Printing 3D miniatures is definitely not as simple as regular-sized 3D printing as it requires far more details and intricate layering.
The cool figures that you get in the end are absolutely worth the while, however.
But to get them right, you’ll need to find yourself an accurate and reliable 3D printer. You can check some of the Best 3D Printers for Miniatures through this link.
How to Print Miniature on a 3D Printer
The Importance Of Details
If you want to hit the finest details and get a successful finish of your model, you need to perfect the details –a hard task on a 28mm model.
A smart tip is to leave out details that you can add with paint later if your model will be painted.
Take Your Time
There is no reason to rush through your printing process at all.
Especially that with 3D printing, the slower the process is, the finer the details will be –an important aspect in the world of miniatures.
Printing at 30 to 40% of your normal speed would be adequate.
30 mm/sec is the ideal target size. However, it can be dropped to 20 mm/sec for smaller areas that need even more details.
A rule of thumb when it comes to layers is that the smaller is the better.
It’s important to know the step in Z that your printer can achieve. The key is to know the layer height that hits the stepper motor’s best resolution and the pitch of the z-axis lead screw thread.
This ideal layer height is achieved by multiplying your z-axis lift per full step –usually giving you a fraction.
The number may seem weird at first, but it will give you the best resolution as the motor and lead screw would be able to repeatedly obtain the same precise step value.
Your Founding Layer
The initial or bottom layers are the first layers that your printer lays down and they consist of 100% infill.
Moreover, they ensure bed adhesion and make up for any unevenness or a bed that isn’t properly leveled.
What you want to focus on here is the number of layers and not the total thickness value. So make sure that you increase it when you are using very thing layer heights for printing your miniatures.
Leaving Your Model To Cool Down
If you want the details of your model to stay intact, you need to give it enough cooling time as many of the items on the miniature would have unsupported areas.
Make sure that you will provide your model with 360° nozzle cooling once it has left the nozzle.
Keep Your Minimal Layer Time Low
Although increasing your minimal layer time can be tempting, it’s not the wisest choice.
Allow each layer to cool down enough before the next layer is printed.
A problem you might be faced with is the drip of filament on the end of the nozzle that finds its way onto your print.
You can avoid this by printing multiple models at once. This way, when the last layer on the first model is cooling down, the same layer would be in the printing process on the second model.
This benefit is twofold as it leaves each layer with ample time to cool down and doesn’t give your hot nozzle with excess material to ruin the first model.
Default supports that are applied to the whole object can be very helpful with bigger models. However, with miniatures, they can be harder to remove without inflicting damage –especially on delicate areas such as facial features and limbs.
To avoid this situation, download a slicing software that gives you more organic supports that are more freely positioned.
Avoid Oozing At All Costs
Retraction settings should be fine-tuned. Try experimenting with test pieces until you’ve reached the best results.
Retraction dictates how the filament continues to ooze from the nozzle when the extruding is done.
Once a layer is printed, retraction stops the nozzle from extruding more filament before the next layer is required to be printed.
Using a direct drive system where the extruder is directly next to the hot end can be more beneficial in this area as in Bowden's filament feed, the retraction settings have to overcome the play in the Bowden tube.
This makes it harder to find the optimum setting and takes some experimenting.
FDM or SLA for Miniatures
Let’s talk about the technology used.
When you’re printing 3D miniatures, you can either use SLA or FDM.
And generally, SLA can produce much more fine details than FDM, so it’s the more professional choice.
However, FDM is more affordable, accessible, easier to learn, and evidently becoming more precise. That’s why it’s the better choice for hobbyists.
If you’re new to the world of miniature 3D printing, you can create customizable 3D printed tabletop miniatures here.
To make it a little clearer here is a comparison of their pros and cons:
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
- More affordable in terms of filaments
- Easily accessible in terms of files and resources
- The community around it is big which leaves space for learning and receiving feedback
- Provides you with simple printing and fewer steps
- Its details aren’t as sharp as SLA
- Finding optimal angles –especially for miniatures- can be a very tough task
- Printing gets more complicated the smaller the size is and the profile needs to be adjusted
- Highly sharp details which are suitable for miniatures and small figures
- Achieving better results doesn’t require as many steps
- Not many support structures are needed
- Can print multiple objects at a faster pace
- Printing is much more expensive in terms of the printer itself, the material used, and the maintenance
- Can have some health hazards if uncured
- Complicated post-printing processes
Although at first, 3D printing miniatures can seem like a very complicated task, all it takes is patience to find the precise calculations for your prints.
Once you do, the whole process is like clockwork.