3D Printing - 2 Months In

Apparently it has been two months since my last blog post. I blame my inherent laziness and the fact that it's so much easier to post funny pictures to Tumblr. Two months ago my post was about my first impressions of 3D printing. So today I thought I'd do a follow-up where I talk about how I feel about it now so that you can compare and contrast.

When I first got the printer I was printing pretty much non-stop. I had so many things that I wanted to print and just couldn't wait to get them printed. That seemingly unending enthusiasm for getting stuff printed NOW has tapered off. That's to be expected. On the other hand, the tool has become something of a staple for me now and even if it doesn't end up getting used in everything that I do modeling-wise, I do always take at least a moment to consider how I might use it. Want an odd example? Consider this:

As I was working on Xenomorph minis from the Alien vs Predator line I came across a couple of miscasts. Specifically, the claws would be missing and there would be a void in the fingers where an air bubble had formed. I spent about half an hours looking around the shop to figure out the best way to fill the voids and rebuild the claws. Eventually I started heating and stretching old plastic sprue so that I could create strands of plastic to cut to size and fill the space. The problem with that is stretch sprue is hard and you don't get an evenly size piece of plastic. At some point in this process I glanced at the 3D printer and a metaphorical lightbulb went on over my head. I fired it up and hit the extrude button and got a 10mm string of perfectly-sized ABS plastic that I was able to use for this purpose. It's really just a fluke that this worked so perfectly, but I was happy that it did.

Gozanti Armed Cargo Carrier

The project that inspired me to purchase the printer in the first place is now complete. I'm really very happy with the results - even if it does tend to bring out an unending stream of "companion cube" comments. This is the Gozanti Armed Cargo Carrier. The cargo pods were designed by me and printed on my printer. They were then sanded and primed and painted to get the final result that you see.

Texas or T-Barriers

I think that the thing I've painted most over the past two months is terrain pieces from files on Thingiverse. There's a lot of really interesting pieces from very creative people. My biggest problem with it is that, once printed, I don't always find the time to finish them. I did so a handful of various modern-day barriers that will work well with anything from  modern to sci-fi games. It's nice to have bits like this to add life to your tables. Of course, I haven't had an opportunity to use them yet.

Oh! How could I forget my first "product"? The paint brush rack that I'm selling here on the site is something that I designed for myself. I currently use two of them. One for my brushes, and one for my small tools (X-Acto knight, sculpting tools, etc). So many people asked me about how they could get one that I put both the printing file and printed rack up for sale. 

Babylon 5 PPG

Then, of course, there's the other hobby that I've wanted to be able to indulge myself in for years but have never really had the opportunities to do so. I'm, of course, talking about my interest in sci-fi guns.

Rey's Blaster - work in progress

I've purchased a few kits over the years, but I've never really dived head-first into the hobby. I think because I could never really justify the expense to myself. Sure, they're cool, but at the end of the day they just end up collecting dust. It's sort of the reason that I moved from static modeling to miniature gaming in the first place. Of course, with the expense part of the equation out of the picture I can make all of the "dust collectors" that I want... and I want a lot. I started with the B5 PPG that you see here. I'm following that up with Rey's Blaster from The Force Awakens (and there will be a couple of videos on that one) and I have others in the works as well. The nice thing about these projects is that they're not overly hard to complete. Print the parts. Apply a little elbow grease in the form of sanding. Do a little repair work with putty as needed. Maybe add some details (like the screws in Rey's Blaster). Paint, weather, you're done! These are little side projects for me. I can do a step when I need a break from painting miniatures and then just set it aside. The final results are really satisfying and I didn't have to break the bank to do them.

As for the printer itself, it's held up fairly well. I had one part on it break, but it was easily repaired with a little glue. It's also a part that I can print myself to make a replacement if it comes to that (and I should probably do that before I need it). There is also a plastic film on the heated bed that has started to separate a bit from the bed itself forming small bubbles. The manufacturer says that the aren't really an issue as they are now but I've already looked into replacing it and it shouldn't be expensive or especially difficult to do.

I've tinkered a little bit with the software to see if I could improve on the factory settings but so far it looks like they dial it in pretty well themselves. Nothing I've done has made a positive impact at all. I've also found that the baked in "easy mode" settings in Cura work just fine for 99% of my projects. I've rarely found a need to go in and adjust the various settings that they give you in the advanced mode. I'm honestly not that interest in 3D printing as a "hobby" in and of itself. I just want to use it as a tool. If it gets the job done as I need it to get done as is then I see no reason to tinker. 

I've seen a few articles recently touting the end of 3D printing as people discover that they just aren't very useful and they are too difficult to use. I think that the people who have been writing those articles have no idea what they are talking about. In all cases it seems like they bought one without any clear idea of what they were getting in to or why they were getting one (aside from it being the hot new thing) and ended up disillusioned. I'm finding that it's opening up all sorts of doors for me and I'm discovering new things that it can do for me all of the time. The end isn't near. We're just at the beginning and I'm very excited to see where it all goes from here.