An ethical question on ready made models and 3D models in competitions

A question popped in my mind about ready made models and 3D printed (complete models, not parts) and them being entered into modelling competitions, is it fair? Is it allowed? Not entering competitions myself I have no clue, but it would seem to be an unfair advantage (yes there is still the painting and weathering part for 3D) but a well made full 3D model outstrips a plastic model in level of detail with way fewer parts. Should there be a separate class for these models.
How much would you have to change a ready made or 3D model for it to be the same as a plastic kit model?
Just wondering?


Some models are better than others.
Better in this context can be more detailed or easier to build.
Should a super detailed, latest state of the art, Pz IV kit be
allowed in the same contest class as a 1970’ies vintage
Tamiya Pz IV?
If the answer is that the “winning quality” is the workmanship
and painting then any kit, regardless of number of parts, should
be allowed.
Many resin cast figure kits just have a handful of parts so there is
no big difference compared to the 3D printed figures.


If the rules of the contest in question allow it, it’s fair to enter whatever one wants to enter. Zero ethical issues, in my opinion when everyone follows the same rule set and has the same opportunity to enter whatever they want to enter.

It might be a fun factor issue however for the contestants. The fun model build and contest competitive model build may not always align as one wishes. The best contest models are typically models build specifically to compete based on the rules of the contest in my opinion.

As to judging, that could be a wild card in most categories. I dont really see how being one piece model would be an issue in a figure category in most cases.

Most IPMS contests emphasize “basic construction” as most critical point of evaluating modeling skill. BC focused on no seams, no punch marks, no mold seams, parts alignment, no glue spots etc. In a one piece 3D model, some judges might see that as major plus “no BC issues” others might see that as a zero since the modeler didn’t do any BC related work.

Typical medal show has its own criteria etc. I could see any given judge award zero points for BC due to being one piece construction. Likewise a given judge might award full points for BC due to being one piece construction. Outcome likely depending on rules or input from head/cheif judge.

As always with any model contest one pays their entry fee and takes their chances. That always been my experience with the contests with 95% plus being very fairly judged.


While I agree in principle, I have to disagree with no BC work. There is a lot less but you you still have the attachment points and possibly printing issues. Just because it’s 3D printed doesn’t mean there isn’t prep work needed before painting.

I do agree it does depend on the rules for that contest. I think clubs and organizations should debate how to handle full 3d kits before a contest. I would think 3d parts should be a non issue and treated as aftermarket items. YMMV.


Depending on the used 3D-printing process there will be limitations as to what can and can’t be done
as one single part. Many/Most 3D-printed kits will need to contain at least 10 parts.


I agree here; an AMT car kit has about 40 parts. A Meng T-72 kit has 1200 parts. In a contest they are judged by the same criteria. It is how these parts are finished, dressed, and assembled that is the determining factor in Basic Construction. Every contest goer should know that the more you add, the more impressive your kit is, the more likely you are to score highly - but the flip side of that coin is the more you add, the more chances you have to make mistakes that will cost you.
Some modelers will breeze through a 1200 part Meng kit, other modelers will proudly present a 200 piece Tamiya kit. Both worked equally as hard on their model.
In the AMPS judging system, on the scoring sheet there is a 1 point category “Scope Of Effort”. The judge can award 0, .5, or 1 point, depending on the amount of work and effort it took to achieve what is in front of him. This can take into account whether it is a 10 piece kit, a 200 piece kit, or a 1200 piece kit. 3D kits are really already addressed.


I agree not all manufacturers are created equal! My experience of 3D is limited to small scale, with a parts count of 4 or 5, Hull Tracks, turret and then main gun and some other bits, clean up is much easier than a resin cast kit, sometimes easier than a injection moulded kit (depending on Manufacturer) I will use ready made models if nothing else is available, although I usually dismantle them and change things.

This is a 1/72 T 90A (with interior that increases parts count) to get a plastic kit to this level would take some serious scratch building and aftermarket items!


Yes but not all judges or competitions are created equal (from what I hear?)


I’m an old very successful contest veteran; no matter what contest you go to, no matter where in the world, there’s always going to be one or two know-it-all a**hole judges on the team and nothing can change that, ever.


FWIW, I think that Wade’s [ @Armor_Buff ] observation about the rules gets right to the heart of the issue. It would seem to me that the question is really about purpose, goals and objectives for having scale model exhibitions and “contests.” In other words, what are we actually trying to achieve when we host such a show?

The sad fact is that the majority of rules sets used at model shows today have yet to be updated with rational and objective (as much as guidance for judging can be “objective”) changes that address scale modeling in the “3D Printing Age.”

How should judges address something like visible layer lines (either from FDM or DLP printers)? Are these unwanted production artifacts analogous to mold seams, ejector pin marks and sprue attachment nubs or are they something to be ignored since they don’t manifest themselves in “traditional” model kit construction? Should the 3D model builder be required (i.e. penalized if he doesn’t) address these 3D-printing unique problems? If not, then how do the judges recognize the “superior” work exhibited by those 3D model builders who do address these issues over those who do not?

Rules that include modifier-intensifier assessments like “degree of difficulty” have yet to address the often times quite radical simplicity of 3D printed kits (in the context of very low parts count, limited requirements for parts alignment and addressing assembly seams). Because the VOLUME of work is significantly reduced should the judges place even greater emphasis on those construction errors that are visible or do the judges continue to employ comparative judging methods that reward models that have the FEWEST visible errors (which clearly favors the build which requires the least amount of construction). How does a rules-set fairly compare a 3D printed model that has single piece tracked suspensions with a model of the same subject that required the builder to assemble and align perhaps several hundred individual parts to achieve the same detailed result?

Another area of judging rules that has not “caught up with the times” involves the concept of “scratch-building” in the age of 3D printing. Does the modeler who actually prints the parts using someone else’s files get credit for “scratch-building” the model? Afterall, there is a considerable degree of skill, knowledge and ability required that goes above and beyond the average kit build to actually 3D print the parts? Should there be some acknowledgement and recognition given by the judges of this additional skill and talent?

What about the modeler who not only prints the parts but who also does all of the CAD work required to create the printing files? Has the second modeler “scratch-built” the model (since he created it from nothing more than an idea in his own mind)? He or she has clearly demonstrated a great deal of additional skill and ability in creating the model than that demonstrated by his or her peers who have assembled commercially available kits. Should this additional skill be acknowledged and recognition of it be given by the judges? Is this kid of “off the work bench” specialized effort analogous to the kind of effort that is often recognized for modelers who go to great lengths with historical or technical research? If we recognize and reward the latter should the judges now do the same for the former?

Perhaps the issue of 3D printed models needs to be addressed with the creation of entirely new display/competition categories. If there is no practical way to judge 3D printed models using the same rules as applied to conventional model kits, do 3D printed models need their own categories (much in the same way that scratch-build and major-conversions are segregated in some rules-sets)? If this is done, what about the differences in the two major 3D printing technologies used - FDM vs. DLP/SLP/SLA (i.e. filament printers vs. resin printers)? Should the technical resolution standards between these major technologies to replicate detail be addressed in the rules? Is it possible for judges to make a fair comparison between the fidelity of detail reproduction of models printed using one system and the other?

In the end, I think the question or issue is really about model show hosts updating their rules-sets to address the changes in model making technology.


Good question. I think what’s assessed in competitions & shows is one thing, another is how we react to 3D in these forums. My view is the finished result is what matters. For example, in 1969 modelmakers thought Tamiya’s Panther A was the bees’ knees – nowadays we all fall about laughing at it compared to what’s on the market now in terms of accuracy. Just because there are new processes to make kits these days doesn’t alter the principle that whatever’s most accurate & most detailed scores highest.

A more personal example; I’ve struggled & failed for over a year to make articulated 1:35 figures for a diorama out of standard styrene body-parts by various manufacturers. Now I’m about to have myself 3D body-scanned and then 3D (colour) printed to make a series of the same figure in different poses.

I won’t have lifted a knife, glue dispenser, paintbrush or paints to make these figures. Is that unethical, if the result achieves a better outcome than using traditional methods? You be the judge, my intention is to make things as real & believable as possible, the means justifying the ends. It doesn’t have to mean the death of craftsmanship, believe me 3D scanning/printing is going to require more effort on my part, not less.


Fair point in your observation about it’s “the finished result [that] matters.”

However, I would ask is it even possible for us (or judges, if you will) to separate the finished work, as seen on the exhibition table, from the characteristics of that work that are different from the actual reality of that exact same subject as observed by the judges from a distance that reduces the perceived size of the subject to that of the model on the table?

In other words, if we (or the judges) assess some standard, let’s say (for the sake of simplicity) a perfect replica of the reality of the prototype subject, then how do we then differentiate between the model and that standard? What characteristics do we observe and note that are different on the model than on the actual subject?

Again for simplicity, let’s imagine a scale model of a human figure. We, the judges, might observe that the scale model has a mold seam running up its leg and an open seam at its shoulder. Since real humans have neither molds seams nor open shoulder-arm seams, we note these differences on the model. Next we look at another figure model on the display table adjacent to the first and see that it does not have any visible mold seams or open assembly joints.

Now, we might characterize these observations in two different ways. We might characterize them by saying that the “final result” as observed on the table is that the second figure is more “realistic” than the second. Another way that we might characterize these works is by saying that the second figure displays a higher degree of skill and craftsmanship than the second. In the first characterization the degree of realism of the model is emphasized, but in the second, we’re characterizing the skill and talent of the modeler (as represented or demonstrated by the model on display).

This brings us full circle to the question of what it is we’re trying to achieve with the exhibition or contest. Do we want to recognize and reward the final finished piece of work or do we want to recognize the modeler? Is it even possible to do the first without the assessment needed for the second? If, when we make our assessment of the reality of the model (as compared to the real-reality of the prototype) by finding those things that are “unrealistic” characteristics on the model, is it possible to separate those from the person who did the work?

That is, if the “unrealistic” characteristic observed on the model shouldn’t be there, is its presence a “mistake.” And if it is a “mistake,” how is it then NOT possible for us to also assess that it was the modeler who has made that error?

So, in the final analysis is it possible to ever simply judge the “final results” without also assessing (and judging) the methods, techniques and materials used to create the work along with the skill and craftsmanship to employ them? I don’t personally believe that such a judgement of the “final result” is possible without also judging the modeler. That is, it’s not possible to decouple the two - the work and its creator.

The “how” the model was created matters just as much as the “how well” it was created. The two cannot be reasonably or rationally separated, at least not in any practical manner when it comes to judging models at a show (either an exhibition with the emphasis on the “final results” nor at a contest where the skills of the modelers are in direct competition with each other).

This is why it’s such a shame that the most model show rules-sets have not kept up with the advances in 3D-printing.

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Totally agree with Tim @Dioramartin

Consider this: Two kits of the same subject from different manufacturers (maybe a Pz IV or an M60).
One is fiendishly annoying du to poor fit, huge sprue gates, lots of flash and oversized release angles, sinkmarks and ejector pins all over.
The other is top notch, none of the issues in the other kit.
One is vastly easier to build and get a good result, the other requires an almost endless effort, some sessions with a therapist et.c. et.c. One has indy-link tracks with a gazillion parts the other has simple rubber tracks (There are opinions about what is awful or not regarding tracks so assign track types to
the described kits according to Your preferences)
Should the perfect kit be allowed to compete against the one from “Orrible K-9 Models”?

The issue with 3D-kits (ethical, fairness, et.c.) can equally well be present with ordinary styrene kits.

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Judging: The very little judging I have done was with the instruction that

  1. Accuracy is not judged. Period. Doing otherwise would require judges to be experts in too many areas.
  2. Visual result is judged. A visible seam is a seam that was not removed. We did not consider invisible seams, we shouldn’t care if the seam was invisible thanks to the builders efforts or the quality of the kit.
  3. Painting and finishing. No judging of correctness. Brush marks, fingerprints or sloppyness would be judged. A small part of realism creeps into this criteria. A vehicle which looks as if it came from the cleaners while “driving” in shiny “wet” mud could be seen as a fault in painting&finishing.

Judging “difficulty” or “effort” requires that the judges are familiar with each and every kit.
Maybe not at the level of having built one but at least having examined the sprues.
It is also very subjective, one judge could consider indy-links to be fiendishly difficult while another
thinks that they are easier than rubber bands.

What You See Is What You Get



About judges:
Would you rather meet
a judgemental bastard
a bastard mental judge?

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:laughing: I’ve accused myself of being both - occasionally at the same time! LOL!


How is a 3D printed model made by someone else and then printed and finished by the modeler any different that a plastic model that is first researched, measured, modeled in CAD, and then routed out of solid steel to form a mold and then injection molded on machines costed thousands of dollars any different?


Parts count is a recent phenomenon. Older kits had less parts, but still require craft to build well. And what about painting single piece figures. No assembly, but a ton of skill. And what about 3D printed models where the drawings to create the parts were also done by the builder? Another wrinkle? The hobby has the capacity to accept all of it and show it off , and yes, judge it in contests. We’ll figure it out.


Very interesting discussion, I may not agree with everyone but I like the way other opinions are being expressed, bravo all & long may it continue.

I think we’re all spotlighting the dual attractions of model-making: the craft, and realism/accuracy. There’s a spectrum of views about which is more important than the other, and/or whether it’s possible to strike a personal balance between the two.

It’s made me ask myself – would I prefer to make the most realistic model possible using no traditional model-making methods? Or would I prefer to enjoy the craft most of all, and settle for a result not quite satisfactory regarding realism? Given the likely impossibility or rarity of achieving both goals simultaneously.

Hmm…uh….hmm… :thinking: :thinking:(an hour later) – OK I refuse to accept the binary proposition. It would depend on the specific model/figure/project. Some things I’d just enjoy the process, but with others ruthlessly chase Realism. As for how I’d view others’ creations though, I’d respect their enjoyment of process but ultimately I can’t help wearing my Realism specs.


As a modeler who heavily 3D prints and CADs things for 1/35 model world, this discussion hits home and bothers me at the same time. I am not going to repeat the same things already mentioned by fellow builders here. Basically, I don’t agree why 3D printed kits and parts should be discriminated against or even be subject to a discussion titled “ethical” question as if implying some moral issue behind 3D printed models. I am going to say no more and play nice.