Sunday 27 April 2014

Kickstarter - affordable 3D printer (and Moore's Law).

Via the Cardiff' gaming club's BB -  the Micro 3D printer - and inspired by finally getting a driving lesson on work's 3D printer.

Thinking back, I remember when my wife was doing her final year VetMB project, and I was basically doing the DTP for it - we used my then employer's Apple LaserWriter, which was pretty much the first consumer laser printer...

It cost (according to Wikipedia) around about £4000, and (I vividly recall this) there was one diagram - simple black and white with a number of curves - that took literally twenty minutes to print.

If I look up to my left from where I'm sat here in the living room, there's a Brother combined A3 inkjet/fax/copier/scanner. £99, three decades later, for something which outperforms the LaserWriter in so many ways by about three orders of magnitude.

This is Moore's Law in action, which basically says that the density of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years with advances in technology. By extension, most measures of bang per buck in technology (for want of a better term) also double every two years. Hence the contrast between my inkjet, and that LaserWriter, and (for example) the rate at which computers are getting more powerful, hard disk is getting cheaper and (ironically) software is getting more bloated - although you could make a case for the latter being an adaptation of Parkinson's Law. :)

More relevant to the hobby this blog is about, is the fact that 3D printers are already quite a way down that curve - the analogue to the expensive business LaserWriter happened about 5 or 6 years ago, and we're now at the 'Maplin will sell you a basic 3D printer for £600' stage. It's only going to get cheaper, as this Kickstarter suggests. People are already 3D printing tanks and starships for wargames, and it's not going to be long (pace Moore's Law) before the printing resolution improves, and the price drops, to the point where 3D figures in at least 28mm are affordable.  The cheaper end of the market is already capable of 0.3mm resolution (not yet good enough for, say, facial detail on a 28mm) but the top end of the market is already at 1/10th of that or better.

It's coming, folks.


  1. It won't be long that instead of buying your resin building or terrain features, that companies will sell a download file and you will print it yourself. No waiting for the mail, just click, print, paint and play. And unlike figure detail, the technology already, as you said, exists for the home wargamer to do this. Or how about user content, created by wargamers and shared for others to print and use.

  2. If anything tells me that the whole area of copyright, intellectual property and even certain types of commerce have to undergo a complete paradigm change, this is it. But governments are so far ensconced in their gilded ivory towers, that they'll sit uselessly on their backsides, their thumbs thrust up their fundamental orifices, and do diddly squat. As per usual.

    This will be good for the war gamer into large armies - not so wonderful for figure manufacturers - not in the long run. It seems to me that creative people may obtain their living in ways other than the direct sale of the figures they design, but rather, be rewarded for their work of design from which customers may 'print' multiple copies of their work.

    You can see how this will change the nature of commerce, of employment, and of production, eh?

  3. The true breakthrough will be multicolour 3D printing.

    Imagine a fully painted army!

    10 years?

  4. It's here already. Type 22 Pillbox and dragons teeth in 28mm. Printable in any size/scale from 3mm to 54mm. Materials cost: much a less than a Starbucks coffee.

    There's already a set of 1/200 WWII miniatures on Thingiverse.

    As with resin buildings and lead minis, the real problem is with getting good reproducible designs.

    1. True, but the point is that you can pretty much pull those off with an 0.3mm resolution printer, because there isn't *much* in the way of fine detail on them, compared to a 28mm face, uniform detail, etc.

  5. Many of the patents connected with 3D printing expire this year which will make these devices cheaper yet, so yes, I can see a paradigm shift in our hobby and industry at large coming soon. One commentator refers to the coming age as the 'democratization of industry.' My fear is it might put many small companies out of business.

  6. Just caught up with the blog. The prospect of being able to print your own miniatures is quite exciting. I think we're a few years away from a price point where I can convince SWMBO. Lots of great gaming etc on the blog. Hopefully I can stay caught up.

  7. This is because beyond A3, laser printing cannot be done for most printing jobs that doesn't ask for much quantity. Most of the time, they have to use another process that is longer and more expensive
    banner printing

  8. Instead of 3D printing miniatures, I 3D printed more useful household stuff like chopping boards, flip flops, water sprinklers and plates & cups. 3D printers are expensive but it’s quite helpful. Last week, I just bought one of this and it arrived yesterday. Using this material, my next plan is to 3D print personal accessories with the help of Sketchup.


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