Category Archives: 3D Printing

Monoprice Select Mini Pro 3D Printer

Last week my Colido DIY 3D printer failed again, and I got fed up with it, so I decided to order a new 3D printer.

I used the method that I’ve mentioned before in a post and recently added here:

3D Printer Shopping

I wanted a replacement printer that would suit my normal prints: small items for tabletop games.  I wanted something more reliable/easier to run than my Colido DIY.  I also didn’t want it to be too expensive, particularly as the Snapmaker 2 Kickstarter is upcoming.

After going through all of this, I settled on the Monoprice Select Mini Pro (I’ve linked to the company website, but I bought it through Amazon).  I had heard people say good things about them, and I did some poking around.  I particularly liked that it was effectively version 3 of a standing line of 3D printers, which bodes well for it having a lot of the issues worked out.

Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:

Calibration:

This printer being preassembled and precalibrated is working out really well so far.  I’ve been getting better print quality and consistency with this printer than I did with the Colido DIY that I built myself.  I’ve been able to print things I wouldn’t have dared attempt on the old printer, partly due to quality issues, and partly because the printer had the tendency to fail catastrophically in a couple different ways.

The self-levelling feature saves me a lot of effort trying to figure out how to adjust the printer.  No more turning the z-axis direct drive screws and setting the z-axis stop screw.

Bed:

The metal print bed is rigid and coated, so it should be less prone to gouging and possible warping than the plastic bed I’m used to.

Unlike the previous printer, this one has a heated print bed, which I’ve had no prior experience with,  This will be a learning experience, and broaden my knowledge base.

This bed being coated means I’m not going to have to keep maintaining a layer of painter’s tape.  However… it might be holding too well.  I don’t know if I’ve got something set incorrectly, but it is really difficult to remove prints from the print bed, even with a raft attached.  I’m asking questions in some 3D printing circles to see if I can make it release easier.

Bowden Tube:

I’ve never used one of these before.  This is a tube that directs the filament in a more consistent manner to the print head.  I’m still unsure how I feel about this thing.  I worry that it’s adding another location that could get clogged.  It does make it so that I don’t have to worry about where the path of the filament is too much.

Wifi:

This thing is wifi-enabled!  I don’t have to carry a flash drive or SD card from one room to another to print files, though there is still the option for micro-SD cards and plugging a computer in via micro-USB.  I can even set the extruder and bed temperatures remotely, and tell the printer to print the file after I transfer it over the wifi.  I will note that I’ve had some issues with failed file transfers, which requires power-cycling the printer itself, and reattempting the transfer until it works.  It’s annoying, but not a huge issue so far.  Hopefully a firmware update will help with this.

Be careful to make sure there isn’t something already on the printer when you transfer a file.  Sometimes the printer appears to start a new print as soon as you transfer the file, without clicking the Start Print button.

Headless printing:

This thing can run itself entirely independently, without needing a computer attached to it.  This alone has drastically improved my setup, as I don’t have to have a computer within cable reach of the printer.  No more worrying with an old laptop!

Since there is no computer directly plugged into the computer, you use the onboard touchscreen to control the printer (unless you want to plug a computer in, but that is optional).  This touchscreen can be a bit finicky, but it is nice being able to give commands directly to the printer.  However, there are a couple issues:

  • When a print is finished, the button to return to the main screen is NOT visible.  You need to tap on the right side of the screen, and you will find an invisible home button.
  • PRESSING THE PAUSE BUTTON DOES NOT IMMEDIATELY PAUSE THE PRINT. So, watch out for that if you are trying to stop in an emergency.  You might need to kill the power with the switch on the back of the printer.  So far I’ve only needed to use it once, when I accidentally triggered a movement sequence while there was a print still on the printer.

Slicing:

Slicing software comes with the printer.  It was Cura, if I remember correctly.  However, I use Simplify3D, and they already have a profile from previous iterations of the printer!  I’m continuing to use it to slice my files, and this time I’m trying to apply some lessons learned from previously,  I’m making different printer profiles for different PLA filaments, since they have different temperature ranges.  I used to use one profile for all, and that caused issues with prints because the filaments that you would think only differed in color would not behave the same for the same temperatures.  I’m building these profiles as I go along, based on my tweaks on the default settings for this printer.

 

Summary:

Overall, this printer appears to be a vast improvement over my previous one.  I think this one might even be stable enough to let it print semi-unattended.  The print quality seems so much higher that I might even be able to start printing more standard-style minis, once I tweak a bit more.  It could use a more detailed manual, though.  It’s rather short, and I’m having to poke around various sources for guidance.

3D Printer Refresh

Earlier this week when trying to print another mini for D&D, I made the mistake of leaving the room before it started the first layer.  As it occasionally does, the Colido DIY that I have went past the endstop switch, and gouged the print bed, getting the nozzle stuck in one of the screw holes on the printing bed before I could get to it to yank the power breakaway cable.

I got fed up with the printer.  I can probably still fix it as I have before, but as far as I’m concerned I’m done with this one.  I ordered me a new printer which arrived today.

I ended up getting a Monoprice Select Mini Pro 3D printer, based on using a tool I’ve mentioned previously to find something that fit my criteria.  It’s got a much smaller print volume, but it comes preassembled, precalibrated, has a heated print bed, is self-levelling, and is wifi enabled.

I’ll probably go more into this 3D printer at a later time, giving my review of it so far… especially after I get it fine-tuned.

Suffice it to say, I was tired of running a printer I didn’t feel I could trust, and it was time to get a new one.  As I’ve mentioned before, I eventually want to get the Snapmaker 2, which will get me back up to the larger print volume and expand my manufacturing capabilities, but I needed something in the meantime that wasn’t too terribly expensive.  Most of what I print are small miniatures for D&D games, so I’m not really giving up much except the occasional larger print item that I rarely do anyway.  I’ve currently got one of the provided test print files running on it, and I can already tell you that this printer is much quieter than the last.  I can’t hear it from my computer room like the other one.

Snapmaker 2 Kickstarter Upcoming!

I’ve mentioned before the Snapmaker 3D printer, which is a combination of a 3D printer, a laser engraver, and a CNC milling machine.  As  I mentioned at the time, the original model is smaller than my current printer and would require me to downsize my printable area (assuming I’m replacing rather than supplementing my current printer).  I’ve also gotten the impression that a 3D printer with a single z-axis column is prone to having vibration issues.  They had teased an image of a two column model that they were going to release down the road, but had not provided a lot of information about it.

Well, that’s changed.

Somewhat recently they have announced that they are going to start a Kickstarter campaign for the Snapmaker 2.  The Snapmaker 2 is their blanket term for their next generation, which has upgraded components across the board.  It also includes three sizes of printers you can get.

As you can see, the larger two sizes have the two column design I want, which should be more stable and provide a larger build area.  I haven’t decided which of those two I’ll eventually want, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be getting one of those two at some point.

This new generation appears to be loaded with features, including auto-leveling, wi-fi control, filament sensors, power-loss detection and recovery, and more.  That’s a hell of an improvement over my Colido DIY which is almost completely manually operated.  I look forward to being able to get more reliable prints that I can run wirelessly and not require a computer to be plugged directly into it.

I’m looking forward to learning more, and hopefully getting my hands on one of these sturdy multipurpose fabbing machines.  Gonna get busy building with one of these!

DM Tools: DM’s Toolbox of Holding

I thought it was time to share some of my tools of the trade.  This toolbox was supposed to be the first post in that series, but I realized the section with Flatminis wouldn’t make much sense without doing the Flatminis article first.

Anyway, I would like to start by making it clear that this is just my toolbox, what I’ve decided to put together and what works for me.  This is by no means saying that this is “THE” way to put a DM’s toolbox together, this is just what works for me.  I know many other DMs who use almost completely different and often much smaller sets of tools/ game aids and run games as good or better than mine.  I also bring in the toolbox regardless of whether I’m running or playing, as a DM can always have a bad day when they forgot to bring something, or a player might have forgotten stuff for the character they are playing that night.  I must note that I’ve only been running Adventure League games with this toolbox, so the items I might need are more predictable and the NPC characters are premade, so there are some items that homebrew DMs might use to help with a more spontaneous game that are not included in the toolbox in it’s present form.

I’ve included hyperlinks in this article to the appropriate Thingiverse pages for most of the items in the box.

For my toolbox, I got a standard crafting toolbox from a hobby store, since it has a bunch of compartments for small objects.  I customized it a bit for my own use.

Toolbox_Top.png

Translation of the runes:

“I prepared explosive runes this morning”

I finally found a place for a bumper sticker I’ve always wanted to use.  I thought it was appropriate for DMing.

Back_Of_Toolbox.png

One of the top compartments holds a couple of spare sets of dice, in case of a new player or someone forgetting their dice.  The other holds a couple dozen goblin Flatminis.  You can never really have enough goblins.

Toolbox_Top_Open_2.png

Here’s the inside of the toolbox.  As you can see most of the items in my toolbox are 3D printed.  I won’t go into everything in the box, but I  will cover some of the highlights.

Toolbox Open.png

At the top of the toolbox are minis I keep for a lot of common enemies, mostly the Flatminis kind.

Toolbox_Open_Upper.png

This toolbox has minis for groups of:

For use with those, I have numbered bases to make DM monster accounting simpler, and unnumbered bases for more distinct minis that I covered in another post.  For enemies I don’t have specific minis of, I have ninjas.  Because… why not ninjas?

773f84a53f646d9ff9563ef1286d77f5_preview_featured.jpg

FlatMinis: Ninja

I have doors for when we want to mark open or closed doors on the game mat.  When I made these I scaled them up so they’d match a 1 inch grid.

doors1.jpg

Mansions of Madness Doors

I even have a kicked in door that someone designed on Thingiverse shortly after I put a general inquiry out on one of the groups.

Kicked In Door.jpg

Broken Door Miniature

For when I don’t have a distinctly different mini for a chieftain or other leader of a group of enemies, I have some different colored marker bases to indicate them.

Minis Leader Marker.jpg

Minis Leader Marker

For creatures that are enlarged from medium to large, or to hold some of the larger minis I have, I have these bases which I modified to be compatible with a few different things.

Numbered Multicompatible Base.jpgNumbered Multicompatible Enlarger Base

I also have a few templates for various spell effects, and markers for effects.  The easiest to do one are the status effect indicators, which are just rings from plastic soda bottles.  I keep them on a carabiner clip for ease of storage.

templates.jpg

Some of the most fun/useful items to me are the tokens I use.  I have tokens to remind people of various effects they have access to.  Inspiration tokens for DMs to hand out, bardic inspiration tokens for my bard to use, a token to mark enemies who failed to save against vicious mockery, and death save success and failure tokens.

tokens.jpgThere are many other odds and ends in here such as scatter terrain, and minis that I rotate in and out of usage when I feel I need them (or not).  I often don’t use more than a fraction of the box when I’m not DMing, but I’ve also had situations where it ended up saving the game that night because the DM forgot to pack most of their minis or didn’t have a collection of their own yet.  That (and all the stuff I tend to make for my own characters) makes it worth it to me to carry it around every game night.

Oh, and I can’t forget this guy:

kool-aid

OH YEAAAAAAAH!

Sometimes you just need somebody to represent a large creature.

NEW MODELS POSTED: 01/13/2019

I’ve been going through some of the files on my desktop, and decided to catch up a bit more on uploading them.

Bardic Inspiration Token

This is one of the 3D printed items that I’ve used the most at the gaming table.  It helps remind people when I’ve given them bardic inspiration, and reminds me of how many uses I have.

Bardic Inspiration Tokens.jpg

The below items I haven’t got printed examples of, as far as I know.  They are items I mixed into new items, but then decided not to actually use.

Bone Pile – Based

Meeple-Based Commoner Token

 

 

DM Tools: Flatminis and Case

I’ve probably been a bit confusing with some of my posts so far, referring to my collection of Flatminis without really explaining them, so here it is.

Flatminis are series of RPG minis available on Thingiverse for free to 3D print.  They are more of what I refer to as 2.5D minis, as they are designed to print flat on a 3D print bed, and it adds depth to them in layers, not requiring any sort of support (though I do highly recommend printing them using rafting, or you’ll have a hard time getting them off the plate).  You print the mini that has a standardized connector tab, and you print a matching base system to go with them that you insert the tab into like so:

1.

flatminis 1

2.

flatminis 2.jpg

3.

flatminis 3.jpg

The base design is standardized, so if you have your printer calibrated well you can print a number of the bases, and then print an even larger number of minis because you likely aren’t going to need all the minis at the same time.

Also, by storing the mini and base separately, you can store them much more compactly.  I keep a lot of the bases in my toolbox, and the player character/npc minis in a separate case for ease of storage and access.  The case is a little display case that I found at a hobby store and added some layers of felt to thicken up the padding and make it look better.  I also had to tape back the display stand portion of it so it wouldn’t flap in the way.

flatminis case closed.jpg

flatminis case open.jpgflatminis case back.jpg

Personally, I sometimes refer to these as Crayola Characters.  Why?  Because I like 3D printing, but not so much doing the detailed painting others do with minis, I literally use crayola markers to color in the white plastic characters, and then clearcoat the outside with nail polish topcoat 24 hours later to seal in the ink and prevent smearing/wearing off on other items (or my hands) in use or storage.

flatminis-colored-in.jpg

Sure, these minis can be simplistic and goofy looking, but I like them.  It allows me to safely and easily carry a wide variety of minis for when someone (particularly newer players or players with new characters) doesn’t have a mini, or when we need some random NPCs in a game.

Also, my enemy minis are mostly Flatminis as well, allowing me to keep an assortment of common enemies on hand without having to carry a bulky foam case with a lot of fragile minis.  I have at least 8 of each of the following minis.

flatminis enemies.jpg

Thingiverse has a pretty good variety of them, which I and some others add to every so often as we create things for our own needs.  I tend to remix in the connector pieces from existing Flatminis, and use a combination of Paint and Microsoft 3D Builder to turn 2D images into minis designs like I did with the heads of the orcs.

flatminis orc.jpg

Sometimes I also find keychains or other mostly flat designs on Thingiverse and remix them into Flatminis, like I did with my ninja minis and making twig blights out of a model of baby Groot.

flatminis ninja and groot.jpg

For DM accounting purposes I made some modified bases with numbers on them,

numbered flatminis bases.jpg

There are also some large size Flatminis.

large flatminis.jpg

It’s really convenient storage and portability-wise to use Flatminis, and enables me to always have a good amount of mini variety at the table.  It’s also kinda awesome when we have new players at the table who don’t have minis.  There’s almost always something close enough for someone to use.

Note:  There are weapon sets made to fit Flatminis, but I don’t make these due to some issues with the 3D printing process of such small and thin objects.