The future of modeling - Home 3D printing kits from files?

I think eventually nearly all models will be 3D printed. Give it a few years and we’ll all have 3D printers in our houses, and if we want a model (or a cup and saucer, or pretty much any household item made of plastic) we’ll purchase the .stl and print it ourselves. The morals/ethics/legality of how the artist who created the .stl gets paid and how to avoid piracy will lag the technology by a decade or so.

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Given the average technical ability of the population I would consider this highly unlikely …
I could be wrong …


I doubt this will come to pass too. The high-end modeler may have his own 3D printer, but the average modeler or homeowner will still buy the things they want/need. I agree w/Robin. The average person does not have the desire to learn how to deal with CAD and .slt files, etc. in order to print everyday items. A modeler may, but I know I don’t really want to.


Once was a time when people never would believe we all had computers in our homes. Or a GPS on our phones. I believe when it will happen will be soon. Soon for people who look ahead.

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Many of the people living in our building association (strange Swedish concept, sort of in the middle between a rented apartment and a condo) have trouble closing the hatch to the garbage chute when they take out their trash.
Somehow I have real difficulties seeing any of them handling a 3D-printer.


Like Robin and Gino said,
I highly doubt that all model kits will be 3D printed. Certainly not in my life time - I’m a relatively young builder: 46, and one of the avid 3D CADers and printers on this forum - plus, I was commercially doing it for sometime so I feel like I have a bit more insight. Maybe in 30 years that almost everyone (in the developed world) would have a 3D printer (not necessarily for model building) but there are many advantages to injection molding, much resistance to change and adopting technology, steep learning curve for CAD software, and limitations and challenges to 3D printing. Who knows? Maybe AI would have taken over the world by then? :smiley: Think about how the general public is not even good with math.


Not everyone has these items. There are many people in the world who do not have drinking water, or homes for that matter. … And why do I have this sinking feeling that the number is increasing?



If it was only the general public …


Random opinion…I think is 65% percent likely to prove accurate…

The future of injection molded plastic model kits is probably just as bright as the future of LP records in 1984. Folks felt CD’s :cd: would only have appeal to audiophiles, elitist, techies and the affluent.

Billions and billions of CD’s later, eventually the LP has enjoyed a resurgence. CD’s are in the dust bin of history. However, the LP format barely survived and very nearly disappeared.

I think a similar fate likely for the injection molded plastic kit vs 3D printed models. In the 80’s getting useful work done with a computer required a bit of technical knowledge. That certainly changed very quickly.

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The assumption that folks won’t 3D print because they lack CAD or math skills is moot; my prediction is based on folks purchasing .stl files from those who DO possess CAD and math skills, like model manufacturers. Input the file and resin and pull out the sprue in the morning. It’s already happening in RPG miniatures and there’s no reason it can’t happen in models. It makes shipping way cheaper; instead of shipping from a Chinese factory, all you need to buy is resin and the file.

You brought up an excellent point, Mike. It’s true that we’re stuck in our 1st world point of view. Global smartphone penetration 2016-2022 | Statista says 68% of the world’s population are mobile phone users, A quarter of the world does not have access to safe drinking water, new UN report says | PBS NewsHour says 26% of the world does not have access to clean water and 46% does not have basic sanitation in 2022.
3D printers to all people? Nah…

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I wish it were just “click and print” easy. It’d make my life so much easier. Unfortunately it’s not, at least not with the easily attainable mainstream technology at hand. The one method that I know can do something like that is multi-jet modeling or material jetting. That’s the technology that Shapeways uses with their Fine Detail plastic. The resin material is layered within a wax support structure that’s built up around the model. The wax is melted away leaving just the mostly cured model.

The common at-home printers though, use vat polymerisation. The model is built from the bottom-up and requires support material to be cured alongside, and attached to, the model. Any overhangs or islands have to be supported in addition to structural supports to hold the model to the build surface. These supports have to be removed from the model and discarded. Sprues, on the other hand, are a direct result of the manufacturing method of injection-molded plastic. Sprues are used ensure even, precise, and complete flow into the crevices and details of the negative molds. They are essentially and artifact of the molding process. Sprues don’t lend themselves to the resin printing process because they aren’t needed. You can simply print the part directly with a few well-placed supports instead of a lot of supports trying to support a sprue that’s not needed. Sprues also take up a lot of room that could otherwise be used for more ideal placement of additional models.


I would not say it’s moot when some modelers here already wrote that they are not willing to learn the skills to CAD or 3D print on their own. 3D printing takes skills, practice, and time to learn - I doubt that the transition is going to happen so soon. I can see that more people would buy 3D printed parts or kits or whatever in the future but most modelers printing their own figures, kits, etc. would take many years - I think this hobby would survive to see it but only the time will tell.


Sorry, i was using ‘sprue’ as shorthand for the supports and any other printed thing that is not the model or parts themselves. And no, my prediction is based on future technology. They’re better now than even a few years ago, and there’s no reason it won’t be better and easier to use in the near future. Just look at smartphones versus 10 or 20 years ago.

Yes, my prediction is aimed at consumers of technology more than developers. Most of us depend on model companies versus using our own skills to create kits. I’m not changing that equation, rather predicting the companies will deliver printer files rather than boxes.

Resin vat printing …
Does it smell when the resin cures?
Are those resins and other products totally safe for Mr Average Jo Consumer to handle?
Where are the resins shipped from?
What happens with the left over resin? Poured back into the container or does it become
waste? Toxic waste?

Just a few supports? Yeah, right on …

Maybe for figures, but …

If I’m building a consumer level household printer, it has filters and fans for any odors and the resin comes in cartridges so the consumer never comes into contact with the liquid stuff. And there are specialty cartridges with different types, like the flavorant cartridges in new restaurant soda machines.

Oh, and shipped like toner from Amazon or the producer.

No offense intended Robin but I can’t tell if these are rhetorical questions so I’ll just answer them for the sake of it.

  1. Depends on the resin. In general, most resins have a smell when not curing and when curing. Some more than others, some more noxious than others. In general it’s best to either have a carbon filter to filter the air or a hood and vent to vent the air into the outside environment. In general, the fumes are not toxic in low amounts in a ventilated room but in an unventilated, confined space the fumes can occasionally be irritating depending on the resin.
  2. When fully cured it’s like handling any other resin or plastic used in modelling. Safe to handle, but I wouldn’t recommend consuming any small parts. Same precautions should be taken when working with 3D printed resin as with molded resin. Mask when sanding/cutting; be careful when using CA.
  3. Resins can be bought online like Amazon or eBay, or from the producer/distributor. I buy mine direct from the manufacturer because I can’t find it anywhere else.
  4. Generally, if the resin is still good to use, it can be poured through a mesh filter or screen and back into the bottle to used again. When washing and rinsing parts off, the resin that was still on the model becomes toxic waste and can’t be reused or even regularly disposed of. The water or other solution (like IPA) then becomes toxic waste and needs to be cleaned or let evaporate to be considered safe. The waste resin can be cured and then disposed of in the trash. It can be a process. Some printers distill their waste IPA back into a clean form.

And I really meant few-er than would be found on a sprued print.


Thanks! They were not intended as rhetorical questions :smile:
Fishing for facts …
The big idea about saving on transportation by 3D-printing “forgets” that the resin has to be
produced somewhere and transported from there to the consumer.
Download and print your own books … but the home publisher needs to get the toners or ink and the paper

Unused resin poured back into the bottle is fine and dandy. If I print a part that turns 15%
of the resin into a solid form, maybe 3% (??) becomes waste and bit over 80& goes back in
the bottle. The next item I print has a shape which requires that all of the left over resin from
the previous part is needed plus an ounce or two extra so I need to order an extra bottle first.
The actual consumed resin is less than the left overs from the first print so now I fill the new
bottle to 100% and the rest goes into the first bottle.
How much resin, on the average, is consumed for supporting structures (percentage of the actual part)
Same mass (i.e. 100%), more, less?

Can I just print the wanted item and then walk away from the printer or do I need to clean it
according to the ‘owners manual’ if I don’t use it daily? Weekly? Monthly?
I bought a laser printer to avoid any possibility of inks clogging up the works if I didn’t use it
regularly. Some modelers think that cleaning an airbrush after using it is too much fuss.

My belief:
3D-printing is for those who commercially produce parts and the enthusiasts.
The average modeler will be happy to leave the “messy business” to the professionals.
I could imagine print shops, send your .stl and we’ll print it for you.
My dad bought equipment to develop his own photographs (I still got the trays) but I don’t know
if he ever used it. Going to the photo shop to get it developed and printed on paper or framed was cheaper and easier.