Tuesday 27 April 2021

Now what have I gone and done...

In a moment of weakness, (that may have included a lessening of restraint following alcohol consumption), I bought a 3d printer. In my defence, I have wanted one for a long time, but so far have resisted. The model concerned, the Anycubic Photon S is a resin rather than FDM printer, and was on special, and cost me less than £200 shipped. (Interestingly, the same model in black was about £50 more expensive..)

A neat little unit

So, hugely excited, I proceeded to try and get the thing to work. Hmmm. First find the files you want to print from, convert them into something that can be opened by software that supports your printer, and 'slice' them into the appropriate file format, pop that on the (supplied) USB stick, and press print..  easy eh? 

Well no - not exactly. A few abortive attempts later, I am gradually working out how to do this with a minimum of mess, how to use the software, and get some half decent results. 

The process is a bit of a palaver till you get it down..   level the plate after every two or three prints, keep the film in the resin vat clean, pop the freshly done print into isopropyl alcohol in a zip lock bag in my little ultra-sonic cleaner (a 1001 uses, and wargamers, impress your partner by showing how easily it cleans jewellery). Then expose to UV to cure properly. 

Also - be patient, even relatively simple prints will take a while at a decent level of detail. I have the Anycubic set to 0.05mm although it can apparently go to 0.025, but the time to print would be a major pain. Every so often, you may also get a failed print. So far, the ones I have had are due to the resin not adhering to the build plate, so fiddling with the settings will usually sort this out. My one gripe is that it can be difficult to tell the print has failed until well into the print process, so you can lose time and resin. 

There's a little bit of experience required to figure out whether you need supports, and how heavy and how many. Generally though - it's not too hard to get the hang of. And provided you don't intend to sell the results, there are a lot of free 3d files out there. 

So these are some of the results so far.

15mm Bren Carrier and 1/56 Ram Kangaroo

The Ram is kind of 'blurry' - these were my first two prints, and I hadn't got the hang of cleaning up the print, so the detail is not great. I'll cover the rear deck with stowage and it will be fine. The detail on the track units is actually very good. And removing supports takes some care, though the resin (which is the Anycubic resin that came with the printer) glues easily with superglue if you accidentally crack a piece. Once cured it is very sturdy.

A single piece BT7 with a Bofors gun in the background.

The BT7 was a Sketchup 2017 file (SKP) converted to an OBJ file, sliced using Chitubox. It's a very accurate sketchup, too much so for printing really, with very fine tracks and nose panels. I still have to clean up some of the supports. 


This is one of my favourite pieces so far, the level of detail is excellent, the gun assembly is printed separately.

Undercoated prints, Marder, Ram and Marmon Herrrington

The Marmon Herrington will be joining the forces for Malaya, and I am reasonably pleased with this, except I managed to jar the printer (I think) and there is a just visible line halfway up the hull.

Japanese Type 41 Mountain Gun

This is the latest print, not yet cured, and will get some cleanup once it has cured. The big advantage of 3d printing is that some of these models are simply not available or very hard to obtain as kits or models elsewhere. 

And I grabbed another sprue of Warlord Games plastic Japanese to make up the crew. Green Stuff surgery to reposition some of the more 'active' poses.

Am I pleased with the 3d printer? Yes. Do you need extra 'stuff' to make it work properly? In my opinion yes, UV lights for when sunshine is in short supply. sonic bath for clean-up (not essential but very effective), Isopropyl alcohol, and fresh supplies of resin. Do you need space? Yes, don't use without decent ventilation, and you need to have the room for the 'process' of cleaning and curing, as well as storing teh various bits and pieces, like paper towel, gloves, spatula etc.

Now, time to see about printing 3 Universal carriers at once.. :) 


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Jonathan. I shall have to be careful to not go too far down the rabbit hole. It would be easy to get started doing some 3d design... The temptation to keep adding 'nice' additional vehicles and guns etc to my existing forces is very hard to resist. So for example - the printer is chugging away doing another three Universal Carriers so my Malaya, NWE and Desert troops can have carrier sections as support. Then there's flamethrowers...

    2. I could see this becoming addictive. How long does it take to create, say, one vehicle?

    3. Hi Jonathan, so a relatively small object, such as the infantry gun but with a lot of layers maybe two hours o print. Actually creating files I have only tinkered with CAD so far. There are a lot of good free 3d files out here for personal use, so you don't have to create anything if you don't want to, just take an existing file from wargaming3d or Thingiverse, and slice it in the software supplied with the printer.

  2. I have been debating the merits of a SLA printer for sometime, having used a FDM for nearly all my experiments thus far in both designing and printing, and I have to say that the SLA does produce nice prints and seems to be less finicky than a FDM.

    As for quality, it looks excellent, but it might be worth doing an experiment and printing a file at differing layer heights, juts for comparison.

    Next you'll be printing ships.

    1. incidentally, what designs have you done?

    2. I did a pile of buildings for Waterloo in 15mm (La Haye Sainte, La Belle Alliance, etc..) and the wonders of 3D printing means they looked ok in 28mm too. I am currently working on some buildings for Antietam, and then my Greek galleys.

    3. I'm just starting out, give me time to reach that level of ambition! Anyone seen an Elephant STL for a Japanese Patrol Marker?

  3. I do know a couple of people with FDM and they seem to always be cleaning nozzles or fiddling with the machines. These seem to be reaching the commodity stage. It can be messy if you aren't well organised, but the quality is pretty good. (I have seen bigger striations on commercially sold resin vehicles.) And yes, they would be great for ship hulls, though extended round sections (masts etc) I would print at an angle or in the vertical plane. I haven't experimented with different print angles yet.

  4. I can resist everything but temptation...
    I do look forward to seeing more about your purchase. I think every gamer will have one in around twenty years.

    1. I'm the same with wargames temptation. I really should just focus on one or two projects at a time. Not the usual 20 odd.. and of course, being able to print off, say, some unique French personnel carriers used in the Desert, then there's the temptation to buy a whole platoon of Goumiers or French Foreign Legion.

  5. 3D-printers too? I was a little incredulous last year when we bought a chair for our infant daughter and the white-and-wood model we went for was about £70 less than the identical-except-black version.

    I'll indubitably get a 3D-printer at some point, but it'll be when they've commodified bit further and the daughter requires less supervision.

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