Last week I opined about the future of modelling and wondered if 3D printing was going to make all those boxes of bits we model makers stash away obsolete. Not knowing the real answer I decided to take the plunge and order a couple of examples from Shapeways to see what they were like. The first has arrived.
The first thing is that the service was amazingly swift. I placed my order on Sunday and the box turned up on Wednesday. Not bad considering the contents didn't exist in anything other than a computer file when I requested them.
Anyway, my parcel contained an On30 steeple cab locomotive body that looks a heck of a lot like the one running on my model of the Hellingly Hospital Railway. The material its made in is described as "White, flexible and strong". It's certainly white, seems as flexible as similar thickness plastic and presumably has a similar strength although I've not tested this.
The surprise is the surface. I knew that 3D printers couldn't do curves very effectively, they render as a series of steps albeit tiny ones, but the verticals on this model have the texture of very fine sandpaper. I'm assuming that this is because the model is "grown" from a pile of powder. I'm not sure how to deal with this at the moment. My inclination is to shoot a coat of high-build primer over the whole thing to see if this smooths the surface without losing the lovely rivet detail on the ends.It's this that stops me sanding the model flat, well that and the feeling that I shouldn't need to. After all, if I have to sculpt the model locomotive out of a lump of plastic, this isn't the future. Well not yet anyway.
Never mind, I'm reasonably impressed. I'll see if I can turn this into a finished model. In the meantime, I've also got a K6 telephone box on order in a different material. We'll see how that turns out.