The scale scene is really hot right now and many are taking their vehicles to another level by adding all sorts of scale accessories to them to bring them to life. There are a few companies out there who offer some scale accessories but in order to get exactly what you want some scratch building has to be done. 3D printing has been around for years and it has been used by manufactures to make prototype parts for various things. For a while 3D printing was out of reach for the average user because the cost of the machines was so high but in the past few years there has been a shift and cheaper 3D printers began to hit the market. Now the pricing and size of 3D printers are at a place where anyone can pick one up and start making their own parts. Pricing for a 3D printer can range from about $250 up to a few thousand dollars and there are a lot of choices in that range. Once you get one all you need is a CAD program and the idea.
I have been making custom parts for years but it requires a lot of work, and depending on the complexity of the part, I wasn’t able to make them at all. I have been searching for a 3D printer for many years and have finally picked up a Zeus printer from AIO Robotics. It doesn’t take up a lot of space, prints at a very fine resolution and even has a 3D scanner that will allow me to scan parts from model kits, diecast cars or whatever else I want to scale up or down for a project. The Zeus 3D printer will cost you $2,500 if you choose to go this direction.
This spool of plastic (called filament) is all your need to make magic happen. The filament is fed through a heated extruder and turned into whatever shape you want by stacking layers of plastic. There are many types of filament available and the list keeps growing. You can choose from PLA (which stands for Polylactic Acid and is easy to work with but the material becomes brittle over time.), ABS (which stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and requires a heated bed and can be smoothed easily), color changing (where the plastic color changes with temperature) and more.
Here you can see the extruder. The filament is fed through it and as it reaches the bottom it has been heated to 392 degrees and has turned into a liquid. As the head moves along the filament is extruded onto the table. The head moves on an X and Z axis and the table moves up and down (Y axis) to give the part its width, length and height.
The nose and grill for my custom 32 Ford pickup was made on my 3D printer. A little sanding was all that was needed to get it ready for primer.
No one makes a scale battery that looks like something from the 80s for my old school monster truck, so I printed one as a single piece. This was much easier than assembling a box from flat styrene stock and shaping individual detail parts by hand. There’s a lot of detail on this piece and it’s exactly what I need to bring my truck to the next level.
I wanted to make a cool mount/holder for my Pro-Line Jerry Can and Hi-Lift Jack for my Project Vaterra Ascender. This has a lot of holes in it that would have made it more time consuming for me to make. With the 3D printer, I was able to make it in a fraction of the time. Having holes in parts requires the printer to put down support material and that adds to the print time and requires a little more clean up of the parts when done. For that reason I printed all the parts flat then assembled them with some CA glue to shorten up the time it took to make the part.
It’s pretty awesome to see your ideas form into reality right in front of your eyes and much quicker than you were able to do it before. I have a few projects in the works that will benefit from my 3D printer. I’ll be making items like fuel cells, seats, engine accessories and more. I’m even going to try making a complete custom body. The possibilities are endless!