Here’s a hobby miniatures company that has been showing some very smart thinking over the past several years about the opportunities introduced by 3D printing and 3D scanning. Here’s a recent piece over at Make to introduce you to their unique perspective on focusing scan/design efforts on getting the their somewhat picky customers what they want!
Flexiscale identifies interesting and historic steam trains, wagons and other stock, scan them to make 3D point clouds, and turn those scans into 3D models. Then they’re broken out onto sprues for model railway enthusiasts to make at home.
For Chris, it comes from a deep affection for model-making that started in his childhood:
“I’ve made models of trains for a long while and it’s frustrated me that you have really work quite hard to make kits. I grew up making Airfix kits, and there’s something lovely about making one. They’re very simple, but they’re very malleable as well. You can convert them into other things, either real things or imaginary things. The majority of kits you get nowadays for unusual trains are these really hard to make etched brass kits, which I always describe as origami with jeopardy. You get a flat sheet of brass that’s been photo-etched, which you have to then turn into this three-dimensional shape. You fold it, and file it, and solder or super-glue it. And normally, at some point I end up super-glueing myself to it, or or burning my fingers while soldering.
“If you look at the mass market, everyone makes a model of the Flying Scotsman, or Mallard, or one of these big engines. But there’s a large segment of the market that doesn’t want a model of the Flying Scotsman, or if they do want it, they actually want to make it themselves, rather than have a finished item.
“The things that you buy from the big manufacturers are almost too perfect. They’re too finished, and there’s no craft in them. The only craft you can do is to take them out of the box without breaking them; that’s your only interaction with them. And as a result, the only story you can tell about them is of their purchase, rather than the pride of ‘I made this’ or ‘I improved it’, or ‘I put these extra detailing parts on’.
“There seems to be this schism between the perfect readymade, and the really hard-to-make obscure things, and we want to sit in the middle, making the obscure things easier to make.” …