My first post under the broad heading of Musings and for this post I’m going to be musing about 3d printing and it’s place within the miniature and wargaming hobby.
With high quality 3d printers now being priced at under the £200 mark, it should surprise nobody that we’re starting to see the effects of this new(ish) technology within our hobby more and more. The ability to print off parts to conversions, out of production pieces to get pieces through to entire 3d printed armies, a 3d printer can open up a wide range of previously unavailable opportunities – and as with many things there’s a whole host of opinions on them.
In order to be objective I do need to hold my hands up – I’m shortly going to become one of those people with a 3d printer, having pre-ordered one following me doing some 3d sculpting for a Golden Demon project. The option of being able to print out mocks as I designed them, was enough to nudge me to take the plunge. I have considered 3d printers before, but was previously put off due to the space required, cost and lack of quality. Cost and quality are now at a level that I’d be happy with, so I’m installing a bench in my garage now.
Researching the subject is really where the inspiration for this musing came from. I was quite surprised with quite how diverse and strong people’s opinions are when it comes to 3d printing. There are absolute purists who think they’re monstrosities and will be detrimental to the hobby, to the opposite who print everything out they want, including verbatim copies of miniatures. I can see the argument on both sides of the coin, but as ever the reality is not quite as black and white.
I personally sit somewhere in the middle. I think that 3d printers can be a huge asset if you have access to one, providing the ability to print out extra bits for a base, a custom head or weapon, even an objective marker that matches your force. Many miniatures are now being created in such a way that we’ve lost the option to easily do a simple arm or head swap, and 3d printers can provide a solution for alternative arms (or other parts). Equally one major bugbear is when you get six weapons and only two weapon mounts in a tank, again 3d printing can save the day to create additional weapon mounts means you can get a lot more use out of a kit.
However I do have, shall I call them reservations in some areas and attitudes. There does seem to be an acceptance within some groups that printing off a miniature that’s a carbon copy of somebody else’s work is perfectly fine, putting up arguments such as “they’re too expensive” or “they make enough money”. I don’t follow this train of thought, companies and individuals put in a huge amount of work beyond the cost of manufacturing that piece of plastic/resin and we pay for that in our purchase price. That’s without getting into the legal or moral aspects of copying those items. My other issue is that its just lazy – a good quality 3d printer can create almost anything that we can conceive and design, so why copy something that already exists when you could do something much more interesting?
Reservations aside, I’m loving the potential that 3d printing gives in conjunction with 3d sculpting. Not only can I create something distinctly unique, but I can create things that I couldn’t do successfully in any other medium. Instead of resorting to buying bits from online bits companies, I can create something that’s fit for purpose on a screen, plus I’ve an undo button and can easily share what I’m working on with friends to get instant feedback.
So what do you think? Are 3d printers the saviour of the hobbyist or an expensive piece of junk? I’d love to hear your comments and views.