3 Dimensional Printing ( 3d ) is defined here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing. I believe 3d printing is about to completely revolutionize scale modeling! It's a modeling tool like no other - an incredible process where you have a dream, and suddenly it's very real - right before your eyes!
Most scale modelers are well aware of cast resin and etched aftermarket parts, but might not have yet encountered a 3d printed part or model. Now that I know what I am looking at, I can tell that many Eduard aftermarket items are 3d printed - then cast. Based on my experience there are some distinct advantages and disadvantages of 3d printed parts compared to castings.
Advantages of a 3d printed part over a cast resin part:
1) A 3d printed part can have amazing detail and be printed in one single solid piece. This greatly simplifies the end users job of not having to assemble some tiny. fragile, fiddly parts! most resin sets require a lot of complex assembly and fitting. I believe 3d printing will make more complete assemblies than you could ever achieve in resin. This allows for things to be created that could never be cast in resin! This is why I can offer a ladder for a jet fighter in 1/48 scale. It's simply not possible to cast this part and still have it be easy for the modeler to use it with just basic tools and skill.
2) 3d printed parts are always the same size! This is a huge advantage over cast resin parts. Have you ever purchased a resin set that looks absolutely wonderful, but it's slightly too small (or even large) for your kit? A lot of this issue is due to the fact that even if the master part from which the resin is cast fits perfectly, resin shrinks! super expensive resin shrinks less -but it shrinks. A 3d printed part will always be the same size as the drawing dictates. Every single time - this makes it possible to make hundreds of parts that are exactly the same size in every way.
3) rubber molds degrade over time and use. Have you ever purchased a just released resin set, and it's perfect - it is crisp and quite nice. Then later - perhaps years later, purchased the exact same set and it's ruined by flaws due to the rubber mold degrading? Well I have.. A 3d printed part isn't molded so there is no degradation over time. The last one will look exactly like the first one. This is a very important advantage in my mind.
While there are some very good advantages that a 3d printed part has over a cast resin part, there are also some major drawbacks unfortunately.
Disadvantages of a 3d printed part over a cast resin part:
1) First and foremost - scaling and cost. The cost of 3d printing machine capable of making the fine detail modelers demand is very high. Thousands of dollars! The machine itself and the materials used are complex, and it's not easy to do. Furthermore large complex parts can take huge amounts of time to print! 12 hours or more! This means that if you were to have a product that was in high demand, it would be quite difficult to meet that demand by just 3d printing. I'm sure this is why companies like Eduard print out masters, then cast them for resale. Resin casting is far easier to scale to a larger demand than 3d printing.
2) The cost of a 3d printed item is going to be much higher. I do believe the cost of 3d printing will eventually go down, but for now, it's high as it's relatively new technology.
3) Its new - and new stuff is scary. Especially to a group of people that are old and not tech savvy.
My company - KSD will be focused on all things 3d printed. While I won't be making cast items, I will gladly make masters for people who do that kind of thing.