|Why 3D printing?|
I used to make armor/props/etc the traditional way, then I went away for college. I soon found out that it is really hard to make things in an apartment building with strict noise ordinances, so I started looking for alternatives.
In addition to being significantly less smelly and noisy, 3D printing allowed me to make props more quickly and at a lesser cost. Proportional and scaling errors became obsolete and I could model new props as my old ones were printing.
Which modeling software to you use to make your prints?
For the most part, I use Blender to make my models; however I will use ZBrush for models that need to look more organic. After I make the model in blender, I use Netfabb to scale, repair, and export the model to an .stl for printing.
Which printers/printing techologies do you use
I have a Rostock MAX Tri-Force Edition by Trick Laser and an Objet30. The first is an FFF/FDM machine - the most popular type of printer for hobbyists and "pro-sumers." I use the Rostock for large prints that don't have thin parts or high levels of detail. The Objet30 is a PolyJet printer, capable of very, very detailed prints. I use this for small items with high levels of detail. If I need a large item with either high levels of detail, thin parts, or both, I opt to use an online printing service (i.e. Shapeways or iMaterialize) to print it in polyamide.
Why do your 3D prints look so smooth?
There are two reasons for this. The first is that print on high resolution printers (~30µm layer height). The other is that I spend a lot of time post-processing my prints: applying spot putty and filler primer, sanding, etc.