Of late I’ve been fortunate to see some of the really excellent 3D printing developments that are coming into the hobby. This weekend a PO wagon belonging to the Abdon Clee Stone Quarries on the Cleobury Mortimer & Ditton Priors Light Railway 4 plank open wagon, has arrived from Alan at Coast Line Models for me to have a look at. https://www.coastlinemodels.co.uk
I’m looking forward to seeing what the wagon looks like once it’s been cut away from the ‘sprue’, and to get some feedback from other modelling friends on this application of ‘new tech’. I’m used to using resins from other modelling genres, cars and military, as well as having painted a good number of Modelu http://www.modelu3d.co.uk figures which are also printed.
One things for certain, there’s real potential for the use of this technology, and it’s great news that there’s home grown producers having a go with it!
3D printing is fascinating (see the excellent look at the TCT 3D manufacturing show on the current BRM DVD extras) but to get the best from it, modellers need to re-callibraite thier wallets. That Cambrian wagon kit is a lot more money than the Cambrian range of plastic kits. You certainly get what you pay for in quality.
To start I think you’re right re the costs, in five years time it may be a very different outlook though. This on a 60 seconds glance looks a good 7/10.
The best resins are £100 a kg and do a superb job on a £35k printer.
Most modellers get jumpy when they get to more than the price of a Mars bar, prefering to buy rubbish and then loudly defend it to everyone.
My take is that we’ll see more multimedia kits such as Narrow Planet & co. On this kit, the W-irons for example would be mutch better etched than printed as would the brake levers BUT from a designers point of view, that’s a bucket load more effort and expense to bring the kit to the market – you can set up your Shapeways shop for free wheras selling kits in boxes requires stock holding.
Maybe this is good news for all those cottage industries who have masters for etched underframe bit. I hope so.
It is only a matter of time before 3D printing changes manufacturing as we know it. Last year in the Harvard Business Review there was a section on Additive Manufacturing (3D printing). It mentioned that in the US within a two year period, in the sector of digital hearing aids, there was complete disruption. The process was introduced and at the end of that period the companies who hadn’t adapted had failed.
And the FT has focussed on the issue recently it was mentioned that the technology is sufficiently mature to print circuit boards for devices like phoned.
It is only a matter of time before instead of your box arriving from Hornby or Bachmann by way of China, your loco, wagon or other product gets ‘printed’ to order in a local factory full of robots, who have produced it between turning out a new bearing for your electric car, a kettle body and some door handles for your house refurb.
There’s a lot more hype than reality around 3D printing. Smuggle the phrase into a news story and the BBC will wet themselves (see also the word “drone”).
To really make a difference in the wider world (hearing aids are a specialist area requiring significant personalisation ideal for 3D print) we need printing at an atomic level to handle all the different materials in a product, not possible with unwieldy spools of print material we have now.
You also need to consider the bigger picture. Printing a car part is fine, but what happens next? Truth is, the person who prints the part is the bloke fixing your car as you’re no more likely to do this than you are now. That bloke currently has access to a modern logistics system that can get parts to him next day or even same day. Something like a bumper, a candidate for printing, can be moved in a van faster than you could print it. For printing to “win” it has to offer a real advantage, which it doesn’t at the moment, or for the foreseeable future. I suspect that once the technology matures, the industry being served will also have changed dramatically.
An example is the oft quoted spare part for washing machines. Who gets white goods repaired now? The cost of manpower is usually higher than the purchase price. Improving spares availability (already good with next day delivery) won’t change that.
The local factory idea sounds appealing but you are really solving a logistics problem that’s been solved already. Moving goods around the world is cheap and easy already.
To be properly disruptive the technology has to solve tomorrows problems or at least off something considerably better than today. Your Hornby loco might one day be printed but by the time it can be, will you want it? Will your model be physical or a hologram/3D projection? Smaller living space would make this appealing.
Changes are a mater of time, but I suspect the time is a LOT longer than proponents think, and the changes will be different to anything we currently comprehend.
You raise some good points in your reply. I would challenge you on the pace of change. If you look the time line for the rise of the computer from the late 70’s through to the ubiquitous smart phones and tablets of today, we are talking 40 years, which isn’t the long though personally I seem to be showing a few signs of wear and tear.
The following link is to a piece in the FT a few days ago about industries under threat from technology. (If you aren’t a subscriber you can sign up and get a couple of articles free).
Truth is automation is here and continuing to hollow out all sorts of sectors and nobody has a ‘scooby do’ what it will all really mean.
Journalists need to sell papers and so get excited about all sort of things. “Rapid Prototyping” appeared on the scene about the same time as I was playing with my ZX Spectrum. In that time we’ve moved from 8 bit computers with 48k of RAM to modern smart phones and tablets with more RAM on a tiny card than a shop full of Sinclair products.
3D printing hasn’t advanced as fast and won’t for a simple reason. Computers are consumer proecuts. Everyone has more than one. That demand forces the pace of change. It helps that much of the work is just refining existing products – silicon chips are getting better but still fundamentally the same.
Not everyone needs a 3D printer and it will be many, many years before they do. To turn it into a consumer product, we need to work at an atomic level, much like a Star Trek replicator device. Do that and the whole of society will fundamentally change as most people will lose their jobs.
Industry has different demands that are already being met. 3D print has to offer an advantage over existing technology. Whatever the media says, 3D printed items are NOT better than traditionally manufacturered ones. The advantages of 3D manufacture are not the same as, for example, injection moulding.
Paul’s original post is a good case in point. The wagon is many times the price and not as good as an injection moulded Cambrian wagon kit, despite both being produced by cottage industries. The advantage 3D provides is the lack of up-front investment required from the maker, but at a significant cost to the consumer. Sometimes this is fine, most of the time it isn’t.
One day this might change, but it’s a day a long way away. I’ve been visting 3D print shows for several years and look forward to the day when one knocks my socks off. It’s clever and certainly has it’s uses but for the moment they are niche, no matter what the FT says.