So, it’s been a bit of a weird year, yet it hasn’t all been bad. With the Lockdowns, we suddenly found ourselves with a lot more time on our hands, with being stuck indoors. Hence, hobbies of all sorts have raised to a new level. None so more than 3D resin printing.
Before the Lockdown, I normally got my miniatures from specialist hobby shops (predominantly Games Workshop), as it was simply the easiest to do as well as offering the advantage of getting other products while out.
However, that has changed. With the shops being closed, 3D Resin Printers are becoming more common and effective. Could I be tempted to defect to buying my miniatures digitally and printing them? Especially with sites that offer a huge variety of STLs to download. Possibly!
But I hear you ask what is a STL file and how do you upload the digital model? They’re questions I asked myself.
Well, an STL file, also known as Stereolithography or Standard Tessellation Language, describes the geometry of a 3D object but without any texture, color or other attributes. This format then recreates the 3D model’s geometric surface using a series of linked triangles. In essence, this is the where the actual “object” will be, the digital blueprints of the model you’ve purchased or made, that need to be uploaded to the resin printer to be printed.
Still with me?
3D printing, also known as Additive Manufacturing (because you keep adding resin to the object layer by layer), is the process and construction of a three – dimensional object from a CAD Model (Computer Aided Design) software such as Mudbox, 3D studio Max or AutoCAD.
To put this simply, a 3D printer creates 3D objects using this software as a way of telling it how to do it. CAD programs allows people to build detailed computer models that are saved as the STL files.
It’s starting to make sense….
Resin 3D printing is similar other types of 3D printing. However, you are instead using liquid photopolymers that construct the object layer by layer. These liquid photopolymers (the resin) work by being exposed to light (commonly Ultraviolet/ UV light) and curing, turning into a solid mass to create the object you’ve bought or made. In this case a cool little mini. Most resin 3D printers come with a resin tank or bath, which is where the resin must be stored. Be careful when handling the resin, as some are irritants or poisonous. A good idea is using a mask to easily protect against these. Also, it’s important to wash this resin of the printed miniatures as it’ll disrupt and ruin your perfect paint job if you don’t.
So, after all this information, what does this mean for tabletop gaming?
Are bricks and mortar Games workshop stores numbered? Will we all be 3D resin printing our own minis soon?
Some do believe that and certainly there is a growing movement to support that argument. I personally don’t. Games Workshop is a massive company and have started to branch out into other medias, materials and models besides tabletop gaming. In addition, the iconic universe of Warhammer will never fail to fuel the fire of our imaginations. From the valiant heroes to the insidious villains of the Grim Darkness, they will all capture our delight when these characters are revealed and released.
With that said, Resin 3D printing have one last defining trait. They use resins to create the model, (which shouldn’t come as a shock) which means you get a little more variety and choice than the pre-ordained armies of Games Workshop and other tabletop miniature companies but sometimes at the cost of quality. Sadly, some 3D models aren’t up to the same standards of Warhammer, while other companies really are. You must shop around a little bit and learn which companies offer the best print quality to make sure you don’t get a shoddy, brittle and sometime virtually see-through print.
Warhammer could also be its own undoing. A significant percent of people with 3D printers uses them to convert their models to better resemble their chosen faction, as some of the options by Games Workshop are either outdated or just aren’t there. It’s even the simple things like symbols on a certain type of shoulder pad or specialized helmets to better represent the armies.
Also, 3D resin printing is cheaper in the long run, as the STLs are less expensive than most prices in hobby shops. Ironically, the main cost is in the actual 3D printer and the Resin it uses, which sometimes is staggeringly expensive. But the choice available is quite staggering and really is opening the doors to new digital artists creating a myriad of designs. One of the most prominent stores for managing STL files you’ve purchased is MyMinisFactory, an online website where people can not only buy STLs for printing but where you can also upload your own designs. You can also enter competitions and crowd fund campaigns you like the look of on sites such as Kick Starter. There are also blogs on the website that give useful tips and tricks, as well as just some interesting topics. They also offer information on new releases as well as interviews. It’s like a one stop community all based around the resin printing side of table top gaming and the miniatures that goes with that. And MyMinisFactory isn’t the only online community store.
For someone who doesn’t use a 3D printer but does a lot of tabletop gaming, I am tempted but not for the reasons one might assume.
Would I want to get the odd alternative model to a Games Workshop one? Yes sure.
Would I want to field an entire army of alternative models? No, simply because I like the quality standard.
The only actual “army” I would probably print would be the old Battle Fleet Gothic ships, simply because while the actual game was out, I wasn’t born and from the Warhammer books I have read, I want to have my own Vengeful Spirit, Covenant of Blood or Invincible Reason.
So, for me, I feel assured that tabletop gaming won’t change completely. But I might be convinced to dip my toe in the resin pool though…
But that’s me. What about you? Are you ready for your next resin printed project?