The Growing 3D Print Hobby

During my senior year of college, my rapid prototyping professor said that he expected, within a few years, that fused deposition modelling (FDM) printers would become as common as inkjet printers were back then (2012), and every college dorm room would have one.  I think it’s safe to say that he was correct, judging by how much information is out on the internet.  However, I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the return of stereolithography (SLA), the original 3D printing process, via its modern, high-efficiency incarnation, low-force SLA, or LFS.

I have watched 3D printing communities grow online over the years since I first got into the hobby.  To give you an overly brief history of my experience, I received a Makerbot Replicator as a graduation present back in 2012, and I printed very few models with it, some that I had designed myself, and others that I found on Thingiverse, before I discovered its limitations.  I had heard of Shapeways from my professor, but didn’t finally get around to opening an online shop there until 2013.  From a combination of requests, new materials added to their library over the years, and dreaming up new ideas on my own, I now have over 600 different models uploaded, and over 300 different products available for sale.  Most of these items are wargaming miniatures, but there are also some jewellery items and other odds and ends.  A few years ago, Shapeways announced their partnership with Hero Forge, a website for designing custom wargaming figurines (as opposed to vehicles and ships, which are my speciality).  Last year, I joined Wargaming 3D, a file-sharing website similar to Thingiverse, but for wargaming miniatures specifically.  My models dominate the 6mm collection there.  I also purchased my own LFS printer and launched my own website, which is nothing more than an online catalogue for my miniature tanks, but I have plans to expand it to include all of my miniatures.  I no longer have the Replicator.  This year, I joined the 3D printing community on Hive, which is quickly expanding as well, and I would urge anyone who enjoys this hobby to get on Hive and join that community.  Likewise, if you use 3D printing primarily for making wargaming miniatures, subscribe to Tangible Day here on WordPress for painting tips.  Finally, the most recent thing I did was to at last start playing around in Hero Forge, and I’ve gone nuts.  As of this writing, I have 56 different designs in my collection.

Hive print community

This is a screenshot of the 3D printing community on Hive, which I took immediately after posting the results of my first miniature batch with grey resin.  I had used grey resin only once before to make a wine bottle drip collar, one of two “everyday objects” that I’ve printed and shared on Hive, the other being a hair dryer comb attachment.  I will be posting the results of other experiments to this community on Hive, so that I can share printing tips with others.  Granted, most of the community members are FDM users, and the information I have to offer is considerably more niche.  However, just like FDM printers a few years ago, LFS printers are coming down in price.  I still have my heart set on getting a selective laser sintering (SLS) machine eventually, and while there are many small-scale options available, none of them are affordable.  There is some speculation that SLS will never become mainstream the way that FDM has, but every article I’ve read explaining why sounds just like IBM when they explained why there is a world market for “about three computers.”  They said the same thing about laser printers, by the way, and they are quickly eclipsing inkjet printers in popularity.  Besides, no-one saw SLA becoming mainstream via LFS, yet I was kicking myself when I saw the price of the Anycubic Photon S compared to the machine that I got (I made myself feel better when I reminded myself that I got the Form 3 so that I could print castable wax and make my own metal jewellery).  On a slight tangent, as I’ve been into both miniature modelling and precision machining since I was a kid, I’ve been getting the Micro-Mark catalogue in the mail for nearly fifteen years.  I remember my eyes bugging out when they started listing FDM printers, and I almost screamed when I saw the Anycubic listed there as well.  Granted, Micro-Mark still supplies a niche market, but the fact that 3D printing went from an obscure curiosity mentioned once a year in periodicals at best (I first learned about 3D printing, specifically SLA, from a children’s magasine called Explore, which is long out of print and not to be confused with the Canadian adventure publication of the same name), to having affordable desktop machines listed in mail-order catalogues just within my lifetime is impressive indeed.  The only technology that has moved faster has been social media, and that’s not nearly as interesting (unless you’re a synth like Zuckerborg and you want to gather as much data about the human race as possible).

All joking aside, I see the rise of 3D printing itself, and the diversification of processes that ordinary people have access to, as a great way to move toward proliferating self-sufficiency and sustainability.  I’d still like to see a lot more, and my personal goal is to diversify my own capabilities and provide instructional materials along the way, which is the main reason that I’m starting to post more than just pictures of 3D printed models themselves.  My latest BitChute video, for instance, shows the relatively simple process of cleaning out the Formlabs wash unit.  Future videos will show mould-making and casting.  But enough of me talking about what I do (bloody hell, I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “I” this many times in a single article before).  What do you think?  If you were never interested in 3D printing before, are you now?  If you thought 3D printing was all about plastic filament, are you surprised that another process is affordable enough for hobbyists?  Are you interested in discovering new things that you can do with this technology?  If you answered “yes” to any of the previous questions, then come join more of us on Hive.  If the blockchain network confuses you, fear not – the Hive Pope is there to help, as are we all.

 

Organising Shop Inventory and Expanding Capabilities

As my inventory of wargaming miniatures keeps expanding, I find that I can no longer store them all in my little tackle box that I also keep my modelling tools in.  From now on, therefore, I’ll be keeping only single samples of each variant that I have, and all of my other inventory will be in a shelf drawer organiser.  I dug this out of a dusty corner in my machine shop, cleaned it off, and started filling it with my miniature inventory.

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As you can see, I’ve already started labelling it.  I may end up consolidating some of the inventory.  As it is, I’m keeping multiple variants of both the KV-1 and KV-2 in the same drawer, mostly because they are easy to tell apart at a glance.  Something like the IS-3 and IS-3M, on the other hand, not so much.  These drawers also have enough room to fit ships in…

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…as you can see.  I started putting these things into storage as I was running another print job, sitting in my usual spot:

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As I clean up models and put them into inventory, I’ll simply open up a drawer and put them out of the way.  When I’m all done, the little cart gets moved to the side, like so:

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That little black box with the orange label, by the way, is a paint shaker.  I use it for more than just paint, though I should be using it a lot more for its intended purpose in the near future.

And now for something completely different: I’m getting a vacuum forming press!  Though I may end up using for packaging, among other things, I originally ordered it because of an unrelated job that I’m working on for a client (again, you know who you are).  This will be one more manufacturing process that I can add to my custom work page, and with any luck (i.e. with my client’s permission), I’ll be able to share the process of setting it up and using it with the special forms I designed for that job.  Otherwise, I’ll have to dream up something else to use as a demonstration.  Either way, if this sort of thing interests you, please subscribe to my BitChute channel, since I’ll have many more 3d printing and DIY videos in the near future, along with some more metalworking.

Where Am I?

As my workload becomes more varied, I find myself having to move back and forth between my 3D print shop (and likely future location of the foundry) and my machine shop.  This wouldn’t be a problem, except that my machine shop is in Pennsylvania, and my 3D print shop is in Maryland.  Travel between them is something of a commitment on my part, since it’s a four-hour drive.  I’d like very much to consolidate my equipment and have everything in one place, but that’s not going to happen any time soon.  I’d rather not go into details, but for those of you who know me personally, you know what I’m dealing with.  For those of you acquainted with me on a purely professional basis, I’m not going to waste time sharing my life story.  I don’t want to make excuses, I just want to work around the situation as best I can until I can improve said situation.

So, why am I telling you all this?  Well, tomorrow, I’m travelling.  From now on, I will be sharing my general location on Hive.  All you will see is the state/county/oblast and country, rather than my full address.  I don’t need the entire internet knowing that, and you’ll find out what it is if you ever order anything from me.  If I’m in Maryland, this means I’ll be working in my 3D print shop, and I will also have some design capability at my disposal.  If I’m in Pennsylvania, then I have greater design capabilities (with some odd exceptions, such as certain shell function outliers), and I’ll be working in my welding and machine shop.  If I’m not in either (such as if my location is “Troms og Finnmark, Norway,” or somewhere in Russia), that’s an indication that I’m either on vacation (Norway or Russia), or looking at real estate (Russia).  Full disclosure, I’ve actually been looking to relocate my entire operation to northern Russia, for a number of reasons.  If that’s where I am, you may be able to contact me, because depending on what I’m doing, I’ll probably still check my email.  On the other hand, because I’m not an internet addict, I do not check e-mail or anything else while on vacation.

Hive Location

Yes, my interface is only partially in Russian, as some parts of the HUI (a Russian obscenity that also stands for Hive User Interface) don’t translate for some reason.  Furthermore, it keeps resetting my displayed number of subscriptions from 21 (the number of people I follow as of this post) to only 1.  Anyway, the takeaway from this post is: since the type of work I can do is contingent on where I am, please check my location if you have a request, especially if it is time-sensitive.

Tips for Printing Your Own Miniature Tanks

Since I’m getting more orders for tank files on Wargaming 3D, I thought I would share some tips for those who own resin printers.  I use a Formlabs Form 3 for printing my models, but for those who have a different machine, such as the Anycubic Photon S, most of what I’m about to discuss will still apply.

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We will lead by EXAMPLE

When I first started printing, I had lots of problems, particularly with coloured resin, which has very different physical properties from Formlabs white resin.  To be fair, Formlabs is up to version 4 white resin, but still on version 1 for the colour base.  Hopefully, they will re-formulate it by the time I mix up my next batch, because the coloured resin is extremely fragile when coming out of the machine, and tank guns are very easy to break when removing the supports.  I would compare uncured coloured resin to candle wax in terms of both softness and brittleness, unlike the white resin, which doesn’t really need to be cured at all.  The advantage of coloured resin is that, unlike white resin, printing with a 25-micron layer thickness is an option, so higher levels of detail with fewer print lines are achievable.  Post-processing problems are one thing, but printing problems were another, and while they seem to have gone away with the latest firmware update, I have yet to run another large batch of tanks.  In addition to the firmware update, PreForm has also had a software update, and certain things have changed since I started using it, most notably the placement of supports.

The first problem I had with supports was with the old version of PreForm, and I explain how I solved it here.  As of the update, however, the software has a tendency to add supports that it never did before, and I find that they are unnecessary.  Below are some of the new support placements:

Tank printing tips 7

These are all along the ridge that represents the row of track lugs.  There is a very good reason that I don’t make this part of the tank realistic, even though I could: cleaning it up is a ludicrously time-consuming task, as I demonstrate here.

In addition, the software is rather insistent on adding supports to the individual teeth of the drive sprockets.  These supports, much like the supports that run in between road wheels, cause more problems than they solve.  I made certain to remove them when I printed my latest T-10M test, but I foolishly left them in when I printed the Grozniy Klinok.  I’ve spent way too much time on both of those, so I probably won’t print a replacement hull for the latter for a while.  Besides, I need to fix the supports on the treads, which you’ll see later in this article.  The supports on the sprockets look like this:

Tank printing tips 1

While they look like thin wires in the software, they run together when printed, and become impossible to remove without also removing part of the part of the sprocket itself.  Given how small these teeth are, and how well they’ve turned out on previous tests when totally unsupported, I would say that these supports are not needed.  The software disagrees:

Tank printing tips 2

Trust me, it’s not a problem.

The software also adds supports to the suspension arms and wheel hubs that it never did before:

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Tank printing tips 5

Both these and the duplicate supports on the torsion bar sleeves aren’t necessary, and I find them to be detrimental.  Unnecessary supports trap liquid, and make clean-up difficult and time consuming.  The support locations should look like this instead:

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You can see the track lug ridge supports through the suspension, since I hadn’t yet removed them when I took this screenshot.

The final issue I’d like to discuss is not currently relevant to any of the tank model files that I sell as of this post.  None of my 1:285 scale tank models have treads, but a few of my 1:220 scale models do.  The only historical one I’ve tested so far is the King Tiger, and while I’m happy with the results (mostly), there is still room for improvement.  In the screenshot below, the top track has the supports as generated by PreForm, while the bottom track has the supports that I put in:

Tank printing tips 8

I decided to make this change because I’d like to test this support scheme before printing another Grozniy Klinok hull (a six-hour build by itself; the entire tank is six and-a-half).  The idea is that, by alternating the support locations on the treads, the tracks will be supported by struts, rather than a continuous wall of plastic, which can fracture in less-than-optimal locations.  You can see the difference in supports below:

Tank printing tips 9

I will write another article in the future letting everyone know how this last test works out.  If you found this article from the Wargaming 3D link, consider following me both here and on Steemit, where I post most of my new pictures, including works in progress.

So, You Want to Print Your Own Sailing Ships? Well, Here’s What You’re in For.

Variations on that title serve as the beginning of every video description in my latest 3D Print Shop episode on BitChute.  This is the first episode of this series that is divided into multiple parts, given how much footage I had to work with, and it is mostly unedited.  My purpose for doing so was to show just how long post-processing of models takes, especially when they are this intricate.  Now, let me be clear, I would never discourage someone from taking up 3D printing as a hobby, and in fact, I encourage it as much as I can.  However, even for a moderately experienced model-maker such as myself, sailing ships are not the easiest things to print.  Personally, I would suggest either printing them with selective laser sintering (SLS), or making them in multiple pieces, with each mast separate.  Of course, at the minuscule scales that I tend to work in, that approach may not be practical, which puts both myself and my customers in something of a pickle.

This entire print job was meant as a test batch for several of my existing models, so that I had printable files and photos to upload to Wargaming 3D.  Unfortunately, one of the models didn’t print properly, as you’ll see from part 1, and I broke another one trying to clean it up.  I have since made the masts on that one thicker, and I’m running another one while typing this.  I suppose I could upload even more footage documenting the replacements, but I think that these four videos are sufficient.  Assuming that all goes well with the next print job, I should be able to upload three more ships.

So, to those of you who are new to 3D printing, do you accept the challenge?  If so, watch the videos, enjoy some great classical music, and feel free to ask questions about my tools and methods.

Print Shop Ep 4-1

Man-of-War: https://www.bitchute.com/video/RBjjTbdv3XWd/

The man-of-war, or “Dutchman-of-war,” as I occasionally refer to it, is one of my earliest, but still one of my best and most popular sailing ship models.  Despite my nickname for it, it’s more Swedish than Dutch, though it is still something of a hybrid.  While the long beakhead is an obvious characteristic of Swedish fighting galleons, open quarter galleries were unheard of on Scandinavian ships, for reasons that ought to be obvious.

Print Shop Ep 4-2

Heavy Bomb Ketch: https://www.bitchute.com/video/BBwZqhuwunrI/

This type of siege ship was used throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, as there was no room for a foremast on a ship that mounted a large siege mortar.  After the turn of the 19th century, however, ordinary single-deck frigate hulls became large enough to mount siege mortars without special construction, thus the bomb ketch was replaced by the bomb ship.  At the time, a ship was, by definition, a three-masted vessel.

Print Shop Ep 4-3

Caravela de Armada: https://www.bitchute.com/video/ranbYLiSNvpA/

This is my favourite type of sailing rig, and this model is my first attempt at making one.  I have since made three others, all of which I think are much nicer, yet this one is still the most popular, for some reason.  Perhaps it’s because this is the only one with visible gun ports.

Print Shop Ep 4-4

Simple galleon game piece: https://www.bitchute.com/video/jkMZQpPAV2pv/

The last two of the four parts are considerably shorter, and I decided to include this last one, rather than another that I had sufficient footage for, because I wanted to show just how much easier it is to process a low-detail game token than a more accurate miniature.  This model is still popular, despite the fact that I’m not particularly proud of it.  By the way, part one, the man-of-war, would be the longest, but I sped up the first clip in that video by 100%.

As much as I’d like to say “you get the idea,” none of these ships have staysails, so I need to make at least one more video showing the post-processing of a sailing ship.  I’ve made one already of the 1812 frigate, but I could probably do better.

Important Print Shop Update

Today, I start running castable wax in the Form 3!  This is an important development, because it means I can start making my own jewellery.  I’ll be able to include as much detail as I want, rather than being constrained to whatever doesn’t get obliterated by the overly aggressive polishing processes that Shapeways uses.  Hopefully, this means that I can invest some more time into the Cooperative Artisans’ Guild, and maybe get some of the other artisans on the site involved in this project.  For now, I need ideas: I don’t know what would sell, and I don’t exactly know people who can tell me.

Rings always sell well, that much I know, and I have an idea for unique rings that aren’t particularly complex.  In case you didn’t know, hexagonal stones are virtually unheard of, and that’s because stone cutters use indexing wheels that are divided in increments of eight.  However, indexing wheels are made like gears, so it’s not particularly difficult to replace the usual index wheel with one divided in increments of six.  I think I’ll call these things “snowflake rings.”  However, I’m getting ahead of myself.  This is all I’m running today:

Wax prints 1

Wax prints 2

The cat is squished a bit to create a bas-relief effect.  This is my first time experimenting with such an effect, but if I can get it to work here, I may be able to give other models a similar treatment.  Depending on how this comes out, I may either trim the cat to make the bottom outline better and use it to make a large pin, or simply remove the head and frame it with a crescent moon.  I’m not sure if it would work better as a pendant or earring that way, but I suppose I could offer such a design as both.  If you think what I’m proposing is a bit tacky, don’t worry, so do I.  I’m very bad at this.  Good thing I don’t work with furniture makers!

In other news, I finally have a decent T-10M in 1:220 scale, which was a surprisingly pleasant result after numerous failures with coloured resin.  Assuming that today’s wax print goes well, and I can get some ideas for new items reasonably quickly, then it will be some time before I print more miniatures. When I resume, unless I get orders for 1:285 scale models, then I will start printing more and more 1:220 scale models for Z gauge railroads.  Basically, I’m looking for an excuse to build a nice animated diorama, and I’m not going to limit myself to models that I’ve rendered myself.  In case you haven’t already seen them on Steemit, I succeeded in printing two trucks in 1:285 scale with the next test (immediately after the video I linked to, but before the T-10 prints that I just finished).  Here are some photos of one truck next to a KV-2 and T-10M (both 53-tonne tanks) to give you an idea of how these things compare to each other:

Let me know what you think; do you think I should pursue making jewellery, or stick with miniatures?

 

 

New Tank Database

Today, I finally finished work on a second tank model database.  Unlike a previous post on this blog, which is for Shapeways models, the new database is for models that I’m printing myself.  The new database is up on my website, and contains direct links to main entries as well as individual products, along with the prices.  Here is what it looks like:

Database preview

As you can see, these are a lot cheaper than from Shapeways.  I ended up pricing them in such a way that ordering even large quantities of a single vehicle is no more cost-effective either way, but that ordering small quantities (or one of everything I offer) saves my customers money (as long as they are outside the UK, because of the enormous tax on non-EU goods).  I fully intend to offer different scale options on each product page, so there isn’t a need for me to add hyperlinks to the price entries.  I intend to add different colour options as well, but that will come later, and will not affect price.  I will probably offer dark olive fairly soon, only because it will look better in photographs.  However, I see no reason to offer either grey or beige until I have a larger collection of German and British tanks, respectively.  Beige will most likely appear first, for the simple reason that Soviet vehicles were painted beige when in Syrian or Egyptian service.  Besides, I intend to paint one of each vehicle currently in my inventory, this way my photos will look better and, hopefully, draw more eyeballs.  As it is, I have yet to experiment with any sort of SEO, so the vast majority of my traffic is coming from Wargaming 3D.

Much as with Shapeways, my intent with this database is to make finding specific products easy.  There are three ways to browse for products, but the database is the only effective way to search – and also compare prices, to see if ordering the larger scale is worth it.

Expanding Miniature Inventory

Today, I took another batch of pictures and posted them to Steemit.  Click here to see them all.  I’m building up an inventory of 1:285 scale tanks, while also testing some of my model ships.  Some of these ships I will sell the files for on Wargaming 3D, but others I’m just making for fun, at least for now.

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Currently, there are 41 different tanks available for sale in my shop, and you can buy the files for 34 of them.

I have two separate plans for the future, and I’m not sure which I will be able to make progress on first.  The first plan is to begin printing in different materials, particularly castable wax, so that I can start selling jewellery.  I need some new ideas in order to proceed, however.  How many stars of chaos would I ever sell?  I also have two or three diamond ring designs that I’ve never showed anyone, but I need more than that.

The second plan is to expand my online miniature shop.  Currently, the title page is “Kaja’s Tiny Tanks,” but I intend to make that a section later on, with other shop sections devoted to ships, buildings, and other things, while the home page returns to my original title of “Kaja’s Models and Machinations.”  I need more ideas for that, too.  The fictional factions from The Nine Empires would fill up an entire section easily, but that’s a very distant goal to meet.  I’m test-printing two airships as I’m writing this, and depending on how well they come out, I may be able to proceed with that fairly soon.  I need to practise painting first, of course.

There are many more experiments to perform in the mean time, and as soon as I get the wash unit (another few days), I’ll probably make a video showing the printing and post-processing of a tank batch.  If you’re even remotely interested in what I do, please leave me a suggestion.

That is all, I need to get back to work.

 

New Video Series: Kaja’s 3D Print Shop

The Form 3 has been running for a few days now, and I’m happy to report that I can print sailing ships with it.  My first test included several 1/1200 scale ancient war galleys, which, as you might expect, didn’t have much in the way of supports.  My 1/1000 scale 1812 frigate had more supports, but not enough to make production of such models impractical.

Print Shop Ep 0

Click here to watch the unboxing and set-up video.  There’s not much to it, so if you’re not interested in that sort of thing, don’t bother watching it.  If you see a need to leave a downvote, at least tell me why.  I shouldn’t have to make this request, but apparently, I do (at least on Steemit).

Print Shop Ep 1

Click here to watch the video showing the printing and post-processing of the frigate.  I didn’t get all the nubs (or “artefacts,” if you want to be fancy) off, but to be fair, it’s been years since I last cleaned up a hard plastic model.  Anyone reading this knows that it’s a delicate process.

So, if you are interested in this sort of thing, subscribe to my BitChute channel, because I will be posting new videos with greater frequency than before, now that I’m making physical products.  The next stage, by the way, is to replace the Formlabs finishing kit (the two isopropanol tanks) with the automated wash unit, and then move the finishing kit over to another table, where all the manual work will be done.  I’ll also go on a shopping spree at Micro-Mark, which is an excellent supplier for miniature hobbyists.  Once I become a bit more practised with painting, I’ll start sharing videos of that process as well.

Oh, and don’t forget to check out links in the video descriptions, because I’m selling these miniatures in three different places.

Kaja’s Models and Machinations is Now Public!

I have finally received my Form 3 LFS 3D printer!

Form 3 boxed

As such, I have switched my website to public, so that it may now be indexed in search engines.  I will also now be using that as my primary online address, rather than this blog.  For now, the displayed title is “Kaja’s Tiny Tanks,” since that’s all I have listed at the moment, but that will eventually become one section, as I add more items to the shop.

My intent is to record an unboxing video (which may not happen), set the machine up, run some tests, and then immediately start cranking out models, so that I can populate both my own shop and my Wargaming 3D shop.  Current circumstances prevent me from doing most of that for the next few days, and I have another video that I hope to record before then anyway.

Finally, I’ll be able to do something productive!