With the development of new technologies, 3D printing has become accessible to everyone. There are various industries, from medicine to engineering, where 3D printers are becoming standard tools. But players also like to create their own miniature models for tabletop games such as DnD or Warhammer 40K. You can easily use 3D printers to create character and monster models for your favorite games.
Miniatures are highly detailed representations of creatures and characters. Modern 3D printers can now produce fine details such as dragon scales or bumps on armor. Here are the best 3D printers for printing miniatures and tabletop models.
Resin Printers vs Filament Printers
Not all 3D printers can produce the high level of detail needed for miniatures. Also, it is important to understand the differences between resin and filament (FDM) printers.
There are basically two types of consumer 3D printers. The first type is the Fused Deposit Modeling or FDM printer. This type of printer melts the plastic and places it in layers to create a 3D object. The second type, stereolithography or SLA 3D printers, use UV light to harden liquid resin to form the object.
The problem with filament printers is that melted plastic leaves visible layers and is unable to achieve great detail, with a few exceptions. Resin is overall better for miniatures and figurines because it can capture the finer details.
That said, FDM printers still have uses in the miniature world. They print much faster and the material is cheaper than resin. Filament printers are best suited for creating terrain and large models of buildings, mountains, castles, and many other items used in tabletop games.
Although resin printers are much better at creating miniatures, they have their own set of traps. Resin is toxic and you will need a well-ventilated area to work in. You will also need to wear gloves and a mask as a precaution because the ventilation itself is not enough. Also, SLA printers are much slower than FDM printers and your running costs will be a bit higher.
What to Look for in 3D Printers for Miniatures and Tabletop Models
The most important factor that determines the visual quality of the print is the resolution. But the resolution of 3D printers is different from the display resolution. It is measured in microns and tells you the smallest possible movement a printhead can make when printing a layer.
There are two measures of resolution in 3D printers: the XY plane and the Z axis. The XY plane resolution measures the dimensions of a 2D planar print or the height of the layer, while the Z axis is the thickness of a printed layer. Tabletop quality miniatures require a resolution of at least 50 microns, but the latest printers like the Saturn 2 can achieve a fine resolution of 28.5 microns.
The next thing you need to look for in 3D printers is build volume. It will tell you the size of your miniatures. You need to think about what you want to create in the future. Are you going to limit yourself to miniatures only or do you want to print larger models? 3D printers will require maintenance and you should also research their ease of use. Choose the one that best suits all your needs.
Anycubic Photon Mono is an entry-level 3D printer. It excels in print speed and user-friendliness. Its price is also low, which makes it ideal for those who are just starting their miniature printing hobby. It has an XY resolution of 51 microns, which means it won’t make the best prints, but you’ll get high-quality models for your money.
This 3D printer uses an LCD screen to project UV light onto the resin. This makes the printing time very short, around 1-2 seconds for each layer. But Anycubic Photon Mono has a very limited build volume which will limit the size of your figures and models. You will not be able to print at heights greater than 6.5 inches (165 mm). This is a sufficient size for regular DnD miniatures, but miniatures or buildings are out of the question.
This 3D printer from Anycubic is designed for large-scale prints. It is a resin printer with an LCD screen capable of reaching a printing speed of 60mm/hour. Apart from its impressive speed, Mono X can print large scale 3D models as it has a build volume of 192 x 120 x 245 mm.
Anycubic Photon Mono X has an XY resolution of 50 microns and a Z axis resolution of 10 micrometers. This allows it to print fine details at high speed. It is equipped with a touchscreen user interface and can be controlled from your iPhone or Android device with the Anycubic app.
More expensive than the Anycubic Photon Mono, Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K offers similar specs. It can print miniatures up to 6.5 inches tall and it also uses a monochrome LCD screen to project UV light to harden the resin.
However, what makes Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K a better choice for printing miniatures is its XY resolution. It sits at 35 microns, allowing this 3D printer to create high detail even on small miniatures of just 28mm. Its z-axis resolution is also impressive at 0.01mm.
If you are looking for a professional MSLA 3D printer capable of producing high quality and highly detailed prints, Phrozen Sonic XL 4K could be for you. This machine was developed as an entry-level dental 3D printer with a parallel LED UV array system for high XY-plane accuracy and fast resin curing of 0.2 seconds per layer. It has a large print volume of 190x120x200mm and an impressive precision of 10 microns. The Sonic XL 4K is popular among jewelry designers, so it’s more than enough for miniatures.
Phrozen Sonic XL 4K features a dental synergy slicer and software designed for ease of use. The other resin 3D printers on this list have simple USB or Ethernet connectivity, but Sonic XL additionally gives you microSD and Wi-Fi connection. This 3D printer is amazing at bringing out every detail in your miniatures, and it will bring your DnD or tabletop games to a new level.
Elegoo Mars 2 Pro can cost as low as $180 but it has high print quality. It is also incredibly fast with printing a layer in 2 seconds. It has a 2K resolution mono LCD display only, but that’s more than enough for a small 129×80mm build rig.
Mars 2 Pro can handle intricate details very well thanks to its 50 micron XY resolution and 0.00125mm Z axis accuracy. For such a small and low price 3d printing machine, Elegoo Mars 2 Pro has luxurious features such as an integrated air system and touchscreen controls. It also comes with a CHITUBOX slicer and tools to dig the 3D models before printing. This will significantly save printing material.
If you want to print larger miniatures of monsters or your favorite game characters, you have two options. Use 3D printers with smaller build volumes and glue the parts together or use Elegoo Saturn 2 to print them in one piece. The second option is always better because you don’t risk the glued parts falling or deforming over time.
Elegoo Saturn 2 has a fine XY resolution of 28 microns and a Z axis resolution of 0.01 mm. But its most impressive feature is its large build volume of 218.88×123.12×250mm. You can use it to print a large part or to print a batch of several miniatures at once.
Creality is a consumer 3D printer producer, and their Ender 3 Pro is a filament printer with a build volume of 220x220x250mm. It has many new built-in features that were missing on previous Ender 3 models.
Among them are a color LCD screen, a silent motherboard, a tool drawer and many more. You can use Ender 3 V2 to print wargame miniatures, but you will need to sand them to get rid of the layer lines. But this 3D printer excels in terrain printing due to the high level of precision and the low price of plastic.
The precision of Ender 3 V2 is high for an FMD printer. The resolution of the XY plane and Z axis is 0.1 mm. That’s not an impressive number compared to SLM printers designed to create detailed miniatures, but it’s good value for money for a filament printer, especially of such a small size.
8. Raise3D E2 – Ideal for a variety of materials
Raise3D E2 is a 3D filament printer with dual independent extrusion (IDEX). It can print in dual or mirror mode. It has a flexible heated print bed which makes the E2 an ideal machine for printing with different materials. This means that you can create miniatures and terrains not only from plastic, but also from carbon fiber, fiberglass, metal or wood. Impressive!
The E2 3D printer has a large build volume of 330x240x240mm, ideal for terrain and buildings for tabletop games. It has a video offset calibration system for the build plate and easy to use software. However, this is a professional 3D printer and its price reflects that. Apart from the high price, the only other downside of this machine is that it requires deep cleaning which will take a lot of time.
Which 3D printer would you choose and why? Let us know in the comments below!