Tuesday, 26 July 2022

The 3D Printing Revolution

From The Particular...
In a post from April I wrote about how the unavailability of vehicle models for the 1939 Polish campaign was being solved by the growth of 3D printing. Since then I've managed to locate other sources of tanks and soft skins for this era, and this post is here to pass on links to some great 3D printing sources, and show you how I've been getting on with expanding my collection.

Vickers 6 ton tank, single turret version, in Polish service 1939.

In April I got some great 7tp tank models from 3D Printing Valley (also check out their eBay store), and was lucky enough to get a tip regarding Paint And Glue Miniatures. Garry at Paint and Glue has a great range of Polish-campaign models, and I was able to order Vickers 6-ton tanks in both single and twin turret versions, as well as some rare soft skins and a model of the very rare TKS-D tank hunter.

'Standard' platoon of 3 single turret Vickers tanks and 2 twin turret.
This is how they arrived, straight out of the packaging.

Close-up of the single turret tank (or 'Type B' to be more accurate).

'Type A' twin turret vehicle after a light sand base coat.

Three finished Type B models.

As you can see, these are all very nice models indeed. Garry has twin turret tanks with both the wz.25 air-cooled mgs or the wz.30 water-cooled guns. The models match the 7tp models from 3D Printing perfectly.

Paint and Glue also do a number of versions of the Polski-Fiat PF508 'jeep', or light truck. I went for a couple each of the pick-up and radio vehicle versions.

PF508 Furgon pick-up, with a standard load of a 4-man squad.

PF508 Furgon in Polish service.

PF508 pick-up with the radio van version (in undercoat only).

Comparison with the old True North Miniatures Lazik jeep, a vehicle which used
the same chassis. True North seem to be another extinct trader.

And so to the pièce de résistance - the TKS-D. This was a TKS tankette with the superstructure cut down to take a 37mm anti-tank gun. Only 2 were converted, but they appear to have seen service with the Polish 'Black Brigade' in September 1939.

TKS-D on manoeuvres. This shows the design concept of either towing a 37mm gun,
or mounting the gun itself in the vehicle, whilst still towing the gun chassis (as here).

The Jagdtiger of its day! Not. TKS-D looking menacing.

The Paint and Glue model. The crew figures need to be added.

Paint and Glue also do the TKD, a self-propelled 47mm gun version of the TKS tankette, of which only one was made but which may have seen service. Models of a couple of experimental SP-tankette prototypes are also available. Plus motorcycles and other stuff. All great fun.  

Side view comparisons of light tank-hunters, for the geek in you!

All TKS-D images and the Vickers 6 ton side-view were found on the excellent PIBWL Military Site, run by Michal Derela. Re-produced by permission. There is no better source (online or in print) for Polish tanks and armoured forces in 1939.

...To The General
3D printing seems to be a great new addition to our hobby. Many of you will be way ahead of me here - a Google search for '3D printing wargaming' creates access to a whole new world for a rather ill-informed grognard such as myself. 

Getting into 3D printing for wargaming is really a hobby in itself, as this gentleman explains. The creation of the files required for the printers, from drawings or hand made models, is a highly technical and skilled process requiring considerable knowledge (especially of CAD techniques), and much practice. The process of printing is also far from straightforward and requires much trial and error, as any number of online 'how to' videos will demonstrate. The kit required for all this can also be pretty expensive. However, this fascinating video on creating an entire fantasy army with 3D printing indicates what can be achieved. Or check out the possiblities offered by Wargaming 3D

Given the many difficulties of the process, I am actually quite surprised at the availabilty, accuracy and reasonable pricing of the finished models I have encountered. The quality is also improving all the time - the rather off-putting models I first encountered a year ago with their stepped surfaces seem to have all but disappeared.

For most of us, 3D printing means we now have access to a whole new world of top quality military vehicle models and model figures. The 'cottage industry' world of the 70s and 80s has returned, and our reliance on what the bigger companies will produce is dramatically reduced. Hobby enthusiasts can have a sideline that makes them a bit of money, working out of a garage or hobby room, and they can provide us with models that are usually superior to the cast metal or resin models that we have been buying for the past few decades. In this respect, the balance of power has shifted back to the grass roots, which I think is a very good thing. No doubt the bigger companies will be on to this technology shortly, but hopefully the access to smaller retailers and rare models will continue.

I have mentioned only a few sources for models in this post - many of you will know of others. Let me know via a comment if you have other traders to recommend. The most regularly publicised source I know of is Butlers Printed Models (who at the moment don't do any Polish 1939 models). I have also recently discovered Battlefield 3D with their extensive product range.

All we need now is the arrival of colour-printed 3D models. Then all that tedious painting will no longer be needed, and the hobby could really find a new lease of life. Who knows how long that will be?

'Til next time!

EDIT 14th August 2022
Check out this video from Paint and Glue Miniatures which shows how the models get produced. Certainly an eye-opener for me.


Norm said...

Very nice, pre-coloured 3d prints for ….. napoleonics! Could it be true :-)


Keith Flint said...

Maybe one day Norm. I understand some colour printing is already done, but is generally very expensive.

Steve J. said...

Things have certainly come on leaps and bounds over the past few years for sure. Printers are getting cheaper and the resolution much better all the time, making them affordable for the home for those that like to print stuff now and then. Going down the commercial route takes a lot more time, effort and knowledge to ensure quality and consistency of product. Fortunately this appears to be normal now, again even compared to a year ago.

I know Pendraken have just started using 3D printed masters for some of their new Cold War range and I believe the plan is to replace their whole AFV range in the future, using printed masters for their moulds. Again another 6mm manufacturer has been using 3D masters for some time.

I think it is a good move for the hobby for as you have already said, it opens up all of those unusual or limited production vehicles that are commercially viable to be produced in metal or plastic.

My only reservation is down to the durability of the 3D printed models compared to metal or injection moulded plastic. I know the materials are being improved all of the time, but based upon my experience in the 'industry', they can become quite brittle over time, which can cause issues for long gun barrels etc. But as I say, the newer materials are much better so I could be wrong in this.

Scarlet said...

Hopefully the material gets stronger, I lose so many gun barrels and wheel covers.

Out of interest, what the electricity bill like running a 3D printer at home. Other blogs suggest it takes hours of printing for finer detail?

Keith Flint said...

Don't know the answer to that question Scarlet. Perhaps someone else can chip in.

Stuart S said...

Very interesting Keith, the print on the demand offering now entering the market feels like it is filling a gap for those hard to find pieces.
Not sure I will be going to the expense of purchasing a machine just yet.... but you never know....

Jennifer said...

Color printing is getting there. I am lucky to have a couple at work that I'm allowed to print gaming models on; we also have CAD programs to experiment with but I haven't had time, so I mainly get them ready-designed and free from Thingiverse.

(I'm a librarian; check your nearest branch, as "tech labs" are increasingly available for free. Or rather, your taxes are already paying for that 3D printer - might as well use it!)

Keith Flint said...

Thanks Jennifer. I think colour printed miniatures would be a real game-changer for our hobby.

Wargamer Stu said...

No 2 son and his Warhammer 40K mates have clubbed together for a resin printer. The results are pretty good and for them its much cheaper than GW models. You can vary the "mix" for the resin and so trade-off sharpness of detail for softness to some extent.

Big downsides are the noise and the smell from some of the chemicals for the current generation of resin printers. That's slowly changing though.

I think the future is hybrid though - injection moulded for the rank-and-file with resin printed for the special units or leaders.

The printer is relocating to my wargames room soon so hopefully I can try it out.