Best 3D Printer for 28mm Miniatures and Terrain


Roleplaying games may not be for everyone, but they are sure taking fire with the public. More and more games are being sold with more publicity in television shows or movies, even if it is a small reference. There is a reason these games will never die. They offer something which must live on in everyone; imagination. Other games are still fun, providing great entertainment. However, being able to create your own world, with your own persona, making decisions of your own without much limitation, can never be placed in anything other than roleplaying games.

Jumping straight into this may seem scary or nerve wrecking for a lot of new players, but there are some ways to get over this initial fear of something new. One of the best ways to get over this is to find a good friend who already plays (you might be surprised who participates in a game like D&D or Pathfinders). It is important to play with someone who is already familiar with the game because there must be a Dungeon Master.

Another way to start your adventure is to purchase a miniature as your character. This can alleviate the pressure one might feel when performing a roleplaying game. There are lots of awesome pieces available for sale, but nothing beats creating your own piece to represent exactly what you had in mind. There are two printers, Creality Ender 3 and Wanhao Duplicator 7, that we will be discussing in this article for building better terrain and awesome characters.

The Dungeon Master oversees the whole game; they are the story-teller; they are the architect; they create the mood for the game. There is a lot of responsibility that falls on the DM, so it is better to get someone who can take this mantle to build a nice, smooth experience for new players. With the weight of a world, almost literally, on the DM’s shoulders, having aids will make things run without hiccups. Some players may not be excited about using 3D models while campaigning, but the Dungeon Master can utilize 3D terrain and figures to calculate precise movements, avoiding any confusion about where characters are or where they are going. Some will argue these bring a limitation on imagination, but visual aids are nice to have, especially for beginners, so they can learn more about the game before truly enjoying the imagination that comes with this new world.

28mm Models

Due to the popularity of games that use 28mm figures like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinders, there is a diverse collection of 3D printable models available to download and print. Miguel Zavala is a prolific 3D modeler who released over 300 models from the D&D Monster Manual on Shapeways. You can find a variety of monster and character minis if you search on Shapeways, Thingiverse or MyMiniFactory. Pick your favorite race and class and get in the game.

There are also a lot of terrain models available. You can’t play D&D without a dungeon to enter. My favorite set of terrain to use is the Open Forge set. These models are all designed to be compatible with each other an ensure a great game.

Printable Scenery has a wide variety of high quality 28mm terrain available for sale.

Whatever you go with, you will need a 3D printer to make these models.

Creality Ender 3: Great for terrain

Official Creality Ender 3 3D Printer Fully Open Source with Resume Printing Function DIY 3D Printers Printing Size 220x220x250mm

A benefit to choosing the Creality Ender 3 is its low price compared to the 3D printers that have come before it. Of course, the cost will vary depending on where you purchased it, but this 3D printer has stayed under $199. In most online stores, the Creality Ender 3 is much cheaper than the Ender 2. Disregarding the price difference, the Ender 3 has an aluminum extrusion comprising the frame and a single leadscrew driving the Z-axis. Made with a heating print bed of 220 x 220 x 250mm, which almost doubles the Ender 2’s bed. The platform is similar to a BuildTak print bed sticker, which should prevent prints from coming unstuck from the bed mid-print.

Another impressive feature of the Creality Ender 3 is its ability to fully recover and resume a print after losing power or getting disconnected. This is a feat made popular by the Prusa i3 MK3 3D printer, but the fact that it was implemented into a sub-$200 3D printer makes it worthy of mentioning.

On the right-hand side of the Creality Ender 3 frame is an LCD display with control wheel. Unlike the CR-10, this control panel is attached to 3D printer rather than included as a standalone component, making the full package more compact and portable.

Creality Ender 3 is an FDM printer which is good for printing terrain and larger pieces for the role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinders. The reason terrain and larger pieces are highlighted for this printer is the fact that it contains a large bed with a variety of filament options.

That being said. it is also possible to get reasonably good quality figures from this printer. Don’t believe me?

Wanhao Duplicator 7: Great for minis

Wanhao WD7V15 Wanhao Duplicator 7 V.1.5

The Wanhao Duplicator 7 3D printer is a DLP machine. This technology differs from the more common FDM 3D printing. Instead of melting plastic filament in a heated nozzle, DLP and SLA printers use liquid resins that are cured by light. The resins are stored in a tank. The build plate dips into this tank to build the desired object. Whereas SLA 3D printers use a laser beam to harden the liquid resin, DLP printers use a technology called Digital Light Processing. Once the resin is hardened, the build plate moves up and the projector then displays the next slice of the object.

A DLP printer can print highly detailed objects. As you can imagine, the screen resolution is the important part of any DLP 3D printer. This makes it the better choice for building characters to use in those tabletop games. With a printer like the Duplicator 7, you can get very fine details on your miniatures with no visible layer lines.

However, resin-based 3D printers require more work and precautions than an FDM printer. The Wanhao Duplicator 7 3D printer is not considered a plug-and-play machine, even for experienced hobbyists. To keep this D7 3D printer effective there are several steps that must be taken after a print finished.

  1. You need to wash the prints with ethanol. This removes any uncured resin that is still on the model.
  2. Next you need to finish curing the print under a UV light. After a print comes off, it will be slight soft and will harden with exposure to UV. While you using UV lamp is very effective, placing the models out in the sun will accomplish the same objective.
  3. Lastly, you need to cleaning the build plate. Any excess uncured resin needs to be washed off in ethanol.
  4. You must safely dispose of the uses ethanol and any uncured resin. These chemicals are toxic and should not be poured down the drain.

Wanhao Duplicator 7 Plus: Also great for minis

Wanhao Duplicator 7 Plus

There is also the “Wanhao Duplicator 7 Plus”. In addition to the D7’s current specs, the new Plus version advertises four major changes.

  • Wanhao upped the Duplicator 7 Plus’ XY accuracy to self-proclaimed 0.0001 mm. The original Wanhao D7’s resolution is 0.05 mm. This reflects in the price, which is currently at $650 instead of $500.
  • A revised touchscreen was added to the Wanhao Duplicator 7 Plus.
  • The Duplicator 7 Plus is able to 3D print up to 30 mm per hour and features a triple cooling fan to avoid overheating.
  • Despite keeping the same dimensions, the machine weighs less.

Wanhoa Duplicator 7 is more a advance machine than an FDM printer and not really meant for those just joining the 3D printing world.

Painting Miniatures

Another fun part of making 3D objects with your imagination is painting them. Varies stores online sell all kinds of paint specific to coloring miniatures. They can seem pricey for people just trying join in, but nothing beats the feeling that comes with crafting something from scratch. Painting is the final touch to building your own arsenal of characters for the game, but also bringing your miniature to life; looking exactly how you pictured.

For those not used to painting their own models, there are a few steps to do before proceeding with the process. First, draw out a plan before-hand. Paints may not be cheap, so knowing which colors you are going to use will prevent wasting any money or time. Drawing the model out and coloring can give you an idea of what really works or if the colors appeared as well as you imagined for the model.

Cleaning the 3D object after printing is a must, then get a primer and apply it to the model that will be painted. With this, the paint will have a better adherence to the object, preventing any chipping. It is also in the user’s best interest to purchase some primer, so the finished product looks absolutely amazing; it also provides a nice coat of protection. Another trick to know is thinning the paint you will use. Most painters advise this as it will keep the incredible details that were added in the 3D model. If the paint is too thick, it can cover the details causing the miniature to lose its appeal.

Summary

3D miniatures and terrain are great assets to add to a tabletop game, especially for beginners. Putting new players on the spot to completely commit to the roleplaying may scare them off. Instead, using a 3D character will make things a little easier to digest; this is also true with using 3D terrain, as opposed to explaining the complex movements and spaces for walking or attacking. Visual aids are even better when an adventure is able to customize their own characters or their own world, bringing it to life through 3D printing.

Creality Ender 3 and Wanhao Duplicator 7 are printers mentioned for these games because of the features they offer. Creality Ender 3 is geared more to building terrain for the journeys; containing a bigger plate and building layer by layer terrain. While the Wanhao Duplicator 7 is better suited for character building due to its close attention to detail, allowing each user to birth a character as close as they can to the image in their mind.

Although 3D printing is what this is all about, D&D and Pathfinder adventures will all agree that these awesome miniatures, with the best detail, should not take away from the imagination of the game. Roleplaying is the name of the game. Being able to get lost into a new world, created by you or your friends, completely immersing yourself into the character outlined, is what makes these games ever-lasting. Making real decisions, based on who you are and what character you have become, only comes when you can truly feel for the situation the journey has come to.

Verl Humpherys

I have been 3D printing since 2017, using both FDM and SLA printers. My prints have varied from small D&D figurines to full sized baby Groot. I printed mounts for my various game consoles and my Oculus Rift. Any problem you can have with a 3D printer, I have had. And I am here to tell you what I have learned.

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