Last I heard you can get a 'home printer' with a resolution of 5 microns horizonatal and 10 microns vertical, 10 microns is about the thickness of a human hair and as I model in 1:72 or 20mm scale thats not quite good enough for a model.
The potential, however, is interesting. I grew up on Airfix Magazine so when I look at a kit I wonder what I can convert it into.
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote in
The width of a human hair is to coarse for 1/72 modeling? What exactly is
your standard? I don't have any kits with detail that fine.
On a rifle for example it'd show up, it is very good but I'd like 5x5 micro
ns, then all sorts of really fine and fiddly things become possible, for ex
ample printing the anti grenade screens on the German 20mm armed turrets.
My main interest is in making bits, ever since I was a kid I fancied a 'spa
ce base' and now I'm retired I have a youngster in my sights as a victim, I
mean as a recipient of said space base that I have a hankering to make but
no room for. Its the 'rule of threes', three of something is significantl
y different from one or two, so I want to make a few of the various craft,
ground support vehicles etc. as well as the buildings, several of which wil
l be the same.
In the stash are half a dozen Airfix '2001 shuttle' kits, about the same nu
mber of 'Angel Interceptors', five Heljan Frellon helicopters in some odd s
cale that's make lovely small transports and a few 'one off's' such as a Cy
lon saucer (the old one with the Airfix Sherman tank sprockets as air intak
This goes back a long way, over 40 years, I'd like to get it done, not leas
t so my family will not have to try and find homes for all my stuff.
I've had some (very) limited professional experience with 3D printers
and you are correct - the surface finish of a *typical* 3D printed part
is in no way comparable to an injection molded plastic part. It
wouldn't even be suitable for use at 1/32 scale in the raw, IMO.
However - that's said of a "typical" 3D printing. I've seen finely
printed 3D parts that look as good as cast resin...but I'd venture to
say that none of us here could afford those types of machines, nor care
to wait the amount of time it takes to print a part at this quality.
That said, I like this line of 3D printers for hobby use -
In particular I like the 5th Gen Replicator and am considering buying
one...and even so, note that it only specs a *100* micron vertical
resolution at it's near $3K price point. Still, depending on the size
part you desire to print, this resolution is nothing that I feel that
Mr. Surfacer couldn't smooth out...but you would/will end up doing some
Another thing to note about this machine is that it is somewhat hackable
- i.e.; it may be possible to obtain higher resolutions from it by
changing out it's stepper motors, using different software, etc. This
is something else one should also consider when shopping for a 3D
printer, or any CNC machine.
IMO, unless you are prototyping masters for full scale parts, or have
very (very) deep pockets (like the price of a new car deep...) for an
engineering quality machine, a hobby 3D printer is best suited to
printing master plugs for resin casting, and for figure models in
particular, IMO. And/or larger scale models - meaning 1/32, 1/12, and
They are also handy for making production tooling and holding fixtures
for other projects.
There is a method, using a solvent in an enclosed container with heat
being applied, I think, that will smooth out the surface of a plastic
printed part. How it actually works and what smoothness it actually
give is open, I guess, to your own inspection. There was a video on
you tube about it a while back
If you're interested, this is a link that I've been watching:
with 3D printers from China that have prices that are somewhat less
than here in the US.
Thanks chaps - Interesting, you know a lot more than I do about this.
I was at a Maker Fair last year which is where they were talking about th
for the machine in question. I went again this year but it was held in a
restored 1830 warehouse (at the oldest surviving railways station in the
world), they were on the top floor and the heat was oppressive so I bailed
out before chatting to them.
I could go for a white metal approach, something like the old Centricast
but I find white metal models heavy, I don't know why but they feel sort of
'wrong' and as the Plan includes quite large space craft to be played with
by children white metal is probably not ideal (heavy, fragile, toxic etc).
Having said which in my scale things have improved, some figures are now as
good as most plastic figures, no more the giant heads and blobby detail. I
was at a toy soldier show in Manchester (England) a couple of years back
where a chap was showing off a squadron of Polish winged hussars in 1:72.
They were made by a brain surgeon in Poland who makes figures for a hobby
and sends them to friends. Frankly they were as good as or better than any
injection moulded figures I have ever seen, right down to the expressions
on the horses faces. Truly amazing.
I have some white metal troops on order to finish a project I started many
years ago showing representative forces in NATO and WP in NW Europe in
about 1980. That is of course now definately historical modelling!
I prefer the story telling diorama approach to the big scale model on a
shelf, I suspect I never grew out of playing with toy soldiers.
Thanks again for the responses, I am following the links offered, if I come
up with anything interesting I'll post an update to the Group.
If you've ever seen the 3D modeling programs Poser or Blender (which is
freeware) I can only imagine that these are what your brain surgeon is
using to do his figure modeling. Most 3D printers will print models
directly from .obj files, and 3D animation/rendering packages like
Poser, Blender, or Maya at the high end make printing figures a dead
snap by being able to output printer compatible file types...there are
many, many, *thousands* of gigabytes of free (and payware), poseable
models and content out there from weapons to clothing to vehicles to
buildings...this is why I mentioned feeling that 3D printers are very
well suited to producing figure models.
Just to add something I'd not pointed out clearly before, the "100
micron resolution" I pointed out for the Makerbot line of printers is
the *layer to layer* resolution, and it is *this* resolution that
accounts for the surface roughness in the printed part - not the head
positioning resolution/accuracy. It is the layer resolution that makes
the surface finish of a printed part look like a vinyl record. Or worse.
Layer resolution is likely a function of the filament material you use
to print your model, it's melting temperature, and head speed. More
things to consider when looking.
I also discovered this morning that my office is considering buying a
Makerbot Replicator Z18 (to the tune of over $10K...), so I may actually
get to play with one of the Makerbot line before I make any decision to
actually buy a Replicator 5th Gen for myself. We'll see how this pans
Thanks - And I misremembered, a human hair is about 100 microns not ten so
a 10 micron rinter would do all I need.
Makerbot's site looks interesting though, 100 micron resolution might be
workable for larger objects with a bit of a polish.
I am surprised there are not more people offering a 'you design it we print
Thanks again for the responses
Thanks for that. There is a local arts and crafts shop that has been in
place for years (at least 40), in the basement hey now offer a photo studio
with assistance and also a laser cutting studio, again with assistance, and
I suggested a 3D print service might be useful.
I live in Manchester (England) which has the largest student population in
Europe so there are numerous groups playing with things like this, I was
working too hard and didn't have the time/energy to attend, then I gave up
work to write a book and found I was working 18 hours a day 7 days a week
for several months. The book is writ and once I return to Earth I shall
make the pilgrimage and investigate further.
I suspect the learning curve on the creation software (notably Blender) is
going to be a bit steep, but I do want to build that damned space base,
just so I can finally forget it and stop collecting odd bits and pieces to
go into it!
Just got a device for programming a chip so I can add ripple lights along
the runway, flashing high building lights on top of buildings etc.
I hope to get this out of the door before I die!
I wish I had access to such...there seems to be far more of this sort of
thing going on outside of the USA...I think that even one of the
services I cited is only business headquartered in the USA and the
actual printing is done in the Netherlands and then shipped to you.
You are correct, one of the longest things it takes to master is the
modeling software itself, and as with building any model the 3D prints
are going to reflect how well you build your model on the computer. And
getting an eye/feel for how things look on a screen and what they will
look like in real life can be a learning curve as well.
Here's anther interesting free package to play with, just to get a feel
of some of this -
Quite a few people I know have been making CNC router tables, and I plan
to make at least one, possibly two - a small one and a large one. 123D
Make is a great app for doing flat parts on a CNC router with.
And they also link some 3D printing service -
This is also very interesting - 3D models from photos -
Mouse around this site for info...I think you'll enjoy.
Here's another pending 3D printer that appears to work by laser fusing
the layers vise using a heated nozzle for layer deposition...surface
finish looks a lot smoother, and about the same price point as the
I've had my eye on these folks, they are based in Las Vegas, NV. I'd
like to have one of their laser cutters; a friends of mine that built a
large CNC table has one -
It is all very tempting. For some jobs I might get away with vac-forming,
which has the advantage of being cheap (kitchen oven, fish tank, vacuum
cleaner and a tap to let the air in). The hesitation is because I still
remember trying to built some vac-form Hind helicopters for my toy soldier
I'l have a bit of a potter around the MadLam in Manchester, quite a few
enthusiasts there, I'll see what they suggest. They may offer to print the
bits I need for a fee, which would be an interesting test of the
That's certainly another good use for 3D printers - making plugs for
vac-forming. Again, you'd need to pay attention to what material the
printer prints with - it's strength and melting temperature - and select
the right printer and material combination for the job.
I was a bit surprised to find a stereo-lithography printer at this price
point - I've seen industrial examples of these sort of prints at work,
and the surface finish of parts from very high-end printers of this sort
can be smooth as glass and extremely precise. But the cost of such
printers is far more than our houses.
And even for this one, I suspect the cost of operation would run high -
such printers use lasers to cure a resin to print a part, and that's how
they can do it so smoothly and precisely. But laser tubes also wear out
after x number of firings and then have to be replaced, so the more
parts you make and the more precise you make them the more you end up
needing to replace the laser tubes (two at a minimum in such a printer -
hence "stereo" lithography), and they aren't cheap.
It seems well-built, but what I don't like about it is that it seems to
only support 2 input file formats - .stl and XYZ. This means that you
will be *very* limited in the choices for software that you can use to
do your modeling.
.stl is a stereo lithography format and is a standard for 3D, but in
general only the high end CAD packages like Solidworks or Autocad may
output .stl files.
XYZ is a format I've never heard of...but a quick Google makes it seem
to be popular with chemists and biologists for describing molecular
Any 3D printer worth a look should at a bare minimum support printing
from .obj output - there are tons of *free* CAD and 3D packages that
support this most basic of 3D file types. I have a feeling that the
cost/availability of supporting software, and learning curve to build 3D
models with that software put this particular printer at a disadvantage.