Interesting article from Yahoo! News about 3D printing.
3D printing. The next phase of American based manufacturing. The future of small plastic bits everywhere, including our beloved toy soldiers..... maybe.
3D printing is an awesome technology. The basic idea is that a model is either created digitally, or digitally scanned from a prototype, and then printed out in a plastic resin. I've read lots of articles saying that in the future, a 3D printer will be as common as microwaves in every household. If you need a quick piece or part for any little thing, you just print it out. Just imagine how it would work with toy soldiers..... a company designs a figure, puts the blueprint for sale online, lets people download the blueprint for a price, which allows them to run as many as they want, creating vast armies of plastic. Pretty awesome. By then, the technology would probably be good enough to allow you to adjust poses, uniform features, faces, weapons, ect., all for an additional cost. The possibilities are really endless.
We did some research into bypassing the sculpting phase all together, and go the digital scanning route. We'd schedule time at a full body scanner facility, dress someone up in the desired uniform and equipment, and have them get in the desired pose. It would just take moments to "scan" their body, upload it as a digital blueprint, and then print it on a 3D printer in resin. The master resin would then be what would get sent to China.
Easy plan, and we wouldn't have to worry about proportions being off, rifles being too short, heads being too big, or any other small problem that can plague hand sculpted pieces. Several problems began cropping up though. One, the price. It's just too expensive right now. It was about $1500 for the scanning job, and buying or renting the uniforms and equipment would come at a hefty price as well, and you would need a variety in order to make interesting poses.