Friday, 18 July 2014

3D printing

I promised to give you some information about the 3D models I had designed and printed through Shapeways,so here goes.

First off I have to tell you that I have no idea how to design the files needed to print out a 3D model but I do know there is a ton of software available to help you do it. I wanted a toolbox and some stacking storage boxes for the shed, both of which would have been a pain to make by hand. I find objects that are machine finished/injection molded or vacuum formed are pretty hard to replicate in miniature. So I did a bit of research, found a design team that had a good reputation and pinged them an email. Mieszko and Jeffrey are the very clever guys I hired. The first step is finding the full-scale object you want to copy. I was asked to take measurements of the two items, with pictures, that they could work from. The cost to have the two files designed and delivered to my email within four days was £250 GBP. Now this might sound like a lot of money. It is a lot of money but there are a few things to consider. Once made, the files belong to me. That means I can print as many as I want, sell them on, whatever I choose. Secondly, there is always a decent size price tag to any 'one-off' item. Bespoke miniatures always cost more and rightly so. I think the bulk of the cost came from how complicated the toolbox was - a removable tray, two opening compartments, a working handle, a working hinge. You get the picture, complicated = cost.

After the four days I received a STL and OBJ file which can be uploaded to any 3D printing company. I chose Shapeways just because I had heard of them. Once the actual volume of material is calculated, you get a list of print prices for the different materials available. The materials vary from strong, flexible plastic all the way up to platinum =0D. One thing I didn't realise, I ordered the toolbox in strong and flexible black plastic. What you get is actually strong and flexible white plastic, painted black. It costs extra for a coloured version so if you want to save a few pennies, order the plain and paint it yourself with acrylic. The other thing to mention is that there is a grainy feel to the printed item. It's like it's been sandblasted. No problem for rough and tumble toolboxes but I think you may be disappointed if you're printing something that you want to be ultra smooth.

It took about ten days to reach Blighty...Shapeways in the Netherlands supply Europe and the Shapeways USA supply the rest of the world. I'm really pleased how they turned out and I would recommend Shapeways to anyone.

I wanted to make my files available for anyone to use, rather than force someone else to go to the expense of designing them for their own project. We're all about sharing the miniature love on here =0). The lovely Marion R has kindly agreed to host the files in her shop. If you want to buy them, all you pay for is the printing...there is no mark up for profit, no recuperation of the design costs. If you're not interested in toolboxes or stacking boxes, still take a look at Marion's gorgeous designs. I'm always thrilled to see new miniatures and even more excited to see how technology is stretching the boundaries of what we can make.

Before I go, I'd like to point you in the direction of a new blog. The museum of working miniatures is a unique collection of fully-working miniature objects curated by a lovely fella with a passion for miniatures. It's pretty new but it's growing daily. I'm already in love with  the prize-o-matic machine and mouse trap game. I WANT THEM =0P

Have a lovely weekend

Pepper =0)