20 October 2015

Tech Week: The 3D Printing Revolution

For a while now, 3D printing has been, while not affordable, within the budgets of many enthusiasts. This year we have seen the debut of machines as low as $350. This price range put it as a prime gift under the holiday tree this year.

If you do not know, a 3D printer is a device that takes a 3D computer generated image and prints it out bit by bit out of plastic (commercial ones can also do metals). A bit of time (depending on complexity anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours for a miniature), and voila, you got a nifty thing to add to your game. It also has plenty of other applications, but let's stick to the good stuff.

For gaming you do not need a large unit if you are building 28mm objects, which the lower priced machines tend to be small. You can design the objects yourself in a 3D modelling program, but for those of us lacking the ability there are repositories on the web with plenty of models ready to go, and more being added everyday.  Some cost money, usually not a lot, and there are tons of free models as well. Models can be miniatures for RPG and wargames, markers, terrain, just about anything you can think of. Also, they are easy to resize, so you can print larger or smaller as needed.


The future of gaming and 3D printing is approaching fast. As you can see, the price is hitting the right mark, models are available, and the pros are beginning to enter the market. The first is Fat Dragon Games, known for their download and print paper terrain has a Kickstarter for their new product: Dragonlock. These are pay once/print all you want terrain pieces for your 3D printer. The models will be available through DriveThruRPG.

Other companies are soon to follow, and I am sure it will include the big boys. Reaper is in a good position to enter the market as they have been 3D modelling their minis for a while. Other companies do as well, and miniatures not is software can be 3D laser scanned with relative ease. Who will be the big breakout company? Reaper? Warlord Games?

There will be holdouts. I cannot see Games Workshop entering the field until it has no choice, and that choice may not be their standard competition. Entering the digital realm means the chance of piracy, and with their price point, GW will be hit hard, IMHO. With 3D scanning, expect to see their miniatures on the web sooner than later as 3D scans.

Note: I am not advocating this. It is just a fact- it will happen. Soon.

It will be hard on these larger companies who have their business model and their resources tied to the physical product. They will be slow to adapt and losses are inevitable. Also in danger are the FLGS, as they are already losing sales to online books. The next few years are going to see some big changes in the gaming industry.


Here are a few places to download 3D models. Some are free, some are paid, all are interesting to peruse.

Time Portal Games ($12 for 75 28mm minatures. Good deal)
Shapeways (mainly a print service, but has models for download as well)
Printable Scenery
Makerbot's Thingiverse

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