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The future of 3D printing miniatures might already be here

The Ultracraft Reflex Pro is too expensive for consumers, but it represents the next leap in 3D printer design for widespread adoption

The Ultracraft Reflex Pro resin 3D printer, a possible step forward in 3D printer design for miniatures.

3D printing miniatures is magical, when it works. A resin printer can turn grey goop into perfectly detailed miniatures in a matter of hours. But there are a whole heap of things that can go wrong, or create an awful mess, which keep resin printing from widespread adoption. The Ultracraft Reflex Pro by HeyGears might be the first consumer-grade resin printer to circumvent those problems.

I learnt how to print 3D miniatures from the extensive hobbyist community online. Learning how to get the most out of a resin 3D printer, and discovering all the ways it can go wrong, was a messy and time-consuming process. Resin 3D printers are a hobbyists tool, not a consumer friendly technology, like dark room photography before Kodak film reels hit the market.

With that in mind, I was very excited by Ross Graham’s review of the Ultracraft Reflex Pro on the Fauxhammer YouTube channel (embedded, below). I suggest you watch the whole thing if you want to learn more about the product – he gives a thorough rundown of what it does well, its limitations, and its flaws.

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My key takeaway is that the Reflex Pro has implemented most of the features that 3D printers will need to have if they’re ever going to be a widely adopted home appliance – though that doesn’t mean that you should rush to buy this machine.

The Fauxhammer video sets out, part by part, a suite of features that allow the Reflex Pro to reliably produce high fidelity prints, with minimal mess, and multiple safeguards against print failure. At the same time, basically no effort is required for the user to configure the machine – it’s a plug in and play solution.

The tradeoff is that this machine is entirely locked down: there is no way for the customer to adjust any of the settings on the machine. If you use anything other than one of HeyGear’s proprietary resin mixes, you will have no way to dial in the settings to guarantee best results.

Hobbyists may not like losing control over the machine – Graham himself has some frustrations with minor print problems that he would be able to fix on another machine by tinkering with the print settings.

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But for the general consumer, who wants a machine they can turn on and start running, this is a plus. Kodak removed all control over film development from the photographer, as well as the burden of developing the film – a tradeoff that made home cameras widely accessible.

That isn’t to say that Reflex Pro is the machine that will break through to a wider audience. As Graham highlights, it minimises mess but doesn’t eliminate it entirely. It’s also very expensive – $1,399 (£1426.80) for the base unit, not counting one of the optional performance upgrades, and $60+ for bottles of proprietary resin.

But by demonstrating that a plug and play resin printer is possible, it is showing where future 3D printers will need to go to expand the market beyond hobbyists and out to general consumers.

Don’t take this as a prediction that home 3D printing will replace traditional miniature manufacture. Rather, it’s a promising sign that the field will continue to grow, letting 3D sculptors go wild with amazing DnD miniatures and tabletop wargame figures that would be totally unfeasible to produce via any other method – not to mention digital-only custom miniatures services like HeroForge.