Friday, May 3, 2013

Thoughts on 3D Printers & 3D Scanners: How it will affect Plastic Model Kits

As an Otaku, I love all sorts of things that come from Japan. Anime, Manga, Plamo, etc... But I also like gadgets. Of course, they're usually expensive, that's why I usually need to justify to myself (and my money) if I really need a certain gadget. But it doesn't hurt to just look at news of upcoming gadgets and drool at them. Uhmmm.. Yeah. That's why most of my time on the interweb is spent on blog sites like Engadget.

Engadget is a blog site for news, reviews, or just about anything related to gadgets and technology, but I guess you're probably already aware of this. It is one of the most popular tech sites around, after all. I visit this site almost daily, just browsing through all the articles at random. It's always interesting to see new gadgets because they're so COOL! I always read reviews from this site (and also tons of reviews from other sites) before I buy a certain gadget. Research, research, research! It's always best to compare products first before putting your hard-earned money on it. Of course, since I always frequent this site, I also get to see how technology has evolved over the years. It evolves very fast, by the way.

The "Replicator 2" from MakerBot. The sample picture above is from their website:

But what I'd like to talk about are 3D Printers and 3D Scanners. I first saw a 3D Printer on the internet (on Engadget, of course) and I was overwhelmed thinking about the potential use for this wonderful and intuitive devices. The first thing that came to my mind is "I can make my own toy!". Hehe. But, other things like printing a spare part for something broken came to mind as well. The possibilities are endless! Of course, when I first saw this, it was super expensive. (They're still expensive today, in my opinion.)

At first, I haven't really thought how this technology can affect Plastic Models. But as soon as I thought about "printing something broken and using this to replace a part", I immediately thought of "missing parts". Gundam Plastic Kits are prone to missing/broken parts! That's where I made the link. I'm sure someone else has thought of it, too. And, after this, I was thinking that if everybody has one of these 3D Printers in the future, then we can print Gundam Model Kits of our own!

How is this going to affect Bandai? In the future, when 3D Printers become affordable and common place, we probably don't need to buy Gundam Model Kits, or any plastic model kits, if we can create one of our own. Sure, the process will be difficult. I mean, I don't really have any technical knowledge of creating 3D models. But if you have, you can certainly start making your own toys. What will happen to Bandai? Will they continue to sell Gunplas? If we can print our own Gundam kits, the only thing that we really need to have is the blueprint of the specific model kit that we want. Will Bandai switch to selling Gundam Model blueprints instead? I'm not certain. But these new technology makes me wonder...

However, I do believe that this will most likely take some time. I think we'll be able to print our own Gundam kits, but not in the near future. But, soon, we'll be able to print at least small parts by ourselves and fix our Gunplas without purchasing parts from Bandai. Or, a Gunpla Hobbyist's dream, easier production of parts for modification. I think it will be easier to create "conversion kits".

The sample picture above was taken from one of Engadget's articles. This is a Prototype 3D Scanner from MakerBot, the same company the produces the Replicator 2. Click the image to see the full article on Engadget.

However, just like a normal scanner where you can replicate your documents, there are also 3D Scanners. So, I thought, "If I could scan an object and replicate it using a 3D Printer, then I could bypass the step where I need to make a 3D Model of my own!" Of course, the next thing that popped in my mind is "I can scan Gundam Model Kits in the future". With 3D Scanners in play,  as soon as the technology gets good enough to scan and replicate a certain object, you can pretty much replicate objects as many as you want... I can pretty much replicate as many Gundam Kits as I want. If Bandai were to just sell blueprints of Plamo in the future, I only need to borrow a friend's kit, then scan it with my 3D Scanner, then print my own. And this is not a very good thing for Bandai, most definitely.

I know that 3D Printers are not advanced enough to scan and print like that yet, but I know that we'll get there. Just like how MP3s "revolutionized" and changed the Music Industry, this will certainly be a big change for Plastic Model Makers and Hobbyists in the future. I just hope that the cons doesn't overwhelm the pros. I only wish one thing though, that Bandai will continue to produce high quality Gundam Model Kits, and I (we) will continue to buy them.

That's my 2 cents on the subject, and I'll see you in the next post!


  1. Some strategies use melting or softening material to provide the layers. Selective optical device sintering (SLS) and fused deposition modeling (FDM) are the foremost common technologies exploitation this fashion of printing. Another technique of printing is to get liquid materials that are cured with totally different technologies. The foremost common technology exploitation this technique is named stereo-lithography (SLA). Thanks for sharing such kind of nice and wonderful collection
    3D printer manufacturers

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ann!

      Someday, I'll buy a 3D printer of my own so I can do some tinkering myself.