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FDM or SLA Resin Printer. Which Should I Buy to 3D Print Miniatures?

Which 3D Printer – FDM or Resin?

FDM(Fused Deposition Modeling) or SLA Resin(Stereolithography Apparatus) for 3D Printing Miniatures?

Simple answer? When it comes to miniatures, resin is king. There is no comparison to the detail you can achieve with a resin printer, which is only enhanced when your machine is dialed in. That’s not to say an FDM filament printer can’t print miniatures, but the task of dialing it in is daunting to say the least.

Why is resin better?

While both printers build objects in layers, they do it fundamentally different ways. FDM printers melt plastic filament and lay it down in layers averaging 0.2 mm until the print is complete. This has a tendency to leave noticeable layer lines in your prints. Nothing ruins an amazing miniature quite like visible layer lines. The small size of miniatures makes it difficult to hide those lines in post processing.

Most resin printers use UV lights to cure entire layers at one time from the bottom of a vat of liquid resin. These layers average 0.05 mm each, but can be even smaller to bring out more detail. An LCD screen is used to mask the areas that are not to be cured. Due to the highly detailed masks LCD screens provide, these detailed layers can be incredibly precise.

What if I already have an FDM printer? Do I need to buy a resin printer?

I will always suggest buying a resin printer if you’re serious about printing a lot of miniatures. However, there are steps you can take to print miniatures with your FDM printer.

  • Use a 0.2 or 0.1 mm nozzle. The smaller the nozzle, the more detailed the prints. The downside is that smaller nozzles are very easy to clog, so be sure to use good quality filament and keep your printer clean and maintained.
  • Slow your printing speed by a lot. My FDM printer can print well detailed standard sized prints at 70 mm/s, but the detail needed by miniatures would need a much slower speed. Before switching to resin, I saw good luck with speeds of about 30 mm/s.

Finally, a Pros and Cons breakdown…

Resin Pros:

  • High Quality Prints
  • Faster than an miniature optimized FDM printer.
  • Resin is easy to sand and file.
  • Takes paint well.
  • Layers bond together permanently.
  • Can print transparent/translucent parts.

Resin Cons:

  • Resin and necessary chemicals can be expensive.
  • Processing and cleanup is dirty and time consuming.
  • Can smell bad.
  • Some resins can be brittle.

FDM Pros:

  • Relatively easy to use.
  • Filament is inexpensive.
  • Filament available in a wide variety of colors.

FDM Cons:

  • Lower quality prints.
  • Smaller nozzles for printing miniatures are prone to clogging.
  • Difficult to sand.
  • Paint adherence seems to depend on formulation of individual filament brands.
  • Layers have tendency to separate.
  • Translucent parts show visible layer lines.

Where can I get a resin 3D printer?

Amazon is the most logical choice, as they tend to have the best prices. However, some web sites have special deals that you should be on the lookout for.

Are there any instances where FDM is better?

Yes. Due to the size limitations of most resin printers, large scale miniatures may not fit unless broken into many parts. In this case, a finely turned FDM printer would probably be a better choice. However, printing a large scale piece in multiple small parts on a resin printer will still give better detail.

Also, if you are printing terrain for tabletop gaming, an FDM printer will more often be the better choice.

Where can I get an FDM 3D printer?

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