Richard Wright-Gedcke is a Business Development Representative with InkSmith. This holiday season, Richard decided to undertake the task of creating an incredibly unique Christmas gift, a 3D printed Pokémon Chess Set. This being his first solo 3D printing project, Richard documented his journey to showcase just how approachable and accessible 3D printing can be - even for a newbie!
This past August I started working at Inksmith and at the time I knew absolutely nothing about 3D printing. I remember being intimidated by these ‘futuristic’ machines and having trouble actually grasping the concept of what they do. Looking back, it was misplaced anxiety about learning something new. Fast forward 6 months and I’ve printed a full Pokémon chess set for a Christmas gift! It’s amazing what a little exploration and stepping outside your comfort zone can do.
So, without further ado, here’s my journey through 3D printing this (hopefully) amazing gift
I’ve always been someone who leaves Christmas present shopping to the last minute. This is mostly due to the fact that I’ve worked retail for the past 6 years and time off during the holiday season is something that doesn’t really happen. This meant that making gifts for people was never on the radar and simply finding something meaningful was often enough of a challenge.
This year was different! Having more time to plan and strategize my gift-giving allowed making something special to be a possibility. My girlfriend is a bit of a Pokémon nerd. Along with that, I’ve been told that we don’t have enough 2 person games for us to play together. Can you think of something that joins the two of them? You got it - Pokémon Chess!
With this valuable information and a gentle nudge to do something about it, I set out to find a Pokémon-themed 2 person game that I could make. I sauntered over to the ‘Google’ of 3D printing files, Thingiverse, and simply searched ‘Pokémon’. Lo and behold, the first file I found was a full chess set of incredibly detailed Pokémon figures. Now that I had found what I wanted to print the actual work began.
Simply selecting a 3D model file and pressing print doesn’t exactly work. Although the machines are very easy to operate, they’re not that easy. Step one was downloading all the different models to my computer and organizing them. Each creature had its own file. Step two was loading each Pokémon model into the slicing software and arranging them on the bed in the best orientation. The slicing software I used for this project was Cubicreator, the included software with all Cubicon 3D printers. If you're new to using Cubicreator you can check out this tutorial video.
You see, there’s a bit of critical thinking required when printing several strangely shaped objects at once. Firstly, you must make sure each one has a secure base. Secondly, you must make sure they are oriented in a way that is the most efficient. Lastly, you must ensure proper supports are going to be printed with each creature. An overhanging tail? Support needed! An arching and winding snake? Support needed!
Once the files were properly arranged on the printing bed, I got to work putting in the proper print settings. There are three main settings that I focused on: temperature, infill, and quality. Temperature is the most important. If this is set incorrectly you will either damage your machine or have terrible prints. The latter isn’t a huge deal but the former can cost a pretty penny to fix! This is so critical because different materials print at different temperatures. Most slicing softwares will have a default temperature but this is something you should always double check.
The second setting is infill, which refers to how hollow or solid you want your print to be. Infill is set as a percentage, generally 10-30% is optimal. Lower than 10% and the print won't be as durable. More than 30% infill and your print will take a significant amount of time and filament to print.
Lastly, you need to choose the print quality. The print quality determines how thick or thin the individual print layers will be. This directly correlates with how long the print will take. For prints that have a lot of small details you'll want to choose high quality to allow for the best surface quality. In the case of my Pokémon models, I decided a high quality setting would be best.
If you wanted a more detailed explanation about the various 3D printing steps and terminology you can download our free 3D Printing Guide.
After all the necessary print settings had been set, I was ready to print! The next step was to download all of the file to a USB drive and head over to the printer. For this project, I used a Cubicon Single Plus 3D printer. This machine has all the features to make this project perfect. The Single Plus has a heated and coated bed to ensure easy removal as well as the ability to print layers as thin as 0.5mm.
Since these Pokémon models are small with lots of detail, I felt it was essential to use the best machine available and run it at the best quality. However printing with such high quality settings comes at a price. This Pokémon set required over 50 hours of print time - but it was well worth it!
After the print was complete, the last step was removing all the supports - and let me tell you, there were a lot. An additional couple hours of tweezers was required to polish these up and make them gift-wrap-ready. Once all of the supports were removed and touched up, my journey from apprentice to apprentice-who’s-printed-once was complete. Attacking a piece of technology I had never used before was an excellent learning experience. With all of the InkSmith troubleshooting and support resources available, I never felt lost in the learning process. I have the utmost confidence anyone interested in 3D printing could succeed as well!
Completing this project was both a humbling and empowering experience. Stepping back and admitting I knew nothing about this was not the easiest thing to do. However, it was the first step in becoming comfortable with the technology and it felt great to be able to use it effectively. 3D printing wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be and this project opened the door to the realization. There is an extremely wide range of applications for 3D printing and I'm sure anyone who has used this technology before can attest to that.