At a recent club meeting we were discussing the quality of 3D printed tanks in 28mm scale. There are a lot of freely available print files for 10mm and 15mm scale models which are typically either single piece or small number of pieces but when it comes to larger scales you can’t reliably get a decent level of detail without a multi-part kit.
Following their successful Kickstarter campaign, Canadian company 3D Wargaming have now released a range of 3D printable covering a selection of common WWII and modern vehicles as well as some sci-fi and alternate history ones. I’ve been keen to give What a Tanker a go for a while but don’t currently have any suitable models so I thought it was an ideal opportunity to fire up the printer and have a go and printing the icon Panzer IV to see what the quality was like.
The download for this particular model includes 33 individual STL files and there’s a simple exploded diagram on the publisher’s website but no further instructions so, being in a hurry to set up the print overnight, I just decided to print one of each file which just about fit onto the 20cm x 20cm print bed of my Ultimaker 2+ with a bit of rotating and jiggling around.
I chose to print on a moderate quality setting of 0.15mm layer height just to see how it came out and the entire print job took abut 11 hours whereas a higher quality would have taken around 23 hours to print a single kit.
The following morning the finished prints looked a total mess and one of the parts had fallen over and left ‘spaghetti’ of plastic filament all over the place. It turns out that the full set of files includes duplicate barrels which weren’t required and it was one of those that had fallen over so once everything was cleaned up, I only had a couple of tiny parts to reprint. The large flat parts at the bottom left of the picture below are tools for assembling the tracks so wouldn’t need to be printed for each tank.
The exploded diagram is sufficient to assemble the kit with superglue and there was only a minimum amount of clean-up required apart from a bit of filing around the turret to allow it to rotate fairly freely without falling out. The kit includes both long and short barrelled variations of the Panzer IV.
I took the assembled kit to the club and the general consensus was that apart from the striations on the barrel, it was pretty much indistinguishable from a commercial plastic kit and any minor imperfections would be obscured when the kit was painted.
In future, I would definitely print the barrels separately on the highest possible quality but keep the rest of the kit on a lower quality setting to keep the print time to a minimum. The total weight of the kit (including the track tools) was 75g so the material cost would have been in the region of $2.00 which obviously compares very favourably to about $25 for a commercial plastic kit. Obviously you don’t get the decals, commander or other detailing associated with a commercial kit but those are widely available so printing your own is still a very compelling option if you have the equipment.
In my excitement to try assembling the test print, I forgot that I really should have left the tracks off until I’d undercoated the rest of the model but I can always print another one if it’s too much of a pain to paint! Once I’ve printed and painted a few more tanks, I’m looking forward to getting a chance to play What a Tanker with them.