3D Printing Potential Boon to Miniatures Wargaming

I’ve been following the 3D printing scene for a little while, thinking that I’d really like to get my hands on one of those and do something really cool with it. 3D printers like the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic have the potential to be the beginning of something really special, I believe. It’s one of those ideas that I can’t yet conceive of how it will revolutionize things, but I believe it will. Perhaps this is how my parents felt when my dad was working with computers in the 1970s and thought that we should have a computer at home because they knew that it was going to be the future. But I digress …

Anyway, I’ve been on a “reduce all the things” binge around the house because I’m at the point in my life where I want things simple. The problem here is that I’ve been a good American consumer and bought a metric crapton of crap! (I think I’ve found a new state of George Carlin’s classic stuff/crap dichotomy: When you no longer want the stuff you have, it becomes crap.) I want to organize my house and one of the easiest ways to organize things is to reduce the number of things that need organizing by getting rid of the things you don’t really need but are afraid to throw away. Getting a 3D printer (one more thing) that will allow me to make things on demand (probably a whole bunch of things) is … shall we say … somewhat counterproductive?

So I’ve been able to resist the temptation to purchase one of these wonderful contraptions, so far. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about what I could do with one of them, if I were to purchase one. And then I saw on Twitter that someone had made a 3D terrain map of the Hudson Valley using a MakerBot. Then it hit me, what if game clubs or game stores purchased MakerBots and started printing their own miniatures, terrain and so forth?

Currently, there are a couple ways to obtain or create miniatures suitable for wargaming. One can purchase off-the-rack mass-produced miniatures. Or one can create one-off or even small run miniatures using a resin casting method. Resin casting generally provides lower-quality miniatures than mass produced ones, but are generally cheaper than their mass produced counterparts. I would expect 3D printed miniatures to be more expensive than resin cast and possibly mass produced miniatures, but to have quality rivaling or even exceeding in some cases the mass produced miniatures. The exact differences in cost and quality would require more research.

But think of the convenience! What if I were a sculptor with some talent for creating miniatures models? Or a 3D artist? Perhaps I could sell designs that people with 3D printers could use to create their miniatures with? Perhaps deals could be struck between the artist and game stores where the artist gets a percentage of every miniature printed by the game store? Perhaps new miniature wargaming companies could sell designs with their rule sets so people could print the miniatures at home or take them into the game store to be printed for a modest sum over cost of materials? And just think, for the people for whom the painting of the army is ninety percent of the fun of having a huge miniature army … an endless supply of things to paint!

The mind boggles!


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