than on the Mars Pro. Because of this, there has been a few times where I’ve gone to the Saturn rather than the Mars and had to build up a full plate’s worth of parts (hence why there is a file called “GeraltsSword” that is a single snapped part PLUS a pile of wood elves).

On the hand, the Saturn isn’t perfect. Due to the large size of the print bed, I’m definitely having a lot more suction issues that I did on the Mars. This has come up in a few ways, both tearing off the supports but also layers not properly attaching together. I’m still working out ways to mitigate it but there are definitely times when I really just don’t want to risk it and have used the Mars Pro for things were either size or quality (such as smaller pieces of scatter, upgrade parts, or just reprinting things that failed on the Saturn and I don’t want to rebuild an entire tray).

Additionally, despite my best intentions, I don’t think resin is the way to go for terrain. The Saturn means that a lot of the large scatter pieces are now printable, but each piece uses a lot of resin and a takes a lot of time. In addition, due to the size of these things, there are a lot of places for it to fail, at which point you might be looking at a 17+ hour print wasted. This is slightly disappointing but luckily, it wasn’t the only thing I was wanting the printer for.

Despite my issues, I actually think if you want a 3D printer, it might be worth saving up to get the Saturn size. It’s not required (a Mars 3 would give you similar quality on a smaller footprint) but the Saturn has much fewer limitations, letting you get a better feel for just what 3D Printing can be.

What’s Next

As with most hobbies, there are routes to progress through it. The larger body printer has definitely expanded my options and really helped me continue to love 3D printing and open my eyes to all the possibilities that the hobby can bring to my wargaming. However from here, there are two future improvements I can look into.

Mono Screen Upgrades

As mentioned above, the Saturn has a mono-colour screen vs the traditional RGB one of the Mars Pro. Because of how resin printing works (showing an image onto a screen that then allows/blocks UV light shining through), mono-colour screens last longer, require less time for exposures and can lead to nicer quality prints. In some comparisons (such as this one from Uncle Jessy), having a mono screen seems to provide more of a boost than resolution.

Wanting to keep my Mars Pro in the game, I started looking for replacement mono screens. Luckily, ChituSystems have two options – a simple drop in replacement (that is only a 1080p screen rather the original 2k) and a full conversion kit. The conversion kit actually lets you mount a larger screen than the 5.5″ and lets you keep the 2k resolution. Additionally, this screen actually is one from the Elegoo Mars 2/Mars 2 Pro, meaning finding replacement parts is much easier going forward.

Of course, there is a cost. But, as I was checking the site, it seems Chitu saw me coming – they had a half price sale up. Now I just have to wait for the boat from China to arrive.

FDM

The other side of the printing coin is finally taking a look at Filament printing. I’m slowly building up a collection of terrain pieces that are 100% designed for FDM, and I think it’s now the final piece of the puzzle I need to have the complete 3d printing workspace.

I did briefly take a look at the Ankermate Kickstarter. This printer is looking to take the crown of being a printer that gets out the box and starts working with fewer flaws. It has a handy camera to help it spot problems, stop/resume on power loss and. It has a lot of quality of life features that are usually addons for other printers.

Now the problem with it? It’s Kickstarter, its not out until later this year and it’s basically £500. This is a little much for me and the delay is a bit of a kick in the teeth. Luckily, talking to the Creative Regular Opponent has revealed a possible option to get my hands on a second hand Ender printer. Having then found control panels that add stop/resume features, I think this might be the device that I jump in on.


And with that, the 3d printing update is over. I’m still really enjoying it – the pleasure of making something appear out of the resin, before painting up it up and looking pretty damn close to things I’ve bought. There is a great sense of freedom in being able to have models I don’t worry about damaging in the post or painting badly as I can literally just print some more. So don’t worry, you’ll be seeing plenty more printed material from me.

On the other hand… I may have used quite a lot of bottles of resin in my 16 months.

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