Saturday, November 19, 2016

Should GW worry about 3D printing?

After my Monolith got featured on (thanks!) there was an interesting discussion about how 3D printing can, or will, change wargaming in general. This is my take on that topic.

There are several steps needed to get 3D printed bits onto the tabletop. The first step is to make or find a design. The second is to get it printed, which includes getting a fine quality capable 3D printer and the materials.

First, designing bits isn't easy when you're starting out. I was watching tutorials for days, and would more than once go to bed stressed out because I just can't get something to work. I learned how to use Blender and FreeCAD, including python scripting.

You can bet emperor's firm, toned buttocks that GW will stop us from sharing designs. I feel this is where they can, and will, stop us from making our hobby better. Oh well.

Design aside, what about printing itself? As of right now, no consumer grade printer can print bits this fine and with so much detail. Shapeways exists as a way to effectivelly rent out printers that are out of reach to most people, and I'm a very happy customer. But forget about printing this stuff in your garage, certainly for a few years.

Then there's the cost. Shapeways charged just under $100 for the Monolith bits. And yes, I made them as hollow as possible. This is steep, and I don't expect many people to be happy to pay so much for bits. Having your own printer would have made this cheaper, yes, but then there's the cost of buying a printer.

But, had I made a design error and had to reprint a new version of these bits, I might have cut my losses. And even though the dimensions weren't ideal out of the box, putty and sandpaper patched everything up just fine.

Finally, there's putting them on the model. I must have spent at least 20 hours over the course of two weeks, just sanding and applying putty. A lot of that work was due to the inherit horribleness of the Monolith itself (if you look at GW studio Necrons, you'll see clear seams where panels meet), but printed bits weren't easy to work with. That plastic is much harder than GW plastic, making sanding uneven.

In summary, no, I don't think GW should be worried. The amount of work and risk is too high for most people (I believe), and that's if it were cheap and if you had designs ready, both or which are problems on their own.


  1. I don't think GW needs to worry YET. Seeing the advances they have made with CAD design and injection moulding in relatively few years, and the development of e-book sales, GW keeps up with tech. I'm sure as printers advance they will embrace it and possibly sell designs for customers to print at home. But not yet.