3D printing the perfect miniature with a FDM printer


Making your miniatures is amazing, I’ve met lots of hobbyists that use 3D printing particularly to create models and paint them. But if you don’t have a resin printer it can be a hard challenge achieving good quality prints.

bad print of a miniature painted
The paint work is pretty good to bad for the print quality

Friends of mine ask me rather frequently for D&D figurines, but there are lots of models out there, not simply for the dungeons and dragons fanbase, but also for action figures, favorite stars, and whatever you can imagine. Printing any type of miniature involves some knowledge about your machine and what it can handles. But also you need to know how to slice your model properly.

A miniature is a reproduction of an object, a person, or a photo on a smaller scale, this means we have to work with little models, lots of details, overhang parts and lots of other problems. I’ve passed many struggles with miniatures.

FDM vs SLA

Resin printers or SLA printers have a layer height of 0.25mm which translates in much higher quality, also the don’t rely on moving parts. This combination can create some nice figurines, but let’s not forget that the general cost per print is higher and the overall process takes longer and is much more difficult.

Common problems

If you already have an SLA printer there is no doubt that you can obtain a great result with little efforts, those printers are made for this kind of thing! On the other side, FDM printers struggle a little bit with models on this scale so adjusting the correct printing setting is crucial. But I can ensure you that it is very easy and possible getting the same print quality as a resin printer! dealing with the small sizes is tricky and we have to know when it’s too small.

When is it too small?

this model is very small , in this case I need to scale my model to print the axe properly

Print size

Print size is very important when printing miniatures we work with models from 2,5 cm³cm to a 10 cm³ maximum and sometimes we need to scale the model to avoid printing very thin parts.

this model is very small and this means that the overall thickness of the ax will be too small and it will never come properly, so I’m going to scale it a little bit.
when dealing with these dimensions is hard printing nonetheless, getting a nice quality.

Build plate adhesion

It depends a lot from model to model.
I dodge this problem by using brim, it’s the safest way to hold in place prints l that barely sits on the bed, and needs a long printing time increasing the chances that it will unstick from the bed. When the area of the print is too small it is advised to tilt the model slightly. In this way, the supports created for the model will help with adhesion.

Supports

Your biggest enemy when printing miniatures! Adapting your supports to ease the removal it’s very important, plus I try to reduce them as much as possible, sometimes I use custom supports for some prints, but I will cover that in another article.

How to ensure good quality

Good plastic

using the right plastic is fundamental. having big variations in the diameter on your spool is a problem in this case :
Let’s assume your filaments it’s thinner in some points, this can obstruct your nozzle or it could simply not grip enough on the extruder.
only buy filaments with toleration of 0.05 mm and lower.
Having a larger diameter it’s even worse as it cand cause zits and over extrusion on some points in the printed object
Look for brittle filaments which mean it’s old or full of humidity this happens especially with PLA. When printing, check if it makes pooping sounds, if yes, most definitely it’s full of moisture.

Getting the right color

f you’re not into painting your miniature then I suggest getting a plastic that brings up the details on your print, I recommend silk PLA, as it has lots of reflections and improves the aesthetics. Avoid using colors, like white and black as it will not have the same effect.
I use Everyone silk PLA which is pretty good for the price and the quality is astonishing, also I love their colors.

Another great color for miniatures is light grey. This color is the perfect balance for details.
Why I’m using PLA for miniatures, well it’s easy to print!

Right nozzle

Choosing the right nozzle it’s the winning key here, there are lots of types and there are some main differences between them, not all are the same and not all are used for the same purposes.
Generally speaking, most nozzles are for 1.75mm filaments, but just for your knowledge, some supports 3 mm filaments, which I prefer as it has lots of advantages.
One big difference between them is the nozzle diameter.

differences between nozzles

Extruder nozzles can range from 0.1 to 1 mm.
Using a small nozzle diameter is the perfect way to get those little details and ensure the success of the print.
Typically we use 0.4 nozzles but for this kind of model it is a must using a smaller one, the smaller the better, the ideal scenario would be using a 0.1 nozzle even it means longer print time. I will be using a 0.2 nozzle as in my opinion it is small enough and this way I’m going to show you that the slicing settings are as important as the hardware you use.
Another characteristic is the material that is made of :
Brass – It is the most used material and it can print almost everything that is not abrasive, things like wood PLA can damage your nozzle, also with time they tend to wear out themselves so it is indicated to change them often.
Stainless steel – more resistant and also great for printing pets and other things that you use with food or beverage because it doesn’t contain lead

Other materials – Usually are made by expensive material so they can last for a long time, and I mean a very long time, a ruby nozzle is very expensive but it’s the best you can get and it will last you a lifetime.

Now the most important part:

Slicer settings

Speed is the key!

When dealing with tiny miniatures we have to proportionate our speed, also we will try to reduce it as much as possible so it has a nice flow when printing avoiding sudden movements. I typically use 30 mm /s for the walls and 40 mm for the infill.
speed helps a lot especially on circular movements which are the most difficult to handle.

Clean supports

So here is our model

Awesome figurine ,but it is a very tricky print . This is the perfect example to tune your printer settings to achieve perfect supports.

I will be using this model as it is the perfect example and lots of people tried to print it without success. As you can see we have 2 problems here 1. The rifle is very thin.

  1. Baby Yoda is slightly attached to The Mandalorian hovering in mid-air
    now if we use automatic support we will get this mess

It will be very difficult to remove the support without ruining our model so what the proper way to handle this.
first of all, we check the voice touching build plate, this way we remove lots of support and it will not ruin our printed surface as it will only generate the support on the build plate.
Support angle
I advise you to do an angle support test first to see how much you can push your printer and how good is your cooling, but I don’t recommend pushing this number to the maximum. I try to increase the number until I’m happy with the results, in this case, I want the supports to cover the important parts and the most fragile ones , I want them to fully cover the rifle as its the most essential part, but I want to avoid places like the face so balancing this number is important. In my case, the perfect number is 55 % I could go higher but risking ruining the print whole print.
Support line distance


Sometimes it is difficult to remove the supports, That’s because the distance between the print and the support is too small, this value is also called support line distance I adjust this value by modifying the support density as it affects the distance and lowering the value should help.
Another cool thing is using the experimental tree support this can be a lifesaver in some cases, usually when your model has lots of hovering distinct parts. The problem I encounter is that it’s difficult to adjust in a manner in which it will just snap off the print.

So by doing this, you should have the perfect combinations to print an awesome miniature with a quality that equals resin printers, as I said every printer is different so it might take a couple of tries but once you get it right you can use those settings for later use.

Results

Let’s look at out printed figurines.

mando printed
Little artifacts from the supports even on the rifle this figure is tall 8 centimeters

Nozzle: 0.4 mm
Layer height:0.1mm
Wall line count: 3
Speed: 30mm/s
Infill: 60% ( like them heavier)
Support: 55%

After that we have the Barbarian

Print settings

Nozzle: 0.2 mm
Layer height:0.05mm
Wall line count: 3
Speed: 30mm/s
Infill: 60%
Support: 75%

It is pretty easy getting high-quality prints even on miniature with printers below 300 dollars as you can see. Printer settings help you avoid lots of problems and tuning them correctly is much easier than you think!
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that you found it useful, check out my Cura profiles page to download my profile for miniatures!

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Summary
The perfect miniature witha FDM printer
Article Name
The perfect miniature witha FDM printer
Description
Struggling with your miniatures? Check out my way of printing them perfectly, almost as resin printers, with these tips.
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3DprintGuides

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