Print or Buy...The Print Noob's Blog Post

How hard is 3d printing Terrain myself?

I have recently had a lot of questions around the basics of printing. What it takes, what should I buy, can I get my prints to look like yours.  I have organized these questions together and created a mini-FAQ for those who are looking at buying a 3d printer for terrain making or buying from a manufacturer like us.

I'll start off by saying getting a machine and printing is not for everyone. Why? The manufacturers of 3d printers have now gotten the price point down to the sweet spot for most folks but the machines are still science projects. They require care and feeding, tuning, and observation. Temperature changes, noise, and a litany of other factors are also things to consider when eyeing whether or not you should pick up a printer. Where are you going to put it? Are you just going to use it to print terrain? Do you have kids that would find it fun to learn how to model and print? How many tabletop games do you play?

Most importantly: Do you have time?

On to the questions,

#1) What build plate / build area am i looking for to cover 90%/100% of your STLs? 
200mm x 200mm will cover 100% of the prints. 
2) What other supplies should I have when printing (sanding paper I assume, snips - but from experience, what other non-assumed things are good to have?)
  • Hobby Knife / Exacto Knife (#1, helps remove prints from bed and clean up prints)
  • 91 Alcohol or Acetone for bed cleaning
  • Paper Towels / Medical Gloves
  • Needle nose pliers (Help with removing prints / filament on hot end)
  • Metal Putty Knife (Help with removing prints)
3) Are your printed models ABS, PLA or other, and do you recommend using the *other* filament type (and if so, why not?)
PLA - That's all I use. Price / Smell / Detail. It's terrain and doesn't need any of the other special properties of other plastics.
4) Does printer resolution matter when printing the models? if so, is there a "minimum recommended"?  - Is this directly related to layer height?
It does!  It is! Smaller layer height the better the print will look / the longer it takes to print. Makes sense right? I print everything at .2 layer height for a nice blend of detail and printing speed. If I was printing high detailed prints at home, I would probably do .15 since time isn't a big deal.
5) Heated bed is the way to go, right?
6) Is Cura good enough to print your models? 
Any slicer is good to print the models. Popular slicers are:
Cura / Slic3r / Simplify3d ($$)
7) Other recommended print settings
For IT stuff, .2 layer height or .15 depending how detailed...2 Perimeters and 10% Infill. You can do much less infill if you would like, just make sure your # of Top Layer's is higher to make up for the rough surface.
8) Recommended Printers:
All up to your time and budget. I run Prusa MK2's and MK3's. They are on average more expensive but incredibly durable and flexible (upgrades, opensource community, etc) I cant comment on others because I have never owned a different brand of printer. Check out for info on other printers.