How to 3D print

Can someone help me out with understanding how to 3Dprint? I have several car bodies i would like to print instead of resin casting. How do i get them scanned and put into the 3D printer do i need special software? Another words, I have a car body i want to print. What to I have to do or need?


Wow… This is a huge topic with a lot of different aspects.

I’d suggest that you start here:

Wildcat Modeling Special: Intro to 3D Printing for Modelers

There’s also a 3-part article in the AMPS Boresight that you might be able to find as back issues (if you join AMPS). Here’s a link to a copy of the seminar slides that the article was based on.

Seminar:: Introduction to 3D Printing for Scale Modelers

3D scanning and converting those scans into printable files is whole 'nother topic that actually has very little to do with 3D printing. However, having a basic understanding of 3D printing is important to knowing enough to start asking the right questions about 3D scanning.

Hi Joe,
First of all, KitMaker has a separate forum section for 3D printing under General Discussions so you may get more responses and tips if you post there: 3D Printing - KitMaker Network.
Looking at your questions, is it correct to think that you’re a beginner on 3D printing?
You are free to PM me for any tips, tricks, etc. if you’d like. I’ve started 3D printing and designing my own computer aided designs (CADs) about 3 months ago. Learned a lot of things from various people, videos, and trial and error.

As to answers to your questions in a nutshell:

  1. To scan properly - you’d need some hardware (HD camera or expensive scanner) and good software.
  2. Or you can create your own 3D CAD by using 2D images/photos and measurements. This of course requires a CAD program, a good computer, and some skills.
  3. Whatever CAD you create, then you must convert it to a format that is readable by the 3D printer. The most commonly used 3D model file is called STL.
  4. Lastly, of course, you need a good 3D printer. I am guessing you already have a printer?
    Two commonly used printers by consumers are:
    a. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) - uses filaments
    b. Stereolithography(SLA) - uses light sensitive resin

I hope this helps.

Kind regards,

Concur with the above posts.

Generally, making a 3D-printable model from a scan is a very complex and expensive process requiring CAD skills, specialized software and hardware. To scan a model then 3D-print it requires a lot of work, money, skill and the right equipment. The long equation:

Powerful computer + special software + special hardware (special scanner + scale model-friendly 3D printer + model-friendly resin + wash station + UV light booth for final curing) + CAD skills + time = 3D-printed model.

The short equation: money + machines + skills + time = model

CAD skills are needed because when a scanner scans a model, the scan file the scanner produces is typically loaded with errors. That raw scan is not normally 3D-printable. The errors must be corrected manually in CAD before the model can be successfully printed.

3D scanners are typically extraordinarily expensive. But some good news, many modern cell phones are capable of scanning with the right app installed. Cell phones that use lidar technology work best. But again, the file produced will not be immediately 3D-printable. The errors will all have to be corrected in CAD.

Other good news: sometimes people with access to proper scanning technology and with good CAD skills will do all of the hard work for you by creating 3D-printable computer files and selling those files to people who then print the models on their own 3D printers. A common file format used by many 3D-printers is called an *.stl file. You can find many *.stl files for sale on sites like Thingiverse. There are also companies and services that will scan an object and produce a printable file for you for a price.

To learn CAD, 3D-printing, and 3D scanning, there are loads of tutorials on Youtube. To find scanning services near you, Google is your friend.

Hope this helps.

I have two scanners on my I phone 12 pro, but they don’t have the resolution to scan small things that we model. 3D printers — and I don’t believe a filament machine will produce an object with fine enough details to work— must be from a drawing that has physical qualities to make a real object. When you scan something all the scanner ( and subsequently the computer) sees is a surface with no thickness. In our real world of 3D things, everything has thickness. Resin prints, while pretty tough, need to have large surface areas—such as a model car roof, hood, etc.—with a thickness of at least 0.031” (1mm+) otherwise they warp, fall apart or fail to print.

What this means is any scanned object must the be extensively edited to add that depth to every surface in the original scan. Even beautifully drawn objects from the SketchUp 3D warehouse are often unprintable because the artist wasn’t drawing with printing in mind.

Actually, running the actual resin printer is not the hard part. Drawing parts and translating them so they print successfully is a steep learning curve. High resolution 3D LCD matrix printers are the cheapest part of the equation. Scanners, and software can get expensive.

I am not trying to discourage you. But, don’t start into this tech with a car body. Start small. Resin printers can literally produce anything you tell them to do. Whether or not the part is correct, functional or capable of existing at all is entirely up to the drawing from which it is created and the skill and knowledge of setting up the print file.

There’s a ton of YouTube vids to watch to get you started. Begin there.


Thanks everyone. to answer a few questions, yes i am not even a beginner as i do not have a printer yet. i don’t think i have a phone that can scan, samsung galaxy s10e, and i have an average laptop.
If i find someone to make a CAD for me will it be ready to print? and can i use my run of the mill laptop if that’s the case?
Builder2010- when you say drawing i assume you mean on a program not pen to paper so parts of cars, like the A pillars would be too thin? i seen over on facebook someone selling nascar cot bodies and the A pillars look just as thin as styrene and military parts like gun barrels and radar antennas in 1\48 scale and rifles in 1\35 that are very thin. is there a trick to printing these or are they not resin?
I was trying to wrap my head around how the printer would print a car body without making it a solid object
Thanks for the offer james.I am a fan of nascar up to when they went to the cot. This all started out because i wanted to make a couple of bodies I noticed were scarce, like the 64 galaxy, for myself. Since current day nascar is dead to me i’ve been more and more interested in 60’s through 80’s era and there are many missing up to the 70’ resin casting skills are marginal so i thought 3Dprinting was a good idea. i guess that is that unless i can get the cad files made for me, don’t have the money to bank roll all the pre print equipment needed. I will check out those sites and forum though.


Concur with Builder2010.

Regarding finding someone to make a CAD file for you, yes, there are talented, experienced CAD designers with access to scanning technology who will produce a 3D-printer-ready CAD file for you. Generally, these are skilled, professional people who will require a professional fee. Their services aren’t typically cheap. If you want them to print the model for you, that will be an additional cost on top of the fee to research and design the model.

Also note that depending on what you want them to scan and produce, copyright laws may come into play. Reputable professional designers will stay away from anything protected by copyright and for good reason.

There are many skilled CAD “designers for hire” who specialize in designing objects for 3D-printing. Several can be reached through Shapeways 3D design request board. Link:

You can post there what you are trying to do and interested designers will respond and provide you a cost estimate. Engage them just like you would any other kind of skilled contractor like an electrician or plumber. Make sure they they provide you with some proof of skill and references, and negotiate a firm price before hiring. There are people who think they are skilled, professional CAD designers but really aren’t. Caveat emptor.

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Or you can DIY by learning to CAD. Hiring a professional designer is going to be very costly for sure.
Here are the free but powerful programs I’ve been learning and their tutorials on YouTube.

  1. MS 3D Builder: 3D Builder Tutorial - 01 - YouTube

  2. Blender: Blender Beginner Tutorial - Part 1 - YouTube

  3. ZBrush Core Mini: ZBrush Core Mini Tutorial for Absolute Beginners - YouTube (This one is more suitable for figure sculpting and curved objects rather than consistent shapes such inanimate things.

PM me if you have any questions or pointers, Joe.

Kind regards,

Folks, I am trying to gather as much information as I can once I prepare to take the leap and buy my DLP 3D Printer. Initially, I was thinking in buying one from Elegoo. Based on my own shallow research (Youtube videos) my impression was that Elegoo printers produce better quality (finer) results compared to Anycubic. But after reading the article “Wildcat Modeling Special: Intro to 3D Printing for Modelers” By: Michael D. Roof, it seems to me the AnyCubic Photon DLP Printer would be a better option due to the fact that the ChiTuBox slicer software is designed by the same company that designed the AnyCubic Photon slicer.

Am I on the right track here?

Jorge Damico

Sort of yes, sort of no. Really, it all comes down to a few things: how well you program the slicer settings, how well optimized the 3D file is, and the technical specifications of the printer you get. I have a 6k resolution printer. By that very nature, it can produce better detailed prints than a 2k or 4k printer because it has greater number of and smaller voxels than the other printers. If I had an 8k printer, it would produce even finer detail. By that token, Phrozen would have the edge with their Sonic Mini 8k, Sonic Mighty, and Sonic Mega 8k. But all the resolution in the world won’t help you if you don’t have good slicer settings. The slicer you choose is important but not necessarily as important as you think. I’ve used Lychee slicer and Chitubox. I frankly prefer Chitubox because I find it easier to use and has more support settings available to all users without a paid subscription. Chitubox does support most other consumer printers that are commonly found including Elegoo, Phrozen, Creality, Peopoly, and Wanhao, among others. Lychee does support more I believe but really there’s nothing you can do in Lychee that you can’t do in Chitubox, and vice-versa. Lychee is more refined though.

On the slicer settings aspect, you need to ensure that the cure time is correct. Too long would result in overexposure of the resin and the loss of detail. Too short would result in resin that’s at best very soft and at worst would fail to print. The burn-in or base layers are also very important. These are layers that are exposed for long periods of time to ensure that the entire print sticks to the build plate. I use a base time of 60 seconds for these layers.

So you have the exposure settings dialed in but after it exposes a layer, it has to go to the next one. So the entire build plate, models and all, has to lift off of the vat film (called a FEP) and then descend back in to the resin. The lift heights and lift and retract speeds come into play here. You can’t really go too high, although then that’s wasted time, but you can definitely go too low and fast. Having a too low lift height would result in a print that hasn’t pulled away from the FEP completely. The print would retract down still attached to the FEP resulting in uncured or missing layers. Lifting too fast would rip the layers off of the FEP instead of the FEP gently pulling away. This could result in layer separation and, again, uncured or missing layers. Having too slow lift and retract speeds isn’t too bad, but that wastes time and lengthens the print time when you could have used a faster speed that would yield the same results and give you a finished print in half the time.

You also need to make sure that the build plate is leveled correctly. On cheaper consumer printers, like the ones from Elegoo, Anycubic, Phrozen, etc., the leveling process is completely manual. On more expensive printers, the build plate might come pre-calibrated. On professional machines that can cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, like the ones from Formlabs, there could be an automatic leveling process.

All this being said, I have an Anycubic Photon Mono X 6k and it’s been serving me well since June or so of last year. I’ve had to replace the LCD screen as part of regular maintenance but I’ve had some problems with it that can be attributed to user-error. If I had to start over, I might want to try the Phrozen Sonic Mighty 8k. If it was released when the Mono X 6k was, I’d also probably go for the Anycubic Photon D2. Being a DLP printer, there’s no LCD screen that would need to be replaced at around 2,000 hours like an MSLA printer would require. Pretty much most consumer grade printers that you will be looking into will be MSLA printers with the exception of the Anycubic Photon Ultra and D2. I don’t believe any other company has yet released a true DLP consumer grade printer.


I vote Elegoo brand any day over Anycubic. I have used both and Anycubic gave me so much trouble so I ended up exchanging it for another Elegoo. That’s just my experience though.

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Thank you Mikey for your feedback and detailed explanation. Much appreciated.
This will definitely help me with the decision-making process.

Jorge Damico

Thank you James for your input.

Jorge Damico

So, I bit the bullet today and have an Elegoo Mars 3 Pro and wash /cure machine coming my way. I have no idea what i am doing with this stuff. I am good at CAD drawing, so I at least have that stage good to go. Now just have to learn how to get the imaged “sliced” and all that. Good times ahead, I am sure. I now will have the 3D printer setup and a Silhouette Portrait 3. What am i getting myself into?

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@Petition2God and @MikeyBugs - to the courtesy red phone…

I have been watching those two for the last 2 years now. I am sure the questions will be free flowing from my end shortly!


Same here, I’m friends with James on FB, we run a modeling discussion page there; plus I’ve bought stuff from both James and Michael. No better sources of wisdom on 3D printing AFAIK. :+1:

I am currently learning FreeCAD for this purpose. Blender is really good for animating and sculpting. Parametric CAD programs like FreeCAD are better for drawing machine type objects for 3D printing because the models are inherently manifold (water tight). That is really important for 3D printing. In fact, if a drawing is not manifold, it will fail at the Slicer stage.

In mesh drawing programs like Blender, if you goof a dimension, you may need to undo many hours of work, or even an entire drawing! In a parametric CAD program, if you goof a dimension, you change it and the entire drawing adjusts accordingly. This is super important if you care even slightly about accuracy, or work on a project without first having accurate dimensions for everything, or are a human being and make the occasional mistake.

You do not need to learn a CAD program if you just want to print stuff designed by other people. That is a far easier path.

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As much as I appreciate the props for that article, I’d point out that it’s now several years old. A lot has changed since then.

When I wrote that, most of the consumer level desktop DLP printers were all technically very similar (if not basically identical) in resolution (since they all used pretty much the same LCD projector screens based on standard cellphone screens). However, the tech has advanced quite a bit since then with resolutions that have improved along with the sizes of the printers.

It’s been a while since I looked at 3D printers seriously, but as of a year or so ago, I’d say that Elegoo had some of the best values in consumer level, desktop DLP printers. At the time, they were offering some good (IMO) deals on their larger format DLP printers with resolution specs that were as good as any other smaller format DLP printers.

The fundamentals of 3D printing discussed in that article remain pretty much the same, but it’s now worth spending some time shopping around and researching the specs to find the best resolutions and largest sizes at your price-point. There have also been a number of general improvements in slicer and printer software (like antialiasing settings), so comparing the details of the software that is included with the printers you’re looking at is also important.

Finally, true laser printers have also come down in price solidly putting some models into the consumer level price range. Again, well worth the time and effort to compare the must current levels of resolution between DLP and SLA printers. Depending on how deep your pockets are and what your printer format size requirements are, you might consider higher resolution over format size as a viable course of action.

As a research source, I might suggest that you spend a little time lurking on some of the FB pages for the users of the various brands of 3D printers you might be considering. Users are very (very!) vocal when they’re having problems, so that can be source for the latest user feedback. If you do this, though, run the comments through your “filter” to judge the level of experience of the posters who are complaining so you can sort the “noob problems” from the real ones. Also keep in mind the “rose colored glasses” syndrome as you read any glowing “fan boy” comments. Still, the FB user groups are good sources of info on the brands and models.


Lots of good advice in posts above.

We use laser-based printers by Formlabs (Form 2 and Form 3), and LCD screen-based printers by Phrozen (Mighty 8K) and Elegoo (Saturn 2). Each has its strengths and weaknesses. A model that prints really well on one printer may not print well on another. We intend to add a DLP printer to the workshop in the near future. Although DLP printers generally have lower resolution than LCD printers, it’s being reported that because the way a DLP printer works, resolution comparisons between DLP and LCD printers may be a bit misleading. We’re attracted to DLP because the light source can last 10 times longer than an LCD screen before it has to be replaced. By that time, a newer generation of DLP printer may be available.

Our Formlabs printers are the most sophisticated and reliable and are professional grade printers, printing very well right out of the box with no calibration or build plate leveling needed. But you pay through the nose for that quality and ease of use.

Formlabs has its own proprietary slicer, called PreForm, and slicer settings are set by the factory. We use Chitubox for our Mighty 8K and Elegoo Saturn 2. We tried Lychee which is also a very good slicer but found Chitubox easier to use. Finding the right Chitubox settings for each printer required many test prints in order to find the best slicer settings. The process was tedious, costly and frustrating and required some contact with each company’s support team for help.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, like 3D printers, 3D resins are not created equal. Slicer settings for one resin may not work with a different resin. This means that finding the right slicer settings depends greatly on the specific resin you choose to use.

Thicker resins typically produce better detail. But, we’ve had more problems with thicker resins because they flow more slowly. Slower flowing resin requires a slower printing process. If the printer speed is set too fast, models may not form properly.

Another problem that crops up in our Phrozen and Elegoo printers is that small pinholes can appear in the upper layers of the models. This happens when tiny air bubbles form in the resin during the print cycle (platform lifting can cause cavitation). Those tiny air bubbles tend to get trapped in the upper layers of the model during printing resulting in tiny voids. Pinholes can be reduced by slowing the printing process which provides time and space for the bubbles to dissipate but generally air bubbles cannot be eliminated entirely. Our Formlabs printers don’t experience pinhole problems because they use a slightly different printing process but both our Phrozen and Elegoo printers do experience pinholes.

We also found that using the resins made by the same manufacturer that made the printer does not guarantee printing success. Looking through FB pages is good advice. Pay attention to what users are saying about which resins they are having a good experience with. We’ve had good experience with Siraya Tech Fast Gray resin and Fast Navy Gray resin on both our Phrozen and Elegoo printers.

Hope this helps.