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John Van Kooten (JohnVK)

3D Designs for 3D Printing - experimentation log

The coming months I'll be concentrating on exploring the possibilities of creating 3D models for 3D Printing.

These tests will include upgrade / replacement parts for existing kits and newly tooled figures, weapons, gear and accessories. Initially the main focus will be on 1/35th scale WWII German, British and US.

If all of this works out I may consider expanding to other scales, time periods and nationalities.

I am going to set this off with a replacement part for the back doors of the Tamiya Horch 1a kit #35052 (which is pretty much done now) and a US Airborne figurine (very much not done yet at the time of writing).

Especially the figurines are going to take quite a lot of work because I want to try and make them posable, in a way that I can "easily" reuse the character (as it is called in the CG world) for other purposes and poses, without having to remodel them again and again.
To do that I must model the character in a specific way that allows it to be rigged. Rigging is the term that is used to des


John Van Kooten
Added images (1 -5) of the finished Tamiya replacement part (for the Tamiya Horch 1a kit #35052). The white license plate is merely a placeholder for the render. I will not include it in the 3D print since the license plate was bolted right on the door itself. So just use a photoetched Eduard license plate for that, for instance. Or cut a (very) thin piece of plastic card into shape, paint it and add a decal.

Images 6 - 9 show the progress of character design for a US Airborne soldier. Far from done obviously but it's coming along nicely.
19 October 2015, 07:09
John Van Kooten
Btw, image 5 shows the Tamiya replacement part in real dimensions. The image was resized so the part is 5cm wide, to get a sense of the actual size of the part.
19 October 2015, 07:32
Joerg R.
Thats a cool work, I like this new technics
19 October 2015, 10:26
Holger Kranich
Hi John,

the back hatch of the Horch Looks great! The Jumper, too!
19 October 2015, 12:03
John Van Kooten
@Joerg: Thank you very much! I love it too 🙂 It gives us so much possibilities that weren't available before. And with the 3D printer quality improving and prices dropping, it is slowly but surely becoming something that is truly interesting to integrate into the hobby. It is also starting to rival the cost of resin parts and it will probably not take long before it is cheaper to 3D Print then it is to cast in resin. And of course with the added benefit that you do not need to cut off any casting blocks or anything else, so no damage to any of the detail on the parts. The 3D Printed parts come ready to go 🙂 I really hope everything will work out the way I envisioned! 😉

@Holger: Thanks so much, Holger. The Airborne uniform is still a rough draft to test the cloth solution I'm using. I need to check where small openings are forming, which can cause problems with 3D Printing. Ultimately I would like to be able to prevent or auto-solve any issues that may arise in the automated procuderes that I have written but I think I cannot escape quite a bit of manual labor before I'm able to send something as complex as this off to the 3D printer 😉

And thanks about the Horch back panel too 👍 I think it is as close as I can get to the original layout. I had a more complex version but I could not get it to pass the Shapeways 3D Tools checks. So I had to balance/compromise between detail and printability 😉

I think I will upload this final of the panel to Shapeways this week to check and see what happens when I let them print it. I hope the detail is preserved in the printed product. Will keep you all posted on progress of course 🙂
19 October 2015, 15:55
Great stuff 👍
19 October 2015, 16:45
Michael Rotthowe
Very interesting! I hope this works, opens up so many possibilities...
19 October 2015, 17:07
John Van Kooten
@HK: Thanks! 😄

@Michael: I sure hope so too! 🙂 If I can get this to work and keep cost down, there would basically be no limit to what can be done.

The exploration of new opportunities. This will be an interesting ride. With a lot of road bumps, I imagine 😉
19 October 2015, 19:34
John Van Kooten
Made a lot of progress on the 3D design and printing front. The first 3D printed object, the Tamiya Horch 1a back panel replacement part, has arrived!

With that said, I would first like to sincerely thank our mate Specpro for his support in this endavour! Without him, this experiment would have gone quite differently! He has been a huge help in the design / troubleshooting / initial setup phases of the 3D model and he has also made it possible to do a test 3D print run of the back panel! So a really HUGE thank you!! If there is ANYTHING you need, you know where to find me!

I have posted a few images of the 3D printed part:

Image 10 & 11:
These two images show the "raw" 3D printed part. You can see the printed layers clearly. But even though that might look bad, I can assure you, the surface is quite smooth. The print layers only show because the part is semi-tranparent due to the used material. You can also clearly see the amazing amount of detail though. Especially in the extreme closeup (macro shot) in image 11. And remember, this is a piece that is only 5cm wide! So it is quite small. None of the "roughness" is visible with the naked eye.

Image 12 & 13:
Shows the original Tamiya part (left) and the custom printed part (right) side by side. At this point I airbrushed the 3D printed part with a very thin layer of grey primer (Vallejo), just to check for deficiencies (there were none) and to get rid of the transparency. I think it is quite obvious that the 3D printed part has much more definition and level of detail.

Image 14, 15 & 16:
In image 14 you can see the original Tamiya part in place, while images 15 and 16 show the 3D printed part in place. I think it's safe to say that the custom part is somewhat better 🙂

Image 17:
This shot was taken at a somewhat greater distance. It's a more true to Life view of the part. Contrary to the close ups, in this image you can clearly see that the surface is actually smooth.

What's next!?
I have learned a lot from this first excercise. Especially how to specifically model for 3D printing. There were and still are some changes I need to make to my regular workflow. But all of that is coming along nicely and I am ready for a next project 🙂

So, next in line is a replacement part for the engine deck of the MiniArt Pz.Kpfw.III C and D (resp. ref. #35166 and #35169). The issues with the engine deck of those kits has been discussed quite in- and extensively on several fora. I have collected the information and have started working on the 3D model. I will model it in a way that the engine deck hatches can all be opened. I may even consider working hinges (which is actually possible). But we'll see. It's quite a bit of work to get it right, so it may take a while before I have something worth while to show.
3 November 2015, 21:10
Joerg R.
Congrats John 👍 I love it
3 November 2015, 23:15
Es-haq Khosravi
Wow! You are great! The result is awesome!
4 November 2015, 00:13
John Van Kooten
Thanks guys! 👍 👍

Yeah, I was also happily surprised by the end result. I specifically picked this object because it contains the sort of detail that pretty much defines what I can/cannot do in future projects. And now that I know what I can achieve, even with current technology that is still very much in full development, it really opens up endless possibilities 🙂
4 November 2015, 05:51
Rui S
Hey John,
Congratulations, The detail in that final 1/35 piece it's awesome.
You have done a incredible job.
For how much do you sell it?
4 November 2015, 11:46
John Van Kooten
Hi Rui,

Thank you! 👍 🙂

At the moment I haven't set up a Shapeways store yet. I am also looking into what is the best method. Since I am not looking to make money off of it, I would like to get the most cost effective system in place.

But I think it may turn out to go onto Shapeways and I think the cost was around the $8 or $9 mark for the printed part in Frosted Extreme Detail. A somewhat lower resolution is also available and was around $7.50 (haven't tried this option myself, so I do not know exactly how different it will look).

I will immediately post the info once it is available somewhere.

Cheers mate 👍
4 November 2015, 12:07
Michael Rotthowe
Great result! I guess I should relearn some 3D design. If that part you made is any indication, this makes it possible to design small replacements as needed and share the result without huge costs.
4 November 2015, 18:11
John Van Kooten
Thanks Michael 🙂

Yes, it is definitely worth it and fairly cost effective to design in 3D and print. Combining multiple objects in one file (if the bounding box for the chosen print material allows it) also saves on machine setup costs and, obviously, shipping costs.

It's amazing how detailed the part really is. But I think it is only possible to actually fully appreciate this when you can hold the part in your hand and see it with your own eyes. Photographs just don't do it justice 🙂

If designed properly, I am quite certain that 3D printed sets can blow any resin aftermarket set out of the water, both in price and in detail. The perfect example is the door handle. It is in a recessed area and actually looks like a door handle. It is simply not possible to cast something like that in resin because it would be impossible to get it out of the mold. And other advanced molding techniques, like slide molding, can't even come close on any level in that regard.
Plus, as an added benefit (a huge one at that), with these printed parts there's no need to remove casting blocks, ejector pin marks, sink marks or leftovers from sprues gates. It is ready to go.

If you have any prior 3D modeling experience, I would certainly encourage you to regain and extend that knowledge and put it to work 👍 🙂
4 November 2015, 18:59
Rui S
Do you think Brands will go into this technology in the future kit's?
4 November 2015, 19:08
John Van Kooten
It's hard to say.

At this point it is way too expensive to mass produce 3D printed kits. There is too much margin for error in the printing process and it simply takes too long. Printing a single entire kit in the highest available quality would take several days. And if a print errors out and has to be reprinted, that cost will have be factored in as well. It would probably mean that a regular injection molded kit that is available now for $25 could cost well over $100 in the 3D printed version.
But the technology is advancing rapidly. And with advancing technology that has widespread availability comes cheaper and faster manufacturing processes.

I think most manufacturers already have project teams doing case studies and are investigating the (im-)possibilities of incorporating 3D printing into their business model. Not taking a serious look at this technology could possibly render a manufacturer obsolete at some point. And with the current speed of improving tech we may arrive at that point sooner than some realize.

Who knows, maybe in the future we won't be buying actual plastic kits packed in cardboard boxes from a reseller but we may be buying a license for a digital 3D model directly from the manufacturer with which we can order a 3D print from the manufacturers 3D printing facility (or maybe even print it at home). It could potentially wipe out any and all model shops, both brick & mortar shops as well as webshops. Manufacturers would no longer have a need for distributors and resellers since they can simply let the customer do all the work for them. No more need for manufacturers to create mold masters, molds, expensive production plants, distribution channels, etc. Everything will reside in the digital domain right up until the customer 3D prints his/her kit. Production costs will be very low and profit very high, while still being able to keep the cost of kits low as well. It's a win-win for both the manufacturers as well as the end-customer. In the end, the big losers will be all the middlemen that will be cut from the distribution chain.

I definitely foresee a big shift in how things will work in the (not too distant) future. But how and what, I really can't say. 3D Printing is definitely here to stay and will at some point be available to everyone, right at home.
4 November 2015, 21:21
Rui S
Thx for your insight's, Mate.
I think (and I agree that 3d printing is here to stay) that the brands will use it before it's wide spread and home 3d is available, and even after (when the prices get so cheap) the main stream will be there's, because they will keep there knowledge and patents license well guarded, so that if you want to do it at home, you will have to build the all 3d model yourself, and that's not for every body, at least in the near future.

But I asked, because the fun in the hobby is to build and paint the actual physic parts not to do a virtual 3d model and them print it, at least for s modellers.
3d printing can also be finished in real colours so, can you imagine not to paint figurines? (and I'm not a fan of painting faces has you probably know) but I also don't want to buy a finished product.
So I think, the raw thing, it's also here to say otherwise we will lose all the fun.
Don't you think so?

P.S. You are speaking with a mate that still buy old kit's rather them new expensive ones or lot's of after market.
Do you think 3d printing is going to affect after market PE for instance? I'm thinking in YOUR Horch door handle and hinges...
5 November 2015, 01:12
John Van Kooten
Absolutely agree, we are scale modelers, not toy collectors 😉

And I'm sorry, yes, I probably should have written it but when I say 3D printing kits, I mean printing the sprues with parts (which are now injection / slide molded) the same way as they are now, so we can build and paint them. Printing completed, full color models is not interesting at all (for us, anyway). Toys"R"Us might be interested in that 🙂

The purpose of integrating 3D printing into existing manufacturing pipelines is to be able to make models more detailed and to make manufacturing costs go down (= more revenue). If the cost is higher than current molding techniques, it would make no sense to integrate it. And the latter is still the case. 3D Printing is still too expensive to be able to successfully exploit it commercially in mass production. But things are changing, fast. So it may not be long before we start seeing 3D printed items appear in kits.

I definitely think that PE manufacturers should be keeping tabs on how 3D printing is evolving. Obviously 3D printing is way more versatile compared to PE, which is limited to being flat.
It won't be long until we will be able to print detail at the level and thickness of PE parts. Currently this is not possible yet, not even with the most advanced and high tech machines. But indeed, like you said, if we look at the Tamiya replacement part, the level of detail is really already more than good enough to reproduce the level of intricate detail that we want to see in parts like these, without having to turn to PE sets. And things will only get better 😉
5 November 2015, 07:20
Rui S
HURRAY, Long live Scalemates.
5 November 2015, 12:30
Fabian D.
Well, first of all, great work on the part John. 👍
Concerning the 3D printing in our hobby:
I don´t think we will see too much in that direction from the "big brands". Making the moulds for injection moulding is costly, but given the mumber of sprues you can knock out per minute, it does work quite well if you re planing to sell "a couple more" than a 1000 kits...
Currently 3d printing takes it´s time for highly detailed surfaces, may it be piling layers of molten plastic (as in home use printers) or laser sintering (like Shapeways and others are doing).
Hence it´s currently not the most efficent way to produce huge ammouts of parts, it is however for smaller batches, starting with 1 to maybe a few hundred parts.
So we´ll probably only see a boost in "MGC" (modeller generated content) and a few smaller companies jumping on board.
Those "kits" would feature almost no small parts, no sprues and quite a lot sub assemblys already done. What John could accomplish with single part, would be around 8 parts in traditonal kit, probably including some PE to achive the same level of detail.
Printing models as a whole should be possible already, but that would be quite boring... 😉
5 November 2015, 14:09
John Van Kooten
Thanks! 😄 👍

Agreed and indeed what I wrote as well 👍

But make no mistake about it: to deny this tech as a viable solution for the not too distant future is commercial suicide. This is going to happen, whether one likes it or not 😉 and not just for kit making, of course.

As I also wrote earlier, don't forget that in 3D printing you would not need to manufacture 1000's of kits at once. You don't need stock. You can have customers print on demand.
So there is no more need for expensive moulds and also no need for any kind of stock / warehouses / storage / distribution / resellers. Other than digital. Manufacturers can easily distribute printing all over the World to any 3D printing facility to spread the workload of printing "on demand kits".
5 November 2015, 14:36
Rui S
hey John
Couldn't you make the notek, Tail light, the hinges and the door handle separately, in the same print section? would the cost be higher?
5 November 2015, 14:48
Wim van der Luijt
Would a part like this be easy to convert to other scales as well? Shouldn't be to much of a problem in the 3D software..........
5 November 2015, 15:49
John Van Kooten
They are indeed on my list of "future things to do", especially separating the doors, so they can be modeled in an open position as well 🙂 The small items must be contained in a sprue though because there is a object print size limit, both in maximum and minimum object size. But not a problem really. I just have model a sprue, or connect the separate parts to the main part using small "sprue gates", with the least amount of material used because the sprue must be printed as well of course and every bit of extra material will indeed add to the cost.
I am also already working on the four side doors because they could need an upgrade as well. Lots of ejection pin marks on the original ones and very little detail. I think the kit could truly benefit from some highly detailed side doors.

As for the door handle as it is now, that won't be possible to print separately. It is extremely small and fragile. But I will see what I can do 👍

All of this will take time though 😉

You are right, scaling the objects in a modeling program is not a problem at all. That's a two second job, literally. However, scaling the objects down will cause problems when I send it out to be printed.

There are limits to what can be printed and some of those limits are for object thickness and extrusions / indentations (for instance, with bolts or, the opposite, panel lines). The minimum is 0.1mm for extrusions and indentations. Some parts are already at the limit of those requirements, so if I scale down, the part will become unprintable. This means I will have to redesign it completely to be able to print it at 1/48, for example.

But I could do a test and see how it works out. I will let you know my findings 👍
5 November 2015, 16:54
Wim van der Luijt
That's what I reckoned.....good news for a 1:48 modeller 😄
5 November 2015, 17:53
very impressive..
5 November 2015, 20:37
John Van Kooten
Thank you, Augie 👍 I hope to be able to get some figures done soon as well 🙂
6 November 2015, 05:52
I preorder some canvas covers 🙂 Maybe you could do one for the Sd.Kfz. 10 too ( the new one with the Pak 38 has one but the others are missing it)
13 November 2015, 10:08
John Van Kooten
Haha! 😉 I will put your name on the list 👍

Canvas covers for the Sd.Kfz.6 / 7 / 8 / 10 are all on my to do list, for starters.

I am currently working on the bonnet (engine hood) side panels for a number of Sd.Kfz.7 kits, amongst which Dragon and Tamiya (a request from my partner in this endavour, Specpro). They will have open ventilation slits and more detailed grab handles. A seemingly simple part but seriously hard to design properly in 3D so it will actually be 3D printable! I'll post up some preview renders later today.

Aside from that I have also started work on the corrected engine decks for the MiniArt Panzer III Ausf. B and C. More on that later 😉
13 November 2015, 12:56
I you have too much time 😄 you could look into the modifications the Großdeutschland Division did to their vehicles.
13 November 2015, 13:18
John Van Kooten
I'm afraid I have too much great plans but too little time to actually realize most of them 😄 😉

However this one, the 3D design and printing of parts / accessories, is one that I am going to FULLY explore!

Do you have any info on those modifications, by any chance? I am not at home, so I can't check my reference books.
13 November 2015, 13:46
Not that much I am afraid.
13 November 2015, 17:35

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