Tuesday 30 October 2012

Moving on from the Laser Cutter – Other High-Tech tools for the model maker…

My posts about the laser cutter have been some of the most popular articles I have done on this blog. We are upgrading the workshop at the moment which has meant I haven’t had access to a lot of my machinery over summer (including the laser cutter). However, we are now fully back up and running, with more space and some nice new toys to play with.

Due to the clear interest in new technology for the model making workshop I have decided to follow up the laser cutting articles with some new insights into some other processes and techniques that may be of interest. Our CAD facilities have been expanded considerably this year, or at least they will be once all the new gear has arrived.

We received a 5 axis milling machine a couple of weeks ago, we are expecting two 3D printers any time now and will also be installing a CNC Router over the Christmas break.

With all of this equipment arriving more or less at once there will be quite a learning curve. I hope to document some of my trials and tribulations here, as I become familiar with these machines.

So what do all of these things do, and how can they be utilised by model makers/wargamers?

Lets briefly look at all of them:-

5 Axis Milling Machine

Studiomill 2Studiomill 1

A milling machine uses a cutting tool to shape solid material into a form. I haven’t used a milling machine in over a decade, and those were manual machines, so it will be interesting to see how much of it comes back to me. Also this machine is totally CAD driven, so I have to learn all the 3D software to generate the files to be cut on the machine…

3D Printers

UP Plus Portable 3D Printer

3D Printers are already a fairly familiar part of the modern figure sculpting industry. Many companies are already designing their figures in CAD and using 3D printers to produce their masters. As I learn the basics and get up to speed with the machines I will explain the various processes involved in create a 3D printed model.

CNC Router

cnc router

A CNC Router shares much with a hand router as found in most woodworking workshops, except clearly it is controlled by a computer instead of by the joiner or carpenter. We use the CNC router for cutting out large 2D shapes as well as doing some shallow 3D work, terrain modelling for example.

I have already started playing around with the milling machine and I will describing my initial finding in the next few days. I am going to Glasgow tomorrow for the day to receive some basic training in these new machines. Hopefully this will help speed up the learning process and let me get down to some real work sooner rather than later…


  1. Looks like quite an investment will be looking forward to your articles as these machines all caught my personal interest!

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  2. I will be following these articles with some interest, been studying AutoCAD since April, cleared 2D and just started 3D with a view to exactly this type of hobby application.

    One of the guy's on my course has designed his own 3D printer, and with help from AutoCAD up in Farnborough, Hants, and Dragon is ready to build a second prototype. While his will be able to print products, its strength will lie in its being an easy application for making moulds (his background is ceramics), and along with a third student (and the grants available to us) we are looking to start-up...something!!!


  3. Just spent the day at the MAK Lab in Glasgow, looking at their 3D printing, CNC Routing and milling facilities. I think I am going to need more training! If I have to "self-learn" all this stuff at once it will take forever...

  4. It's easier than you think, see if you can't find an evening class in any CAD program, as they all overlap and it's really a question of learning the basic tools, although you seem to have that...the Stalingrad factory is superb!

    What's annoyed us is that we've spent 6 months learning level 2 2D (basic drawing and dimensioning) and level 3 2D (Iso. and 'blocks') when it turns out that all 3D images are built-up from 2D planes and an Isometric can be obtained by telling the 'eye' where to point, so we could have been doing 3D pretty much from day 1, week 2!!



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