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Choosing a 3D printer

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  • Choosing a 3D printer

    I am interested in buying a 3D printer but I don't know much about them. I know there are basically two types (FDM and resin) for hobby use. From what I have seen, resin makes much nicer looking products. They seem to be used to make bodies and trim, but not for motor pods and chassis parts. FDM seems to be used for that. Why is that?

    I see a number of both types of printers being sold in the $200 - $250 range. Are these acceptable for our use or is something a lot more expensive needed?

    I don't see any mention of a 3D scanner or modeling software. Am I missing something?

    I have some modeling software from my game developer days. I assume the basis for creating a model for 3D printing is the same basic polygons I used to use. But, how do you create 3D texture... is it some property of the model skin?

  • #2
    Great to see your about to fall down the rabbit hole of 3D printing, I went the higher end of the market when I brought mine I didn't have the knowhow on up grading a cheaper one but a mid priced one was all I really needed that's what most people here are using and producing excellent work, you get the software with the printer and download the files you want to make of the net to start with . Home scanners aren't good enough yet to worry about.


    • #3
      There's a few option in your budget, the Ender 3 Pro has been favourite for a couple of years now but there are other options.

      3D scanners for our needs are going to add another zero to your budget...and then some.
      Kevan - Isle of Man
      Life is like a box of Slot cars...πŸš“πŸš—πŸššπŸšœ


      • #4
        I'd recommend the Creality Ender 3 Pro. It is a good, basic FDM printer at a very affordable price.

        You have a whole lot to learn about 3D printing, and design for 3D printing. It can be a rewarding journey, but it isn't for everyone. Thus my recommendation to start simple and cheap, upgrading only once you've gained some knowledge and experience, and can justify the expense.

        The reason that resin prints aren't being used for motor pods, chassis and such is the materials -- so I hear -- aren't very tough. They break too easily. FDM materials can be much tougher. While PLA is the best material for beginners, you can quickly move on to much better materials. PETG is a very good material, relatively easy to print, and great for parts that require mechanical strength.

        I should mention I have zero experience with resin printing. But there are HRW members who do, and can give you better info on resin printing and its trade-offs. What I know about resin printing comes from reading their posts.

        My personal experience with the Ender 3 Pro has been mixed. For the first year it was working great, and I was doing all kinds of adventurous things with it. I was well and truly sucked down the rabbit hole. Almost exactly one year in I started to run into trouble with the machine. Since then I have slowly worked my way through the issues, learning on the job, and am now back to doing some challenging work. Older, wiser, and regaining confidence.

        One thing I will pass on. If you are having trouble getting your prints to stick to the build plate, first thing, re-level your build plate. Just do it.

        As for 3D design for printing, any good 3D modeling software that can output an STL file should work for you. The Cura-based slicing software, which is very good option for the beginner, accepts STL files without fuss. Since it is freeware, nothing to lose except that learning curve.

        Learning how best to design parts for printing is another journey. Start with one of the test prints provided with your machine. That is a confidence-building exercise. Many folks move onto printing stuff they find on Thingieverse and other such websites. And some of them I'm sure never move beyond that.

        In my case I immediately left the pavement and cut out cross-country, designing my own stuff, learning by doing, failing, fixing and eventually succeeding. I could never hope to find the stuff I want to make on Thingieverse anyway.

        If you do buy a machine, post here about your experiences, frustrations, questions and successes. Some of us have nothing better to do than help a newbie along.

        Ed Bianchi
        Ed Bianchi
        York Pennsylvania USA


        • Kevan
          Kevan commented
          Editing a comment
          My exact journey also.
          I've recently started exploring resin printing a pod, sidewinder, it works fine, I'm fine tuning but it's perfectly feasible with appropriate resin, I'm using siraya Blu on its own.
          I've also gone back to petg from Cf-Petg for my chassis as layer bonding strength is much higher.

      • #5
        As far as scanners go they are very expensive as has been mentioned. My impression is that the scans need a great deal of work before you end up with something that can be printed. If you are lucky there is a Maker Place near you that has a scanner, I expect that all of those have 3D printers. You pay a monthly membership fee to use the equipment and can get help from other members.
        Here are the things that my local Maker Place offers: Equipment and Capabilities | MakeHaven . In my area a local library has several 3D printers. COVID shut things down before I could ask about that.
        Last edited by RichD; June 19, 2021, 09:26 AM.


        • #6
          The two types of printers operate differently. FDM is hot melt extrusion. Surface finish is defined by layer height and various other settings. Resin is a UV curing process and surface finish as well as detail level is superior due the the software being able to interpolate between discrete layers. The material are different, software is different, modes of action are different, durability is different.

          It's a hobby in it's own right, although I think of it as a hobby within my slot car hobby. It's all about what you want to do.

          It all depends on your budget and what you want to make. An Ender3 is under $200 in kit form (you assemble the frame) and there are lots of videos to help. Resin is around $200 for the printer but requires washing and post curing. Many folks opt for a wash/cure station for another $200 but it's not strictly required.

          ​​​​​​Some resin printed pods are being produced (vtechfour uses them routinely). Resin is superior for smoothness and detail. FDM is capable of making good bodies and figures, but the resin ones are smoother. However, getting a strong resin seems to be a bit of a custom mixing process so far and resin is more expensive than filament, at least for now.

          I do everything in PLA on my Ender3. Cheap and easy. I have about $50 in upgrades (glass bed, metal extrusion drive, springs). It gives me what I want but I am not a fine scale modeler.

          As far as making files....I am strictly amateur. Good CAD software and different programs are needed, it seems like (Blender, Meshmixer, plus basic CAD). Several CanAm files started as video game skins, but the magic is beyond me. So yes it's possible but it's all about what you want to do and where you spend your time.

          PLA is fine for bodies and chassis but that depends on design parameters...thickness, stiffening rib and locations, etc. I use 3DP to give me cars I can't otherwise get, so that's my reason. I don't mind long print times and some smoothing.

          ​​​​​​​It's all about what you want.
          Come Race at The Trace!
          Timberline Trace International Raceway - SW of Mpls, MN


          • #7
            I have been keeping an eye out for a good, usable and affordable 3D scanner. Everything I have seen to date fails on all three counts.

            That said, the technology and offerings change almost daily. At some point someone is going to crack the code and 3D scanning will become worth the money and the effort. I wouldn't presume to make a firm prediction when that will occur. As far as a rubbery prediction, I'd be looking three to five years out.

            In the meantime your best bet is to use 3D cad to create your print files. The most powerful tool for creating automobile-like shapes is called 'loft'. The loft tool creates smooth surfaces that connect 2D "profile curves", separated in 3 dimensional space. It can do that with a series of profile curves -- not just two.

            I'm not going to pretend that learning how to use a loft tool is easy. You are probably going to have to learn how to turn a 2D shape into a NURBS curve. A NURBS curve is a curve or shape that has a location and orientation in 3 dimensional space -- not simply on the plane of your computer screen. A NURBS curve in fact does not have to be flat. It can be a 3 dimensional shape in its own right.

            If you learn how to create NURBS curves and lofts you will have mastered one of the most complex and powerful tools in 3D cad. Something to take real pride in.

            Don't expect it to be easy. It ain't.

            Ed Bianchi
            Ed Bianchi
            York Pennsylvania USA


            • #8
              Thanks to everyone for all of the input.... so much to learn! I have experience with Blender, it's been a few years so I'm a bit rusty. Here's something I did for a video game expansion. It may look crude, but it was done in 2003 so the polygon count had to be limited because the PC didn't have much horsepower in those days.
              Attached Files


              • #9
                I went with Anycubic products. Both resin and FDM. Both printers were less the $225 and have been able to handle the tasks of slot car making.

                Personally I use resin printing for body shells and detail parts. I am using PTEG in my FDM printer for chassis work. PTEG is just so much stronger than resin. The Anycubic Mega Zero 2 has a heated bed and a 255 C working temp on the hotend. It also comes with a magnetic build plate, that allows easy removal of printed parts. Never had an issue with adhesion to the build plate, except one time. This was corrected by bed leveling.

                Resin printing is much easier to get up to speed on. For me it was pretty much plug and play. Be advised the resin printing has consumables that need to be replaced. FEP FILM and the LCD screen are considered consumables and will need to be replaced. In 6 months I have had to replace the FEP 3 times and the mono screen once.
                I bought a wash and cure station as I heard it was a game changer on clean up. It isn’t. I seldom use it anymore, and prefer two containers with alcohol for clean up. One gets used to remove most of the resin and requires changing and the other is used as a final dip cleaner.

                Because I have both kinds of printers I probably am not getting as proficient on either because their is very little to drive me to get the most out of my FDM printer for bodies. I.e in 2 hrs I can have a paint ready body out of my resin printer that would take me 20 hours on the FDM. Conversely there is nothing to drive me into exotic blends of resins for strength, when a chassis printed with PTEG on my FDM printer is bullet proof.

                I also started painting the inside of my resin bodies with a mixture of acrylic paint and modge pod. It seems to provide strength and prevent cracking. Evryone basic resin has proved to one of the best resin I have used for body shells and has now become my resin manufacturer of choice. It is not sold as anything special, but just works well. I have not tried every resin but have settled on the Evryone brand as it seems good enough for my needs and out performs the other brands I have used. Some general resins are very brittle and although they capture detail well they don’t work real well for thin walled bodies that are subject to impact strikes. One shell I made broke into about eight pieces when it dropped and hit the floor. This was unacceptable to me. The Evryone brand resin does not do this.



                G.P Alberta


                • Kevan
                  Kevan commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I really like Siraya Fast resin for bodies, I do mix in 20% Siraya Tenacious to take some of the brittleness away. I've tried Siraya Blu, it is more difficult to perfect and sometimes you end up with 'shorts' where there should be resin but isn't.