While Gartner sees the diffusion of 3D printed consumer products as still far away from a real mass market presence and growth, there already are a few (rare) examples of consumer segments where 3D printing is a viable manufacturing option. One of these is that of collectible miniature models and, specifically, that of train models.
These are areas where uniqueness and precision are of fundamental importance, and price is secondary. The introduction of 3D printing in miniature trains has led large online marketplaces, such as Shapeways, to even dedicate an entire section to them. However, if the model you are looking for is so unique, and its demand is too personalised even for Shapeways, then you can turn to Jellymodels.
Riding on the passion that miniature train collectors can express, the website’s co-founder, Luigi Nicotera, who is an enthusiast himself, applied his own Making expertise, which he acquired as a partner at the Fab Lab Milano (where I met him), to create a place where collectors can find finished products or products that are ready to be further customized. His brother and co-founder Mario Nicotera and he have done extensive research and development in the modelling field, before turning to digital fabrication technologies to create highly detailed miniatures that are not found anywhere else.
Most of the models are 3D printed on demand by laser sintering through online service providers, and the most commonly requested items are also on sale via Jellylab’s Shapeways shop. The Jellymodel’s own shop selection also includes models that are locally 3D printed with SLA technology and then painted and finished by the Jellymodels team.
The project is still in its infancy, but the first few models are already available and – perhaps more importantly – the team is available to create miniatures on demand, upon request by other collectors. Anyone with specific needs for customization of the available models, such as liveries, particular finishes or gauges, or those who would rather create a brand new model from scratch, create a special part of a self-built model, diorama details, or anyone that just has an idea that is swirling around his or her head, can just get in touch. And ride along on the consumer 3D printing train.