Thinking about getting a 3D printer....

Sumner May 9, 2020

  1. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    I broke down and bought an Ender 3 Pro 3D printer about 6 weeks ago and love it and what you can do with it. Over the put-together stage and while running it now for a while I did run into some common situations that will come up sooner or later. Below I'll post some links and info that I wish I would of know 6 weeks ago. Most of it applies to the Ender but I'm sure similar issues will arise with any 3D printer and again I'd buy the Ender in a heart beat if I had to look again a the moment. So here are some tips that might help if you are diving into this.

    First off you don't need to learn a CAD program if you don't want to at first or even later. There are tons of things you can print using other peoples builds and the files with them. You can find all of mine here on thingiverse ...

    https://www.thingiverse.com/Sumner/designs

    ... and search there and other sites for other peoples files that you can download free. Other sites will sell a file also.

    Here are a few links that I found really useful on putting the Ender 3 Pro together:

    This is one I wish I would of know about at the beginning as like in the video it took more time later to fix it vs. doing at the beginning. It shows the importance of getting the crosspiece that the extruder rides on as close to parallel to the bed as possible (so it isn't at an angle)....



    Next up is getting the bed level before printing and later, not between every print but when it needs it (the link I posted yesterday)....



    One way to know when the bed needs to be re-leveled is if you hear a clunking sound and the cogs that push the filement in skip backwards on the filiment. I've found two things that cause this. One is the bed gets out of level and on the first layer or while the extruder head is starting to the area where it begins the print the head runs into the bed and the extruder can' extrude so the filament can't be pushed forward. I ruined the magnetic build surface that came with the printer and almost the bed itself before I figured out what was going on. If you hear that clicking/clunking sound get on it right away. I've found that the knobs and springs that control how the bed is leveled will move over time on their own and the bed won't be level any more. Using the program in the link above you can re-level the bed in a minute or so.

    The next thing that can cause the filament to stop moving and when the wheels that push it start clicking and skipping is when there is a filament clog in the extruder itself or in the tubing to it. This finally happened to me the other day after printing about a month. Here is the fix for that and also gives you a good idea on how to load and change filaments....




    Supplies I'd get:

    I bought some aftermarket nozzles as they will eventually clog or need to be replaced and found them to be a different length than the ones that came with the machine. Re-leveling the beg should adjust for the different length but then since they aren't expensive bought a packet of the real ones and they work great ....

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07C76Q3DY/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    The same for the bed cover. After messing up the one I had I had already bought a couple aftermarket covers and put one of those on. It was ok but not quite as big as the stock one so when I was running the program to level the bed the extruder was almost off the edges. I finally ordered a couple of the stock ones...

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07X3WBNPX/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    ... and went back to one of those and kept a second for use down the road.

    Filament:

    When I started I wanted some grey filament but there wasn't any to be found at the time so went with black from Hatchbox. It was ok but when grey was available a couple weens later I ordered it and although it was the same manufacture the prints seem to be better with better detail. You get a little filament with the printer but you are going to need more so if you don't have it now I'd suggest getting it. I didn't even try what came with it and here is what I'm using ...

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015I1CYFE/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Filament goes a long ways with these small N scale projects. I've printed a lot and haven't come close to using a spool so the cost per item is almost nothing.

    Printing:

    I downloaded Cura and it is easy to use and seems to have the most support out there. You download someone's file into Cura and use it to print the object. The only change I made is to tell it go to 'Profile' and change the one setting there to 'Super Quality'. I also turn off the 'skirt' feature under the 'Suport' option now.

    Again put the printer and start printing. Lots of good videos to help with any question and I'll help anyway I can,

    Sumner
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2020
  2. cbg

    cbg TrainBoard Member

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    I have been considering a 3D printer as well for N scale projects and saw this post (thank you). Of course looking online there are way too many "best" printers listed. Would you recommend this for the first time user? Ease of use and setup? I did some research on this model as well as the Ender 5 but have to admit not knowing much about them I could not tell which is or would be best. Both seem to be available for decent prices. Thank you.
     
  3. SLSF Freak

    SLSF Freak Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I would recommend the Ender 3 for first timers. You can't beat the budget factor combined with one of the largest community support systems out there. If you find out 3D printing is just not your thing, you aren't out a whole lot of money. And if you find out that you love 3D printing, you've got a printer that is very capable and produces quality prints.

    Know what you're getting though, know the limits of what it can print, and plan to use it for things outside of model railroading because it's a real handy tool for the household DIY stuff, too!! I've printed brackets, adapters, hangars, toys and decorative items with mine. For model railroading, it is not a high detail printer. None of the FDM printers (like the Ender 3) are "excellent" at detail. You can get passable detail, "good enough" detail, and you can buy nozzles that will allow you to print higher detail, but it's just not what these machines excel at. If you want to print n scale signal heads, locomotive shells, people, radiator grills, you should buy a resin printer like the Anycubic Photon or Elegoo Mars. Those are made for fine detail like that. A tad messy, and limited because they can only print small things, but detail is their niche and they do it extremely well. The FDM printers like the Ender 3 are so much more versatile though in my opinion. If you really get into 3D printing, get both types of printers so you're covered for all scenarios!

    Poke around this site for ideas on what you can do with an Ender 3:
    https://www.thingiverse.com/search?type=things&q=&sort=popular&posted_after=now-365d
    https://www.thingiverse.com/search?q=n+scale&type=things&sort=relevant

    This is a site where creators have provided free 3d files for anyone to print. Helpful for if you don't have CAD skills yet.

    Mike
     
  4. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    I've been extremely happy with my Ender 3 Pro and would buy it again if I was still in the need of a printer. Just found this comparison of the 3 and the 5 ...

    https://all3dp.com/2/ender-3-pro-vs-ender-5-the-differences/

    ... would still stay with the 3 for me. I can't ever imagine needed the extra build area in the vertical plane. Can't ever really imagine using all of the present build area except I hope to print out a case at some point for a wireless throttle. I'd have a hard time putting the 5 where my 3 is now also but maybe the 5 is better for you. I'd look at how much support there is for it vs. the 3 and check other reviews.

    From that article it seems the 5 is better than the 3 in the vertical build area and possibly in the print quality, although I wonder how much difference there is there to the human eye especially at say 10-12 inches and further away.

    [​IMG]

    Above is an example of about the best you are going to achieve with the 3. At least what I've achieved but there are some videos out there on doing better with a smaller nozzle that what is stock but still from them don't expect what you could get with a resin printer. I considered a resin printer but for me and the following reasons didn't at this time. Maybe at some point but I'll bet this will still be my go to printer.

    I might try a resin printer at some point but didn't at the moment because I often stop and start projects for some period of time and the resin usually involves more work/preparation if you aren't going to print all the time in putting it away and such.

    The other factor was smell and temperature where the printer would have to be located. I have a large 40'x 40' shop but it is attached to the house and you go to it in and out a door near the main living quarters and wasn't sure if the smell was going to be a problem or not. I print with the FDM just off the living room and next to the kitchen and there is no smell.

    Also I heat the shop mainly with solar so during the coldest winter months the temp in there is around 58-62F which is fine for working but probably on the cold side for printing.

    I'm also kind of an impatient person and the resin printer print times seem to be way longer from what I see, but don't have a good apples to apples illustration of that.

    So far I've been happy with the detail I can get with the printer...

    [​IMG]

    I wouldn't try to print a loco shell for instance with it but for the projects I've done so far ....

    http://1fatgmc.com/RailRoad/3D-Printer/3D-Printer-Index.html

    ... I've been really happy. Also it has a huge following out there with lots of videos on it and lots of aftermarket parts for upgrades if you want. So far mine is all stock and at least for now see no reason to modify it but a number of people do.

    I've only had mine about 6 weeks but have designed over 50 items for it and I'm hooked and wish I would of gotten into this sooner. Also learning Fusion 360 and love it. A bit of a learning curve but once past that it is amazing how fast you can design something. I probably had 40-60 minutes into the ladders before they were ready to print. And even the longest printed in under 3 minutes.

    Sumner
     
  5. SLSF Freak

    SLSF Freak Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Uh oh - I see more printers in your future...hehe(y) I can answer a couple of your questions about the resin guys:

    Smell
    - over the years I've figured out that this doesn't affect everybody. I compare it to color blindness. Most people aren't color blind, but enough are that you should take care that warning signs are able to be read by everyone. With the smells of the resin printers it's similar. A lot of people aren't bothered at all by it (like me and a guy I work with that just got a resin printer) but for some it's absolutely overwhelming. Some resins smell worse than others. I print in a standard 2 car garage and yeah you smell it a little bit, in a 40x40 space I wouldn't be able to smell it at all unless I was right on top of the printer. Having said that, there are filtering solutions to deal with smell if necessary. I would never print inside the house because I have a wife and daughter who might get triggered by the smell, but if I did end up moving it inside I'd rig up a carbon filtration system to eliminate the smell.

    Time to Print
    - this one is less easy to answer. It depends. For FDM printers print time is a function of how much material you're using and number of direction changes on the print head. For resin printers it's a function of layer height and actual z height, or more simply: how many layers it has to print. You'll see a lot of model rr guys print their shells at 45 degrees tilted off the build plate. This increases the z height by quite a bit so those will take 8-10 hours to print. I don't print my shells that way, I print horizontally to the bed so I can print a locomotive in an hour and a half. And with my larger resin printer I can set five shells side by side - no change in z height and get five locomotives in an hour and a half. So the bummer is if I just want to print one shell (for prototyping purposes for example) it isn't going to be any faster than printing five (whereas with an FDM printer it would take roughly 1/5th the time.) There is a shift however in resin printer technology starting to appear this year - higher resolution screens and monochrome. All of the resin printers to date have been using full color tablet type displays as uv masks. Those screens aren't as opaque as a monochrome display, so it takes longer for the UV light to cure each layer. This is usually around 8-10 seconds per layer. However with a monochrome screen it should be around 3-4 seconds, vastly improving print times!! (and, they're 4k screens to boot, so crazy resolution)

    Mess - I mention this because it's something to consider. We're dealing with a medium that has the consistency of motor oil. You're dipping a plate in a vat of this stuff and out comes something wonderful but it's covered in this goo. You need to clean that off, and do so without getting it on your fingers, clothes, your shop bench, or your floor. It's easy enough when you take care but stuff happens, especially when you do a lot of printing. Eventually you get into a system that works for you but don't skimp on supplies. If you need spring loaded tweezers to help you handle fragile parts easier, get them. If you need a thin metal spatula to make it easier to remove your prints, get one. Just make sure you have what you need. Don't skimp. And have a roll of paper towels on hand to do quick wipes if something drips.

    So in conclusion, a resin printer is just another tool in the arsenal. Like wood working tools you have this for that, and that other thing for something else. I'm a giant fan of all printing technologies - I just wish there was an inexpensive way to print metal!! (custom chassis, anyone?) I got the bug and love 3D printing. And I'm particularly glad to no longer be dependent on Shapeways anymore since they've changed their business model to be less friendly for us model rr'ers.

    Cheers -Mike
     
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  6. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Great info Mike. So if I could get the printer about 35 feet from the door into the house you don't think the smell would be a problem as I move back and forth between the shop and the house. My wife was an extreme asthmatic as a child (family moved from Ill to AZ to help with it). Still has some problems with smells like paint, glue for ABS and PVC pipe fittings and such so that is a consideration I need to be wary of.

    My other main concern is how warm does it need to be where the printer is. Shop is often high 50's low 60's for 3-4 months during the winter and I don't want to have to heat the whole shop up to high 60's just to print. The reason I brought the Ender inside for the winter and will probably leave it inside.

    How long could I leave the printer between prints without having to empty the resin and clean everything or whatever the maintenance is at that point. I am spoiled with the Ender in that there is none of that. Just print and walk away.

    Any of the newer printers in the $250 to $350 range that you would look at seriously now?

    Thanks,

    Sumner
     
  7. SLSF Freak

    SLSF Freak Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    My experience with the Photon, I don't think you'd have a problem with it 35 feet from the door. I should also mention that the smell happens when you're printing - the cooling fans draw air into the print chamber, through the electronics and out the back. I mention this because those fans play a role in permeating a smell. My bigger resin printer has big fans that move a lot of air, so it fills up the space with the odor (again, this doesn't bother me) The Photon's fans are relatively low power. An idle printer won't be stinking up the place. That said, my previous comments stand in that some people are sensitive to the stuff so I can't say whether your wife would get triggered by it or not. My wife is asthmatic and doesn't get triggered, but I do get a furrowed brow sometimes when I have the big printer going, "that stuff stinks" if she has to go into the garage for something while it's running. But the printer is also five feet from the house door so there's that..

    For temperature ranges, I'd say upper 50s begins the operating range. At any lower then I'd consider (and have done it) putting a space heater nearby to warm the area. I have a heater that oscillates so it works out that I don't scald the printer, but just let some heat hit it every couple of seconds. Printer kept at a temp of 85 degrees in the winter time is a happy printer. It gets real hot in my garage during summer -low humidity- and the resin is nice and thin. Again think of it like motor oil. It's thicker in the cold and runny when hot. Runny is good.

    Lastly - I never clean out my resin vats unless I have a major failure that requires I stop everything and retrieve the failed parts from the goo. I have a couple extra vats with different colored resins that I store away for quick material changes. (printed some nice storage covers for them with the Ender 3) Some people clean the thing out after every print. For the life of me I don't understand why, unless they're printing one thing a year. I've had resins sit in a vat for months, and as long as you stir it up real good before using it again - no problems.

    I'm partial to the Photon because I own two of them. They're a pain sometimes to get leveled at first, but once you get that build plate leveled it's real simple. It's kind of the Ender 3 of the resin world. It's been around for a few years now, tons of community support, and it's a known workhorse. Small build area, as all of the budget ones are, but for N Scale there's plenty you can do with it. And the wow factor. After your first successful print you just won't believe what you did with a 250 dollar tool.

    Mike
     
  8. goatfarmer

    goatfarmer TrainBoard Member

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    Another great low budget option is the Sovol SV01. It has a slightly larger build plate than the ender 3. I just got mine on monday and love it. I haven't stopped printing yet. Assembly is very easy as it comes 95% assembled. Just attach the gantry, z axis limit, filament detector and spool holder and its ready to print in about an hour. I am new to 3d printers and not real computer savy and I haven't stopped printing since I got it. Box cars, hopper cars, ballast spreader, mini vise, tunnel portal, bridge and on and on. I wish I could find more automobiles to print as I'm not sure of the best way to "design" them from scratch, but I'll figure that out eventually. Good luck and you won't regret it no matter your decision.
     
  9. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

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    I have filament printer that I built from a kit, some kind of a clone of a Prusa I3 ... Bonus for the heated bed, and auto bed leveling, makes it easier, I'm mostly into HO so it uses a bit of filament , but not very much..
    Had it for about a year now, don't use it too much, but it's definitely paid for itself, I think the kit was 160 Canadian..
     
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  10. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Here is series of videos on the subject ....



    ... I want to study them further but they are more advanced than I am at the moment with Fusion 360 but I think using the videos I can get started. I've been using 360 for about 6 weeks now and using it a lot. I can't see any way that I could of considered using the videos right off. I can design stuff now with 360 in 10-15 minutes that was taking me 3-4 hours of 'trying to get it' 6 weeks ago. If you haven't used a CAD program before have some patience. I used SketchUp some in the past so that helped.

    If you start doing a vehicle I'd recommend one at least pre-50's for a can and pre-60's for a truck. I picked the White truck shown in a post above as my first attempt as it is pretty slab sided and boxy.....

    http://1fatgmc.com/RailRoad/3D-Printer/page-6.html

    ... now that I've found the videos I'll probably get a little more daring on the next vehicle but it still won't be a late model car like what they did. A 30's or 40's most likely.

    Have fun with the new printer. It looks like a nice one,

    Sumner
     
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  11. goatfarmer

    goatfarmer TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks, I'll check that out.
     
  12. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

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    About temperature. I print in the garage (20 x 10 feet) which is somewhat heated in the winter. Normal temperature in there in the winter is 17 Celcius (62.5 F). However, I used to use a space heater to bring up the room temperature to 21 C (69.8 F). I've stopped borhering with that when I found a way to store my printer during printing....

    IMG_20191208_181638934.jpg

    When I put my printer in a cabinet, I realized that the temperature problem went away. See, the polymerization of the resin from liquid to solid is an exothermic reaction - it generates heat. I have a thermometer in the cabinet, and during a print, the door is closed and the temperature quickly rises to 28 C (82.4 F). The first few layers are just used to adhere to the build plate and no model detail is involved, and that sort of serves also as a "resin-heating" delay :) The cabinet also keeps the smell down to some extent, at least when not printing, and keeps the printer away from sunlight. Before the cabinet, I used to place the cardboard box the printer came in on the printer during a print. This cabinet came from Ikea - it was cheap.

    Also, using a cheap vinyl drop cloth and trays (i.e. lunch trays) helps in keeping everything clean
     
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  13. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    The more I'm into this with my Ender and after looking at videos on line I agree that a good FDM printer like the Ender might be the best option for someone who might end up with just one printer or at least for their first printer. If you like to do metal work the question is often asked if you could only have one type welder what would it be, if you could only have a mill or a lathe which one would you choose. I now have a mig and tig welder and the tig can weld anything but I'd probably choose the mig if I only could have one if I was doing larger projects as it will get them done quicker and easier. I'd choose the mill over the lathe as I use it much more than I do the lathe.

    This morning I watched a really good video on using a resin printer.....



    .... I was impressed with the results but for 'myself' (not someone else) I can see now that it wouldn't of been a good choice for me as a 'first printer'.

    [​IMG]

    I've had my printer about 6 weeks now and have designed the objects above (minus one) and printed them out. I didn't count exactly how many there are above but think over 200 and there are other prints I threw away. Only a couple because of a print failure, can't believe how trouble free overall the Ender is, but threw others away as bad designs.

    I can't imagine doing that many prints with a resin printer after seeing the video I posted a link to above. With the FDM printer, design, print, design some more and print again. All within a few minutes. For me this is what I need, otherwise I would become frustrated and wouldn't do it if I had to go through the steps shown in the video above.

    [​IMG]

    For my standards the quality is fine for my N scale needs. For others it might not be.

    If you don't plan on doing very much design work for print projects and none are very big and minute detail is a must I could see where a resin printer might fit you better. You find a print you like and download it and print it. You won't be doing a lot of prints like you would if you were using a CAD program to design items to be printed.

    If design is important to you, maybe a resin printer should be your second printer as you will probably want to do a lot of printing. It is quick and cheap with a FDM printer. I'm likely to still get a resin printer down the road but I can see the Ender or another FDM printer as being the workhorse for design and most print jobs even then.

    Again just my view,

    Sumner
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
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  14. FlightRisk

    FlightRisk TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Sumner. What is the cost of operating this thing? How much is filament? Do you use ABS or something else? Have you seen the acetone vapor smoothing trick? Let's say you made an N scale truck, how much would that cost in filament?
     
  15. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    The cost for N scale objects is minute. A spool of PLA filament ....

    [​IMG]
    is about $20 and you can print a lot, really a lot of items with it. I started with a spool of black because I couldn't get gray and printed out a lot before I got some gray and hardly used any. I've printed a lot with the gray (see items in picture a couple posts up) and still have hardly used any of the spool.

    [​IMG]

    For something like the truck above that I crudely designed I guess the cost of the filament is a few penny's. The ladders print in a minute or so and I doubt they cost a penny. The truck prints in a little over an hour. I watch the first couple minutes of the print to make sure it starts ok (90% of the time it does and if it doesn't then the bed probably needs to be releveled which takes a minute) and if it starts I usually don't check back unless I'm nearby. You can get a cheap camera and download an app to see the print while it is happening from your phone but our items are so small and not very tall and print fast so I haven't done that.

    There are no real other costs. I've put in a couple nozzles for maybe a buck total. I'm really happy with the Ender. Only problem so far was one filament jam that I fixed in 15 minutes once I youtubed it and I usually have to re-level the bed, which is important, maybe every 5-10 prints but that takes just a minute using a program you can put on a SD card and leave in the printer and can be called right up at any time. I've got a link to it above I believe.

    I started by putting the prints on the SD card in the computer and moving it to the printer but then looked up the procedure for printing via a USB cable between the computer and printer and that way I don't have to move the card back and forth so it is easier/faster.

    What I really like about this printer is I can design with Fusion 360, which I put off trying to learn and shouldn't of, print, redesign and print again in a matter of minutes so it is instant gratification or not depending on how happy you are with your design.

    If you aren't designing but just downloading someone else's design it just takes a minute or so to download it and be printing. I love it,

    Sumner
     
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  16. SLSF Freak

    SLSF Freak Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I would avoid ABS unless you have a specific purpose for it, and even then I might try something like HTPLA instead. Each filament type has its own temperament, and ABS was one of the worst that I've dealt with. (there are much much worse filaments to get working than ABS but those are more exotic types that we'd be less likely to use in model rr'ing) PLA is a dream - it just works. The smoothing for ABS is a neat trick but it does come at a cost where the details kind of melt away. There are other filaments ("matte" pla for example) out there that appear to mask the layer lines that I haven't tried, but they look to be excellent for things like buildings. Next time I need a new roll of filament I think I'll be giving it a try.
     
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  17. JohnForsythe

    JohnForsythe New Member

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    Congrats on entering the 3d print world and on getting the Ender 3 (have one myself).
    One upgrade you might consider that I didn't see listed is a glass bed. They print better than the poly/magnetic build plates because they heat more evenly. Super cheap on Amazon too. :)

    And + 1 to not using ABS. I've tried it a few times and it is difficult to get temps right so that it doesn't do weird things. Expansion/contraction can be an issue if the build space (the printer's space) is not heated to match the build plate. Plus the odor. But, it does have some virtue for printing plumbing and other hard fixture like things for real life applications.

    As for printing, I'm guessing that N scale is probably OK. I've printed a few things in HO and the layer lines are just too visible for what I have done, even at the finest setting. I have a .2mm print head that I'd like to try, but until I get a BL Touch self leveling kit, I can't get things close enough to do successful test prints.
     
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