Hey, some of you may know me from YouTube. I have been really wanting to get into creating my own puzzles. I have recently downloaded a student version of the 2012-2013 SolidWorks software to start practicing modding. I think that in order to have the masters printed, I need the full version that will export the right file type, but I'm not sure. I want to get your opinion on where is the best place to get parts printed. What mold and resin should I purchase? Also, Where is best place to get the materials needed to mold and cast the pieces? I have the materials to create a mold-box but need I good suggestion on where to buy the mold material, mold release, and resin. I have heard good things about smoothcast. Thanks so much.
I'd agree with TomZ about full 3D-prints being time-efficient. But casting, in my opinion, is much more rewarding. Once you've bought your casting materials and sold one or two puzzles, you've paid off your material costs. From my experience, good quality cast puzzles will sell for enough money to account for the time spent making them, and give you a fair amount of profit.
If you do decide to cast, try Mold Star 15
for molding and a soft clay like Sculpey Mold Maker
as your temporary clay base (just don't bake it!). Smoothcast 300
is the best white resin to use, and I'm undecided between Alumilite Black
and Smoothcast Onyx
as to which black is the best; they both aren't that great. I'd start with white before going to black; it's thinner and transparent before drying, making air bubbles easy to avoid.
Purchase a gallon of Smoothcast 300 and 2 trial bottles of Mold Star 15 directly from Smooth-On. Also, be sure to get some mold release like Mann Ease Release 205, also available from Smooth-On. I've found Sculpey Mold Maker at AC Moore, but have not found it there recently. If you can't find it from any craft stores, use the link in the above paragraph.
Purchase your masters from Shapeways in the Frosted Detail material. I recommend sanding and polishing them with a few grits of sandpaper before making molds.
Put lots of work into those molds. Dave Litwin has some nice molding tips somewhere around the forum. Be sure to use alignment pins, as well as edges to keep the resin from dripping out of the molds. It's often nice to have a casting partner (like my dad) to pour the resin while you watch out for air bubbles and flip the mold halves when ready. Be sure to use equal amounts of resin, and stir a good 25 seconds to avoid drying problems. It's nice to keep the resin in a cool, not cold room to have a good balance between drying time and the strength of the pieces. If you haven't yet watched Drewseph's casting video
, it's very helpful.
And those are QuirkyCubes' words of advice. Good luck. I sincerely hope you decide to learn how to cast. Shapeways can be pretty profitable too, so don't forget to upload a few designs there.