To 3D or not to 3D?

This blog article is about the world of 3D printing. It is not a subject I can profess I know a lot about, but I'm learning quickly. I do not own a 3D printer but I have friends with FDM and SLA printers who have kindly given me some of their prints.

FDM printed Vosper 1 and Elco PT boat - design by Deweycat.

There are two main types of 3D printer - the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) which prints using a filament wire. As the plastic filament is relatively cheap, it is the most cost effective, but can result in tiny lines appearing on the model. The Stereolithography (SLA) printer uses a light-sensitive resin but while an SLA makes smooth prints, the resin is expensive.

SLA Printing on an AnyCube Photon.

As you can see, the Anycube Photon SLA is pretty good at capturing fine detail. The prints can be a little fragile and need to be treated with ultraviolet light to harden them up. They also tend to be smooth at the edges. The main downside to SLA is the expense of the resin.

FDM printed cargo ship - design by Deweycat.

Looking at the pros and cons of 3D printing, there is a little amount of skill required to run a printer and much more required if you want to design your own unique objects. The printer itself is not cheap, with an initial outlay of £200 to £300 for even a basic model. A professional one will cost thousands. Then, you have to have the files to print what you want. There may be thousands of designs provided free online with sites such as Thingiverse, but only a few will be useful, so the choice is quite limited. The more professional designs or that specific item you wanted will either have to be bought or designed yourself.

SLA printed furniture.

I can see the potential in 3D printing. Designing and printing your own designs sounds cool, if you have the time or skill. Printing the specific designs you need for a wargames product is also interesting. However, given the initial outlay cost, you would need to use it a lot for it to produce enough to warrant its cost. Otherwise, why not buy what you want from an existing manufacturer? Suffice to say it is a luxury I won't be investing in anytime soon, but then I am lucky enough to have two friends (thank you Wolfie and Liam) I can get designs from.

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