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Made in us
Shadowy Grot Kommittee Memba




The Great State of New Jersey

Yeah, for small-end shops 3D Printers are definitely the way to go, but theres definitely a point on the demand curve where 3d printing ceases to be economical though (granted so long as screen manufacturers continue to push resolution and pixel densities and printer manufacturers continue to push print volumes that point on the curve will continue moving farther and farther to the right). The question I think is really how far do we have to go before 3d printers render resin/metal casting more or less fully obsolete and uneconomical by comparison

CoALabaer wrote:
Wargamers hate two things: the state of the game and change.
 
   
Made in gb
Decrepit Dakkanaut




UK

The other thing we have to consider is that there's new cheaper ways to get into plastic as well appearing on the market. Infinity and Creature Caster are both working with a new silicon mould based plastic casting unit.



I do think that production volume is important to consider along with other aspects like reliability.

I think another thing a lot of people overlook/forget is that a cast model on clean up (assuming it cast well) is generally a case of chasing the logical mould line around the model.
One downside of 3D printing is that unless your support work is top rate and low damage; you've instead got a lot more pock and stick marks all over the model. For cleaning these are in many ways harder because they don't follow as easily seen pathway over the model surface.

Of course if your firm is purely producing in-house you can certainly work with less damaging supports and the fact that you print with the same setup over and over means there's more chance to experiment and reduce the tip size even more

Print Hunter
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Made in nl
Did Fulgrim Just Behead Ferrus?





The Netherlands

Printing is a hobby of its own, so that’s also something to consider. Just look at adding/removing supports.

Then there’s the ventilation in the space where you print.

I think that if those challenges can be beaten, hone printing will truly wipe out cast miniatures.

Bits Blitz Designs - 3D printing a dark futuristic universe 
   
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Seattle, WA USA

 MDSW wrote:
I agree, as I recently got a Saturn and sold my old Mars and I simply love the Saturn. I also had an old A8 clone kit and upgraded to an Ender 3 Pro, so know both FDM and Resin print worlds and will take resin printing any day of the week. And, the prints come out SO much better. Also, there are many files I would never attempt to print on an FDM due to what would need to be done to support and then clean up the model.

I can see a print/miniature company coming out with a plan to work with a bank of the larger scale printers. On my Saturn I can fit about 30-40 minis and at 28-32mm tall the print would take about 4-5 hours at a resolution that would rival any casting process. 5 or 6 of these would be able to crank out a significant inventory of models for any company, so I do believe we will see less and less traditional mold/print companies moving forward as they either switch or are replaced by 3D print companies. Still aways off, but it obviously is happening now.
Agree. I've been thinking we were approaching that line where 3d print as production would cross over the traditional resin casting methods, as far as cost and efficiency, fairly soon. At least for smaller scale production runs (not GW scale, but many smaller studios' scale).

Now if I could just win the lottery so I can quit my day job and get a bank of printers to get my company going.
   
Made in gb
Decrepit Dakkanaut




UK

 Malika2 wrote:
Printing is a hobby of its own, so that’s also something to consider. Just look at adding/removing supports.

Then there’s the ventilation in the space where you print.

I think that if those challenges can be beaten, hone printing will truly wipe out cast miniatures.



A lot more needs to change. Resin itself is toxic in its uncured state so any material that it comes into contact with needs processing (curing) to be made safe for disposal. It's also possible to develop a resin allergic reaction if you don't take proper safety measures (masks, eye protection, skin protection) to the point where you can't resin print at all if you develop enough of an allergic reaction. That in itself is a massive barrier to anyone starting up resin printing and to any children (the teenage market is a massive target for GW and many other firms).

Upfront costs are also high. Yes its "cheaper than a whole 40K army" but at the same time a whole 40K army you can spread out over years; a printer is a one time lump cost. Plus its not just the printer, there's IPA, tools, etc.. for the printer and then after that you need all the same modelling tools that a model requires on top of that. Even the cheapest printers are still costly, remembering that you still have to get any gaming or modelling supplies on top to game.

Simplicity of use - right now the tech is simple to start; but if you don't calibrate you can hit loads of failures and problem solving is a whole art in itself. Huge advances are needed here and honestly it might not be possible to ensure a proper "plug and play" level of simplicity without fully climatic controlled housed printers (temperature is a huge variable, humidity also plays a part).

Resin supply - I've been hearing that resin costs are going to go up due to supply issues. In theory more popularity would result in more manufacture, but such things can take time to happen.



Overall I see "home" resin printing as the thing many might move toward as an addition to traditional supplied methods of models; but not something that would outright replace the traditional supply system. Even the talk justa few posts before isn't about the firm changing to only providing STLs, but changing their in-house production to using 3D printers instead of resin casting machines.


Print Hunter
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Made in us
Shadowy Grot Kommittee Memba




The Great State of New Jersey

 Overread wrote:
The other thing we have to consider is that there's new cheaper ways to get into plastic as well appearing on the market. Infinity and Creature Caster are both working with a new silicon mould based plastic casting unit.



I do think that production volume is important to consider along with other aspects like reliability.

I think another thing a lot of people overlook/forget is that a cast model on clean up (assuming it cast well) is generally a case of chasing the logical mould line around the model.
One downside of 3D printing is that unless your support work is top rate and low damage; you've instead got a lot more pock and stick marks all over the model. For cleaning these are in many ways harder because they don't follow as easily seen pathway over the model surface.

Of course if your firm is purely producing in-house you can certainly work with less damaging supports and the fact that you print with the same setup over and over means there's more chance to experiment and reduce the tip size even more


Siocast and similar are honestly not that great, bad mold line issues, soft rubbery plastic, etc. I think its a dead end development in molding tech that will eventually be supplanted by printers. The throughput of printing tech is growing and the costs of plastic injection are decreasing. The "soft" injection molding tech has a shrinking middle ground for firms which have higher demand than what printers can currently supply but not high enough to be able to afford HIPS injection molding - that middle ground is being burned down at both ends and I think eventually you're going to see firms start at the small scale with printing, run that up to the point they outgrow that, and jump directly into more traditional plastic injection molding rather than having that intermediate growth phase where they are using these other processes.

CoALabaer wrote:
Wargamers hate two things: the state of the game and change.
 
   
Made in us
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Seattle, WA USA

chaos0xomega wrote:
The "soft" injection molding tech has a shrinking middle ground for firms which have higher demand than what printers can currently supply but not high enough to be able to afford HIPS injection molding - that middle ground is being burned down at both ends and I think eventually you're going to see firms start at the small scale with printing, run that up to the point they outgrow that, and jump directly into more traditional plastic injection molding rather than having that intermediate growth phase where they are using these other processes.
I think you're pretty correct on this point. Also, I wouldn't be surprised depending on the growth curve of any such company if 3d printing tech advances more to help offset that "middle ground" even more, to where even "medium" production loads can be handled via 3d printing as production.

I also don't think that we'll see a shift from physical products (whether resin cast, pewter, siocast, HIPS, whatever) to STL-only, outside of Patreon-type things who focus solely on STLs. There will always be those that do not have/want a 3d printer and want to be able to impulse buy a model and take it home and start painting/playing with it immediately. There might be some more hybrid patterns where a company offers both physical product and STLs, but if a company's focus is on selling models for a game they're producing as well, I think most are still going to have a physical copy available. But, at the same time, I do think we'll see more and more 3d-printed-production versus resin/siocast production for smaller companies.

As Overread said, if you're not distributing the STLs, you can really tweak your settings and supports to fit whatever you have in your workshop, which reduces other issues you'd have if just selling STLs.
   
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Shadowy Grot Kommittee Memba




The Great State of New Jersey

Yeah pretty much agreed. A lot needs to happen before 3d printing overtakes true physical production, and despite all the noise some make about how 3d printing is the netflix to GWs blockbuster, I really don't see that happening for a long time, if ever. If anything 3D printing will just make plastic injection molding cheaper as tool-making is replaced with additive manufacturing to produce steel molds at a fraction of the cost of the current cutting processes - since thats where most of the cost in the process actually is, it would significantly drop out the barriers for entry into what is otherwise an already highly time and cost efficient process compared to 3d printing which is not and due to many physical constraints will struggle to be the same.

3D printing definitely has a place in the industry, and there are definitely businesses that can and will be able to leverage it, but I don't really see any big businesses with big games/IPs under them coming out of the Patreon scene by selling people STLs. Theres a lot of inherent scaling challenges to trying to do something like that when your primary product can only really be sold to each customer once and is very easily subjected to piracy.

For my own business, I'm doing STL sales for now to get my feet wet and build an audience but I will be slowly expanding into selling pre-prints of the STLs and will eventually launch physical-only product lines (or at the very least launch them as physical only until the demand for those products dries up and then transition them over to STL products). There are some product lines (terrain mainly) which I think will remain primarily digital-based (terrain mainly), but I'm thinking of doing pre-prints of select items/ranges where it makes sense for me to do so.

CoALabaer wrote:
Wargamers hate two things: the state of the game and change.
 
   
Made in gb
Decrepit Dakkanaut




UK

One other thing to consider is how long the STL market will be viable in its current form.

Right now its ultra cheap if you get in through patreon or Kickstarter; and that does influence prices on sites like MMF where up to 50% and better sales already happen on whole lines of models. Ergo depreciation of the value of an STL happens almost instantly.

Even the music, video game and film markets don't devalue that fast unless the release is a total lemon.



Thing is the patreon model also drives heavily for quantity; which means there's more and more and more models being made each month. Right now as the market itself expands that's ok. However I do wonder if at some stage the value of STLs will go up as designers of skill start to burn out and can't maintain huge volumes of ultra cheap STLs; and as the number of active buyers starts to reduce.

This might be both in terms of simply hitting a market limit on how many people (and print farms) there are; but also in terms of how much people need in the market.


When you've got 5 Green dragon models there's not too much competition; when you've 50 suddenly there's a LOT more competition and people just don't need 50 of them in their collection.







It's an interesting market and it will be neat to see how it evolves and adapts. It next big hurdle though is when companies outside of mini wargaming (mostly GW but also a few others here and there) take some attention to copyright and 3D printing. Right now there's a steadily growing body of creators willing and able to do copyright material from video games and films. I can expect that when those markets IP and copyright holders pay attention we might well see some pretty hard hits in the 3D printing world for a time until things settle out after that.

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chaos0xomega wrote:
If anything 3D printing will just make plastic injection molding cheaper as tool-making is replaced with additive manufacturing to produce steel molds at a fraction of the cost of the current cutting processes - since thats where most of the cost in the process actually is, it would significantly drop out the barriers for entry into what is otherwise an already highly time and cost efficient process compared to 3d printing which is not and due to many physical constraints will struggle to be the same.
Totally this. I know of some folks already playing with 3d printed molds for injection plastic, both on "small scale" and even slightly larger. There are actually some resins that can hold up to a bench-top injection molder for like a dozen or so casts. That's not a viable thing really right now, other than for some novelty, but as either high-temp/strength resins improve and more come out, or better/cheaper direct metal printing (most of that still needs a LOT of hand polish work to get anywhere usable, and the printers are insanely expensive still), that could quickly cause a shift. I kinda wonder if there might be a flexible resin that could be usable for the likes of Siocast. Some of the larger format printers could handle the size of molds, and still pretty good details, but I'm not sure if there's a flexible resin out there right now that would work in a Siocast. And as we get better resolutions on large format printers (which we know will happen eventually, with 8k, 10k, 12k, whatever--not soon, but 2-5 years I can see it), that might be a weird middle step that will emerge.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/10/21 00:11:43


 
   
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Decrepit Dakkanaut




UK

Resolutions are a bit of a tricky area because the screen resolution is almost meaningless. An 8K 6 inch printer and an 8K 12 inch printer have totally different actual printing resolutions.

That said Phrozen are pushing out an 8K 6inch printer which has a 25um printing resolution.



Interestingly they are more showing how it can achieve even more invisible layer lines on curved surfaces more so than fine detail. Indeed I'd wager 2K and 4K are already really hitting practical limits on fine detail in terms of what you can actually work with on a model. However achieving even more invisible layerlines and curved surfaces without having to use software AA options (which will also dull details) is a huge step forward.


After that my impression the next big hurdle might be trying to combat things such as the softer details on surfaces facing the build plate. Which might be unavoidable, however skilled modellers and designers could start to adapt sculpts so that they perhaps have more parts, but print far more cleanly.

One symptom right now that 3D printing has is that a lot of the designers come more from a video game background than a sculpting and casting one. You can "sometimes" tell the sculptors (or actual modellers) because they tend to use a lot more use of segmented parts; whilst the more video game background ones might use very basic parting cuts to just whole models.

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