The replicator technology in the Star Trek universe is amazing. Something out of nothing. Just as communicators begat cell phones I think 3D-printing can trace its parentage to replicators. If you don’t know what 3D-printing is or understand why I would talk about it here let me show you something.
This is a “printed” miniature. It is a 1/2400 scale model of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Helicopter Curiser Hyuga. I lived in Japan for a couple of years and deeply regret not going to the “open house” held when she first arrived in Yokosuka. I desperately wanted one in this scale to augment my other JMSDF warships from Viking Forge miniatures. [For the purists out there my understanding is Viking Forge has a U.S. production license for Sea Battle miniatures which are produced in Austria. Their catalog items made under this agreement begin with the ‘SB’ prefix. I have Sea Battle models made in Austria and by Viking Forge – no difference in quality but Viking Forge is way cheaper than importing. Now back to our story…] None of the established companies makes this ship in this scale. Enter Shapeways.
Shapeways is a 3D-printing service, if I understand their business model correctly. You design a product you want printed and they can do it for you. They also provide an online e-commerce space where you can post your gadget for other people to buy. Shapeways and the gadget creator split the proceeds in some fashion I’m sure. Some of the designs are crap but some are interesting and possibly unavailable in any other form. In fact I just saw a z-scale dumpster that would be perfect for 1/285 scale dioramas, but I digress. Each of the designs can be printed in several different materials depending on your budget or needs. “White strong & flexible” is the least expensive material and from the models I’ve seen you get what you pay for. The finish looks bumpy under even casual examination. Okay for a convention game where damaged or lost models is a real concern. At a cost of $6.83 there isn’t a whole lot invested. The model pictured above is printed in the “frosted detail” material which is the most expensive option for this model at $14.30. This is about what a premium company like GHQ would charge for a similarly sized aircraft carrier. This model is nice but not GHQ nice. Still, it is currently the only model of this ship available in this scale.
There are faults and imperfections with this model which I will try to cover in a proper Tow Tank evaluation at a later date. The underlying technology is really cool though and I encourage you to wander around Shapeways and see if there isn’t something that strikes your fancy.