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858 hits since 31 May 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Colonel Bill Supporting Member of TMP31 May 2018 4:10 a.m. PST

My latest for The Wargamer, this time a miniature related article, perhaps controversial. Let the slings and arrows begin!!!

BTW, one of the principals of Minuteman indicated their turnaround time was now 3 – 4 weeks due an increase in orders (boy can I call'em :).


Colonel Bill

UshCha31 May 2018 5:41 a.m. PST

Sorry to say but probably not your best work. 3D printing is now quite normal in the UK, 12mm vehicles and figures are possible.

For certain for me pewter is dead, it has no advantages over 3D printed. 3D prints – No assembly, no weight, no flash and really not much cheaper. By the nature of things you can get spares when you lose a turret or the ham fistted break them (yes I know its nearly indestructible but war gamer's are unbelievably careless).

The much quoted pattern issue is more in the mind of 3D printer haters than actual users. The pattern is indistinguishable at any sensible distance.

The rise of 28mm Kickstarters for terrain seems to have passed you by. Perhaps you should buy a printer, that way you would have a better idea of the state of the art.

It is a myth that you can easily scale 1 size of model to another. A 25mm model at 1/144 even, is a different animal. scaling the tracks would make them impractical. Only beginners believe this myth and you seem at least in part (though to be fair not fully) to have fallen for it.

Tigerjlm31 May 2018 6:03 a.m. PST

Have you seen this machine?

Personal logo aegiscg47 Supporting Member of TMP31 May 2018 6:47 a.m. PST

We have 20+ 3D printers of various kinds at the university lab where I work. A few students have made some incredible dragons, 28mm T-34s, etc., that are incredible works of art. However, the design skills needed to do this and the time that it takes to print the items would make it cost prohibitive for all but the more affluent gamers. There are also several issues with the various materials, ranging from powder, resin, and various kinds of plastic filament, so it takes a lot of trial and error to get things right.

Having said that, the printers continue to get better, faster, and can print finer details as the years have progressed. Many students coming in now have 3D design skills, so it is slowly becoming the norm. I think having metal figures replaced by 3D printing is way down the road at this point, but it can supplement the various ranges.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP31 May 2018 8:49 a.m. PST

From the comments section:

Seriously, the Perry's have not been able to make an impact with their plastics yet ….

If your only metric is the end of pewter casting then yes, the Perry plastics have been a big failure! wink

UshCha31 May 2018 8:54 a.m. PST

aegiscg47, certainly for home printing the time taken is not an issue, set it going and its on its own and you can go in and look at it so often just to check all is OK. On the commecial print side Bullers Printed Models does lots at competative prices so it is a viable proposition.

Learning to use a 3D modeling programe is no more difficult than learning to scratch build and the younger generation are more familiar with computers than the old fashioned knifes, saws and files of yesteryear. Ergo the metal model is a dieing art, personally I will not mourne its passing.

Rick181331 May 2018 9:12 a.m. PST

I'm a 3d hobbyist myself and a member of a group makerspace, so I don't say this as some sort of luddite:

I recently discovered a major advantage of metal over plastics. Time. My earliest 1/72 plastics are now starting to become brittle. As I well I recently assembled a plastic GW kit from the late 90s and noticed it was more brittle and powdery as well when I was scraping the mould lines. The same goes for scale model kits that are decades old.

Apparently a lot of 3d printer filaments probably don't have a long lifespan. The chemicals that keep them robust and not brittle change their distribution within the plastic and over time, it all goes brittle.

And with many filaments like PLA people are struggling with it going brittle even before they are finished printing an entire spool! Changes in humidity can really accelerate the problem.

It's fine for something you're interested in today or even over the next decade or two, but for a rest of my life type project that I plan on enjoying into my advanced years, I've decided to switch only to the same materials used by the 19th century toy soldier manufacturers like Heinrichsen of Nurnberg. Examples of their figures from the 1840s are still present in the collections of both museums and private individuals.

3d printing in metal is a thing though. As patents expire more and more of these technologies will become affordable for the hobbyist and hobby companies.

Lord Ashram31 May 2018 9:14 a.m. PST

Woof, UshCha, I think I disagree about the patterns of some 3D printers not being obvious… personally I would not put some of the miniatures on the table with the marks that are left. The SLA printers get rid of that, but yeah, I've painted some of the miniatures from cheaper printers and… no thanks, not for me.

And I disagree about scaling… there is absolutely the ability to scale a model. I mean, there are limits, but I've printed the same model in 8mm and 28mm, and they turn out great. Sure, there are sometimes specific issues with specific models in terms of width, and you have to sculpt appropriately, but generally yes, you can do that.

Rick181331 May 2018 9:19 a.m. PST

So much of the layer hiding is about the design and arrangement of the parts for printing. It's actually quite amazing how many prints people make at the exact wrong orientation for the given part.

In the group I'm part of, FDM is used for iterating designs, but SLA is better for final prints and masters for reproduction. Though even SLA prints often need surface work done by hand (or careful use of polishing machines) to make them ready for that.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP31 May 2018 2:46 p.m. PST

The technology is still quite young, even though it was invented around 1980. It has only recently become of interest to the general public -- this is what is currently driving the technological development surge we are seeing in 3D printing technology.

There is a relatively new $200 USD FDM printer, the Creality Ender-3, which is quite advanced compared to other FDM printers.

SLA printers are capable of much higher resolution, but the resin costs are currently still rather high, limiting their use by gamers.

I agree with Colonel Bill's assessment: in 10-20 years, 3D printing will make surprising advances. Currently, mass production of miniatures is only cost-efficient in metal, using rubber molds. Rubber molds using melted metals, can produce literally 1,000's of 28mm figures, per day. 3D printing cannot begin to reach that level with the same number of machines producing the figures. Give them time, however. Cheers!

UshCha01 Jun 2018 1:55 a.m. PST

My experience is completely different, my lead armies were scap after about 2 years hard playing, if droped the bend and cannot be straitened correctly. Being very dence they damage due to handeling much faster than plastic. Therefore expecting them to last into my dotage would be unreasonable. Perhaps if never used and kept on a shelf metal would last longer but that is a model not a wargame figure.

Lord Asram, must have been a poor model to start with! 28mm is I guess around 1/46 scale. 8mm is around 1/200 scale.

Now the barrel of a gun is around 15mm an arrow abount 10mm.

So at 28mm these would be respectively 0.217mm and 0.553 mm at real scale size.

Now the former would be impractical for a 28mm model that is handeled and 0.553mm is really on the low side, in very short lengths I have used 0.7 mm but its not that practical. Logicaly about 1mm would be a sensible size.

Now assume you have a sensible sizing of 1mm to represent as best you can the arrow or gun barrel at 28mm you would get gun barrels at 8mm (1/200) 0.02mm for both. This is luducrus. Therfore simple scaling is not possible with sensible figiures. Scaling from 1/200 to 1/46 would give equally ludicrous oversize parts. Therfore just on gun barrels/arrowe's alone ther is a major problem. Tracks, smoke, dischargers are other issue so there is a major prodlem.

On many decent models at large scale there is a lot of detail that will not scale down.

No if you owned something like Pro E and made parametric models you could scale down simply but the model would be far more complex and may take longer than two separate models.

Rick181301 Jun 2018 1:50 p.m. PST

The 1840s flats were played with like crazy. they were childrens' toys. And people shot nails out of toy cannons at them. And they get passed down to the next generation and they did it again.

I know the occasional dropped model damages figures, but I don't know what a lot of people are doing with their miniatures to destroy them like that.

It's like when I go into a local gaming store and look at their terrain collection. It's all damaged and destroyed while mine that's been transported to and from games twice a month has lasted years. I think it's a matter of respect.

No safe handling and respect though, is going to redistribute the plasticizing chemicals through a 3d printed miniature though.

It wasn't a deal breaker for me until I started experiencing brittle plastic. I totally wrote it off as a concern until I understood through first hand experience.

People should feel free to print what they want, but they should be aware that a lot of materials used in 3d printing (especially PLA) can become brittle very, very fast. When people in our makerspace use parts that are in any way practical like a bracket or something, we advise PETG as it is stronger, but now that I've looked into things, it should aslo not go brittle for a decade or more, while some PLA prints are brittle within months.

SLA resins are a total crapshoot when it comes to staying robust over years. The whole point of the technology was to make a prototype that will then be reproduced in a more suitable material. This is a true wild west though as manufacturers simply will not tell you about how the material holds up over years. Part of it is that they don't know and aren't willing to put the money into researching it. The other part is that the material is simply not intended to last long as its for rapid prototyping.

UshCha01 Jun 2018 3:37 p.m. PST

You have different experiences to me. I have repaired my caravan bed some 6 years ago using PLA. I am still sleeping on it 6 years later. Again metal army's that are played with do not last decades. Parts of my current 3D printed army are at least 3 years old and have shown no signs of deterioration and are better than some of the metal ones I have not yet had the capability to replace. certainly my son has 3D printed models that are some 8 years old and they are still in good condition. You may have fallen foul of some sort of quality issue on the material.

My own experiments has shown that even with exposure to the element, low temperatures and sunlight the PLA is usable after 12 months, we did a test a couple of years ago to see if it could be used for bits in the garden. We lookesd at it at twelve months and deemed it acceptable.

Rick181301 Jun 2018 4:39 p.m. PST

I wonder if it is climate dependent. We have massive spikes in humidity and temperature each year (35c to -40c and super humid in the summer to totally dry air in the winter). The filaments used were well regarded in terms of reviews. Usually made in the USA or Canada and not generic Chinese stuff. Even if stuff is kept indoors, PLA just doesn't last compared to PETG.

3d printing is totally suitable for miniatures. And maybe in some climates it's totally great, but when PLA comes on the spool already rendered brittle, there's something going on there. This is really common and you can find tons of info with a quick search. Type "brittle PLA" into a search engine and I think you'll find it's a very common problem. We're talking about a material that was designed to be biodegradable. It's made to break down over time.

PETG has different characteristics and needs to be printed at a different temperature and possibly with different extrusion rates, but I think it's a superior material for many applications. It's like ABS without the toxic fumes.

Again, as for the longevity of metal miniatures, I will simply point to the collections, gamed with regularly, of miniatures and toy soldiers going back over 150 years. My suspicion is that the truly soft metal miniatures are simply cheap with too much lead in the mixture.

I imagine to save costs many figure makers have gone to 95+% lead over the years. I suspect many have even cut out the small amount of antimony that can drastically harden lead based castings to save another penny per figure. The primary material in a good alloy for metal miniatures needs to be tin. Just like when 3d printing of metals catches up with the plastics, tin will be the preferred metal there as well. I suspect lead based alloys will never see widespread use in the 3d printing of metals.

Personal logo Colonel Bill Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2018 5:35 a.m. PST

Obviously I stand by the article, but otherwise I've no reason to go 3D at this stage of my hobby tenure, and certainly not purchase one. I don't think the historical eras I play would be easily supported, and besides, I have enough lead stored in my basement to sink the Bismarck. I don't think I'll ever get them all done, even if I live to 150, and I plan to.

However, my scaling down comment was directed at the future, and I think in five years (I was being generous in the article) this might be solved, as well as turnaround time. So, if I'm a newbie, I'd very likely go nothing but 3D.

I DO want that Italian tank. Some folks I know use a modified version of Regimental Fire & Fury, with top notch terrain and lots of exquisitely painted tanks for their WWI battles, of which their were three huge setups last convention. I would pay cash money to see about 10 of those Fiats lumbering across the board.

Colonel Bill

Personal logo Colonel Bill Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2018 6:12 a.m. PST

FWIW, and not to make any point, here is what I meant by the term "striation." To me it would be annoying as it makes it look like a steel tank was made of concrete, even painted, but others may not have a problem. More advanced printers and processes (and thus more $$$) seemed to have alleviated this issue, however.

Ciao, Colonel Bill


thomalley02 Jun 2018 6:47 a.m. PST

How about using the 3D to print the original figure and create the molds?

UshCha02 Jun 2018 10:35 a.m. PST

Thomas l, that is becoming the industry standard for many manufactures of the more traditional style, the more progressive stop at 3D prints. One of the many gains over casting is that it is possible to have vastly more variants available when the cost of a mould is removed.

Coney Bill what scale is that building? If it's 10 mm then you are unreasonably close. You can't get that close to it on the table.

14th NJ Vol Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2018 2:25 p.m. PST

Would a 3D printer work using paraffin? Make masters in paraffin, lost wax cast them, then make vulcanized rubber spin cast molds?

Walking Sailor02 Jun 2018 2:59 p.m. PST

I suspect lead based alloys will never see widespread use in the 3d printing of metals.
If government safety (e.g. OSHA) doesn't get the lead out, the liability insurance premiums will.

Personal logo Colonel Bill Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2018 3:04 p.m. PST

28 mm by Terrain4Print according to the page, but that's not why I put it up. Got an email asking for an example of striation, so I posted one.

Colonel Bill

altfritz02 Jun 2018 6:43 p.m. PST

There are issues with digital models and creating variants, some of which are often ignored by people. Often it seems that the sculptor just reposes the figure to get a variant, and leaves details the same. So all "variants" have the same torn knee, or whatever, that the original had. The Raging Heroes figures are like this. Some of the figures are meant to have ragged uniforms but they all have the same flaws.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2018 11:44 p.m. PST

At the museum I worked at we no longer accept plastic models. The plastic will break down over time. Which causes it to off gas. The adhesive or glue will also break down. Parts begin to fall off.

UV light will break down plastic. Having said that there is plastic at landfills and floating in the ocean that is expected to last for decades.

Except for AFVs, I will rarely purchase plastic figures. Usually because that is the only way to get the figurer I need. I much prefer metal.

UshCha03 Jun 2018 11:56 a.m. PST

I guess at 28mm it used a thick layer height, you could drop the layer height to make it less but it would take more time but time is but an illusion so its OK.

I expect to replace armies in ten years as new and better models come along and fate takes its toll on all things, so I don't see plastic degradation ever being an issue for me. Plus you can always print another one if you were desperate.

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