What do I need to 3D print?

I’m interested in doing 3D printing and have no idea where to start. Welcome any suggestions.

I’d like to scan or draw in CAD small parts like flat screw heads replicate.

What’s required to 3D scan a small part like a 1/35 road wheel and change the scale to 1/32 and print a set of new road wheels?

I have an old Monogram Pz IV kit I would like to build and update.

I would think since it’s CAD is easier to draw in 1:1 then I would copy the image and scale down one time to the correct conversion factor for scales needed.

Depending on the software cad and camera, you could 360d shoot the part and let the software cad image and scale down.

Best of luck.

@Tank_1812, that sounds great but which scanner and which printer to look into?

Total newbie on 3D

Newbie here as well. My BIL sent me this almost a decade ago.

1 Like

For 3D scanning you can spend either little money by using an actual camera, or your cell phone, or you can spend lots of money and buy a 3D scanning tool. If you want to use your phone, or an actual camera, it’s both simple and complex. First, you need to set up the part you want to scan on something like a stool, or you could use a turntable or a lazy susan. Then you just need to take pictures all around the object from both high and low angles. This is called photogrammetry and there are phone apps that help you do this. If you use a regular camera, you need a few computer programs to convert the pictures into usable data and stitch them together. Unfortunately, I forget what they are right now and a quick google search isn’t yielding anything.

If what you want is just a screw, it’s easier to use 3D CAD software like Fusion 360 or Sketchup. What you would need to do is draw and extrude a cylinder for the screw shaft, draw and extrude the screw head, then use the threads command to create threads in the screw body.

For a road wheel it’s obviously more complicated but everything is basically on one plane after creating the wheel shape.

1 Like

@MikeyBugs, thank you for the outline and detail. I’m pretty open to spending ~ $500 total on printer & scanner.

Keeping it simple is important since I have zero background with CAD.

For it to be worthwhile, I want to be able to scan small parts like road wheels, track links, muzzle brakes & tools then adjust the scale slightly on certain certain parts and print.

Unfortunately I have little experience with 3D scanning, I’ve only used photogrammetry on a few objects. For very small parts, it’s better to just take measurements and reproduce them in a CAD program.

$500 is enough to buy a cheap printer but for the kind of printing that you want to do, DLP or SLA printers work best. They can achieve a high level of detail with small parts. They use a liquid resin as the medium and it’s cured using either a projector or lasers. These printers also tend to be more expensive. There’s a few cheaper ones out there. The one I have, an Anycubic Photon is pretty affordable but it can be finicky and the price of resin is where the most expense is. Resin gets expensive after a while.

1 Like

@Armor_Buff I have no idea where to start with this 3D printing but I do see it as the way forward and would love to find so place thay I could physically go to and learn how to do it.

I’m afraid a lot of these new technologies are beyond me but it would be good if you posted a blog about it including how to operate the scanner and printer.

@Klaus-Adler, David we are very much in the same boat :ship: . I’ll happily share anything learned if I go down the 3D path. Definitely agree, its a part of modeling’s future.

I’d really like to make some new and better parts for an old Tamiya 1/25 T-34-85 that’s in the stash.

It’s really hard to figure out exactly what’s needed and how to start. My local city library offered a 3D printing class…but due to Covid it’s suspended for the time being.

I have found someone local to me that’s 3D’d toys for his daughter. He printed a :bathtub: for a Barbie doll. Hope to talk with him this weekend.

@Armor_Buff I have some 3d files but I don’t know how they work or transfer them to the 3d printer? do I need to plug my pc into it or use a memory stick?

perhaps there needs to be a new pinned topic entitled “What you need to know about 3D printers & printing”

1 Like

What kind of file extensions do they have? In general, consumer 3d printers use 2 or 3 kinds of file. STL, OBJ, or a proprietary file type. You can plug the printer into your computer if it requires constant computer connection or run it from a SD card or thumb drive if it can run stand alone. It all depends on the printer you have or want to buy.

The pinned topic would be a pretty good idea.

In my opinion, the real potential of 3D printing is developing your own parts to suit your needs -in that sense, a 3D scanner should not be a priority, at least for a beginner.

Second, instead of purchasing the printer I would start learning 3D Design software and making your first parts. Once you are sure you like it and see how far you could go, then get the printer.
3D software is not rocket science but it is not for everyone either…

Note also that a 3D printer is not as easy to use like a laser one. You have several parameters to adjust until you get the desired result, and this needs research and experience.

It is not my intention to discourage you, but raise a warn about high expectations. In any case, 3D printing is not the future of modelling, it is already the present.


@varanusk Carlos, I hear you.

My main driver is copying existing state of the art parts to use on the old kits in my collection. Analogous to resin casting copies from a master part. Other than making a flat a head screw, I have zero interest in designing my own parts to resin cast or print.

I do think a pinned topic on 3D printing for models or even its own forum would be very helpful. With 3D being main stream now that seems very relevant to modeling.

Seems like this is probably still several years away from what I’m seeking.

@MikeyBugs I have purchased a model of a star wars ship in STL file format but to print it at it’s current size would be expensive so I am praying they can reduce the size by 50% to make it 1/144 scale. but I have tried to get that done in past but the company I wanted to print it ran into problems with the previous files and dropped the project.

First, you should understand that “scanning” is not some sort of magic process that will save you time and effort over learning to do simple CAD. 3D scanning is not like scanning or copying a document and then just printing a copy of that. 3D scanning is a process that requires not only the hardware, but also the software and skills to use both. I’m sorry to say, but “scanning” is just no shortcut to creating 3D printable object files. Can such objects be created using 3D scanning? Yes. However, this is no path for the beginner to 3D printing.

If you want to get started in 3D printing to support your fine scale modeling, you are much, much better off starting with learning to do simple CAD and then converting those CAD into 3D printable stereolithographic files (.stl files).

I highly recommend that you start your self-study efforts with TinkerCad and, if you find that you’re still enthused enough to get deeper into CAD, you move on to Fusion360.

Here’s the link to TinkerCad:


Here’s the link to Fusion 360 - Personal Use Account:

Autodesk::Fusion 360:: Personal Use Account

Both software packages are products of Autodesk and learning TinkerCad will help in understanding the fundamental way that Fusion 360 works. Both also have very good self-paced tutorials.

I do a lot of simple 3D design and printing to supplement my own modeling. From small models, to parts, to fixtures, forms and other one-off tools and aids. I use my 3D printer a lot. The essential skill that you need to acquire and develop is how to design your own objects. The actual printing is simple. The skill and effort are in the design part of the process, and for learning this, TinkerCad followed by Fusion 360 is the most straightforward path that I know of for an absolute beginner.

Here are a few examples of some 3D models that I’ve designed using nothing but TinkerCad and printed on my desktop Anycubic Photon, MSLA printer:

1/35 scale M450 dozer chassis and suspension (to include link-to-link tracks).

Renders of the components of a 1/72 scale Vietnam era field refueling station.

The same designs rescaled to 1/35, printed and painted.

1/35 scale AN/PRD-1 Vietnam era portable radio direction finder unit.

I could keep posting up more. Again, all of these designs were done using TinkerCad which only takes about an hour or so to complete the tutorial for. After that, there are quite literally dozens of YouTube videos that have been posted up showing how to use TC to create different objects that might seem to defy its capabilities. Once you’ve mastered TC, the transition to Fusion 360 can take your design work to a whole higher level.

There are many other options and excellent CAD software packages out there, and for someone determined to learn a CAD program or who already has some background and knowledge in computer aided graphic design, one of these other CAD programs might be a better choice. But if you’re going to learn on your own… TC and F360 are the way I’d recommend.

1 Like

@SdAufKla, thank you Mike. That’s a major help.

1 Like

I always liked their software, seemed user friendly to me for engineering work, better then Microstation. Still hate Bentley whenever I have to use their files.

Those parts you made look great.

1 Like