Adventures in Resin Printing

I have a 3D printer that I’ve been building for several years now – For a while I was working on it quite regularly and making all kinds of progress, but at a certain point family obligations started to demand more of my time and so for a period of about 3 years I didn’t work on the machine at all. I was meaning to get back to it for a while but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and for a while I couldn’t go to the makerspace where I store and work on the project at all. Between the frustrations I faced in the project, my inability to go work on it, and a general frustration in the modeling hobby and a desire to become a productive modeler again, I decided to buy a 3D printer that I could use to print models now, and which could complement the other printer later.
After a fair bit of deliberation I decided on a low-cost resin printer. The great thing about resin printers (even low-cost ones) is that they can produce very smooth and finely-detailed prints. I figured that once my other printer (the typical plastic-extruded-through-a-hot-nozzle FDM type) was done a resin printer would still be useful for common needs like hands, as most mecha kits’ included hands are garbage. I figured I could take the hands from my Zaku Kai model, which I created in Blender back in 2007 or so, and have a good starting point for a first print.
Unfortunately, I made those hands back in 2007 or so. They were terrible. I had to start over. It took me a while but I finally got the new hands to a state where I felt ready to print them.

I really underestimated at first the work that would be needed to make the hands in the Blender model look good. The existing hands really were among the earliest things I made in Blender, and frankly, they were terrible.

The new effort worked directly from the reference art as a starting point and achieved a much more natural-looking expression early on as a result. The work went through a number of iterations as I tried to fit the reference art better, make it fit the Zaku better, and make it function better when posed using the armature. Finally I had something I felt was ready for printing – it really felt great to finally set up the machine and get it going. Though the first few attempts to print the hand completely failed because the supports weren’t strong enough. Over a few iterations I got better at setting up the print with strong enough supports to get successful prints.

Then, having gotten a few successful prints of the hand, I thought, why not print more parts? So I went as far as printing the whole left arm of the Zaku in 1:60 scale.

Ultimately my goal isn’t to give up on traditional model-making methods – but achieving the kind of results I want has always been very time-consuming and it’s harder for me to dedicate that time to model-making these days. I’d like 3D printing to help me achieve those same results more quickly. Both the Zaku Kai Blender model and the new hand model are available in my Git repository. The models in the “CG_Models” repository are provided under the Creative Commons “Attribution-ShareAlike” license. This means you can use the models pretty much however you like, as long as you properly acknowledge my role in creating the model, and if you modify my work, you should share the modifications under the same terms. Both models are provided in the Blender format which was used to author them – while this isn’t the most convenient for 3D printing, it does make it easy to do things like change the pose before printing.

1 Comment(s)

  1. That arm looks so nice, excellent work… is it articulated too?

    attemborough | 2021-12-04 | Reply

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