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Ask your 3D printing and Resin Casting Questions Here!

Hey everyone!
I’ve seen a couple threads asking about 3D printing and resin casting, and I figured I could start a thread where people could ask any questions about it.
I’ve been 3D printing and casting 3D printed models for 15 years now (good lord time flies!), with just about every type of printer there is (except laser sintering, but that’ll change at some point once the bank account says it’s ok :smiley: )

So give me your questions and I’ll try to answer them to the best of my ability! And hopefully there are others who can share their experience as well.

Cheers!
-Scott

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HI Scott! I am looking to start printing waxes in my jewellery shop, and was wondering where to start. We would have maybe a few a week…and we have a small automated dental casting machine which casts pretty well with our hand carved waxes at the moment. I’d like to spend less than $3000 canadian ($2300 US - all in)
Also - what program do you suggest with it?
Thanking you in advance for your time :slight_smile:

In regards to supports for printing. I seem to always add more supports than are really necessary. I do it only so I don’t have a failed print. I’m using chitubox for adding in my supports. I typically start with large supports in the obvious trouble spots and then switch to medium and small supports for everything else.

What’s your method for adding supports?

Also, do you typically design your sprue in CAD or do you just add it in wax?

If you’re just starting to see if you’d like to continue with it, I would suggest getting one of the myriad of less expensive resin printers. Our workhorse at the moment is the AnyCubic Photon Mono SE, which I believe retails around around $400 USD, but is currently on sale for $274 USD. It’s easy to use, prints quickly, and prints well. Another option is the Elegoo Mars series, of which I would go with the Mars 2 or Mars 3.

With these printers the bulk of your expense will be with the resins. A liter of a good, castable resin tends to be between $300 and $500. But, I would suggest starting with just about any “normal” resin (which tend to cost in the neighborhood of $60/L) to get the hang of the nuances of 3D printing with resin.

The Elegoo printers use a slicing software called ChituBox to handle the slicing, as well as support generation. It’s used for a large number of these resin printers, and is pretty well supported. AnyCubic has its own branded slicing software, and to be honest, I’m not a fan of it, but ChituBox supports the AnyCubic series printers, so I use it for both.

As far as design software, we actually use Zbrush, along with our own method of turning a drawing in to a 3D model, to create all our pieces. But, you can use pretty much any design software that will export an STL file. Before Zbrush we used Rhinoceros. Which you choose really depends on where your skills in 3D design are. If you’re just getting in to it, I probably wouldn’t foot the bill for Rhino or Zbrush just yet, and would probably start with a free program like Blender (which also has a really good rendering engine, if you wanted to render your models to show before you produced them).
There are lots of tutorials on YouTube on how to model things in Blender.

There are also a ton of videos on YouTube about the basics of resin printing that will give you a good start. One I trust is a guy named Thomas Sanladerer. He is kind of a 3D printing guru and most of his videos are worth a look. But YouTube is definitely your friend!

Hope that helps!

Patrick,
I pretty much follow the exact same method for adding supports in ChituBox. Basically, if I’m in the support generation tab, and I look under the model and see red, it gets a support. There is such a thing as too many, but that’s still better than too few! It can be a waste of resin, but I will also duplicate the model and experiment with different orientations and numbers of supports, and make a note for next time on what worked best.
I generally stick with just one size of support though (around a .4mm attachement point), but use a good number of them. I’ve found that more, smaller supports is easier to remove than the larger ones.

As far as sprues, I add them all in wax, as it works better in our workflow, and we can easily print a piece that the customer can put right on their finger.

Cheers!

Scott,

Thanks for the thread. I have a question: Have you any experience casting Solidscape materials? I have been 3D-printing and CAD designing for 15 years however, I just started casting in-house. I’m having some trouble with surface craters on my models. It seems possible that I am boiling the Solidscape material in my first ramp. Here is my burnout schedule:

RA1 - 300F/per hour
Target Temp - 300F
Hold - 1 hour

RA1 - 700F/hour
Target Temp - 700F
Hold - 2 hours

RA3 - 675F/hour
Target Temp - 1350F
Hold - 2 hours

RA4 - 600F/hour
Target Temp - 1000

The above is for casting 14k white gold. Please note, I am using a closed unit vacuum system by Indutherm. The investment is mixed to the letter of the law lol, everything is weighed and prepared as specified by R&R, ratio 40/100. I’ve spoken independently with Romanoff Supply and United Precious Metals, and they both agree that I have a burnout issue. However, before I go on a wild chase to change my process…I wanted to check with someone that has good results with Solidscape materials. I would greatly appreciate your help!

Thanks in advance,

Andy

The material we used in our Solidcape printer was from RapidCast. Really really good stuff. Could polish it with a q-tip dipped in alcohol, and started melting at such a low temperature, it was pretty easy to get a really good burnout. Our burnout oven is by no means as controllable as yours, so we always used the same burnout schedule we now use for resin prints. We would occasionally have issues like you’re having (I think they’ve been covered pretty well in your other post, and I don’t have much to add to the discussion there, unfortunately), but they weren’t frequent enough for us to really do anything about other than cross our fingers.

Not knowing much about 3D printing, I am getting lost in the weeds here. I recall reading a SNAG article written some years back that gave pictures of castings from 3d printed models and they were all, to some degree, grainy and not smooth like traditional wax models. So my question at this point is whether it is possible to get fine detail in a 3D model without the layering from the printing and/or graininess from some kind of wonky burnout. As a one-off craftsperson, I might learn the software, but I am guessing that a really good 3d printer would be out of my price range (under $1000) and that I’d have to make my designs and then send them out to be printed. My question: is it possible to get casting from 3D printing that would equal what I could do with one-off wax carving? Or might I use, instead, one of those small CNC lathes that predated 3D printing to carve a model with detail equal to my hand.carved model? -royjohn

To be honest, I don’t think there’s much available yet that can compete with the beautiful smoothness that comes from a hand carved wax.
But we can get somewhat close. As far as printer cost, the ones I listed in one of the posts above are very affordable starts. Anycubic just released a DLP printer that prints even smoother models than those listed, and I believe the retail price for that is $600.
As far as layer lines are concerned, they are the beast that the industry is constantly trying to fight. The problem arises from the fact that these models are printed in layers. Even that can be overcome to some extent though. The lines we see on the models we print and cast are from some math and physics getting in the way (pixel size vs layer height vs angle of the print).

When it boils down to it though, you can still get a system up and running for well under $1000, and learn the particular nuances of the printer, the resin, and the casting, and end up with a fair amount of success.

CNC milling is a whole other path (arguably quite a bit more expensive initially) that does yield really good results. We’ve got 2 mills, one of which is a pocketNC, which is a darn good little mill, perfect for jewelry making, but costs over $3,000 I believe.

So the ultimate answer to your question is both yes and no. You can’t really compete with the surface quality of hand carved waxes (yet), but you can get really close, and for a pretty low cost investment.

Hello Scott,
Thanks for that very clear explanation. A few other questions…is it possible to polish out the layer lines if the patterns are not too complex? And what’s the fix for the graininess that seems to come from the way the resins burn out? Can you use a resin that doesn’t do this with the cheaper printers? -royjohn

Depending on the resin (most that I’ve worked with are this way, at least) you can file and sand them to remove the layer lines, or any other offending bit of cured resin (often the spots where the supports attach). A quick swish around in denatured alcohol to remove any dust, and it’s good to invest. Some resins you can actually take a buffing wheel to, and get a high polish.

The graininess is harder to pin down, but I’d say it’s a 70/30 split between investment and resin type. While I’ve had a lot of success with using just regular old satin cast, the general consensus is that you need an investment that is purpose mixed to deal with the interesting nature of resin. Most specifically, expansion during burnout, and reaction of the burning resin with the investment. Those 2 things seem to cause the most issues with casting this stuff.

Another note on resins: most resins will work with most printers, so long as they’re matched up to the different printer types (sla, DLP, lcd), so generally speaking a resin that is sold with a $4000 printer will still likely work just fine on a $300 printer. The differences come in print speed, accuracy, minimum layer thickness, etc.

I have owned (2) 5-axis mills and (2) 3D printers and (1) SLA resin printer and what I can say without question is this. You get what you pay for when it comes to quality of the machine. I just bought a Solidscape S390 and paid $39,000 for it, the quality of the models and surface smoothness is amazing, baby smooth…and more importantly it burns out exactly the same way as wax. That said no 3D printer can print as smooth as what you would get out of a 5-axis wax carving mill. My next purchase is a Mira 5-axis mill from NSCNC out of Canada for high-end jobs that justify the time it takes to mill. The problem with milling is that its not efficient, fixturing and setup time is a longer process, plus you can’t mill more than one job at a time and that’s just not efficient for a busy shop. The other thing to consider is the amount of models that you produce on a weekly or monthly basis. I know service bureaus that print models for $25 per print, for some shops it isn’t worth the money or time to mess with printing in house when they can get great models for $25 each.

Thanks for replying! I think I am close to solving my problem, I am down to 2 variables that I believe are causing inconsistent results. The first is the suggestion in the other thread to extend the water removal ramp by an hour or so. My other variable is a 3D Printing Barrier that was recommended by a supplier. Interestingly, I forgot to put the barrier on my second last cast and it was gorgeous. My most recent cast, I used the barrier again and back to scars on the surface. I went to the manufacturers website and saw that it was for resin prints. I suspect, the solidscape material might be degrading after putting this barrier on it. Anyhow, thank you for commenting.

I’m guessing that if the solidscape material is anything like the rapidcast material we used to use in our solidscape printer, it’s very wax-like, and doesn’t like any kind of coating. We did some experiments on sealing the wax with various methods to improve the surface finish, but ended up with the same result you got.

What mills and printers have you owned? I’m always curious to see what machines people have/have used.

I have a personal grudge against SolidScape and Stratasys (who now own SolidScape), as they have done more to impede the advancement of 3D printing technology than anyone else. The only reason we can buy 3D printers from anyone else, or build our own now is because their patents ran out (patents they acquired through fairly immoral ways). So, I downright refuse to support them, no matter what products they come out with, but that’s just me stomping my feet :smiley: . That being said, there is a benefit in FDM printers like the solidscape printers when printing complex shapes, entirely due to the support material. It eliminates the need to add in supports all over the place that you have to clip off and sand or fill in.

As for “you get what you pay for”, I’d say that’s half true. You get a fairly reliable, turn-key product, but 39 grand is a LOT of money, that personally I would rather spend on materials, tools, advertising, etc, etc. You’re also completely locked in to a walled-garden ecosystem. You can get 90% of the way there with far less expensive products, and just need to spend a little time and effort tuning the printer to get the desired results. We’ve paid for our little AnyCubic 100x over already, and are very close to producing almost perfect models with it. When our DLP printer comes in, it’ll be even better. Also, the engineering going in to resins is advancing every day, and it’s just a matter of time before we get castable resins that cast as well, if not better, than wax.

Another benefit to having one of these little resin printers, is that the variety of resins is outstanding, and can be used to make tools and fixtures. I’ve used it to print holders for gravers, saw blades, pliers, as well as holders for awkward engraving jobs (like the lower receiver on a rifle, that my GRS ball just couldn’t hold properly. Little things like that make all the difference to me.

I will absolutely not argue with you on the point that a mill can achieve some darn beautifully smooth waxes. I have some experience with a Mira mill as well. They’re pretty darn fancy, and holy cow do they produce a fine wax…like…wow levels of smooth. BUT, there are downsides to it. You’re locked in to RhinoCAM (or a fork of it at least) to produce the tool paths, and, honestly, I think that is close to the worst CAM software I’ve ever used. If you work entirely in the Rhino environment, and don’t ever stray from NURBS (i.e. don’t import or export stl files), it works ‘ok’, but if you import any kind of model that’s any other kind of file (obj, stl, etc), the tool pathing is amazingly frustrating. I believe they’re working on a post-processor for Fusion360, but it’s down on their list of priorities.
Also, one thing to check when you do get it, is the x-axis anti-backlash nut. It’s a weak point on the mill, and isn’t made strong enough to deal with the forces applied due to the weight of the carriage.

I’ve owned Roland Mills, Matrix Revo, and Merlin Mill. I have owned a Formlabs printer, Solidscape Studio 3Z, and now a Solidscape S390. The amount time it takes to create programs, fixturing, and setup when milling is too large, it’s just not worth the payoff unless you are making master models for long-run production. Recently, I bought a Form 3 by Formlabs…hated this printer…precision is just not there. I also don’t like working with resins, they are toxic and I breath enough crap daily in my workshop. I’m not a tree hugger, but I also don’t like releasing all those toxins in the air if I can help it. Until they produce an eco-friendly resin/wax I am out of the resin business for good.

I almost bought a Projet 2500 and that is $55,000!!! Oye. Decided to stick with Solidscape and with my old trade I wound up getting the S390 for like $26,000 all in. The surface quality is superb, precision unmatched, and they now offer lifetime print jet replacement with your purchase. Thanks for the conversation and for your feedback, I really appreciate it.

Hello Andrew,
I’m a little confused here…you say you are out of the resin business for good, but then you way you have a Solidscape printer, the S390. What does that use to print? Not resin?
-royjohn

The solidscape printers use a wax-like substance that it melts and shoots through a little jet. Similar to the plastic 3D printers you see a lot of makers use… actually it’s more like a 3D version of an inkjet printer. It lays down both a build wax and a support wax layer by layer. When done, the support wax is melted away (for the stuff we used, it melted with lamp oil), leaving the model to be worked with.

Solidscape materials are non-toxic unlike true resin printers. The models are much more rigid than resin models, so the resolution is much higher and can hold higher tolerances. It also burns out exactly as a wax does, it will melt at about 205 degrees. It actually melts, it doesn’t combust. So there is no thermal expansion at all. Basically, it’s like working with wax. Now, don’t get me wrong…I don’t go about purposely breathing the fumes in. I don’t even breath jewelers wax, when I am building trees I have a small fan diverting every ounce of fume from both materials toward my exhaust hood. We all do what we know, so I don’t fault anybody for choosing an SLA or SLS printer. I just never experienced any upside other than the cost of the printer. I hired a jeweler not too long ago and he had Form 3, he swore up and down I would toss my Solidscape in the garbage after buying one lol. So I bought one, boy was he wrong. I ran many tests, put the end products from both printers next to one another (castings). He humbly fell on his sword, in the end I sold the Formlabs printer. I set thousands of .85mm stones on models annually with .55mm prongs. The resin printers I used could not print those prong in close enough tolerances, and even when I got it close I lost those tolerances in the casting process. Just my humble opinion, I’m sure there are plenty of guys with more experience than me that could refute it. I never stuck with the technology long enough I suppose, I bailed after a few months of testing.

I have to say I totally agree about the potential toxicity of the resins. While I haven’t actively looked for any real data on their danger, the common conception seems to be that it can be pretty nasty stuff. I’ve gotten really good at keeping my hands protected, as well as working in a well ventilated area. I can also say, with absolute confidence, that the stuff also doesn’t taste good :nauseated_face:. So you definitely know if you got it on your fingers :sweat_smile:

I also have to agree that the Form3 is kind of a waste of money. I absolutely abhor walled gardens and closed systems, and the Form3 seems to be built on those principles. You can’t use any resin that isn’t made by them, you can’t refill cartridges (which are $300 each) with any other kind of resin since they use that wonderful inkjet invention of a microchipped cartridge that tracks how much resin has flown out of it. Even if you could trick it in to using a different resin, there’s no way to adjust any print settings. One thing I’ve learned in all the 3D printing I’ve done (is the same for FDM plastic printers), is that the settings you’re given from the manufacturer are baselines. To get perfect prints, you have to test and tune the cure times (or in the case of FDM, the flow rate through the print head). FormLabs seems to think they are infallible, and don’t let you make any adjustments whatsoever.
Also, their software is really terrible, and doesn’t allow you make precise changes to the orientation of models, again relying on their “expertise” to tell you the best way to do thing.
Speaking of resin, I really, really don’t think they know what they’re doing when it comes to creating a good castable resin. They supposedly have casting professionals working for them, but compared to other resin manufacturers (like PowerResins), their castable resin just isn’t reliable at all.

We get really nice prints from our Anycubic, with the only artifacting being the fact you can see the individual pixels from the LCD screen on the model. This is actually kind of amazing, and shows off how detailed the resin can print.

So all-in-all I really don’t blame you for dumping the FormLabs printer. The more I’ve used it, the more I’ve realized that there are far better options, in a variety of price points.

My main recommendations of these really inexpensive printers against things like the S390 comes from a standpoint of you don’t really know if 3D printing will help your workflow or not. Sure, there comes a point where you’re doing enough production that it totally makes sense, but it’s its own beast, with changes to workflow needed, especially if you are coming from a background in hand fabrication as opposed to wax carving/casting. The price point of these printers, along with the ease of tuning (and, the ability to dump an engineering based resin in there to make specialized tools), makes them a really low-risk way to figure out if 3D printing is going to work for you in your production. Then, once that’s figured out, you can decide whether the investment in to a more production oriented machine like the S390 is worth it.

One thing to note about resin printers versus wax printers like the S390: speed.
Resin printers do have the benefit of print time only being limited by the height of what you’re printing. 50 rings will print in the same amount of time as a single ring.

I do have to admit that my dislike of Solidscape is purely personal, as I know a few of the engineers who built the original printers, and they really don’t have nice stories to tell about how that business was run. BUT, I can’t deny that they are good quality, so long as you never have to work on them (they are built in a way that requires miniature hands with digits that bend in unnatural ways to get at screws or components) :rofl:

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