What exactly are the limits of 3D printers today? We know that objects are limited in size on the upper end by the 3D printer’s build volume. If a build volume is 12 cubic centimeters, then you can’t print anything larger than 12 cubic centimeters on that printer. With this said, you never really come across people who ask about how small of an object, a 3D printer can accurately print. With consumer and prosumer level 3D printers, such as the FDM and SLA based machines which are most common today, you don’t see too many people striving to create extremely small objects. FDM based 3D printers are limited in scope more so than SLA printers because they just can’t achieve the same detailed print resolutions as their counterparts. This brings up the question of what exactly are the limitations on the higher resolution SLA 3D printers?
“We use 3D printers to produce the digitally designed models and have been doing this for around 5 years now,” Fisher told us. “Using these prints we use them as masters when using traditional resin casting methods to produce batches of resin miniatures.”
Zealot Miniatures is known for their models, and aftermarket parts, as well as their scenery and conversion kits for miniatures. Most of their models are in the realm of Sci-Fi and fantasy, but they also do a decent amount of custom modeling for clients. Just recently, Fisher was asked to create a miniature Navy crew member for a client who is producing a model warship. He wanted to have multiple crew members on board as part of the model. So, Fisher and team went to work.
“It (the Navy crew member) was sculpted by Bob Naismith (somewhat of a legend among miniature circles) and printed on our newest printer, the B9 Creator v1.2 which features a 1080p projector for amazing new resolution, higher than all of the out-the-box EnvisionTEC machines,” said Fisher. “I’m printing at XY:30 microns and Z:15 microns!”
As you can see in the image above, the print is quite amazing, especially for being only 3mm in height. However, Fisher admits that he created an STL file which featured very little detail because he did not believe it would come out all that successful. “So I didn’t use a higher detail file, but actually the print came out pretty much exactly like the file, and I think if I reprint this with a higher detail STL, I can get a lot more details on the print,” he told us.
This print is just a test. Fisher plans to make some modifications prior to creating the final product. For those who were wondering, the Navy crew member was printed at a 1:600 scale. The entire warship, for this crew member to stand on will also be created by Fisher, who plans to have it printed out and ready for casting next week. It should be interesting to see how the final product turns out.