I firmly believe that people never really outgrow playing with toys, the toys just tend to get a lot bigger and way more expensive. While 3D printing itself has innumerable serious real world applications, let’s not fool ourselves, the real reason most people bring a 3D printer into their home is because it’s a really cool toy that’s fun to play with. And that isn’t a bad thing, in fact the modern desktop 3D printer was the result of a few makers sitting in a room and building their own cool toys.
While a lot of species of animals play, humanity is the only one that uses our toys, or alternately our hobbies, to make art. And I’m not defining art as narrowly as some people often tend to do, I’m broadening it to mean something that serves no practical purpose and requires creativity, dedication and technical know-how to produce. 3D printers are the result of a group of people being creative and enjoying their hobby, and now the result of their hobby is being used as a tool for others to make their own toys.
One of the more creative uses for 3D printers is coming from the scratch built model community. Scratch built models are extremely detailed and meticulously constructed scale replicas of cars, planes, space ships and even construction equipment. Scratch built means exactly what it sounds like, the models are constructed by hand using parts scratched together rather than a complete model kit. And while some view 3D printers as cheating, the model is still being built from scratch, just a digital file of it. And most scratch builders who use 3D printers only print small portions or parts of their models anyways.
Brian Almeida is one of a growing number of scratchbuild artists and hobbyists who have fully embraced 3D printing. His latest project is a working RC dump truck so detailed that it even has a mini 3D printed version of himself driving it. His incredible 1/14 scale dump truck is 27 inches long, 15.5 inches wide and 12 inches tall. The truck is entirely functional, from the dumping bed, to the steering, lights and the cab door even opens and closes. It even makes authentic sounds, like when it is turned on the engine sounds like a real diesel engine turning over.
Almeida is well suited to his hobby; not only had he been building and racing RC cars since he was a kid, but he has an arts degree from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. He’s also a tattoo artist and ran a car fabrication shop that specialized in customizing paint and bodywork on cars and bikes. His varied background obviously plays a large role in his work as he details his build project on the RC Truck & Construction forums step by step. The attention to detail is pretty amazing really, from the working wheel suspension, to the realistic entry steps and handrails and the electric motor that was encased inside of a 3D printed replica of a real motor. There seemingly isn’t a missed detail.
“I wanted to build something in the RC Construction community that has been built with the level of detail I wanted it to have. I basically wanted my viewers to think they were staring at a diecast model before being surprised that it actually worked,” Almeida told us via email.
You can see video of the dump truck in action at the 2015 Cabin Fever Expo. The dump truck is visible at about the 30 minute mark, but the whole video is pretty interesting if you like watching working scale construction equipment in action. And as someone who never thought he would like watching that, give it a try because it was really cool, especially when you consider most of the equipment was hand made.
The dump truck was designed in 123Design and Autocad using reference photo’s from the internet and some technical specifications that Almeida was able to get from New Jersey’s Foley Caterpillar. There are over 70 3D printed parts and details alone that took him over 70 hours to 3D print on his MakerBot Replicator 2. And that doesn’t include the parts that he fabricated out of sheet metal and thick wire. While he didn’t always use 3D printing in his build projects it has now become an essential and invaluable tool, it even allows him to work from home building models professionally. And just like most of us, he sort of fell into 3D printing.
“One day i decided to build some scale tool boxes and items from scratch, and at the time 3D printers were starting to get more and more famous. So i figured i could buy one and it would help me make these items faster because I was getting a lot of interest from people on facebook. Boy was i wrong… there was a HUGE learning curve with just dealing with the printers themselves and having to learn designing and all the techniques didn’t make it easier. It took me a solid good few months but i was determined,” said Almeida.
Clearly he managed to figure out how to make everything work. Almeida started watching online tutorials and YouTube videos on 3D modelling and 3D printing. Eventually, after a lot of trial and error, he managed to get his MakerBot to do what he wanted, and his scale dump truck is the impressive result of that hard work. And his next projects look to be just as impressive. He’s working on a 3D printed 740B Cat articulated dump truck and then he’s moving on to a Cat Front shovel, also in standard 1/14 scale.
Aside from someone who makes really cool and well made custom models, Almeida is also someone who isn’t afraid to be an adult who plays with toys. And everyone getting up at 7 am to drive to your office job should always remember that playing with those toys ended up helping him live his dream job. Tell me how much of a jerk I am for pointing that out to you over on our Scratch Built RC Dump Truck forum at 3DPB.com.