Some time ago I began investigating the possibility of releasing a range of reproduction Action Force parts. Whilst there were some repro parts available they were mainly for the figures and not easily available. I have a small armada of AF5 vehicles without windscreens, Shadowtraks without aerials, windscreens and missiles, ATCs without missile racks and many more vehicles missing almost impossible to find parts.
I looked in to the usual route of casting existing parts but the whole process seemed expensive, long-winded and difficult. I then decided to find out if 3D printing was a viable alternative. At first glance it seemed like this was also going to be a non-starter as a quality 3D printer and the neccessary filaments would set me back a few thousand pounds. Then I remembered a website my brother told me about that would 3D print your designs for you. Now all I needed were some 3D models of the parts I wanted to print...
My attempts at 3D modelling up to that point had been abysmal. I tried to hire freelance 3D CAD specialists but no one wanted the job. So I decided to try my hand at 3D modelling again. With a bit of perserverance and some different software I was able to mock up some reasonable models in a few days. I uploaded the models, waited a few days and got my prints back from the site. These included the SAS Force Silent Attack Aerial / Z Force ATC aerial. Unfortunately I didn't have an original to work from but it's a reasonable facsimile. Other models quickly showed that some of the materials weren't up to the standard I was looking for and some parts were just wrong by some margin as my original measurements were wrong. So I invested in a digital caliper and adjusted the models.
The second attempt included the first print of our reproduction Roboskull chin gun which turned out ok but the details were a bit shallow and needed improving. We also found out that the tolerances on the 3D printing process were a bit variable so some of our models arrived thicker than expected. More adjustments needed...
The next attempt was more successful and our repro Z Force Battle Tank gun came out great first time around. However the Shadowtrak missiles were too long and the holes were too short. The fourth printing followed soon after and the Shadowtrak missile was spot on, the new ATC seatbelt part came out perfect first time, the aerials were right but the new Escape Armour arm joint was too tight.
As you can see from the photo the reproductions are darker than the original as we can't print in grey just yet. The surface is also rougher as the parts are created by fine plastic dust being glued in layers rather than injection moulding. The 3D prints can be filled and painted though for a smoother surface and a more accurate colour. We purposely make each reproduction slightly different from the originals so they are easily distinguishable. We don't want anyone passing these parts off as the real deal. These parts are for display only.
Our fifth print run included our first try for the Rapid Fire Motorcycle stand which broke within 2 minutes as it was too thin. The SAS Hawk rollbar was a disaster but I was working from an existing roll bar that was in 3 parts. The GI Joe A.W.E. Striker steering linkage bar turned out fine though, as did the updated Roboskull gun.
Our latest delivery included my biggest howler to date; a SAS Panther steering wheel that was 10 times to big. I'd created the model "10 up" so it was easier to work on and forgotten to scale the dimensions down for the printer.
Fortunately the Rapid Fire Motorcycle stand turned out great this time around and will soon be available in the store.
The Escape Armour arm joint was also ok but the GI Joe mines were not as sharp as I hoped for as the detailing is a bit shallow.
With a minor adjustment these should be available in the store soon as well. They will probably be supplied in white plastic so you can paint them to match whatever version of Tripwire you need them for. A smaller version will also be available for the Z Force Minesweeper.
I still haven't found a suitable, reasonably priced transparent printing method for windscreens but 3D printing technology is advancing rapidly and great strides are being made every month.
Next up is the largest 3D print we've attempted so far and another iteration of the Z Force ATC missile rack. We're also looking to invest in a 3D printer of our own or even an injection moulding machine... We're even looking at creating our own, brand new parts so you can customize your vehicles!
We have over 30 different parts in the pipeline and we've already had requests for some specific parts. If you have any requests for parts for Action Force, GI Joe, Star Wars or any line please let us know in the comments section below.