Making 3D printed toys

3D printing is the process of making three-dimensional objects by laying thin layers of material on top of one another. Each layer is so thin that the height is barely detectable by the human eye. 

In the late ’70s, the early days of the technology, 3D printing was crude, suitable only for developing prototypes quickly and cheaply. Today, 3D printing is used to create jewelry, furniture, tools, prosthetics, hearing aids, foods and even toys.  

What you need to know

How does 3D printing work?

Plastic threads are fed into the printer, melted and then squirted through tiny nozzles. A mechanical assembly uses motors and belts to move the nozzles from side to side, in and out and up and down to create contours. The resolution of a 3D printer is the height of the layers, measured in thousandths of a millimeter, also called microns.  

Where can you find scannable 3D models of toys? 

There are many sites that let you download free 3D models. Type “Free 3D toy models” into your search bar, and you will find sites with hundreds of scannable toy models. Among the best:

  • Turbosquid has free models of toy cars, airplanes, trains, toy soldiers, cats and dogs.
  • CG Trader has teddy bears, Ninja turtles, fingerboards, alphabet blocks and more.
  • 3D Export has “Star Wars” stormtroopers, Skywalker ships and the Millennium Falcon, plus Formula 1 race cars and creepy articulated centipedes.

What you need to have in addition to a 3D printer

3D software

If you can draw an object in two dimensions, you can print it in three with special conversion software. The process by which the software turns your 3D model into hundreds or thousands of thin layers is called slicing. The thinner the layer, the greater the detail of the finished model or toy. 

Raw materials

  • Filaments: In the world of 3D printing, filaments are thermoplastics that melt when heated so they can be shaped and molded, solidifying only when they are cooled. 
  • Resins: Used in stereolithography printing, resins employ lasers and photochemical processes to make products in high resolution with lots of detail and smooth surfaces.

3D printing processes

FDM

FDM stands for fused deposition modeling. It is the most common type of desktop 3D printer because it is easy to use and the thermoplastic filaments it uses as raw materials are the least expensive. The downsides are it has the lowest accuracy and resolution and is prone to clogging.

SLS

SLS is the term for selective laser sintering. This process uses a laser to fuse powdered nylon polymers. SLS printers are preferred by engineers and manufacturers because they produce precise, strong products. SLS printers are ideal for making products with complex geometries.

SLA

SLA is shorthand for stereolithography, the world’s first 3D printing technology. SLA printers use lasers to cure liquid photopolymer resins. SLA printers deliver high resolution and fine details. 

What you need to buy to make 3D printed toys

3D printer

Dremel Digilab 3D45 3D Printer

Dremel Digilab 3D45 3D Printer

This PCMag award-winning PLA printer prints detailed models and toys. When you follow the intuitive instructions on the 5-inch full-color touch screen, you can make your first print within 15 minutes of unboxing.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Elegoo Saturn MSLA 3D Resin Printer

Elegoo Saturn MSLA 3D Resin Printer

This fast, durable printer excels at creating resin prints that are large, smooth and accurate. The 54 ultraviolet LED lights ensure accurate sizing and superior print results.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Makerbot Replicator+ 3D PLA Printer with Swappable Smart Extruder

Makerbot Replicator+ 3D PLA Printer with Swappable Smart Extruder

Beginners love its wireless connectivity, easy setup and user-friendly software. The built-in 640 x 480 camera of this PCMag Editors’ Choice lets you monitor the progress as your toy is being printed.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

3D printer filaments

Mika3D Shiny Silk PLA Filament Bundle

Mika3D Shiny Silk PLA Filament Bundle

These three spools of gold, silver and copper each contain 500 grams of 1.75-millimeter filament. They are universally compatible with FDM 3D printers. Made of eco-friendly materials, they print in the range of 400 to 445 degrees with low odor and no bubbles.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Amazon Basics PLA 3D Printer Filament

Amazon Basics PLA 3D Printer Filament

These inexpensive filaments are designed to fit most common 3D printers. You get 1 kilogram of 1.75-millimeter filament on a spool. This commonly used thermoplastic is known for its ease of use, relatively low melting temperature and glossy finish.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Esun 3D Printer PLA+ Filament

Esun 3D Printer PLA+ Filament

This spool of 1.75 millimeter filaments weighs 1 kilogram. PLA+ filaments are extracted from corn and are eco-friendly, odorless and harmless to humans. Much sturdier than typical PLA materials, they will not crack, warp, tangle or clog your printer head.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

3D printer liquids

Phrozen 3D Printer Rapid Resin

Phrozen 3D Printer Rapid Resin

This resin prints in 4K with high color rendering that showcases all of your toy’s details. Unlike many other resins, it doesn’t curl, bend or discolor. Your toy will be resilient and won’t easily break.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Elegoo ABS-like 3D Printer Resin

Elegoo ABS-like 3D Printer Resin

This SLA photopolymer resin cures quickly with minimal shrinkage to ensure precisely made toys with smooth finishes and amazing detail. It is suitable for use with most printers labeled DLP and LCD.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Anycubic 3D Printer Plant-Based UV Resin

Anycubic 3D Printer Plant-Based UV Resin

Made from soybean oil, this biodegradable resin has no harmful chemicals and only a minimal odor. It cures quickly, is compatible with most LCD 3D printers and is great for printing models, toys and prototypes.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

3D modeling software

Corel CAD 3D Design and Printing Software

Corel CAD 3D Design and Printing Software

Turn imagination into creation with this affordable Windows and Mac software. It is a collection of purpose-built modeling and editing tools that transform your 2D sketches into 3D models with just a few clicks.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Via CAD 2D/3D V11 Software

Via CAD 2D/3D V11 Software

This software lets you turn your ideas into reality by toggling between 2D and 3D view. It turns architectural and mechanical designs into files for all popular 3D printers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Mynt 3D Professional Printing 3D Pen with OLED Display

Mynt 3D Professional Printing 3D Pen with OLED Display

Skip the computer and the printer, and get started drawing your own toys immediately. Doodle, sketch and paint with this special extruding pen that puts the magic of 3D printing in your hand. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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