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3D printing tips for beginners: how to 3D print a realistic looking sculpture

@Scan The World

3 months ago

Scan The World and My Mini Factory are all about printing! We always make sure that our cultural artifacts’ 3D models are not only perfectly detailed and true to the original work of art, but also optimized and ready to be 3D printed.

Sometimes we get questions on how to print, which object is best to choose, what are the printing times, what is the material that best suits when 3D printing a sculpture.
We finally decided to answer all these questions and to do so we asked Simon from Animedia Animation and Multimedia to help us (@animedia_vfx).

In this post you will learn some tips and tricks on how to realize a realistic looking 3D print of a sculpture (from Scan The World of course!).

Let’s get started!

First of all we let our friend and guest Simon introduce himself:

“My name is Simon Mrowczynski, I am 36 years old and I live in Baunatal near Kassel,Germany. My passions are 3D and Graphic Design. I have been interested in visual effects for cinema and video games since I was a kid and started 3D modelling early.
In my early career I worked as a motion designer in the advertising industry. Today I am a freelance 3D artist and motion designer always looking to learn new things. I am amazed by how the 3D technologies improved in the last years. 3D printing is now affordable and 3D artists who were only able to see their work on a screen can now print it out in good quality, that is why I started 3d printing in the first place!”

Tip 1: Choosing the right 3D model

When choosing the model, always check the mesh density. “The more polygons the 3D scan has the better the outcome.”

Tip 2: Suggestions on Printers and Filament

Simon uses an Elegoo Mars 2 Pro: “After I found out that 3D resin printing is affordable now, I searched a bit and realized that there are a lot of options around the 300€ printers.”

As for the material, Simon only recently started printing (even though it is impossible to tell looking at his incredible prints!) and for these Scan The World’s 3D printed sculptures he used the Standard Photopolymer Resin from Elegoo: “I am very satisfied with the stability and detail it shows when cured.”

Tip 3: Printing time and settings

In this case we took the bust of Antoninus Pius as an example:


The total printing time was 12 hours. It was printed in 0.025mm layer height and it is roughly 15cm in height.

Tip 4: Printing fails and what you can learn from it


(3D printed model of Julius Caesar)

1. The first tip Simon gives us is about the printer settings: “I learned that the standard settings for a printer are not the settings for the best quality”.

2. Supports might cause issues such as printing lines or misplacements that can cause print failure.

3. Temperature needs to be controlled: especially when printing in resin materials. If the temperature is too cold, the material won’t flow as smoothly and fast as its viscosity will be affected by the colder temperature. In this case a tip is to change the printer’s lift speed and height to give it more time and to adapt to the temperature’s conditions.

4. Resin can be tricky for some other reason, a simple one is its composition. Being made by two main components, these two tend to get separated over time if the liquid stands still for too long: a tip is to make sure to shake the bottle of resin before using it! This simple actin might cause the failure of the print even though all of the other settings are perfect.

Tip 5: removing the supports

After removing the supports, little holes can appear ruining the overall smoothness of the object. For this, Simon gives us a great tip: “there is great workaround for this, use a pencil with a bit of liquid resin, fill in the holes and cure it with UV light. Once it is cured, use fine sandpaper(I use 2000) depending on how much material you have to remove. I also use wet sandpaper to remove the "stairs" effect that sometimes occurs on lower resolution prints like on 0.05mm layer height”

Tip 6: post processing and how to make the sculpture look realistic


(3D printed model of Marcus Aurelius)

As Simon suggests try to avoid vertical printing lines by hollowing the model before printing it. This will reduce the peeling force which is usually responsible for the vertical lines and will also make the printing more cost effective.

Creating a drainage hole at the bottom of the model will help the uncured resin to come out during the washing process.

Last but not least, the drainage hole can then be filled with plaster which will make the model heavier, more stable and more realistic without the need to use extra resin!

Just a final tip from Simon:

I think my best tip is: if you want the best possible, you have to try the impossible. In every failure is the chance for improvement.

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