3D printing for board games – worth it?
3D printing is being discussed fervently in many industries. In medicine and engineering, it’s hard to imagine life without it. But what does it have to do with board games?
As 3D printers become cheaper, devices are finding their way into more and more private households. People print 3D decorative items, but also more useful things too. Depending on whom you ask, accessories and toys are among the useful and enjoyable things a 3D printer can produce. But how does the whole thing work in the first place? What can I print and where can I get the files I need? How much does it cost and is it worth it? We’ll answer all these questions. Finally, we’ll look at what AVA has to do with 3D printing.
How does 3D printing work?
There are different types of printing processes. For private households, the FDM and SLA processes are the most common. FDM stands for fused deposition modeling. Small threads of plastic (filament) are heated and applied layer by layer to a plate with a nozzle. Both the print head with the nozzle and the plate (usually glass) are movable. The plastic cools down and voila! Your new pieces are ready.
The SLA process works in a completely different way. In this stereolithography process, a basin is filled with liquid resin (that’s why the process is often called resin printing). Small UV lamps irradiate specific areas in the resin bath, curing the material. The bath moves down piece by piece so that more and more layers are cured.
Both processes have advantages and disadvantages. FDM is relatively inexpensive: entry-level models for the printer are available for under 200€. The filament is rolled up and can be stored and shipped relatively easily. But the disadvantage of FDM printing is a rather coarse print ratio and a relatively long printing time – depending on the desired object of course. On the other hand, the SLA process has a purchase price of over 200 €. The liquid resin is volatile and quite expensive and also causes toxic fumes. But SLA’s greatest advantage is its accuracy – significantly higher than with the FDM process. The printing time is also independent of the workpiece size.
So why do I need a 3D printer for games?
3D printers can improve materials to create a higher quality experience and, above all, allow players to put their mark of individuality on a game. Board games have a lot of material, both for game play (figures, markers, dice, etc) and for storage (inlays and storage devices). With a printer, figures and game markers (usually delivered as cardboard) can be printed from quality plastic for a better haptic experience. Plus, storage boxes especially designed for the respective game are fully in trend and can replace the cardboard inlays or bag collection which are supplied by the manufacturer.
To create a print with either process, you will first need a print file. If you don’t want to make this yourself, you can find numerous platforms on the Internet with free and paid files. Probably the largest and best known (and completely free!) platform is Thingiverse. Just enter the desired game title and pick from the results.
But the question remains: for whom is the whole thing worthwhile at all?
In short: for everyone who plays a game frequently. If you have a favorite game and play it regularly, you will often take the box out of the closet and set it up; printed inlays facilitate the assembly enormously. Plus, higher quality game material exponentially improves the game feeling. But don’t worry if you don’t want or don’t have the time to start the hobby directly with your own 3D printer – there are various providers on the Internet that will print the desired file on order.
"So what does AVA have to do with 3D printing?"
We ask Meet2Play CEO Jakob Hase about this: “With our AVA platform, we place a lot of value on creativity and creating something new. The sustainability factor also plays a decisive role in our product development. Therefore, the console will later offer numerous possibilities for individualization by means of 3D printing. We want to ensure that both the gaming experience and the console itself have a distinctly individual character and that individual components can be replaced, supplemented and exchanged.