Why buy anything when you can 3D print it? That’s the question consistently in my mind since I bought my 3D printer.
When it comes to tabletop games, you can start getting creative. All you need is a 3d printer and your favorite characters will come to life.
But which is the best 3D printer for miniatures? After doing 12 hours of research let’s take a look at what your best options are!
Table of Contents
- Top 7 3D Printers For Miniatures For 2020
- 1. Anycubic Photon S (Best Overall Resin Printer)
- 2. Elegoo Mars (Best Budget Resin Printer)
- 3. LulzBot Mini 2 (Best All-Around FDM 3D Printer)
- 4. Flashforge Creator Pro (Best Value FDM 3D Printer)
- 5. Creality Ender 5 (Best Budget FDM 3D Printer)
- 6. Ultimaker S3 3D Printer (Our High-End FDM 3D Printer Pick)
- Specs to Consider for Your 3D Printer
- Nozzle Temperatures For Different Materials
- Overall Build Volume
- Quality Of Craftsmanship
- Bed Material And Adhesion
- Types Of Miniatures You Can 3D Print
- Can You Print Props And Terrain?
- 3D Printing Miniature Figurines 54mm And Larger
- 3D Printing Small Detailed Figurines
- FDM Or SLA Printers?
- Where To Download Miniatures To 3D Print?
- Will A “Home 3D Printer” Get The Job Done?
- How Much Does It Cost To 3D Print A Miniature?
- Best Filament For Miniatures
Top 7 3D Printers For Miniatures For 2020
Printer Type: MSLA | Layer Resolution: 10 microns | Materials: 405um resin | Build Volume: 115 x 65 x 165 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 220 x 200 x 400mm / 6.6 kg
If you’re specifically looking to 3d print 28-30mm miniatures with quality as good if not better than Hero Forge then the Photon is for you. It will print miniatures with insane precision and accuracy. Due to the precision, you can go even smaller without losing the fine details which can’t be said for the other (FDM) printers on this list.
On top of that, the price is reasonable and it tends to over-deliver.
The secret to all of these benefits is that it uses SLA technology, not FDM.
The Photon comes ready to print right out of the box, with no assembly required. The creators had ease-of-use in mind when they put together this printer.
Lastly, leveling the bed is a breeze so you won’t waste time setting up your printer.
Printer Type: LCD | Layer Resolution: 10+ microns | Materials: 405 nm resins | Build Volume: 120 x 68 x 155 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 195 x 195 x 405 mm / 15 lbs
When you’re talking about budget resin printers, it’s impossible not to think of the Elegoo Mars. It’s one of those printers that have a price tag that doesn’t make sense.
You can get incredible detail and accuracy at a low price. It is used by beginners and intermediate printers alike. It’s easy to set up, easy to use, and hard to ignore. This sub $400 unit printer will achieve detail that units above $1,000 cannot.
For that reason, it is the best budget resin printer you can find for making miniatures.
Printer Type: FFF | Layer Resolution: 0.05mm-0.4mm | Materials: PLA, TPU, ABS, PETG, nGen, INOVA-1800, HIPS, HT | Build Volume: 160mm x 160mm x 180mm | Printer Size / Weight: 58.4cm x 45.7cm x 53.3cm / 26.5lbs
Another 3D printer you can’t go wrong with is one by LulzBot. The guys at LulzBot walk the line between budget-friendly and super serious machinery.
The Mini 2 is the second iteration of their desktop unit. It has a small overall area which means a small build volume, but its nozzle gets insanely hot which is great for 3d printing with variety of materials, and the filament feed reduces potential maintenance moving forward.
Printer Type: FDM | Layer Resolution: 100 microns | Materials: ABS, PETG, PLA, PVA | Build Volume: 227 × 148 × 150 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 480 x 338 x 385 mm / 19 kg
This unit lands near the top in almost any category. It’s one of the strongest performers in the space, and it’s a super reliable 3d printer. It comes with a lot of accessories – including filament. It’s fully enclosed, has dual extruders (not just dual nozzles), and has an illuminated build chamber.
Printer Type: FDM | Layer Resolution: 100 microns | Materials: PLA/ABS/WOOD/ COPPER/GRADIENT | Build Volume: 220 x 220 x 300 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 440 x 410 x 465 mm / 11.8 kg
This is one of those rare finds that doesn’t seem to make sense. It has such a low price but delivers insane results.
My coworker made some 3D print minis on his Ender 5 and compared it to my Lulzbot and I really couldn’t tell the difference.
This unit is assembled by you, but it’s so low-cost, has an enormous build volume, a decent nozzle temp, and a very useful print bed. If you want the option to 3d print things other than miniatures then this is the 3d printer for you.
Printer Type: FFF | Layer Resolution: 20 microns | Materials: PLA, ABS, Nylon, CPE, PC, PP, TPU, PVA | Build Volume: 230 x 190 mm | Printer Size / Weight: 394 x 489 x 637 mm / 45.4 pounds
If you’ve talked with a 3D printer enthusiast in the past, there are a few names they might mention. Ultimaker is always one of those names. The brand is one of the first to come to the scene with a quality printer. They also make spectacular filament which, in my opinion, is the best filament for miniatures. This unit is more expensive than others but it delivers exceptional quality, a self-leveling head, and an optional upgrade of an enclosure to boost performance.
Specs to Consider for Your 3D Printer
It’s simple enough. So why are there so many kinds of printers with a huge price range? You guessed it. It’s not as simple as we think. When you get into the minutia of the technical pieces in a 3D printer, it gets really complex. This is where the key differences are.
Nozzle Temperatures For Different Materials
Understanding that concept, you realize that 3D printers only work if they can get hotter than the plastic’s melting temperature – otherwise no plastic would come out.
Different materials like ABS plastic take a much higher nozzle temperature. The higher the temperature a 3d printer can achieve, the more expensive it gets.
Overall Build Volume
The build envelope, or build volume, describes the cubic dimensions you can print in. How wide, tall, and long of a piece can you print? Every printer has its limitations. The bigger the build envelope, the bigger the printer.
For your case, you might not think you’d care about the build volume, you’re just making miniatures after all. But picture this; instead of making 10 miniatures overnight, you make 100. Keep in mind that 3D printing isn’t the fastest process, and you’ll probably find yourself setting up a print and having it print overnight. The bigger a build volume you have, the more miniatures you can line up on the print bed at a time!
Quality Of Craftsmanship
Working in the world of the miniature, you need a rigid and well-put-together printer. This is the one area you really can’t afford to overlook.
Bed Material And Adhesion
I’ve had a ton of nightmares associated with bed adhesion, and I’m sure it’s the biggest headache from people who use 3D printers. If your first layer isn’t perfectly adhered to, your entire print is going to suffer. Your miniature could topple over halfway through, look unpresentable afterward, or not be printable altogether.
Luckily there are a ton of aftermarket hacks and tips to get better bed adhesion, but if your print bed is not an ideal material, you might as well throw in the towel.
Types Of Miniatures You Can 3D Print
This is an interesting thing to consider because at the end of the day all you care about is what can your printer print. This varies from machine to machine. The quick and easy answer is – anything that can fit inside your build envelope, you can print.
Depending on the unit, 3D printers can knock out complex geometries, tiny pieces, highly detailed pieces, and multi-colored pieces.
Can You Print Props And Terrain?
The only thing that makes your game night better is having terrain to help your party better immerse themselves. 3D printers can print out maps with terrains, small props for your figurines, and tools to help the quest develop.
3D Printing Miniature Figurines 54mm And Larger
A 54mm figurine is no problem for most printers. The bigger you get, the more details you can add and the more recognizable the figure becomes. The only limitation is your print envelope and your imagination.
3D Printing Small Detailed Figurines
When you start talking between the 28mm and 54mm size for a 3D printer, you need to be more careful. If you don’t have the best 3D printer for 28mm miniatures, your small features will all meld together and become indiscernible. I tried printing my Einstein bust at a smaller scale on my printer and it looked more like Sloth from the Goonies.
There are certain 3D printers specifically for high-detail, high-resolution prints. You want to go after resin 3d printers (Anycubic, Elegoo, Epax, Peopoly, etc.) as they provide more detail than 3d printers that print filament such as ABS, PLA, PET. Most printers will do a decent job but depending on the print they might fall short.
FDM Or SLA Printers?
For 3D printing miniatures, you can either use an FDM or SLA printer. They have their differences so it’s up to what the user wants. FDM printers make plastic really hot then lay down the material layer after layer. They’re easier to use and a lot less expensive to purchase and operate. On top of that, FDM printers typically also have larger build volumes. The downside is they are less accurate and produce a lower quality print.
SLA printers use light to cure liquid resin into a solid 3d printed part. This technology makes SLA printers more expensive to buy and operate than FDM printers. The trade-off is that SLA printers are more accurate and allow you to achieve much better detail, especially on smaller pieces. This is great news for people who want to print miniatures with lots of detail.
Where To Download Miniatures To 3D Print?
This is the million-dollar question.
3D printers use .STL files which can be generated from a CADD software. So if you know how to do 3D modeling, your favorite 3D CAD program will be able to export to an .STL file and you can design your own. If you have a 3D scanner and access to a figure you want to 3D print yourself, it’s the same story.
The main problem arises for those who don’t have 3D CAD experience, a 3D scanner, or a reference figurine.
Luckily, there are others like you out there! That’s why we have all of these online repositories that are full of all types of files, all optimized for 3D printing. These sites might also give you a CAD file that you can manipulate, but all the uploaded files are available as a 3D printable .STL file.
In the past I’ve used GrabCAD because they also have a 3D printer monitoring software, and they give you the CAD files you can play with. The technology is technically optimized for professional-grade Stratasys 3D printers, but hobbyists can use the software too.
A slightly better platform to use is Pinshape. A community of tinkerers and DIYers upload their own 3D printable files and you can quickly download it and throw it right to the printer. It has more unique prints, and in my opinion the variety of prints is amazing.
The last platform you can consider is Thingiverse, this is the platform I spent the most time on. It’s another community-fueled repository of 3D printable files. There seems to be more available parts, and there’s an option for the community to “remix” someone’s submitted part to optimize it in one way or another. They even have D&D minis and a fantasy mini set ready to go!
Will A “Home 3D Printer” Get The Job Done?
Absolutely. The modern-day home printer is akin to the top-of-the-line printer 5 years ago. These desktop units will hit tight tolerances, have great finish quality, and require very little upfront effort to start. 3D printing gaming miniatures from home? Yes, please.
There’s no learning curve when it comes to just printing an object – it isn’t until you try optimizing the print that you run into hurdles. In fact, for my brother’s D&D night I made some 3D print D&D minis for us all. Admittedly, I also designed a loaded D20 and used my home printer to pop out a few prototypes to get the upper hand (sorry, bro).
How Much Does It Cost To 3D Print A Miniature?
This is where the 3D printer starts to shine. For one-off or custom pieces, the price simply cannot be matched. There is no fuel supply, just house power in and filament. So your only cost is electricity and the filament. You won’t even notice a change in your electric bill since these units are so low energy, so it’s really just filament cost.
You can easily find 1KG of economy PLA filament for less than $25. That works out to 2.5 cents per gram. Since 3D printing is an additive process, the total weight of the miniature will just about be the total amount of filament you use. For a 20g miniature, it’ll cost 50 cents. A rule of thumb is a 2 x 2 x 2 cm cube of PLA will weigh 10 grams.
Best Filament For Miniatures
Since there’s a ton of different filaments, you want to make sure you know the differences. When it comes to 3d printing miniatures you want to lean towards PLA plastic. It’s a lightweight, low-strength, run-of-the-mill material. It’s really easy to print with and almost any 3D printer can achieve the temp you need to print it (around 185-205 degrees C). PLA is the best filament for miniatures and should be used for any 3d printable miniatures!
Now’s the part you actually care about. Let’s take a look at some of the leading printers in this space. We need something that can print small and detailed parts. We want a printer that’s reliable and easy to use without breaking the bank. So what options do we have for 3d printing D&D miniatures and other small pieces?
There’s a lot that goes into a 3D printer. For when it comes to tabletop games, the Ultimaker S3 3D Printer is the best 3D printer for miniatures. Its extruder gets super-hot which means you can print any material. The build volume is very generous, and it boasts a dual extruder to allow for multi-color prints and prints with high resolution. The add-on to enclose the cabin leads to better overall prints. It’s easy to set up, easy to use, and has no reliability issues at all. The glass auto-leveling bed helps a ton. The UM3 is a printer for people who go beyond printing miniatures, they are tinkerers and high-octane DIYers.
Beyond that, Ultimaker makes the brand of PLA that is simply the best filament for miniatures. This brand is a titan in the 3D printing space, and it’s my personal go-to. Try it out and see what I mean!
Ender 5 is an amazing option when it comes to keeping costs low. It’s unbelievably affordable, it just takes some time, in the beginning, to set it up. It has a dual nozzle extruder which has some reliability issues, but otherwise, it’s a powerful machine. A generous build volume and high nozzle and bed temperatures allow for a wide range of materials. Ender 5 is the perfect machine for someone starting out. It gives them intimate knowledge of how a 3D printer works and will teach them a lot of lessons on troubleshooting. I couldn’t recommend it more for first-time printers.
FlashForge’s Creator Pro is a jack-of-all-trades type of printer. No one category truly shines, but it excels in every category. The price is fair, the temperatures are quite good, the build volume is a little on the small side, but it looks incredibly professional. This is good for a DIYer who’s a little more serious about their hobby.
The LulzBot Mini 2 is a small printer that can hit some really high temperatures. The price isn’t high, but it isn’t low either. Its open concept makes it look raw and unfinished, but the quality of the prints is super high. This is for someone who prints for the beauty of the process and love of the game, it’s a DIYer or tinkerer who loves to share his hobby with others
The Anycubic Photon is a printer for people who want incredible detail and precision with their miniatures. The printer comes fully-assembled and ready to print out of the box. It’s an SLA printer and it’s put together really well. The framework is robust and the machine looks really professional. This is for people who want to make professional-grade miniatures.
Last but not least is Elegoo Mars. This is the go-to printer for people who want the benefits of SLA printers without the high price tag. It’s a budget-friendly option that still achieves incredible detail and precision. It’s a great option for DIY-ers and hobbyists who want to make very detailed pieces.