By Maz Woolley
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.
3D printed parts are widely used for prototyping work by model makers and artisan railway scenics producers have developed a lot of 3D printed items to sell over the last few years. Bollards, speed bumps, security fencing and items like that are being made by several established and growing scenics producers like Scale Model Scenery and Shedring Railway. Of late Shedring has started to make vehicle fitments like lifting equipment for lorries and even whole vehicles for use in dioramas like the site dumper shown below.
An alternative way for 3D designers to get their products to the public is a company called Shapeways who are commercial 3D printers who run a site where designers can upload their designs and if anyone buys the item Shapeways print it and send it to the customer and pay the designer a royalty. This company appears to run both a US and a European printing operation so the site attracts designs posted from both sides of the Atlantic and usefully an American design can be printed in Europe for European customers. Their site contains many items for diorama makers and has a few models in 1:43, but more in HO (1:87), OO (1:76) and even N (1:148 and 1:160) scales. Sometimes the same model is available in multiple scales. Designs include scenic items, railway engine bodies and fitments to use as transkits on commercial chassis. More importantly for car and vehicle model collectors there are also some lorries, vans and cars available. A selection of these are shown below. Please note that most illustrations on the Shapeways site have been generated from the digital data and are not photographs of the actual product that you will get.
The Bedford TJ (thanks to Brendan Leach for correcting my error in calling it a TK) flatbed shown above is to 1:76 and looks like a one piece print. It is an interesting model as there are currently few TJ models.
1:43 scale models are few and far between but provide interesting variants which can often be mixed with bodies and wheel sets off commercial models. The few 1:43 scale models seem to be made of a greater number of parts. The cost of the 1:43 scale models when additional parts needed to finish them off are taken into account are considerably dearer than Oxford Diecast trucks.
This is a typical OO 1:76 scale model from the Shapeways site. It produced as a solid model with separate wheels. In addition to Minis there are also Transits and other Fords available on the site. The Mini model is certainly more accurate than many ready made models are.
The Mercury model shown is a digital generation of a 1:87 scale model. It is one of many US prototypes designed by Madaboutcars. All the US models I have seen are solid and in either 1:43, 1:87 or Continental N scale of 1:160.
The model that I would like to look at in detail today is a 1:76 scale Austin Maestro designed by Alternative Model Railways which is available in 1:87, 1:76, and 1:148 scales. The 1:76 is available with the metal bumper or the plastic bumper, the plastic bumper version being shown here. A 1:76 scale van is also available. Shapeways can print with a wide range of plastics but model designers restrict the materials that can be used for the model and the Maestro can only be purchased made of a high quality plastic which makes the kit quite expensive, it costs nearly as much as four 1:76 Oxford Diecasts or two of the cheaper John Day Vehicle Scenics kits. The justification for the use of the expensive matte translucent plastic is that it shows fine and intricate details better.
The Austin Maestro was codenamed LM10 and was a five-door hatchback produced at Cowley from 1982 to 1987 by British Leyland, and from 1988 until 1994 by Rover Group. It went on to be produced in China until 2007 using a Toyota engine. It shared its platform with the MG derivatives as well as the Montego saloon. It replaced both the Maxi and the Allegro and was fitted with engines from 1.3 to 2.0 litres.
Models of later Leyland, and Rover group, vehicles are scarce with the only other Maestro models known to me being the contemporary Scalextric and Corgi models. I know of no Montego model or models of the next generation Rover 200, 400, and 600 series cars. These once common cars have all but vanished from the roads now but there are many who remember driving them or as their parents or grandparents car. This generation of UK made vehicles are an opportunity for a small scale producer to fill if Oxford do not do so.
The model supplied is much like the digital illustration below though transluscent. Parts are printed and placed into protective plastic bags with different parts in different bags. As the illustration shows there is no glazing supplied.
Unusually the designer also has a simple assembly diagram on the web site something that few others seem to both with.
So what was it like making this kit? The first thing to note is that it all fits together quite snugly. The surface finish on the roof and in other areas does show the printing artifacts with the roof in particular having distinct contours. In 1:76 scale or smaller this is not too obvious but in 1:43 it may be a considerable disadvantage. The kit was very crisply printed and I have few criticisms of the accuracy and quality. As my modelling skills are basic the defects in appearance are mainly from my poor finishing.
The side view of the car has been very well caught. The 3D printing of the side strips, wheels arches and the side ‘scallop’ are all very accurate. As are the window frames, door handles and fuel cap. The very finely printed detail presents a challenge to the average kit maker as many kit designers will make details slightly over scale to make the easier to pick out. This is not the case here so painting side strips and window surrounds proved challenging.
The front view is good though there were some artefacts in the grilles particularly below the bumper. But overall quite an accurate reflection of the fairly plain Maestro front end. No attempt is made to model screen wipers.
At the rear the modelling is simple and no attempt at wiper is made, It is however quite a good shape. The rear lights are supplied as transluscent plastic which has to be painted and fitted into slots. The shape and fit are good but painting them is difficult to this size and a decal to overlay or making them in coloured plastic might be a better solution.
The model’s stance is good and the overall shape excellent. It would have been better if a vacform had been supplied as glazing it is a real challenge. My thanks to Daryle at John Day Vehicle Scenics for giving me some vacforms for lorry cabs to cut down for the front and rear screens which has worked quite well. The side windows have been been glazed using Kristal Klear and because of the size of the gaps it has not created the nice flat surface I had hoped for though it is flush glazed which is the effect I wanted.
Another view of the car shows that the wheels are well finished with the wheel cover often seen on the Maestro in body colour. Again fine rims made painting difficult as a more pronounced rim makes it easier to paint the tyre correctly.
Another unusual model to add to the collection, and an introduction to making 3D printed models. My personal feeling is that, at present, the high cost of models on Shapeways means that it is only really worth considering for models of vehicles that you cannot get in any other way like this Maestro. Perhaps if Shapeways could find a way of making vacforms and reducing cost then they might become more popular.
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