Jump to content

Is it a good investment to buy a 3D printer for model needs?


Recommended Posts

Hello all,

 

I often wonder if it makes sense to buy a 3D printer to print parts that have more details than kits parts or to replace lost kit parts? Dai 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've thought the same thing as well. The easy part is getting the 3D printer. The hard part is learning a CAD program so you can actually create the part. That's what scares me. I have neither the time nor inclination to navigate that learning curve. If the programs are downloadable, that's another story. Then I would think a 3D printer might be worth the investment.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd get one if I had someplace to put it. 

 

I look fwd to the day when models are printed at home, and we buy a downloadable instruction "sheet" to use for printing, building.

Link to post
Share on other sites

There are several member of Large Scale Central, a forum for garden railway scale modeling, and several members of what used to be the Early Rail Yahoo Group and is now on Groups dot IO, and on the Starship Modeler forum, who for several years now have been doing extensive model part design and fabrication with 3D printers. What computer programs they are employing is a thing I do not know, I only know that several different design programs have been employed by the various people.

 

Based on those members' conversations on those forums, I would say that the question of whether a printer is a good investment is decided for each specific printer.

 

From what I've seen on forums I visit, the scale aircraft and armor modelers are several years behind the sci-fi modelers, the miniatures gamers, and the railway modelers in the utilization of 3D printing.
Although, given the surface texture issue being still in an evolving phase that is understandable due to the nature of the additive process's layering, 3D printing is not yet providing mirror smooth surface finishes.

Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, southwestforests said:

Although, given the surface texture issue being still in an evolving phase that is understandable due to the nature of the additive process's layering, 3D printing is not yet providing mirror smooth surface finishes.

 

I think this problem is solvable if you are willing to spend the money. Look at the parts being sold by KA-Models. They are works of art and ready for use on models. I remember, though, the owner telling me that the printers he uses are expensive.

I think some of the stuff Dave Roof sells are 3D printed items, plus I think he uses 3D printing to do most of his masters for resin casting. How much clean up he has to do I don't know. Maybe he could chime in here as I am sure he has a wealth of experience.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Darren Roberts said:

I've thought the same thing as well. The easy part is getting the 3D printer. The hard part is learning a CAD program so you can actually create the part. That's what scares me. I have neither the time nor inclination to navigate that learning curve. If the programs are downloadable, that's another story. Then I would think a 3D printer might be worth the investment.

 

I'm testing the 3D road too at the moment, and I agree that the software is probably the bottleneck. Try and see if you can solve that before you buy the printer. I was lucky that I still remembered most of the old 3D CAD software that I used 15 years ago. I also installed FreeCAD, but I haven't tried that.

 

One of the things I started work on is a start cart used for RNLAF F-104s. It's mostly simple shapes, like rectangles with rounded edges. The tires were the most difficult bit. I can't wait to have it printed, by a friend of a friend with a 'resin' printer.

 

rzh-pauze-199.jpg

 

rzh-pauze-200.jpg

 

The new problem that I have now is that I think of more 3D parts to do, nearly every day. And that 3D modeling eats up a lot of modeling time - I haven't been at my desk for a month now..

 

Rob

 

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am intrigued by the possibilities 3D printing brings to our hobby. The draw (pardon the pun) to me would be for improving kit parts, possibly in place of resin parts, or possibly conversions that could be adapted to kits. I recently started following an Instagram member who is cranking out nicely detailed 1/72 aircraft. He claims to be using Autodesk Fusion 360 to design his projects.The only thing I find disappointing is all of the time creating and printing to produce a model with a vacuform canopy.

Edited by Jim S
Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Jim S said:

I am intrigued by the possibilities 3D printing brings to our hobby. The draw (pardon the pun) to me would be for improving kit parts, possibly in place of resin parts, or possibly conversions that could be adapted to kits. I recently started following an Instagram member who is cranking out nicely detailed 1/72 aircraft. He claims to be using Autodesk Fusion 360 to design his projects.The only thing I find disappointing is all of the time creating and printing the kit only ending you with.

I have seen some cool 3D printed items that look as good as resin parts. If we have companies that sell files to print out parts, that would be a game changer ! Dai 

Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Mstor said:

I think some of the stuff Dave Roof sells are 3D printed items, plus I think he uses 3D printing to do most of his masters for resin casting. How much clean up he has to do I don't know. Maybe he could chime in here as I am sure he has a wealth of experience.

 

Everything in my line is 3D printed.

 

While I invested in resin casting equipment, I have chosen not to pursue that medium to produce my parts. 

The Pros to 3D printing each part is they are ready to install as soon as the modeler takes them out of the package. With the exception of the F/A-18 pylons, none of my items have print supports or 'casting blocks' to remove. The best example are the empty LAU-68's I produce. This is literally how you receive them, ready to paint and attach to your model. There is no way this could be accomplished casting them in resin. 

 

The Cons to 3D printing is the time it takes to produce the parts and the clean up involved. Another down side is the maintenance needed to keep the printers operating correctly. The cost of the resin and cleaning solutions is also relatively high. If the LCD screen in your printer goes out (and they do), they need to be replaced and they're not always available. I had a printer down for almost a month before I was able to get a new screen. Failed prints are also very common. When a print fails, the resin vat needs to be emptied, everything thoroughly cleaned, then you have to start all over again.

 

My 1/32 Mk-77's take 15 hours to print and I can fit 11 of them on the build plate. Last week a run was at the 12.5 hour mark and we lost power for a few seconds. That run was a total loss and I had to start all over again. I've since purchased a UPS to prevent that from happening again. My shortest print is 2.5 hours and the longest is 18 hours. 

 

Also, you can't just take an existing part and 'copy' it to 3D print. Anything you print has to be completely drawn in CAD, saved as an .stl file, then sliced in another program before it is even ready for the printer. Hope some of this helps.

 

 

Dave

 

No photo description available.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It might be a bit early to buy a 3D printer still.  Printers with the kind of smoothness and resolution you need for models are still very expensive.  Also, once you buy one, you are locked into its increasing obsolescence while the state of the art continues to improve.  Having a commercial site print small, relatively infrequent jobs places the cost of keeping up on them, and they can distribute that cost over a large customer base. 

 

You should also consider the learning curve.  You'll have to experiment with your printer to find the design limits, which means a lot of scrapped material in the beginning.  The commercial printers usually usually publish guidelines on their Websites which will provide a head start on design.

 

I rely on two commercial sites to do my printing: Shapeways in the USA and iMaterialize in Belgium.  Their prices are comparable and fairly reasonable for small infrequent runs like mine.

 

I'm fortunate to have used AutoCAD professionally since the late 1980s.  Its more recent versions have a robust 3D solid modeling capability that works well for what I've been dong so far.  Unfortunately, AutoCAD is now only available on subscription at $1690 per year.  A viable alternative is DraftSight, which is owned by the publisher of SolidWorks.  The Premium version, with 3D solid modeling capability, is $499 per year.  Admittedly, that's still pretty high for hobby use.  Both programs export to .STL (Stereo lithography) format for 3D printing.

 

I cannot comment on any of the freeware out there as I've been lucky enough not to need them, or unlucky enough not to have time to investigate.

 

3D printed parts can be used as masters for resin molds if you need several copies.

 

My first project was a 1/48 scale scratch-built AG-330 starter cart for the SR-71—before the kits were offered commercially in both resin and styrene.  The body was pretty straightforward styrene parts and photoetched screens, but the undercarriage was beyond my scratch building skills.

weS14FJ.jpg

 

 

lz3GDJp.jpg

 

The complete front axle assembly consists of twelve printed parts and two pieces of wire.  It might be over-engineered, but the front wheels can be posed.

 

LO4FGgB.jpg

 

I included extra copies of the smaller fiddly bits in the design, in case of loss or breakage.  This job below, printed at Shapeways in Smoothest Finish Fine Detail Plastic, would cost around $15.00 plus tax & shipping.  Commercial printers charge primarily on the volume of the job, so it's to your advantage to combine as many parts as possible into the smallest space.

Xdu8dRx.jpg

 

My latest project was an N-scale Union Pacific caboose shell to fit on the Atlas chassis.  Shapeways charged a little over $19 for the shell on the left, which was an early prototype.

lWKmK2c.jpg

 

I'll use formed wire for the side grab irons and photoetched roof walks.  The 3D design has locator holes for the grab irons and supports for the roof walks.

bFAXjrT.jpg

 

Two chimneys—one is a spare—are printed inside the shell to protect them until it's time to paint and assemble.

HxQvq5z.jpg

 

I agree with others in this thread who would emphasize finding and mastering a good, affordable 3D CAD program. Unless you are printing lots of jobs, I recommend you use a commercial source until the price of high resolution printers comes way down, and the technology is more mature.

 

Regards,

Bruce

Edited by Neptune48
Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the idea of learning how to make 3D parts, but I have to believe the learning curve is steep and would take time away from the time I have for the basic hobby that I enjoy. And as I think about the models in my stash, I can build 99 percent of them using the aftermarket that's available.

 

Steven Brown

Scale Model Soup

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Neptune48 said:

I agree with others in this thread who would emphasize finding and mastering a good, affordable 3D CAD program. Unless you are printing lots of jobs, I recommend you use a commercial source until the price of high resolution printers comes way down, and the technology is more mature.

 

Regards,

Bruce

 

The 2K Elegoo Mars, which is what I'm currently using, are available for $215 on Amazon. I was also one of the lucky one's and picked up their new 4K Saturn for $400 on a pre-order offer. However, it probably won't arrive until September. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a Photon resin printer and a Creality CR-10 the uses the spools of filament. I have been using CAD for 25 years and I really good at 3D. but its as taken over a year of drawing to do the airplanes i want to print. Btw, I found a water washable resin made by Elegoo that makes it a part a lot easier to clean in post-processing . You can find tons of things to print on https://www.thingiverse.com/

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you all for the comments. When I saw all the cool things that were printed I thought it would be so cool to do this at home. But now it seems the resolution is not high enough or affordable enough for home use. Also a person must be efficient in CAD design.  I will wait... Dai 

Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, dai phan said:

Thank you all for the comments. When I saw all the cool things that were printed I thought it would be so cool to do this at home. But now it seems the resolution is not high enough or affordable enough for home use. Also a person must be efficient in CAD design.  I will wait... Dai 

 

Nowadays, the limiting factor isn't resolution or price, it's the user.

 

Because, you 've got to master lot of skills, CAD Design, Print design, how to use and maintain a 3d printer.

One important thing: these printers don't come with an instruction manual or a useful one, you will learn everything by yourself or with the help of the community.

So it's a wise thing to not look only the price or performances of the printers (frankly, for a given LCD, those are all the same), but the size of the community.

 

Another important thing: resins are toxic for your health and environment, it depends on the person and the resin but some give serious headaches. Some printer designs aren't userfriendly in this domain, so you will need to find and install a resin fumes evacuation system.

 

But it's a great improvment,  in fact a quantum leap in modelling.

You can litteraly think about a design the morning, design it in a couple of hours, set a print, print it and use a printed part at the end of the day.

Edited by shion
Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, dai phan said:

Thank you all for the comments. When I saw all the cool things that were printed I thought it would be so cool to do this at home. But now it seems the resolution is not high enough or affordable enough for home use. Also a person must be efficient in CAD design.  I will wait... Dai 

 

I'm not quite sure how you came to the conclusion the resolution isn't high enough, even after some of us posted images of our parts. The resolution on the Elegoo Mars is pretty dang good for a $200 printer. These obviously are not my prints, but clearly show what is capable. 

 

Elegoo Liquid Grey Resin for SLA 3D Printer, For Industrial ...

 

Uncle Jessy on Twitter: "A few more photos from my first prints ...

Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Dave Roof said:

 

I'm not quite sure how you came to the conclusion the resolution isn't high enough, even after some of us posted images of our parts. The resolution on the Elegoo Mars is pretty dang good for a $200 printer. These obviously are not my prints, but clearly show what is capable. 

 

Elegoo Liquid Grey Resin for SLA 3D Printer, For Industrial ...

 

Uncle Jessy on Twitter: "A few more photos from my first prints ...

This type of resolution is capable on a 200 dollar printer? That is dam incredible ! Dai 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with Dave, Vince and some other's comments when it comes to the cost and resolution of the consumer liquid resin printers on the market.I am in the 3D Printing business and printers like the Elegoo are more than capable at a good price for most modelers. For one large project requiring high performance and high resolution ( requiring about 6000 printers when scaled up), we are using the Elegoo as our go to printer at the 3 project development sites. We have over 20 plus different printers available between the sites but the Elegoo is an inexpensive but effective printer. We will not use the Elegoo when we go commercial for several reasons but it is doing the brunt of our resin development work now and the requirements are tougher than what we would need for modeling.

 

The largest challenge that I see in using 3D Printing for modeling is not the printer technology but learning to use the software to create the files for printing.

Have fun modeling

Mike

🍻

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Mike J. Idacavage said:

The largest challenge that I see in using 3D Printing for modeling is not the printer technology but learning to use the software to create the files for printing.

 

This.

 

The software learning curve is steep and printer technology marches on while you learn.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

The water washable resin from Elegoo has to be the best resin I've used. It hold great detail and clean up is a snap. Just rinse it with water and 20 min. in my curing chamber.

Another thing no one has mentioned slicing programs, and picking the right one and the the learning curve involved with them. There are so many to choose from.

VInce

Link to post
Share on other sites

Since getting into a new hobby almost two years ago (semi-pro Nerf, if you really need to know, yes it's exactly as it sounds 😛) I've had this debate a lot with people, within that hobby, within aviation and in general. In Nerfing, 3D printing is considered to be absolutely ESSENTIAL because the most powerful "guns" out there are in fact 3D printed, way more powerful than what you can even upgrade from buying what you see at Walmart or Target (the alternative is to buy an aftermarket "gun," but even many if not most of those are 3D printed). But of course, the "performance" parameters of that hobby are way different from this one!

 

The short answer is: it depends on what you're looking to do with 3D printing, in respect to model building. 

 

If you want to be super-lazy and if cost is no object, your absolute sole priority is the finished product, then 3D printing is your new best friend. You can just simply have the machine do all the assembly for you and go straight to painting (or if you really know what you're doing have the appropriate fillament laid out so you don't even have to do that). If you're that determined and again cost is no object, the greatest labor you really have to do on your part is transfer the model from the printing bed straight to the display shelf (and of course, load the printer with fillament, clean it, maintain it etc). But of course that also defeats much of the point of the hobby.

 

From where I look, the greatest benefits of 3D printing to the plastic model hobby are 1.) obscure subjects that don't exist in model form otherwise, where in the "old days" you'd have to completely vac-form it yourself (I'll touch on this one personally a bit), and 2.) in the R/C hobby where this type of fabrication is immensely beneficial and assembly isn't necessarily the point of the hobby to begin with. As I understand it, 3D printing R/C aircraft is already somewhat common place, although especially early on the planes tended to be on the heavy side, especially for people who didn't really understand fillament and infill properties or still experimenting on an infill ratio that was both lightweight and still strong enough to withstand actual flight.

 

But if I'm trying to build what's in effect a statue, I think I'll stick with traditional model kits. The only exception I'd make is if I want something super-detailed that doesn't exist, but I got burned out of that part of the hobby a long time ago. Nowadays, what little I do is strictly shake-and-bake, OOB.

 

The big exception is going to be, if I want to make a subject that doesn't exist otherwise. I actually have a guy doing that for me right now, or at least he will once...for the sake of my health on this forum I'll only refer to it as you know.

 

Now there's also different cost routes you can go too. I think Dave Roof and Neptune48 covered just about all that anyone can cover concerning actual 3D Printers and You, but most people in Nerfing end up relying on "guys they know" to cover their needs in a cost-effective way. I know a lot of libraries have 3D printers you can use for a nominal cost or even free, once...you know. They even have different fillament options. I would definitely stay away from...it slips my mind now, is it PETG?...as a general principle since it's melting/softening point is way, way too low (too many Nerfers had to learn that the hard way....) ABS is a good way to go. It'll also turn to jelly at a certain point, strictly speaking, but that "certain point" is farther away right now than literally the time equivalent of the entire duration of civilization itself so far. Anyway, some of these libraries also have programs (both the software kind and the more metaphorical kind) where they teach you how to make your own CAD files to print out, but most people either find ones on Thingieverse.com or they just hire someone to make them for them. A lot of people also end up hiring people to do the printing too. It's expensive compared to if all the infrastructure were already a "sunk" cost, but it's way cheaper than starting from scratch with all that same infrastructure. 


Another thing to consider - resolution. It's an issue if you're dealing with very tiny, small objects, but the larger an object is, the less of an issue it is and the more you can get away with a lower-resolution print. Now, I'm not saying that larger objects will magically have better resolution - it'll still look like your design got interpreted by the same people who engineered The Great Pyramids - but of course larger objects are easier to sand down than smaller ones. And you're a plastic modeler, you know how to sand plastic already!

 

But really, if there's one takeaway that I want you to get out of this, is that if you really want to 3D print for whatever reason, you might want to consider hiring out as your most cost-effective bet.

Edited by Just call me Ray
Link to post
Share on other sites

I think this has been mentioned before. In fact I think I may have brought it up in another thread. One direction I see all this going is the the exchange of the files needed to print a part. Either free/open sourced or for profit. Those who don't want to spend the time to design parts could find them on a site dedicated to the free exchange of this kind of information. We may see a day when printers will include some sort of copyrights protection and only allow you to print using files you have either created yourself, are open sourced (free) or that you have purchased the rights to. Maybe with use limitations like the number of times the files may be used before you have to renew the "license".

One idea I like is the with "open sourced" parts is, like open sourced software, others could work to improve or add details to said parts and re-release the design back into the open source community.

Somehow, I have the feeling that this is probably already going on. One day, instead of purchasing an aftermarket cockpit from Aires, you will select one from a list of printable cockpits online. Perhaps pay for a cockpit design from Aires if you cant find a suitable one open sourced.

Just thinking out loud. I do remember, though, saying not too long ago, that 3D printing was going to change the aftermarket business. Now we've seen the quality of relatively low cost printers improve to the point where the parts are suitable to use on models with little clean up. It was just a couple of years ago that Shapeways stuff was the "best" you could get for a reasonable price, and their stuff usually needs a lot of work to make useful. Now parts like those from Lawrence at KA-Models and Dave Roof are ready to use and have better detail than cast resin parts.

Welcome to the brave new world :thumbsup:

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Mstor said:

I think this has been mentioned before. In fact I think I may have brought it up in another thread. One direction I see all this going is the the exchange of the files needed to print a part. Either free/open sourced or for profit. Those who don't want to spend the time to design parts could find them on a site dedicated to the free exchange of this kind of information. We may see a day when printers will include some sort of copyrights protection and only allow you to print using files you have either created yourself, are open sourced (free) or that you have purchased the rights to. Maybe with use limitations like the number of times the files may be used before you have to renew the "license".

One idea I like is the with "open sourced" parts is, like open sourced software, others could work to improve or add details to said parts and re-release the design back into the open source community.

Somehow, I have the feeling that this is probably already going on. One day, instead of purchasing an aftermarket cockpit from Aires, you will select one from a list of printable cockpits online. Perhaps pay for a cockpit design from Aires if you cant find a suitable one open sourced.

Just thinking out loud. I do remember, though, saying not too long ago, that 3D printing was going to change the aftermarket business. Now we've seen the quality of relatively low cost printers improve to the point where the parts are suitable to use on models with little clean up. It was just a couple of years ago that Shapeways stuff was the "best" you could get for a reasonable price, and their stuff usually needs a lot of work to make useful. Now parts like those from Lawrence at KA-Models and Dave Roof are ready to use and have better detail than cast resin parts.

Welcome to the brave new world :thumbsup:

 

There are already sites where you can get free files to print (or at a very low cost), but they are mostly figures and other odds and ends (thingiverse comes to mind). From a manufacturers stand point, the selling of files so modelers can print their own parts will probably never happen as it would be the fastest way to kill that business.

Link to post
Share on other sites

There are already modelling communities out there that are designing and sharing their own files. We're talking about modellers with no previous CAD experience, helping each other to learn CAD skills and sharing the results freely amongst themselves. The group I know best focuses entirely on 1/48 scale armour projects and the results are stunning - additional detail components, roadwheels, complete track sets for AFVs and things as small as the formation lights for the new Tamiya T-55 for example. - they have even produced a catalogue of the currently available files. They almost exclusively use either the Elgoo Mars or the Anycubic Photon, both excellent liquid resin, hobby-affordable printers. The members also generally use CAD programmes such as Fusion 360.

 

The danger/risk I see is that the ability and willingness to share freely will last only as long as no-one takes those files and starts to use them to sell the products commercially without the the permission of the designers. At the moment, the community works on trust and integrity but I suspect that may only last until the first 'theft' occurs. 

 

There are practical issues too. The resin stinks so you need to be able to operate the machinery somewhere in the house/workshop that doesn't impact on other members of the household. It's yet another gadget that you need to find space for and the printer needs to be calibrated to ensure it is perfectly horizontal - not generally a complex task but one that can be minimised by having a permanent location for the printer is better than constantly packing it away after each print session.

 

As others have mentioned, print times are long - multi-hour print times even for relatively small parts are the norm rather than the exception - you can print quicker but you compromise on quality and resolution. Even if you have access to third party print files, there is still a degree of manipulation required in some cases to get the 'print' to fit within the bounds of your printer's usable print area and to ensure that the part is adequately supported with 'sprues' of the resin whilst it prints.

There are some good introductions and tutorials available on Youtube that are worth a look if you are new to 3d printing and want to get a feel for what is (and is not) possible. This is one example from Luke Towan, an Australian HO/OO railroad modeller. He's done several such tutorials over the past 2-3 years with a couple of different printers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tnDItw0ZLc

 

John

 

 

Edited by John Tapsell
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...