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The impact of 3D printing

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theprof's picture
Joined: 10/14/2012

Just a question regarding boardgame design and components.

Does the advent of 3D printing add a new, more local, flexible and cost-effective method of component production?

Joined: 10/13/2011
We can hope!

I was just pondering the purchase of a 3D printer for that very reason last week, but the jury is still out.

In short, I would say...

New - Yes
More Local - Yes
Flexible - Yes
Cost-effective - Maybe, but probably not.

It would appear you can get your own 3D printer for a few hundred dollars. Based on the dimensions, I don't think you would have any problem producing the majority of your game components and might even be able to create spinners/wheels or other more complicated game parts.

Given the availability of open source designs for the printer, you could probalby start off right away with the ability to make pawns, dice and discs. Later, I can see miniatures or more detailed pawns (like a Monopoly Boot for example) being produced.

Perhaps one business model would be to provide a 3D printing service that uses templates created by the users. The printer would need to develop a pricing structure (probably based on volume of product used?) that makes it profitable for them to have invested in the printer in the first place, but the users need to supply the print patterns. This is essentially the same model that any traditional printer is using.

I can't speak to the cost, complexity or software required to develop a print pattern, but if it means I have a lower cost option for truly custom game components, I would definitely start educating myself!

So who will be the first to give it a shot?

EDIT - this is the main printer I have been looking at; self replicating even!

Khoril's picture
Joined: 09/12/2012
In our company we have and

In our company we have and use a 3d printer for our prototype. I confirm you that the problem is the cost for 2 reasons:
- material, if you want a good resistence is expensive (this technology is for prototypes and the material is brittle). and you have to add the costo of the "support material" around the piece, not only the real volume of the piece.
- time, you need a lot of time to make a series of pieces

anyway, for miniatures you need a good 3d designer, because is very difficult scan (3d scan) a little piece made by a sculptor.

Joined: 01/17/2011
Cost and time


I've been wondering how long it would take to 3D-print game parts, and how much it would cost. It's good to see that you have experience in using this technology.

As an example, do you have actual numbers for how long (in hours) it would take to 3D-print all the pieces for a Chess set? That is, 32 small figures. And how much would the raw materials cost?

Also, what do you mean by the "support material"?


The Game Crafter
The Game Crafter's picture
Joined: 06/09/2009
That depends on the type of

That depends on the type of printer you're using, but if you're using something like a MakerBot it would take days to print an entire chess set. And just in material cost you'd be looking at $50-$100. Plus, MakerBot doesn't produce perfectly smooth pieces, so you'd need to sand/polish/paint them depending upon your needs.

Khoril's picture
Joined: 09/12/2012
we use a medium quality

we use a medium quality printer, that costs 25/30k € and you can paint the part without surface treatement (sand, polish, etc). the parts are smoothly.

the cost for a miniature high 20/25 mm around 2€ only for material. for 32 small figures I think we need 10 hours. at the end of the week when the machine is empty I can test the time.

when you print you need 2 materials. one for the miniature and one to fill the space empty and sustain the part whit anything under. the support material prevents the piece collapses on itself.
for exemple, if you print a miniature whit an extended arm, under this arm you have a lot of support material until the base of the miniature.

(sorry for my english)

theprof's picture
Joined: 10/14/2012
Response - thanks.

Thanks for the comments so far people.

It looks like it's yes and no. Over here in the UK I notice our printers Color Co (the US co, of course) have 3D printer facilities available.

Sounds like it could be useful for possible local source prototyping of game design components but any volume batch manufacturing still to be done the 'old-fashioned' way.

I've no doubt that the technology will become faster, better, cheaper as per Moore's Law.

The potential for types of miniatures is perhaps the most interesting in terms of cost reduction perhaps.

When I've got round to completing design - I'll give the 3D option 'a twirl' (where I can) so to speak and see the results....

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