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  1. #1
    Technologist Dargonfly's Avatar
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    Lightbulb The best 3D printer for a figurine designer?

    Hello 3dprintboard, I've been lurking this board for quite some time and finally decided to bother you with this age-old question:
    "Which 3D printer is the best for me?"
    I design figurines; highly detailed plastic models that are approx. 15cm/6inch tall.

    I have seen many people make these kind of products with 3D printers, I know about the options of vapor bathing ABS and of course spray filler and a lot of sanding for a smooth final surface. But this still requires the printer to create high detail with as much accuracy as possible.
    I understand that the quality of the print is dependable on a lot of factors including experience of the end-user, but I am willing to keep testing other settings and even willing to mod/hack the printer myself.
    So, for the first (and foremost) requirement:
    #1 Highest possible detail & accuracy print (!at all costs!)

    Since I want to have good quality models that can withstand falling, heat, and the strong grip of many people that will touch it it has to print ABS. But I also want to experiment with other materials, and some parts will probably work better in other materials:
    #2 Print different materials including ABS

    I mentioned that the figures will be 15cm/6inch so it would be great to print that in one go. But sometimes parts need to be split up anyway and glued together later on (to prevent large amounts of supports)
    #3 Large building platform is preferred, but not required

    I don't care how long a build takes. If it takes four complete days to print something that is fine by me. As long as the quality is the most perfect quality it can be! (Because having a non-perfect models means I need to spend all that extra time on post-processing the print.)
    #4 Print time/speed is irrelevant. Quality >>>>> speed

    Also, because there is a large community for some printers, but not for others, I prefer to have access to a large community that can potentially help me when the printer has issues. Also, I will be able to give something back to that community. Open source allows for greater communities since multiple printers use the same technology/software/parts.
    #5 Open source software/hardware/filament is preferred, but not required

    I don't have infinite money, so the max price is €3000 or $3000 (will be approx. same as €3000 with shipping and tax.)
    If it is better to have different printer for different materials and they still fit in the price range that is fine too (I have infinite space) - though they have to excel in the material they print in detail & accuracy.
    This price is including all the hacks/mods that will need to be done to get the most perfect quality prints. Also; I don't mind spending €1000 more for just a tiny increase in quality.

    Now, I have already done some homework, so here are all the printers that I'm keeping watch on. If you can tell me anything about one of these printers or show me the quality they can produce; please do. If one of these printers shouldn't be on my watch-list please tell me why. If another printer should be added to the list please tell my why.
    (I'm not interested in kickstarter/non-existing printers - I plan to have a printer in my house before the end of this year.)

    Figurine printer watch-list:

    Saw some good quality prints coming from these.



    This one is on the list as a Makerbot variant.



    Can't remember why this one was on the list.



    Saw some good quality prints coming from these, but also really bad ones. I'm from the Netherlands, so these guys are close by - good for support and such.



    This one seems to do superb quality prints AND has a large build volume... but I don't completely believe fairy tales. Need more proof.



    Dual extrusion won't be used by me except for using the different heads for different materials. But not mixing materials in a single model... (probably)



    Again; seems to produce superb qualities but need more proof.


    A nice image of a print was provided by Trhuster


    Have seen good quality figurines come from these.




    Please enlighten my with all your knowledge, I will watch this thread closely and give more information if required.
    Also, I will keep searching myself and update as soon as I have more answers.
    Thanks in advance!
    Last edited by Dargonfly; 08-16-2014 at 12:49 PM.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Add Geoff on Thingiverse
    Click on the thingiverse link in my panel, I have a $1000 machine and it is primarily used for printing and painting figurines and busts, prints in all materials, essentially a replicator 2 clone is a good way to start, honestly I suggest getting something like that, learn and then invest in a $3000 machine because I guarantee you after 6 months with the $1k machine, you will REALLY know what you want , prices will be lower, better technologies out and then you go and buy that $3k machine.

  3. #3
    Technologist Dargonfly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    Click on the thingiverse link in my panel, I have a $1000 machine and it is primarily used for printing and painting figurines and busts, prints in all materials, essentially a replicator 2 clone is a good way to start, honestly I suggest getting something like that, learn and then invest in a $3000 machine because I guarantee you after 6 months with the $1k machine, you will REALLY know what you want , prices will be lower, better technologies out and then you go and buy that $3k machine.
    Thank you for your reply. I have seen your models before on this board, good stuff, the Gremlin head made me relive a lot of nightmares ...
    Is that a Prusa that you use for these models? Which material do you print in? Do you have to do any finishing on your models before painting? You don't use any vapor-bathing, filling, or additional putty modeling I think, or do you?

    Are there any printers that you are aware of that produce higher quality prints then yours? Not saying that yours aren't good, but realistically there is always something better.
    I would not mind spending a lot more money for even the tiniest increase in quality. Every bit of quality that the printer adds saves me post-processing work.

    Or do you have any experience with the printers that I listed?

  4. #4
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    I would add Zortrax M200 on that list.

    Attached Images Attached Images

  5. #5
    Technologist Dargonfly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trhuster View Post
    I would add Zortrax M200 on that list.
    Did you print this? If so, please elaborate on the material and printer choice.
    Do you have any more detailed images? And or a painted part perhaps? (White almost always looks better/cleaner.)
    Is this printed with supports? How big is this model?

    Also, I like the fact that it's a Zerg hive, love Starcraft II.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dargonfly View Post
    Did you print this? If so, please elaborate on the material and printer choice.
    Do you have any more detailed images? And or a painted part perhaps? (White almost always looks better/cleaner.)
    Is this printed with supports? How big is this model?

    Also, I like the fact that it's a Zerg hive, love Starcraft II.
    Yes i printed that, i have a video. Sorry for Swedish but just mute and watch the print: http://youtu.be/NwESddUb020

    For more info go to http://forum.zortrax.com

  7. #7
    Technologist Dargonfly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trhuster View Post
    Yes i printed that, i have a video. Sorry for Swedish but just mute and watch the print: http://youtu.be/NwESddUb020

    For more info go to http://forum.zortrax.com
    Thank you for the link.
    I have checked a lot of different sources and I must say I don't see that many failing prints on the Zortrax (might be because of the closed software?).
    But there do seem to be problems with the raft curling up on large prints. Do you experience this?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dargonfly View Post
    Thank you for the link.
    I have checked a lot of different sources and I must say I don't see that many failing prints on the Zortrax (might be because of the closed software?).
    But there do seem to be problems with the raft curling up on large prints. Do you experience this?
    Large prints with ABS is hard to print, i use ABS-slurry and lexan enclousure when printing large objekts. And yes closed software is supereasy to work with but sometimes we can miss some features like change hotend temp. But overall a very good printer imo.

  9. #9
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    It doesn't sound like you're really going to be happy with one of these hot-extrusion (FDM) printers, since you're asking for high detail and accurate surfaces. If you melt the plastic to smooth the surface, you lose the detail. If you really want to use a FDM-type printer, I'd say hold out for one with dual extruders that can demonstrate an effective workflow that includes producing soluble supports. Otherwise, you're going to be spending a lot of time essentially hand-carving the undersides of your figurines. But before you buy one, see if you can have someone who owns one print one of your models for you, so you can look at it close up. All of these printers produce models with a striated surface, which may or may not be acceptable to you. If you're doing these figurines for clients, you might find that it's worthwhile to send them out for printing on a better machine than you can afford to buy right now.

    Andrew Werby
    www.computersculpture.com

  10. #10
    Technologist Dargonfly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by awerby View Post
    It doesn't sound like you're really going to be happy with one of these hot-extrusion (FDM) printers, since you're asking for high detail and accurate surfaces. If you melt the plastic to smooth the surface, you lose the detail. If you really want to use a FDM-type printer, I'd say hold out for one with dual extruders that can demonstrate an effective workflow that includes producing soluble supports. Otherwise, you're going to be spending a lot of time essentially hand-carving the undersides of your figurines. But before you buy one, see if you can have someone who owns one print one of your models for you, so you can look at it close up. All of these printers produce models with a striated surface, which may or may not be acceptable to you. If you're doing these figurines for clients, you might find that it's worthwhile to send them out for printing on a better machine than you can afford to buy right now.

    Andrew Werby
    www.computersculpture.com
    Thank you for your reply. I truly understand your comment and am aware that the prints coming directly from these FDM printers will all need some sort of clean-up.
    Currently; I make everything from modeling clay and I cast it in plastic if it needs to be sold. I just want to jump into the 3D printer world because I know that in the future these complete models will be 3D printed and I need to know everything about this technique now. Also; it is fun for me to explore this new world and I could easily make parts (or complete models perhaps) from printed models with just some cleanup/additional clay modeling.

    Having said that; do you know/use any printers that still create relatively high quality for a good price?
    Are there any printers that I've listed that you can recommend from my list? Or any printers that you don't like?

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