It seems inevitable that 3D printing applications would eventually be applied to model trains. Out of all the amazing things 3D printers are creating, it's the act of printing miniature versions of scanned items in stunning clarity that's bringing new fun when used as toys or displays. Many people are scanning their own selves and then printing out a miniaturized version of the scan as a seeming form of ego trip. While some might say model train enthusiasts have similar obsessive traits, how does it change that longtime hobby when 3D printers print all those trains?
Recently, one model train enthusiast in the U.K. decided to print the first model train carriage off a 3D printer. The results were quite stunning, particularly because details can be applied to 3D printing that can't be done when making model trains by hand. By going through Shapeways, the above man (Matt Wickham) was able to print a train carriage with amazing detail, albeit without any color. Painting the carriage himself, he was able to customize it on his own.
What happens, though, when 3D printers start printing exact duplicates of trains and in vivid color?
Will the Model Train Industry Change Due to 3D Printing?
It usually just takes one event to change an entire industry. The model train industry goes back to the mid 19th century and has a strong contingent of enthusiasts who've acquired knowledge from their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. You could say it's a hobby placed firmly in tradition and one that's going to be hard to change based on the manufacturing done by hand when building miniature trains. 3D printers, however, might change a lot of outlooks for one specific reason: Model train hobbyists are constantly trying to bring realism to their trains and adjoining miniature landscapes.
Matt Wickham above was seeking the same thing when Shapeways 3D-printed a train carriage with details he knew he couldn't find anywhere else. There's also the possibility of soon being able to scan a real train and then print it out in full color to use as a new perspective on building model trains.
Will model train experts start taking scans of famous trains and making miniature versions of them for their mini landscapes? If some trains from the past are no longer available, it might get a little surreal to see an exact duplicate of an existing train being able to move around in miniature form. It works the same for the miniature landscapes surrounding the track. It's already possible to scan buildings and other structures and print them out in miniature. A model train expert can essentially recreate an entire town with a local train to complete detail.
Miniature Recreations from a 3D Printer
With the miniaturized versions of people already becoming popular, re-creating entire landscapes with a workable train may become a new fad. We've been seeing entire cityscapes being printed based on a scan taken from satellite imagery. Seeing it come to life, however, is a whole other fun side to 3D printing that may change the model train industry into the ultimate attainment of realism.
The only thing left is making the people come alive, which 3D printing can't do. Nevertheless, knowing that the prints are based off reality is enough to realize the profound potential of looking and playing with our world in a way we couldn't have imagined just a decade ago.