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.

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:

Tank printing tips 4

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:

Tank printing tips 6

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


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:

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:

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:

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.



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!

I Have Joined Wargaming 3D! And Now We Wait…

Wargaming 3D preview

Wargaming 3D is a file-sharing website, similar to Thingiverse, but specifically for historical wargaming miniatures.  I recently accepted an invitation to join the site, but there is a catch: all 3d files uploaded to the site must be printable with either FDM or a resin-based process.  I have had my models printed successfully many times, but mostly with SLS, so I’ll have to wait until I get my own shop running before I can offer any files for sale.  Besides, I need photographs.  That being said, here’s a link, so you can check it out, bookmark it, add it to your favourites, or whatever you want.

So, what impact is this going to have on my own miniature shop, once it’s online?  Well, I see it as free advertising.  Since I render all of my own models, and I don’t “borrow” other designs, I can charge whatever I want for file downloads.  Those of my customers who have their own 3D printers can download my files, while those who do not will be stuck buying printed models from me.  In other words, if you like tiny tanks, you have options – but you still have to wait until 11 October, and, hopefully, no later than that.