Today we take a closer look at Shapeways, the leading 3D printing service and online shop, which offers a fast-growing range of printed wargaming compatible accessories and models. We'll have a look at different materials and printing qualities, and, best of all, together with Shapeways we'll give away a complete Adeptus Custodes Imperial Knight upgrade set worth $128, designed by our very own ComradeQuiche! Find out more after the jump.

3D Printing takes digital files and turns them into physical products. It is often referred to as additive manufacturing, as the product is built up layer by layer in the material of your choosing. 3D Printing refers to several different processes that are applied based on the specific material type, including the most popular, selective laser sintering. 3D printing has become invaluable for the modern, digital sculpting process

Since its founding in 2007, Shapeways became the world's leading 3D Printing marketplace and community. It's open to anyone to make, buy, and sell products with 3D Printing. Designers can upload and commission their designs, while Shapeways handles printing and logistics. Industrial size 3D Printers are used to create the products, often in combination with post-processing, like dyeing and polishing. There are two manufacturing places, one in Long Island City, N.Y., and another in Eindhoven, the Netherlands (which means there won't be import duties to pay for European customers, as you will get your prints from the Netherlands and vice versa for US customers).

Shapeways' range of products is huge and growing every day. Browse through the Tabletop & Wargaming section. You will find a lot of Warhammer 40.000 compatible bits and models, most of them for Space Marines unsurprisingly, but there are more obscure products as well, such as Epic compatible models and terrain pieces. For this review, we'll look at a couple of Eldar terrain structures and Imperial Knight upgrade pieces.

Space Portal Gate in White Strong & Flexible, by Space Elf Den of Wonder

First, we have a look at this nice Eldar/Aeldari inspired warp gate, designed by Space Elf Den of Wonder. The dimensions are 3.83 x 12.69 x 13.35 cm, and the size and scale are perfectly suited for Warhammer 40.000. The model is available in two printing qualities, White Strong & Flexible, and White Strong & Flexible Polished.



White Strong & Flexible is probably the most basic printing option Shapeways, a white nylon plastic with a matte finish and slight grainy feel typical for the average 3D printing detail level. The printing resolution might not be fine enough for 28 mm heroic scale, but it's fine for larger structures and terrain. As you can see in the picture, the grain is quite noticeable, so I'd definitely go for the polished option. It's the same material and process, but the printed piece will be polished later (probably with very fine sandblasting), removing most of the grain.



Both options come at $28 dollar, which isn't exactly cheap but at the upper end of what a resin model makers would charge for a similar sized terrain piece.

Eldaritch Webway Gate and Eldaritch Soul Shrine in Frosted Ultra and Extreme Detail, by Miniman's Shop

Next, we have these nice Eldar structures by Miniman's Shop, who offers some nice Necron, Eldar/A Aeldari, and T'au terrain models in the 6mm Epic scale.



First, there are the Eldaritch Webway Gates (the ones on the left), which come in a set of two, printed here in Frosted Ultra Detail, for $9.60. The measurements are 5.61 x 5 x 0.72 cm. As you can see, they aren't very tall compared to a 28mm heroic scale model, but they would still work nicely as mission objective markers or base decorations.

Then we've got the Eldaritch Soul Shrine, printed in Frosted Extreme Detail (a matte translucent plastic that allows the finest and most intricate details), which sets you back $23.14. Other printing options are available as well, such as Frosted Ultra Detail for $16.63. Measurements are 3.43 x 7.25 x 1.65 cm. While meant to be used for Epic, it would work as a small statue for Warhammer 40k, too.


Here you can see close-ups from the front and back. Frosted Extreme Detail is the best printing quality you can get on Shapeways, and thus it's rather expensive. The details are very nice and sharp, and the typical 3D printing grain is so fine it's hardly visible. The print comes polished, mainly on the front side, on the other side the grain is more apparent.


Comparison: Frosted Ultra Detail vs. Frosted Extreme Detail

Here we have a Custodes themed Imperial Knight faceplate, designed by ComradeQuiche aka Gadgets+. The left one is printed in Frosted Ultra Detail, the right one in Frosted Extreme Detail. Frosted Detail plastics are printed with two materials simultaneously; a supporting Wax and a UV cured acrylic. The wax holds up the acrylic while it cools to keep it from falling with gravity. Afterwards, the wax is melted off, but the surfaces that the wax was touching will have a slightly rougher, more opaque texture than the ones that weren't. I gave both pieces a quick rinse and scrub with soapy water, to remove any residue from the wax.


At the first glance, there is hardly a difference, both prints are incredibly intricate. On a second glance, I feel that the round recesses and organic flourishes benefit from the better printing resolution. Frosted Extreme Detail is slightly more expensive, so I think I'd take Ultra Detail for plain, flat and angular pieces while upgrading to Extreme Detail for round and organic pieces.


Here we have a close up of the Frosted Ultra Detail faceplate, primed with Uniform Grey Color Primer by The Army Painter, a spray primer with medium thickness, an a regular Imperial Knight face plate cast in plastic.You can see that the typical 3D printing grain is almost non-existent after a coat of primer.

Conclusion
Shapeways offers high-end 3D printing. As a rather young technology, it's still quite expensive compared to regular Games Workshop kits or mass-produced resin upgrade bits. On the other hand, the open marketplace and democratic approach to design allow for endless possibilities. There are a lot of pieces you won't find anywhere else, and whilst not for the average wargamer, those who look for unique conversions and have the extra money to spend will definately find some intriguing products.

Give Away
Win a complete Custodian Guard conversion set for upgrading an Imperial Knight, worth $128! Designed by Shane Blomberg aka ComradeQuich, this set includes a custom faceplate, two shoulder armour pieces, custom hip and groin armour, two custom greaves, two custom "toe caps", and custom claws to upgrade the Thunderstrike Gauntlet. All printed in extra premium Frosted Ultra Detail.


Here you can see a complete model painted by Shane. As you can see, it would look great alongside your Custodes Guard or Forge World's Custodes Contemptor Dreadnoughts.





Here is what you need to do for your chance to win: Go to Shapeways' Facebook page and like it, go Tale of Painter's Facebook page and like it (if you haven't already ;), then look for the giveaway post and leave a comment. Once we reach 3,200 likes, we'll choose a random winner from one of the comments. The winner will then have a couple of days to claim his prize. Shapeways will ask for your personal details to receive your upgrade parts.

Note: This raffle comprises only the mentioned upgrade parts and doesn't include an Imperial Knight kit from Games Workshop.