May 5, 2015 | By Simon

When looking back at the history of the term “Rapid Prototyping”, it was essentially the term given for the process of creating design samples for various hardware designs using 3D printing as a way to affordably and quickly iterate on a design.  The process, which started gaining traction in the 1980s, was used to create plastic models of everything from telephones and keyboards to kitchen appliances and remote controls.  Up until recently, the additive manufacturing technologies used to create these objects were usually very expensive and outside of a comfortable price range for consumers.    

Thanks to the rise of desktop 3D printing however, rapid prototyping is no longer simply just limited to design studios, engineering shops and corporations; seemingly anybody with access to a 3D printer can develop their own “rapid prototypes”.  It should come with little surprise then, that model making hobbyists have resorted to using the same rapid prototyping technology to create accurate high resolutions models that are then build from scratch.

Among others in the model making community who utilized 3D printing into their creations process are those who omit the typical model kits themselves in favor of building models from raw materials; scratch-built models.  The models, which can vary from military vehicles and movie props to spaceships, are used from a variety of materials that are either purchase or sourced by the creator including wood, clays, metals, recycled materials, plastics and anything else that can be used to build an accurate model feature.

For one scratch-built model maker, using a 3D printer to create highly-detailed parts for a Star Wars TIE Bomber seemed like the smartest choice for ensuring all parts were made quickly and accurately to match the iconic ship seen in the popular Star Wars Empire Strikes Back film.  The creator, Mikoyan99, used a combination of materials to create his TIE Bomber including acrylic tubing, styrene, aluminum pipes and existing components from other model kits in addition to 3D printed parts.  

“I thought i'd have a pop at a TIE bomber, from ESB. It's one of my favourite starfighter designs, but as there's no kit (that I know of), I'll be partially scratchbuilding the vessel,” said Mikoyan99.

“I'll be using the radiators/solar panels and windshield from the Revell TIE Advanced X1 (Vader's TIE); IIRC I read here the other day that the panels from the original MPC kit were used for some of the screen used TIE Bombers - knowing kit manufacturers, it's possible Revell used some of the old tooling, but we'll see when the kit arrives.”

To create his model, Mikoyan99 began by sourcing information from existing model kits (which were built off of specific dimensions from Lucasfilm) and collecting reference images for creating his own digital model of the spaceship design.

Once he had finalized a design for the TIE Bomber in CAD, he broke the model into separate components that would help him determine what could be sourced from raw materials or existing kits, and what he would need to personally design and fabricate.  Fortunately, he was able to find an existing pair of wings for the TIE Bomber and was able to source his own materials or fabricate his own design to be built around them.  To create his own 3D printed parts, Mikoyan99 used an UP! 3D printer that was available at this school.  

Similar to the finishing process of other 3D printed objects used for rapid prototyping, Mikoyan99 spent a considerable amount of time sanding the resulting 3D prints to ensure that the finish would be up to par for when it was time to be painted along with the other model components.  To prepare the final foot-long assembled model for painting, putty was used to fill any imperfections and open spaces between parts.  Finally, high-quality model paint was used in addition to some weathering effects that made this TIE Bomber look like it truly had come from a Galaxy Far, Far Away.

For more information about the entire build process, you can read a more in-depth explanation of the entire process here.  



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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