This is probably the most frequent question I am asked whenever I buy a new set of STL files – why would I buy STL files that must be 3D printed, sanded and painted when I can go to a toy store or a hobbyist store and buy the item in a beautiful box.
The thing about 3D printing different items is that you get involved in the ‘production’ process somehow. You’re no longer only a consumer of finished products. You get to have your say and make the item more personal than anyone you can buy from stores.
Advantages of 3D Printing
1. Buy once, print as many times as you want
The advantage of 3D printing STL files is that once you buy them you can 3D print one and the same item as many times as you want. It means that for $15-20 you get to have the 3D model built in as many copies as you want. 3D print one for you and another one for your best friend.
Pictured: 3D printed Harley Quinn 3D model
2. Replace damaged parts easily
Many 3D printing models are in assembly mode. This is another advantage and a money saver option. Let’s suppose you accidentally drop one of your models down and one of its parts breaks or cracks. You can easily replace it by 3D printing the exact part again, without the need of going through the 3D printing of the whole model. This advantage not only does save you time, but it also saves you money for printing materials and printing services, in case you don’t own a 3D printer and must order the print from a 3D printing service.
These are the parts that make up the AT-AT Walker. As you can see, any part can be easily replaced, if damaged.
3. Customize it
If you have 3D modeling skills, you can make changes to the model and customize it the way you want it to be.
When Maverik uploaded Catapult 3D printing files on Gambody for the first time, the design was slightly different from the one that you can purchase now. This is because Catapult 3D model had an upgrade and a facelift. The upgraded version was inspired by Alexei Bruton’s customization of the original Catapult 3D model.
This is how the customized Catapult looks like.
The original didn’t feature the nose of the cockpit and it has simpler joints. Now, you can purchase both the original and the upgraded version of the model.
*The gray parts of the 3D model are additional add-ons to the regular Catapult figurine.
4. Paint one and the same model in different ways
You can print several identical 3D models, but you can make them different by painting them differently. Here is an example.
Gambody 3D printed and painted Atlas 3D model from the widely popular MechWarrior Online video game. Here is how their Atlas looks like when finished.
One of their customers has also 3D printed the model. Although he hasn’t finished painting it, you can already tell that the model will look totally different from Gambody’s.
Or, have a look at Russian tank T-62 3D model, 3D printed and painted by Gambody and by Emanuel Lupu-Marinei, a customer.
5. Save money with 3D printing
Many will argue that 3D printing is expensive and that it is not worth investing money in STL files only. But there is the positive side to this as well. I will illustrate this on the example of the T-62 Russian Tank 3D model.
The STL files for this model cost about $20. 250 m of printing material was used to 3D print all the parts. A spool of PLA filament weighs about 0.75 kg and costs from $25. Other costs related to the model are the costs for paints and other materials you will use to paint the model and give it the finish you want. Let’s suppose that a finished T-62 tank will cost you $130. But you will have an outstanding replica of the Russian war vehicle, with a detailed interior layout, with opening manholes and rotating turret, and a workable main gun. And, you can 3D print it again and again and again.
If you want your 3D model as accurately as possible and you are enthused about observing the entire production process of it, then you will find that 3D printing gives you the joy of taking part in the creation of a final product.
*This article was written in cooperation with and for Gambody by John Nixon.