A question I often get is “what printer should I choose if I want to get into making my own 3D printed lures and molds?” That’s an easy question and a complicated question at the same time so today I’m doing to dive into some things you should consider before you choose the right 3D printer for you.
Two Main Types of Printers
First up, there’s two main types of printers in the home consumer market which is the FBM printer and resin 3D printer. The FBM printer takes plastic, shoots it through a nozzle that’s been heated and builds layers over time. That’s probably the one you’ve seen the most and it’s been in the consumer market the longest. The resin 3D printer is relatively new to the consumer market. Although they’re built on older technology that was used at the beginning of 3D printing uses resin and light to cure. Now both of these printing styles have their pluses and minuses
The Pros and Cons of FDM Printers
The FDM printer is easier to post-process. There’s really not much post-processing, you can print a part and pull it right off the build plate and use if for the most part. In a fishing lure, we know we’re going to paint it and we want to have the best finish so we’re probably going to sand it and there could be some other things we need to do.
The material you’re primarily going to use are PLA PETG which has some higher heat resistance, the have ABS plastic and all of these are a little more difficult to print and they take a different kind of environments. So with ABS, you generally have to have an enclosed space that's heated and I will say that by and large none of the materials are really great for molds. I would go so far as say you just don’t want to do a mold in an FDM printer unless you already own an FDM printer. It can’t really handle the heat of the plastic and when you inject it, it will deform over time or worst case it would just melt as soon as you inject it.
FDM printers are also a little more difficult to set up. Initially, they have a larger build plate that usually has four kinds of screws on the outside and you have to level each of the four concerns and it takes quite some time and the results at the end of the day are not as detailed as resin printers. That’s why I tossed FDM out of consideration from the beginning unless you have a very specific use or you already own one. Just don’t get one.
The Pros and Cons of Resin 3D Printers
Now resin 3D printers have a lot of advantages over FDM printers in terms of resolution and ease of setup. However, they do have one fairly major con and that is the post-processing. After a resin 3D print finishes, I have to clean it usually in some sort of solvent (isopropyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, etc.) and then I have to cure it either outside in the sun or in a UV chamber that I’ve made or purchased. However, you get some amazing result, we’re talking about layer lines that are .04 millimeters which is 40 nanometers. This is what most fishing lure makers want, whether you’re making molds or lures themselves.
Benefit of Print Time
So another big difference between FDM and resin is print time. It’s really print time with multiple objects on your printer. On a resin 3D printer the only thing that dictates how long a print is going to take is the distance between the build plate and the very bottom of the model that I’m printing. So, I can print a solid build plate that’s let’s say 50 millimeters in depth and that’s going to take exactly as much time to print as if I was printing a 1 millimeter diameter cylinder. That’s 50 millimeters long vertically and it makes no difference. That’s a giant advantage when you’re talking about printing molds and printing lure bodies
Discussion of Resins
Let’s talk about resin real quick. You’re going to be printing in a UV cured resin and they have a wide variety of these resins available. One of the things that drew me to resin 3D printing specifically for mold making is a resin called Siraya Tech Sculpt. This resin has a heat deflection temperature of 320 degrees Fahrenheit which is right around what you would shoot normal plastics at right around 350. Now I can go on a rant about heat deflection temperature but I’ll link a video at the end of this that discusses it in detail. Just know it’s not an absolute number, it’s a number derived from a test of the material at a certain thickness and under a certain amount of pressure or load. My finding is that when I make these lure molds, I’m printing at a much thicker material than they test. I’ve shot molds on accident at 420 degrees Fahrenheit with no damage whatsoever so just know it’s not an exact temperature that turns your resin into a big pile of goo. So resin 3D printers are really the only 3D printers I would recommend if you want to make molds. There’s no other choice in my book.
Lures and Lure Blanks
Now let’s talk about lures and lure blanks. With these we’re going to paint them and resin 3D printers are fantastic at producing amazing details and, again, we have a wide variety of resins to choose from which have different properties. So far, I’ve been printing all of my lure bodies in a combination of resin and Siraya Tech build mixed with a little Tenacious. Which, by the way, this is something you can’t do on an FDM printer. You can’t custom formalizations, you get one material. I know some guys will say they have RDX printers with two build heads and that’s just two different materials layers on top of each other, not a combination. So Tenacious is a very flexible resin and build is a very accurate resin that was designed to be drilled and tapped, combining the two together. So far, this has given me the best results for my lures but there’s more experimentation coming up
So Which Resin 3D Printer to Get?
Now that I’ve convinced you to get a resin printer, which one should you get. There are two things that are must have’s in my book is high resolution and mono LCD screens. For resolution, you should be able to find 4k in a midsized printer and 2k in a smaller printer. Mono LCD screens give you much faster print times. There’s no reason to get a resin 3D printer today that doesn’t have these two things unless you want to save $20 which just isn’t worth it. So then what it comes down to is size. The guys of these printers are all made by one company (C2 Systems) and they make the main controller boards and the LCD screens. So manufactures have a little bit of variability but you’re really not going to see any difference between the print quality from one 4k mono C2 system printer and another.
So think about what you want to print the most of. If you’re here because you want to print molds for soft plastics, I would largely throw out the smaller printers. You’re going to want to print larger molds if not for larger baits, at least for multi-cavity molds. This is just because it’s more efficient and it’s difficult to do that on a smaller printer unless you’re only printing super tiny crafty little things. So molds, larger printers, end of story. If you’re here because you largely want to print lure blanks then you can consider the smaller printers. On thing to keep in mind though is that you’re going to be limited on how big of a lure blank you can print and the number that you can print at one time. On a smaller printer, you might only be able to get three lure bodies at time. On a midsize printer, I can often get five to eight at one time and the print time between one lure and five lures is exactly the same.
Specific 3D Printer Models
So let’s take a look at some of the specific printer models that I use. In my kind of day-to-day printing now, I only currently have mid-sized printers. In the past, I’ve had smaller resin printers, particularly the Creality ID 002h printer. Again, all of these are pretty much the same when it comes to the quality of the print you’re going to get off. I know a lot of people use the Elegoo Mars line which is their smaller 3D printer. There's a link to the Mars 3 HERE and the Mars 2 HERE. Both of those are good, the Epax has something (the E1 I think) which is a solid choice as well. AnyCubic Mono X MidSize Printer, all of these are good choices.
I tend to avoid the off-brand printers and that’s not because they’re any less quality than the name brand printers, it’s just because the brand name companies tend to have better support. One of the things in resin printing that a lot of people don’t realize is the LCD screen is a consumable part. It will eventually run out and fail and you will need to replace it. Being able to contact the manufacturer and make sure you’re getting the right LCD screen is pretty important for me. That’s why I go with the Epax printers, they’re US based and always seen to have parts in stock. I kind of run my 3D printing as a business for this YouTube channel and I do lure design for folks, I don’t want a lot of downtime. For you, that might be different but generally you’re going to want to go with a name brand.
So if you choose from any of those name brand printers, it’s really pretty simple. Pick it based on size and of course the budget is key as well. When people contact me and say “hey, what 3D printer do you recommend?” the first thing I ask them is how much money can you reasonably spend. I can get a mid-sized printer that costs $15k if I want to go with some specialty dental printer. Or, I can get one on the low end as little as $399. The Voxelab 8.9 is approximately $149 and linked HERE. The main difference is that the one that doesn’t cost as much is going to have some quirks and the high-end one I can probably get someone to fly out to my house and install it for me.
If you’re just getting started and you’re not sure if you’re going to be into it or not, I would recommend a smaller printer to start. You can print some single cavities molds, you can print lure bodies and you can generally get into that for under $200 for the printer. If you have a bit more money to spend (between $400-$700 range) I would highly recommend getting a mid-sized printer. You will never be wondering why you got a bigger printer, you always end up wanting to get bigger stuff. You saw in some of my wake bait videos and my lure videos that you can print or five and you might as well print five since it takes the same amount of time. It’s going to cost you a few more dollars in resin but you’ll have five lures instead of one which is just better.
Hey guys, I hope you found this helpful. There’s links for a lot of the printers that I mentioned above that I would recommend. I’ve either used them myself or I have friends that have used them with great results. I have a deal with Epax where you get 5% off any of their printers. All of the videos that I’ve mentioned are in this playlist linked HERE.
Take Care- Tight Lines