Filament printer for N scale?

prr2bnsf_sd Nov 21, 2022

  1. prr2bnsf_sd

    prr2bnsf_sd TrainBoard Member

    I am looking into asking for my first 3D printer for Christmas, and it seems like most people recommend a resin printer for N scale. That said, I am a little nervous about the ventilation for the resin. How much would I be able to do with a filament printer in N scale? Or is a resin printer really that much better?
  2. SLSF Freak

    SLSF Freak Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    You can do a lot with filament printers, and if you end up getting one I'd encourage you to expand the scope of use to include "around the house" fixes as well, not just modelling n scale. I've used my Ender 3 for repairing drawer slides, making various specialty mounts for things to hang on the wall, I made new shower rod holders when ours (made of cheap pot metal) disintegrated, created a swamp cooler drain fitting that could not be found off-the-shelf, pool sand filter gauge cover, specialized parts to supplement my resin printers and quite a few other things I'm forgetting.

    For n scale in particular, I recommend you check out what Sumner is doing with his Ender 3 Pro. Check out his Thingiverse site for his models that are available to download. Review the pics of his FDM prints there to see what those machines are capable of in the hobby space.

    You ask if a resin printer is really that much better? The real answer is that depends on what you're printing. If you want to print n scale people, rolling stock, window shutters, locomotive shells and other fine details...then yes. The resin printers are that much better. If you want practical and durable prints, or prints that don't require detail down to the scale inch, and just a better general use printer, FDMs will do the job. And these days it's not a matter of cost difference between the two technologies like it was four years ago. There are some really good resin printers available in the 200-300 range, especially with black friday sales this week and cyber monday next week. Supply costs are around the same with rolls of filament for FDM printers being under 30 bucks and bottles of resin roughly the same.

    Feel free to ask more questions if still need help choosing.

    Cheers -Mike
  3. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

    Great overview Mike (y).

    I have both but sadly haven't used the resin printer yet :(. Getting closer to using the resin printer. I do love the Ender 3 Pro. As you mentioned it is a real workhorse....



    .... and surprisingly not bad for N scale general items and from what I understand stronger for printing other items like what you mentioned....


    .... items that need more strength like the turnout servo mount above. No smell, no cleaning is big for me as I have one of the two I have next to the computer in the house. Another plus was the ability to print larger items than I wouldn't be able to with a resin printer that was in the same price range.

    Besides the prints on my account you can get a better idea of what you might be able to do with the printer ( HERE )....lots more pictures and descriptions.


    If one's goal is to print loco and car shells and other really small items then I'd start with a resin printer. Even though I haven't used mine I knew myself well enough to know that I would really be put off by the cleaning procedure required with the resin printer and possibly the smell. Those two things have been partially responsible for me putting off using the printer to this point.

    I handled the cleaning by also spending about $130 on a wash-cure station after seeing them in action. I see you can get one (Elegoo) for $95 right now. For the smell I determined that the printer would live out in the shop where I don't necessarily need to be while printing.

    Lots of happy owners of both and a number usually end up with both as they both have their strong points. I personally haven't regretted starting with the filament printer as it has served me well for 'my' needs and I'm sure lots of others haven been really happy starting out with a resin printer.

    If you take the time to learn how to use one and keep it going (neither a big deal) one can find that the printer can more than pay for itself. In my case just printing the parts I need for turnout control will pay for the printer. Everything else is basically free except for the filament and a $25 spool will print a lot of items.

  4. sidney

    sidney TrainBoard Member

    What mike and sumner said yeppers . there is a lot you can print with a filament printer and there pretty cheap .
    resin printers can produce fine details like for cars ,trucks, ect ect but there expensive and messy, must wash parts then cure them way to musyh b/s for simple printing and you can get very good prints from a filament print when you get them turned just right and use good filament NOT THE CHEAP CRAP. Stay away from the cheap stuff. i my self have an ender 3 just a plain ol ender 3 but i have made mods to it over time to make it so much better. now i have so tuned i can print pretty good details with it. But this all takes time and patience but well worth what i paid for everything.
    nscalestation, Sumner and BNSF FAN like this.
  5. cjhilinski

    cjhilinski TrainBoard Member

    I own both and I would highly recommend the resin printer over the filament (I have both) for detail. Not strength, though. The resin prints are more fragile than the filament prints. I've 3d printed everything on my wip T gauge (1:450) layout.
    nscalestation and Sumner like this.
  6. Bigfoot21075

    Bigfoot21075 TrainBoard Member

    I have both and as previously mentioned here, the resin prints MUCH better detail. Buildings, rolling stock. vehicles and so on. They really look amazing. I use the Elegoo Water Washable 8k Resin. It's smell is not bad. If you get the Elegoo Saturn 2 8k resin printer (black Friday coming up) it comes with a carbon based air filter that goes inside the print chamber and works pretty well! I print in my home office with no issues.
    nscalestation likes this.

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

    Which one has an easier learning curve? Resin or Filament?
  8. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    I can't say, never used filament, but it's pretty safe to say, it's not an extension to your hobby, it's a whole other (fun!) hobby! :ROFLMAO:
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  9. SLSF Freak

    SLSF Freak Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    They're different, for sure. With filament printers if you're gunning for the perfect print there are a LOT of parameters you can potentially tweak. Acceleration rates, jerk settings, flow rate, temperature of the nozzle, temperature of the bed, use glue stick for ABS or not, infill settings, etc. Budget FDM printers will work out of the box and produce decent prints without fiddling with all that, and there are profiles that people have made available for the popular printers that allow you to use settings other people have found produce excellent prints. So, as modellers, we do want to have those machines produce the best prints the machine is capable of and a lot of times that means messing with settings outside of factory. Add to that there are a lot more physical components (outside of software settings) that contribute to print quality - extruder gear wear, bowden tube slickness, proper cooling at the nozzle, nozzle jams, bed levelling. In other words when it isn't printing correctly you do need to have a good head for troubleshooting. Some of that also applies to resin printers (level bed, in particular as well as condition of your FEP sheet)

    For resin printers you're going to mess with exposure time to dial it in to the resin and layer height you've chosen. There are other settings like lift speed and lift height but I've only messed with that one time in the last four years of printing resin. So in that respect I'd have to say the resin printers have an easier learning curve.

    Finally - don't let any of this be a discouragement. Most of us are printing just fine without too much hassle. It's just that if you're going next level and really want to maximize quality you have to understand the physics of what the machine is doing so you know how to address whatever it is you're trying to improve...if that makes sense. That applies to both types.

    BNSF FAN and Glenn Butcher like this.
  10. sidney

    sidney TrainBoard Member

    filament for sure easy-to-use right out the box.....resin too much work. but i want one one day when i can afferd one way too much money fer me....
    BNSF FAN and Sumner like this.
  11. Glenn Butcher

    Glenn Butcher TrainBoard Member

    When I got my Mars 3 resin printer, I made a conscious decision to stick with their resin products because they have a BA spreadsheet of all the recommended settings for resin/printer combos. Lots of success with that simplistic approach. That said, there are limitations to those resins I'll eventually have to go elsewhere to mitigate.

    I'm printing in my basement and I initially worried about both the fumes and the temperature, which in the winter is about 60F. So, I built a cabinet for the printer out of scrap plywood and a red acrylic front so I could print without the cover. I vent it with a 200CFM grow tent fan; initially thought that would be over-powered but ludicrous speed is really handy to evacuate the local area of both resin and IPA fumes. I also bought a cheap desktop heater and grow tent thermostat to heat the cabinet; I turn it on an hour or so before I print to heat things up, then turn it off when I start printing - I didn't one print and I got interesting lines in the print corresponding to where the heater turned on and the current inrush starved the printer...

    Like others have said, I've also found that 3d printing media has it's place and limits. I'm printing a HOn3 steam locomotive, and if I did it totally in resin it'd be too light to have sufficient traction to pull any cars, wouldn't be much better in filament. So, my frame and running gear at least will be brass, spending quality time right now taming a jeweler's saw to cut rods and guides. That said, I'll soon be printing a test frame in Shapeways brass, not particularly interested in milling and lathing right now... :D
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  12. Glenn Butcher

    Glenn Butcher TrainBoard Member

    Oh, that's the question I started to answer, and then forgot all about it....

    I'd have to say resin. The mechanics of it are pretty simple, correspondingly the variables you have to mess with are fewer. The complete process is a bit more onerous, with all that cleaning and curing, but that's pretty simple once you've done a few - two-bath IPA wash, dry completely before curing are the two things I discovered that gave consistent success.
    BNSF FAN likes this.

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