|Shapeways US Navy Carrier Deck Set 3 in 1/72 scale|
||- 3D printed figure set for USN subjects.
||- 50.00 USD
30 resin-printed figures
||- Naturally posed figures. Rare subject in plastic or resin form.
|Disadvantages||- Overly visible texture for the scale.
||- Recommended with reserves.
I guess by now most modelers have already heard about 3D printers - those wonderful machines which are able to deposit special polymers to form virtually any shape. 3D printing or, to use the formal engineering term, additive manufacturing is a process still in its infancy. As an Engineer myself, I wasn't in the bunch who jumped in this wagon a few years ago. I knew that the process was useful for many things in modeling, but would take a long time until you could install a printer besides your notebook and start printing models. First, you must have a CAD description of what you want. I mean, or you are versed in a CAD software to draw the object yourself, or you have to pay to someone do the job for you. Alternatively, you can purchase what you need in an internet repository, provided they have exactly what you need. Second, the process is slow. So slow that it still is not an option to mass produce detail sets for modeling purposes. So much so that model accessory manufacturers use the process to make their masters, then resin cast copies in numbers for sale. And last, contrary to popular belief among modelers, 3D printing is not affordable to the average modeler simply because the cost to produce a part is directly proportional to its quality in terms of surface detail and finish (called resolution, just like your ink jet printer). Cheap (so to speak) 3D printers are essentially useless for plastic modeling. Don't understand me wrong, they are fantastic pieces of hardware and I see them working almost on a weekly basis. However, the printers able to manufacture one part with the same finish that you find in your Tamiya kit must have a resoution of millionths of a milimeter. And these printers can cost as much as dozens of sets of conventional metal molds used to inject whole kits. But the possibilities are there. Last year at the Scale ModelWorld convention there was a company laser-scanning people who wanted a model of themselves in any scale... And by the way, this is a huge advantage of the process: you don't need an actual master, as it is possible to print your CAD object in any size as long as it fits the printer. I know about scale figure companies scanning real people in uniforms to master their line of products. No need of pattern makers anymore.
After waiting a few years and reading wonders about online 3D printing companies, I decided to give it a try. Shapeways is one of the several companies out there providing personalized 3D printed products. You have to supply the CAD file or choose from their online catalogue. The vast majority of the subjects available in these sites are done by users and remain available for others under - I am guessing - copyright agreements. When I found a set of USN carrier deck crew in 1/72 I couldn't help myself and purchased this set:
Wow, that was exactly what I needed for my next diorama... Unlike other products, you cannot choose the type of plastic. Only the 'frosted ultra detail' type is available (you will not want the other types for your models anyway, believe me). The set was terribly expensive... it better be worth the money. Once the package arrived at my doorstep, I had the chance to check the parts.
These are not resin copies, but the parts as they leave the printer. At a first glance, they looked nice, and I was as happy as a kid with his first Fort Apache:
Disclaimer: I have no association whatsoever with the manufacturer(s) of the product(s) reviewed here.