“Russ in Texas” (actual name: Russ Mitchell) commented most interestingly on this posting here about 3D printing, the point being that he had, or soon would have, personal experience of actually doing this stuff. I urged him to write about any such experience, and here (with apologies to him for the delay in doing this posting) is the email he recently sent:
Here’s my experience:
3d Printing is mature and ready to go NOW – if you need something in plastic, resin, or maybe ceramics. If you need functional metal parts, the revolution is not here yet.
Background: decent-enough 3d modeling skills with graphics/animation software like Blender/3dsMax.
Tools Used: TinkerCAD (godsend!), 3dsMax.
Formats needed by Pros: STL, DWG.
So, modeling arrowheads, etcetera, based on historical artifacts was not very hard. In some ways, this was preferable to scanning because of distortions called by corrosion (holes in artifact), rust bumps, bits missing, etcetera. TinkerCAD online proved to be REALLY fast for slapping together the rough models for figures based on intuitively jacking together various shapes (and then distorting them) – those who have difficulty visualizing in 3 dimensions might have trouble seeing how a pyramid, rotated, stretched, and then narrowed, gives you a scalene triangle, but it’s there and very doable.
The providers: Sculpteo and Shapeways. Their setup: entirely painless. Their materials? Affordable enough. Some of the arrowheads can be duplicated for a couple of bucks a pop in resin or plastic, up to 10-12 bucks…. COMPLETELY affordable.
Write it off. 3d printing in metal is still OBSCENELY expensive (a 70-dollar arrowhead, made in 20-hrc stainless that can’t hold an edge??), and what I wound up having to do was take models to a guy I know with a laser/waterjet rig… who then recommended old-school forge dyes and stamping.
So that’s where we are now. It’s coming, and for the right material, it’s here now: stupid-easy modeling programs like tinkerCAD will get somebody 90% of the way to a useable model for simpler stuff, (almost) no skills required. But the material’s the clincher.
The more I hear about this stuff, the more revolutionary (in a good way) it strikes me as being. And we are now only at the beginning of the story.