Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Model Year with the Anycubic Photon

Seize the day.  Learn how to not suck.
Inspirobot has already ordered replacement FEP.
It's been more than a year since I took my first steps into the hobby that is 3d printing.  This isn't really a 'review' of the Photon, but more of a discussion on 3d printing in relation to my main hobby: tabletop wargaming.  I took most of my hobby time in 2020 (little as there was) and put it into beginning to understand and master my new piece of equipment.  So, I huddled into my hermitage and began to experiment and study.

Let me say I had only a working knowledge of 3d design when I obtained my first printer.  I had worked in 3d environments before, and was quite familiar with coding - but less so the sculpting.  I am not a 3d artist, I'm a graphic designer.  Due to general professional experience and my hobby interests, and the fact that I love both video games and game design, I did happen to already know a great deal about the software side of this and it didn't really require much to get to where I wanted to be.  However, the sculpting of brand new pieces is something altogether different and much of my work in this area was to merely alter objects to my whatever my preferences were at the moment.

I immediately found I was going to need some stuff other than a 3d printer.  I think a resin printer is best for miniatures, and I also think they are basically cheaper and take less effort than some extrusion rigs.  Even so, you'll need a healthy supply of chemicals and a place to work with them.  It's not just 'beep-boop here's your toy boat or whatever'.  A curing station and wash station will be needed, but those are cheap.  I use a series of plastic containers for my wash / waste processing, but I bought a cheap curing station on the internet and it was a huge help.  You will also need large amounts of isopropyl alcohol for cleaning the resin - and most of these chemicals can be dangerous, so you also need safety equipment and half a brain.

Positioning your models correctly for the best print is one of the first challenges I had to address.  Improper positioning of the model is one of the things you really just have to 'learn' - and then, of course, comes the part where you have to add supports.  I don't have a lot of experience with 'pre-supported' models...and really didn't even know that was a thing until recently, with more sculptors offering such in their 3d model catalogs.  So, most of the models I've printed were 3d objects that may or may not have been intended to be 3d printed.

One thing I learned is to always have spare FEP film on hand.  Because of a failed print, I had seriously damaged the FEP almost immediately upon attempting to print.  Not the very first print I did, because I lucked out and selected an object that just happened to not need any supports.  It's perhaps the most delicate part of the machine (behind the LED screen itself) and they don't last forever, even if everything is going good.  However, this can cause problems for prints if it is damaged or folds, so be prepared with extra film at all times.  You don't want to have to stop a multi-print project for a week to wait on gear from the internet.

After I started to establish a complete understanding of the workflow, I saw how it was time to branch out with the software I was using for various tasks.  The software is where most of the work is done, and expanding your suite of programs to work with different projects is a something you may need to look into.  I already had Blender, but as I learned how to make the 3d objects into actual physical objects I found myself using Microsoft 3D Builder quite a bit.  I was actually surprised at what it can do and how reliable it is in fixing 3d meshes for stereolithography - and it was already on my PC.

Learning that I didn't have to use the Photon Slicer was also a huge leap.  When I found Chitubox and finally dared use it, I immediately started to have better and more reliable print results.  After I saw how it created supports and was able to help with finding 'islands' of non-printable meshes, my understanding of the process improved a great deal.  I have only failed a few prints since, and it's helped circumnavigate a few problems that arose from the other equipment.

For example, one thing you'll have to weed through if you want to print in resin is how the resin itself works.  For each and every resin, you'll need to dial-in the settings on your printer to get a good result.  Some resin is easier to cure than others, and each has it's own properties that may be favorable for certain projects.  The community tended resin settings spreadsheet is an invaluable tool that will save a lot of trial-and-error, but also provides enough data to experiment with reasonably predicable results.

When I first got into computer code some twenty-five years ago, I thought that it was like magic - making the machine do what you want by speaking in symbols and arcane languages known only to the enlightened.  With 3d printing - well, every single successful print blows my mind, while every failure weighs on my soul.  

So, at the beginning of 2021 I'm starting to print at an alarming rate - and I don't even care.  Half of what I print is just to see if I can, the other half is just because I think it's cool.  I haven't tried printing an army yet - but that's on the slate this year.  I also intend to support a lot of cool sculptors on Patreon, who so graciously provide pre-supported models I can just print and not have to work on beforehand.

Just remember, all trial and error is par for course - especially if you're like me and just slam your forehead against the wall until something breaks.  There is a lot that goes into this hobby, but I had the internet to teach me.  Reddit and Facebook have been a great help with all the 'support' groups I've joined.  You can pretty much guarantee that not every print will be perfect, and new problems will arise as soon as you think you've gotten past them.

So just get past them a hurdle at a time. 

I have to go change my FEP.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think about that?