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Where are we with 3D quality


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So I'm a bit unsure about this 3D printing ... exactly what is the state of the art in terms of producing usable items. I've seen plenty of hype, and also real examples (which don't really match the hype!).

 

Are we yet at the point where a 3d printer is available which

 

 - is suitable for home use without any special installations

- is affordable - OK, that varies for everyone, so let me set 2 price points - sub £500 and sub £1000

- can be used by the average person without special training (I just mean the printer - design software is a separate issue)

- can produce parts on a par with, say, resin aftermarket items

 

Perhaps the last is the key point for me ... I'm interested, but only if I can get a level of quality which can match what I can buy.

 

I'm also concerned about the 'workability' of the materials - can finished items be cut/sanded like polystyrene or resin?

 

Cheers

 

Colin

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May I take a sit and follow the discussion? :)

 

As it happens, I stumbled across a post on a different forum complaining about cracks that appear during the UV curing process with a material called Water Washable Resin from Elegoo. I must say, the parts shown were looking REALLY good, with no visible "layering" on the printed parts.

 

However, I'm not even sure what this material is and what kind of printer it was used on. But it seemed to be a consumer class one.

 

There are also commercial printing services that can do high quality prints which may save you the investment costs of an own printer. For the one-off kind of parts, this might be an alternative.

 

Let's see what the experts will say...

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Another question to add to the original list and hinted at by @armored76 is the long term stability of the various materials used by these affordable printers.

 

A printer capable of printing acceptably smooth & detailed parts becomes pointless if those parts deteriorate in shape and size as a consequence of properties of the materials it uses.

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First thing to note is that there are two common types of 3D printers:

Plastic FDM: These printers use a solid plastic filament that the printer heats up to melting point & then extrudes out in layers to build up the part.
Installation - These printers typically come in several parts that need to be assembled, but it's normally pretty simple, just a few screws & your good to go.
Affordable - You can get a good FDM printer for a little as £150 now days, 1Kg of plastic filament costs around £20.
Usability - Most FDM printers need to be manually levelled/adjusted before each print which can be a bit fiddly, after awhile you should be able to get the hang of it though.

Quality - FDM printers can't print small details as they are limited by the size of the excretion nozzle, they also leave striation marks across the print which will need to be filled & sanded down to get a smooth surface.
Workability - The plastic used in FDM printers (PLA or ABS) is harder & more ridged then the plastic used for model kits but it can be cut & sanded just the same.
Longevity - As mentioned above the plastic used in FDM printers is quite hard & will keep its shape really well. One of the first things that I made with my FDM printer was a soap dish stand that has survived several years being bashed around the kitchen sink & even going in the dish washer without any problems.

Resin SLA/DLP/LCD: These printers use liquid resin that is then hardened with a UV light source, normally an LED lamp or a laser beam. 

Installation - These printers are normally ready out of the box.
Affordable - Resin printers have been going down in price a lot in the past few years & you can get a good one for around £200-300. The price of the liquid resin can vary a bit but it's normally around £50 for 1 litre. A resin printer will also require extra things like disposable gloves/masks & isopropanol. You also need a UV lamp too which will all add to the cost.
Usability - The liquid resin used in these printers is toxic & needs to be handled carefully with gloves & a mask in a well ventilated room. You also need to use isopropanol to clean the excess resin off the parts after they have finished printing, the resulting IPA/resin mixture can't simply be poured down the drain too, it has to be taken to a dump that can handle chemical waste. Lastly the parts will need to be fully cured under a UV lamp before they can be used. All the extra heath & safety work needed to use a resin printer puts a lot of people off, if you're slow, careful & keep everything clean though it shouldn't be much of a problem. 
Quality - Resin printers so can make paper thin details & produce parts just as good, if not better then aftermarket parts. In fact now days a lot of manufactures use resin 3D prints as the masters for their parts. 
Workability
- It can be cut & sanded just like any other type of resin.
Longevity - Just like most other resin parts the prints can suffer from warping issues, especially if they haven't been cured properly.

I have both Plastic & resin printers, I typically use the plastic printer for larger un-detailed parts & then use the resin printer for all the smaller more detailed parts. You can see an example of this here...

   

Edited by Mig Eater
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Now that is what I call a comprehensive answer. 👍

Thanks for taking the time to put that together; very interesting and informative.

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Thanks a lot, Mig Eater! That was very informative as I haven't heard of resin printers before. They do sound tempting, tough :)

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Intersting question Colin.  

I can only say that I have had an Elegoo Mars SLA resin printer since December and have been very happy with both it and the prints I have been able to make.  I will say that SLA resin printing is now a mature enough technology and very good results can be obtained by most people straight out of the box.  

BUT,

You are going to have to make a big investment in time, learning to get the best from your machine.  If you aren't the patient type that likes to problem solve then 3D printing isn't for you.  There will be failed prints, it will be a bit messy and smelly and it certainly isn't a Star Trek like replicator.  Even at 0.02mm layer heights there are still visible ridges in prints, tiny, tiny ones but they are there.  
There are limits to the resolution you can print.  I stick to 0.25-0.3mm as about the smallest detail/ thickness I can reliably print.  Overhangs can be a bit of a challenge but that can be worked around with support settings. ( Which you can only really learn by doing.  So see my patience and problem solving note above)
A good quality resin casting is still probably a touch better than a resin 3D printed part but do you know anyone that does a 1/48th scale 100mm HE open Ammo box in cast resin?

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Because I designed this one in Fusion 360 and printed it out on my Elegoo Mars.  I might have been able to scratch built one of these to this level but I know that if I want ten more I can just print them out and Bobs your uncle.

Another thing that is often not stressed enough about 3D printers is the time they take to print.  The ammo box above was just a touch under two hours on the printer.  Factor in a few hours to design in Fusion 360 and you have a fair old investment in effort. ( Now I could print about eight on the printer at one time so you can claw a bit of productivity back)  I will also say that once you press print you can pretty much walk away from the SLA resin printers so they are a great thing to just have chuffing away in the background.    Now that can be offset some of the design time by finding folks that share designs like the 3D48th Facebook page and others around on the net.  I actually like working in CAD and find designing in Fusion 360 a whole lot of fun but I can see that wouldn't be for everyone.

So Colin I would suggest that you ask yourself some very hard questions about just how you want to use a 3D printer and maybe more importantly how much of yourself you want to invest in a printer before you buy one.  It's not mystic science or magic but they are great and useful tools.  :) 
IHTH
Dan

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Thanks all, very much the type of answer I was looking for.

 

Clearly Resin would be the way to go for me, and the pricing is much lower than I expected! I don't think I'm put off by the effort involved. As a sometime coder and vector graphic designer I imagine these are sort of transferable skills.

 

Something I will be looking into!

 

Cheers

 

Colin

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One question wasn't really answered yet:

 

How well do 3d printed parts age?

- PLA, ABS, Nylon - most of the extruded materials are your common thermoplastics you deal with in every day life. They might vary in colour over time, but usually won't crumble under the influence of sunlight / UV.

- Resin for 3d printing on the other hand is designed to cure under the influence of UV, this means the process never really stops. Freshly printed parts are very flexible and won't break under normal circumstances. They need to be hardened some more using the sun as an UV source or some kind of curing station (Nail polish curing boxes are a very cheap and usable possibility). Overcured parts or unprotected parts harden to the point of becoming very brittle, they are probably not workable anymore without breaking them. This won't do no harm to already assembled parts, but will be a problem with pieces that see some sort of handling. I therefore always inform my clients to store their parts in a dark box and paint as soon as possible.

 

Other points:

- PLA can be glued and melted with your usual hot plastic glues and is overall pretty comparable with your average kit plastic. ABS is harder and cannot be melted with the usual plastic glues. CA and 2k glues work well with all extruded plastics.

- 3d printed Resin dust is as toxic as usual resin. TAKE CARE and use a mask.

- resin is toxic. Not only for you, especially for nature. DO NOT WASH IT DOWN THE DRAIN!!! IPA used for cleaning must not be discarded that way. You can try to harden the washed out resin via UV curing or let the IPA evaporate and cure out the resin fallout before throwing it away. Better yet bring it to your local toxic waste facilities.

- Resin printing is messy. Make sure you have dedicated tools for cleaning up uncured parts, cleaning up the work area andeverything else that is handled around fresh resin. Screwdrivers and spatulas, everything will be covered in a thin resin layer that cannot reasonably cleaned away every time. Just make sure you handle these parts always with gloves.

- Use Nitrile gloves with resin. Latex won't protect your digits, the resin goes through.

- I personally use thicker nitrile household gloves. These are reusable over and over again.

- I highly recommend using a resin printer in a dedicated area or better yet room. It shouldn't be too close to where you sit. The stuff is smelly and makes a real mess.

- A glass tabletop is ideal - very easy to clean.

- All 3d printers should be used in a very well ventilated area. Molten plastic isn't exactly healthy to inhale when you think about it. Resin smells ugly and is probably not better.

 

Hope you find some useful bits of information in here.

I do own FDM and SLA printers. SLA has more uses in model building in my opinion. FDM is more for structural parts but can't handle tight tolerances well and leaves messy layers.

If there are any questions feel free to ask.

 

Jan

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Another one from the initial question:

 

Is it affordable? I'd say yes, if you don't mind the time invest and have the skillset to design parts.

- Resin printers are easy to setup and very cheap. The cheapest usable would be the elegoo mars at the time of writing. This one is exclusively distributed via Amazon. Add about half of that as additional initial costs: Resin, IPA, gloves, spatulas, containers for cleaning...

- FDM printers are ultra cheap to get - my first one cost me about 80€ - but you get what you pay for. These are tricky to get setup just right and you really get what you pay for. For quality results and good community help I'd look at a Prusa i3 - 780€ at the time of writing. These are open source hardware and there are many clones out there you can get way cheaper. But quality is a gamble then. If I was in the market again I'd go with the i3 Mk3s kit. But sind my FDM printer sees no use anymore I probably won't invest anytime soon.

 

Jan

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Just as an addendum to Schwarz-Brot and Mig-Eater's excellent advice regarding resin:
The resin is an allergen, so wearing gloves and a facemask is highly recommended. Without them, exposure to the resin will cause rashes, hives and itching. I've seen a lot of peple working with the resin and not wearing any protection, not realising the risks they are exposing themselves to.

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In terms of quality of 3d printing and the details you can get, this figure is 35mm tall printed on an Anycubic Photon, primed and drybrushed (poorly), with the some of the details smaller than panel lines on a 1/72 scale model kit - of course, my fingers are in there for scale purposes 😛

 

Regarding Resin durability, there are a range of different resins out there, and there is even a manufacturer (Moncure3d) who make a flexible resin - which is usually used in conjunction with their regular resin to give flexibility similar to the plastics we're used to. Generally the resins that I use will break with a sharp impact, but seem to be ok in general use.

 

I personally find the Resin printer much more user friendly (even with the precautions for caring for the resin) than an FDM (plastic) machine.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hello,

 

I am using Shapeways ti print my designs. The quality is very good as i am printing parts for ship models mostly 1:400 scale.

These parts are so small that I can´t scratchbuild them. The main disadvantage is the time it takes for the parts to be printed and shipped. That means I need a relatively long time to gain experience. The price is of course not exactly low either. However, with a suitable design, the parts can be packed tightly together. Another advantage is that the parts printed by Shapeways only have to be held at one point on the sprue, similar to the Stirene kits. So there is no cleanup.

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1/400 scale 3,7 FlaK 

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Shapeways render.

 

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My first design by Shapeways: 

MAN F90 Truck exhaust for the Italeri kit. I was searching for years to get this part, as the kit only contains the rather

unusual chrome sidepipes.

I needed 3 attempts to get it in the right scale.

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I want to buy an elegoo mars printer, but it uses a different technology than Shapeways.

Does someone know which are the differences ?

 

Regards Andreas

 

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On 8/20/2020 at 10:00 AM, Andreas.R said:

Does someone know which are the differences ?

 

It all depends upon what material you choose.  To be honest, I don't care about the differences. 

Like you I also used to use Shapeways, then I bought an Elegoo Mars and have never looked back.  Instead of  waiting three weeks to get a part at an extortionate cost from Shapeways, I can have it in my hand in an hour or two for a few cents. 

The quality of the parts I'm printing I would say is comparable to Shapeways "Smoothest Fine Detail Plastic" - and in some cases actually better.  I always found they never cleaned the parts properly.

The  added bonus is that I can print parts that Shapeways would refuse to print due to their  randomly applied rules of limitations

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

All thoroughly good advice on here. :thumbsup2:

The only useful thing I can think to add is in relation to keeping my modelling process as environmentally friendly as possible with regard to this important point:

On 7/25/2020 at 3:15 AM, Mig Eater said:

You also need to use isopropanol to clean the excess resin off the parts after they have finished printing, the resulting IPA/resin mixture can't simply be poured down the drain too, it has to be taken to a dump that can handle chemical waste.

After washing prints in IPA I simply leave the resultant cloudy solution in an airtight food container so that the resin contaminant settles into a sludgy layer at the bottom (just as you would a leave the white spirits to settle in a glass jar after cleaning a household paintbrush).

 

Once this separation-out has occurred simply decant the clear IPA off into a separate container for reuse. Wipe out the sludgy residue with some kitchen roll and screw this up into a ball, leaving the resulting artifact to cure in sunlight on the windowsill (or whatever UV source your cure your resin with) and you then have a single compact solid that can be responsibly disposed of at your local civic facility.

 

As an more effective step I'm simply going to squeegee the residue out into a small paint pot next time I print in order to let it cure into a concentrated 'nugget' of waste that won't produce the risk of any micro-pollutant 'flakes' breaking off from the main body.

 

 

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Hi:

 

Firstly, I´m for one celebrating these CAD and 3D printing boards. Well done!

 

Secondly, and regarding the OT questions I would like to share my personal experience and view on them. Please note I´m refering to resin 3D printing. I´m afraid FDM 3D printing is not suitable for detailled and smooth parts.

 

--------------------------------------------

 

- is suitable for home use without any special installations

- is affordable - OK, that varies for everyone, so let me set 2 price points - sub £500 and sub £1000

- can be used by the average person without special training (I just mean the printer - design software is a separate issue)

- can produce parts on a par with, say, resin aftermarket items

 

-------------------------------------------

 

For the first three bulletpoints I would say we have already seen those questions in our hobby before... just think in the arrival of the airbrush, in example. 

 

So following the previous airbrush example, you can expect similar replies now.

 

Is it suitable for home use? Yes, of course... like an airbrush. Be ready to have a noisy machine working for hours and we already know what playing with chemicals applied to modelling is: fumes, smells, continuous cleaning, etc. But it is not like running a nuclear power plant, that´s granted.  If you are lucky, you can always set up your 3D printer in the garage or a sheed. I have mine at home, indoors, and that´s not an issue but one of the very first things I did was tweaking the printer for adding an exhaust  mod for preventing the resin fumes smell. Your experience may vary, of course.

 

Is it affordable? Well, that´s up to everyone. If your interest is to test these resin 3D printing waters my advice -well, my experience- is to buy the cheapest 3D printer out there. Mine is the Anycubic Photon and it was a sub eu250 printer one year ago. These things are like computers and smartphones so the best 3D printer is going to be the next one always. If you are interested in this tech you will replace your model sooner or latter but for discovering this 3D thing you do not need to break the bank. If you can buy one with another fellow modeller then the better because sharing costs make this tech very affordable.

  

Can be used by the average person? Yes... like an airbrush once more. You will need to learn how your printer works, that´s granted but that cannot be a surprise me thinks. And regarding the software side of 3D printing, yes, you will have to learn a few tricks too. I´m not refering to CAD but you will need to use a slicer -that is the software for preparing your prints- and you will spend some good hours playing with it. So it is not that simple but it is not rocket science either.

 

And the one million question. The critical one from a modellers viewpoint:

 

Can produce parts on a par with, say, resin aftermarket items? Yes, definitely.

 

We have already seen for years that aftermarket manufacturers have been producing their masters using this tech. As soon as they had the printed master -with high end printers- they switched to the traditional and familiar resin casting. Just a matter of manufacturing cost.

 

While the previous sounds logical, please, note that there are parts that can be printed but cannot be casted. So in this regard 3D printing is superior in fact.

 

We are lucky guys. Current low end, home oriented, desktop printers are delivering prints good enough for our purposes already. And this is just the beggining.

 

A word of caution here. While we can use this tech for our modelling needs now this does not mean these 3D printer can do everything. No, we still have some printing constrains but I see a brigth future indeed.

 

I think it is important to realize we, modellers, are a highly demanding niche in the 3D printing world. In short, what we want is the highest detail in the smallest surface with the smoothest finish. And, no, while we are in the rigth path, our 3D printers are not miracle machines yet.

 

But do not let the previuos discourage you. As of today there are countless applications for our cheap resin 3D printers for the modeller. On par with any resin aftermarket. And things will get better in the years to come. 

 

So I firmly believe this tech is mature enough already and it´s going to become a gamechanger in a few years from now as soon as these home oriented 3D printers will become more and more popular. This is unstoppable and, more important, it is disruptive.

 

Once more, just my experience and viewpoint. Your may vary, of course!

 

Regards!

Alvaro

 

Edited by Alvaro Rodriguez
Typos - I wish I had a better English writting, sorry! ;)
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7 minutes ago, Alvaro Rodriguez said:

one of the very first things I did was tweaking the printer for adding an exhaust  mod for preventing the resin fumes smell.

Could you please share a picture of how this looks like? Thank you!

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Yes, or course,, here you go. 

 

In short, there are vibrant comunities focused on these desktop 3D printers. And those are delivering hotfixes and assitance for end users. 

 

The smell issue is a rather popular one. And the community came to rescue us with mods for our printers.

 

I first installed a 3D printed mod that it was designed to work with a filter but I improved it latter with a new exhaust that is now coupled with a hose to a nearby window. No fumes  anymore. In return, I also shared my exhaust openly with the community.

 

I hope this answers your question.

 

Regards!

Alvaro

 

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BTW, we are modellers and I´m for one thinking we need to see to believe... 😉

 

Here you got a closeup image of one 3D print. This is a 1/48th scale sprocket just covered by a very thin airbrushed layer of lacquer paint, no other post processing. No primer, no sanding, no nothing. It´s just painted for better viewing the printed details.

 

I´m not saying everything will print that good because every part is different but I upload such large image on purpose so you can have an idea of what these printers can deliver.

 

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I could upload a few other samples if you wanted to.

 

Regards!

Alvaro

 

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It´s not my intention to jihack this thread but just for you all to see what the cheapest home 3D resin printer can deliver.

 

This morning print run results... first printed prototype of a 76th scale ammo box. This is where the development cycle starts.  I think this could be an interesting topic for a different post.

 

While I´m a 1/48th scale AFV modeller mainly, I´m also very interested in discovering the 3D printing boundaries so I´ve been doing some small scale -72nd & 76th- designing and printing pasts months.

 

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Regards!

Alvaro

 

 

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I started 3D printing over 7 years ago when I developed a more 'accurate' model of a Space 1999 Eagle Transporter using Tinkercad and Shapeways' FUD resin. I still have the model with all of its parts and aside from a persisting 'coconut' smell (which I believe related to the resin support wax) the parts have retained their shape and are no less brittle than when delivered. At that time the detail was very good and the level of striation depended as much on the resolution of the models (which for me depended on what I could wring out of Tinkercard at the time). I almost jumped into getting what was at the time one of the first consumer SLA printers (Form Labs Form1) but was put off by the £2000+ price tag. But like most technologies things have come on in leaps and bounds while the prices continue to drop. The new materials seem to be of far better quality than those I had to play with and the resolution is superb. I bought an Elegoo Mars a few months ago and look forward to filling in the gaps that the current AM manufacturer's don't, starting with a complete interior for the new Round 2 14" Eagle. That said, it'll never offer the capabilities that I, and I'm sure many others would want, which would be a home injected styrene system. But I guess we can dream... 

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