- Apologies for the highly suggestive title, it wasn't intended, honest -
Hi guys, I haven't used Shapeways before, but have always been intrigued by them. For the benefit of others who are on the fence about using them, I thought that I would document how I got on with the service, product etc.Order process
After creating a login which was pretty straightforward, I ordered 3 guns from Sunlink, who offers a wide range of G1 style guns for classics figures, amongst other things. One of these was the Datsun V4 gun, which is intended for the universe Prowl mould. I heard that 'White Strong & Flexible Polished' was good enough for guns, but not any moving parts or finer detail pieces. Each gun cost me between $8 and $9 each. Shipping to the UK was $11.40. From the letterhead, it seems that Shapeways are based in the Netherlands, so I don't know how much transatlantic shipping would be.Behold, the nice Shapeways baggie.
I received an email after my order, telling me that the team were first going to verify that the designs were printable. 3 days later, I received an email confirmation telling me that they were manufacturing the pieces after verifying the designs. Their communications were very professional with pdf files attached showing my order summary and their terms and conditions. Very slick.Initial Impressions/Prep
Within 2 weeks of my initial order, I had the guns in hand. They were packed into quite a large box with lots of protection, so arrived safely. The pieces are individually wrapped in very nice baggies and I was very impressed overall. Below are some photos of what Prowl's rifle looked like before any preparation. The finish is ok, and I'm glad I went for polished, as most of the work had been done already. However, you can see that some of the vents etc were 'filled in' with excess plastic so I went over some parts with a craft knife. I also wet sanded it with 800 grit paper to try and smooth it a bit, and washed the part in warm water to remove any solvents etc.The Shapeways effort is more impressive than the original gun.
The texture of the plastic is very strange. It looks like soap to me, and is rough to the touch, even after polishing. there were some loose 'threads' which I tried to remove with a craft knife, but found it difficult. I'm not sure how the parts are formed but it's almost similar to fibreglass, in that there seems to be many fibres pressed into each other. The handle of the gun is quite loose in Prowl's hand - I assume that this is to allow for paint and lacquer etc.Painting
I decided to go for black on this gun, so I used a spraycan of Citadel Chaos Black undercoat on it. This stuff is usually great because it is mainly used to undercoat tiny metal or plastic miniatures with lots of sculpted detail. In this case however the paint enhances all the imperfections of the cast. The one side which seemed 'sharper' pre paint looks ok, but the other side (on which I had to remove flash with a craft knife) looks pretty rough. I tried to smooth the paint with 1000 grit paper but quickly realised that it was the finish of the plastic that was the problem.(L to R) Pic 1 - there is excess 'flash' filling some of the crevices. Pic 2 - I cleaned up the flash and attempted to sand the gun a bit smoother. Pic 3 - Sprayed with undercoat and lacquer. Pic 4 - Brush painted with acrylics and sprayed with lacquer.
I was actually surprised that the material 'took' the paint at all but it seems to adhere well enough. I have noticed though that in some places, small white spots have appeared due to the paint leeching into the plastic (I think.) I applied some matt clear lacquer spray as well and then decided to paint the whole gun by hand! This is because some white gaps had started to show, and also I reasoned that the thicker paint may actually 'fill in' the imperfections a bit better. I hoped that I would not lose too much actual detail in the process.(L to R) Pic 1 - I cleaned up the flash and attempted to sand the gun a bit smoother. Pic 2 - Sprayed with undercoat and lacquer. Pic 3 - Brush painted with acrylics and sprayed with lacquer.
So after hand painting it I was reasonably happy that I hadn't ruined it and gave it another coat of lacquer. The rough 'side' is still rough unfortunately, but I don't think I can really do anything more to improve it.You can see how the paint was soaked up, as the barrel started to show white flecks through.Conclusion
In conclusion, I found that the Shapeways service was professional and a very good buying experience. Obviously the design of the actual pieces is only as good as the designer, but Sunlink's weapons are excellent. The major problem with Shapeways is the actual printing process and the end results aren't particularly sharp. They're not bad by any means but pale in comparison with Renderform, Beezleboss etc.the finish is ok from the 'smooth' side...
I could have tried ultra frosted detail but then things get expensive quickly. I do have the Marlboor head in that material and it certainly seems better suited to detail than WSF. I would appreciate any feedback on those of you more skilled in customising etc. I am pretty inexperienced with only some Warhammer painting and modelling to fall back on. I have left the other 2 guns untouched in the hope that someone smarter than me can come up with a better preparation method for WSF. ... but still a bit ugly on the 'rough' side.