Friday, February 8, 2013

Nuclear Launch Detected!!!

by SandWyrm

For those who think that 3D printing will only ever be a rare, expensive, enthusiast thing. Here's your first truly disruptive product. A (cheap to refill) filament printer starting at only $499. It has 0.3mm resolution and can print within a 6" x 6" cube. That's more than fine enough to print out a 40K-scale tank model.

Link to review:

A year ago, the 1mm printers were selling for $1000-$1500.

Now you can get better for $500.

When I worked retail one Christmas at a big box computer retailer back in '03, we sold plenty of high-end inkjet and laser printers that were more expensive than that. Give it another year or two, and these things will be printing in full color, in better resolution, with units starting at $250.

Any miniature company that's not already making plans for how to adapt it's business model to this revolution (and preferably co-opt it) is going to get smacked hard upside the head very, very, soon. First, the sales of large models will decline. Then, as resolution improves, the smaller-scale models will be threatened. Once full-color hits, the software improves, and folks start trading digital models, price is going to be the only thing the traditional manufacturers are going to have going for them. Causing their nice, fat, margins to disappear.

For us gamers though? It's going to be pretty awesome. If a bit chaotic. :)


  1. I don't know how awesome it will be. We live in a world where music and movies can be traded online, and while the big business of entertainment is not going under, the changes that have been reflected in their business models could be reasonably argued as negative.

    GW and model companies do not have the level of margins to take the hit the entertainment business did. So we can get cheaper models through these printers? That is no good if the companies that produce the models quit producing them because their marginal revenue no longer covers their average fixed costs. I believe this is part of why Battlefront recently made the move they did in regards to FoW at tournaments.

    I would rather pay the premium I do and have less than have more and kill the hobby. Just one economist's perspective.

    1. Negative? We can download the music we want for a fee anytime we want to. Plus most services now allow you to re-download your music for a nominal fee. It used to be that if you lost your disk, you had to buy it again at full price.

      We have new bands that publish only via the net, etc. It's all good for us as consumers.

      Who it's not good for is the established music corporations. Who dropped the ball and didn't react fast enough to the changes. Sony had all the dev resources that Apple did, PLUS their own catalog of music and movie content. They could have built an iTunes and owned the digital distribution industry, like Apple does now for music. But Apple passed Sony by while they were asleep at the switch.

      So if GW (or Battlefront/Mantic/Wyrd) wants to survive, they need to be developing the software and infrastructure to deliver print-on-demand for miniatures of all kinds. Or someone else will own that distribution channel. If they don't, then their margins will take a hit. One that will force them to tighten their belts uncomfortably and become simply a supplier of bulk plastic troops with paper-thin margins.

      Is that good? Bad? Doesn't matter, because it's coming. I do think the 'hobby' of wargaming will survive, and even grow. Though certain games, and the traditional model/rules coupling of the traditional business model, are probably doomed. At least in their current form.

  2. I'm big into this, I teach 3D design, game design and have used rapid prototypers, but sorry , i really dont think its going to kill the industry.

    look, you and I and most of the readership here know that with the right expertise and thirty quid or so invested in materials you can make molds and cast your own models. thats a heck of a lot less skill intensive and money intensive that 3d development software and a 3D printer... so i dont think we will see huge amounts of this.

    what i do think desperately needs to happen is the miniatures producers getting smart and finding a way to sell 3d models with a limited number of prints available, but in order for that to be the case someone needs to develop a DRM system for 3D printing that works without being too obtrusive or easy to bypass.

    and that's the whole trick. we're entering a real of piracy of physical form on a unprecedented level if we aren't careful

    but i still don't think we'll see individuals reaching corporatio0n threatening level. much like our abilities to pirate and burn music. we still buy it, but we buy digital. the real threat are large concerted efforts at piracy..

    slightly fuzzy knock off space marines at car boots? still unlikely i think :)

    good food for thought though

    1. As the review I linked to says, 3D printing right now is much like 2D printing in the late 80's. I remember setting DIP switches, and wrestling with Communication ports/protocols, in order to print out a document for school on our old Dot-Matrix printer. It was fussy, and loud, but it was still better than doing it on a typewriter.

      Give 3D printing time, and both the tech and software will improve. Printing a full-color glossy pic of my kids from my iPad while lying on the couch is about as easy as it gets. It also would have been utterly unthinkable back in '89. In the future, you'll load up the Print-A-Model app, mix and match the model features you want, and hit print. Then wait a few minutes and walk over to pick up your models for that night's game. No painting required. Oh, and there's a Facebook button so that you can share your new creation for others to print too.

    2. Copyright infringement, not piracy ;) I get calling stealing music and songs piracy, even if it is inaccurate, but when dealing with physical objects calling it a pirated product so far strains the meaning of that word that it ceases to mean anything. Bootleg is the correct slang, if anything.

      I personally think this is going to be awesome just because it'll allow me to do things like design my own terrain, handheld weapons, etc without having to sculpt in plasticard. That, and the fact that most of the DIY printers use a cellulose based plastic that is biodegradable, which is massively preferable to plastic for me :D

    3. I'm sure a sleazy marketing agency somewhere will come up with a cute derogatory term for the illegal copying of physical product designs. Once everyone laughs at physical objects being called 'pirated' or 'stolen'.

      On the other hand, it might finally force the issue of whether or not it really 'is' stealing to copy something without depriving the owner of the original. Or if it is, whether an unenforceable law is really a good law at all.

    4. I've done a fair bit of casting when I was creating my monstrous FoW Red Army Batallion. I can say it's a LOT of work.
      Doing T-34s one at a time took many days and was no way worth it when you can buy them en-masse from PSC. It made more sense with the IS-2s since I needed less and they were more expensive but it's a very time intensive job.

      The printers are way better for this kind of job. There's a time investment setting up the print but once it's ready you can print off large numbers of models at once. I don't believe the quality will match high end injection moulding for a long long time but using it for simple tanks and buildings will be great. When they fall below £250 I might get one.

    5. "Digital Fabrication Management" There was a joke about it in Mass Effect 2.

  3. Most of GW's current policies are pretty indicative that they know these are coming and do not have a plan to deal with them (other than lots of suing). They have been managing their company for cash generation instead of trying to reinvest to grow the player base. They will not be able to charge 50 dollars for 25 cents of molded plastic. Ofcourse GW is in much better place here than FOW since they actually one copyrights and trademarks on a lot of models.

    1. True.

      But on the other hand, Battlefront's model scale is smaller. So GW will have to fight those battles before BF has to. First on it's 28mm tanks and monsters, then on it's infantry figures. So BF has maybe an extra year or two to adapt before the resolution of these printers can print their 15mm stuff acceptably enough for most players.

    2. It would be hilarious if this tech forced GW into supporting Epic again. Simply because of the size of those minis versus the resolution of these printers. :)

    3. You might be interested to know that GW C&D a very active 3d printing scene for Epic out of existence... but the 3d printing was to make a brass master that was then traditionally casted.

      See for an obfuscated look at what happened.

  4. So what you're saying is that you're about to own one, and I can henceforth purchase a spiffy new Tank Company from you for a pittance?

    I'm down with this.

  5. Boom:

    1. Holy Crap.

      Sooooooo.... Tempting

    2. I know, right!! I'm thinking of all the FoW scenery I could make and print. Hell I have an entire WW2 arsenal from my modding days sitting on my E drive :D

  6. Hmm, here's what I would do if I were in their position; obviously they have a lot of capital invested in the production of plastic thingies, but the price at which they sell them is going to end them if they don't adapt, as you say.

    Even if they are still paying for those assets, they should consider it a sunk cost and proceed post-haste to the option that will both decrease costs and probably increase their profit margin significantly:

    Partner with one of the companies working on producing and developing the 3D printers and restrict GamesWorkshop to putting out Rulebooks; continue as normal with the Black Library because man are those books good value for your money.

    Forgeworld should be repurposes to sell small boxes containing Model-Codes to print certain units X-number of times (also perhaps a single unit just for display's sake), which can be redeemed at a Games Workshop store that has one of the 3D printers (heck maybe copyright their own "Forgeworld 3D Printer" just for awesomeness's sake).

    1. That's one vision of where they could end up, but they do have to transition there. They can't be expected to just stop making models and go whole-hog on 3D printing. They also have to have the ability to sell the low-cost plastics that will be cheaper than a custom 3D print for some time yet.

      So what they need to do now is stick their toe in the water and come out with a 3D printed model of some kind to test the waters and refine their future processes. Maybe it could be a White Dwarf giveaway. Take this model code to your local GW and get a free mini!

      That gets them in the game without having a 3D printer in every store. They can also use the best 3D printer tech, which is messy and not suitable for a retail environment.

      Then, after a while, they could start 3D printing their old bitz on-demand instead of having to warehouse them. Over time that could move in-store as the tech improves. Until GW is ready to offer custom characters and other such models as a service. With their own software and support infrastructure. One which might even be friendly to the printing of models for other games. Particularly competing ones. Which would allow GW to profit from prints made for Infinity, Flames of War, Warmachine, etc.


out dang bot!

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