3D Printing in Extreme High Definition for All – from Shapeways

In January of this year I shared with you some 3D printed locomotive shells that had been printed in Extreme High Definition by a firm in London, England called Impossible Creations Ltd.  You can find the post here.  Since then other companies have been branching out into higher definition printing as the demand for better quality prints has been rising.  Shapeways have now entered this market with their new Frosted Extreme Detail plastics.


The image above is from Shapeways’ launch blog post on their website. (That is not my finger.)

Frosted Extreme Detail or FXD is basically the same as the Extreme High Definition I have already used from Impossible Creations. It is printed in the same type of printer made by 3D Systems.  The only difference is the material. Impossible Creations use VisiJet M3 Procast which is a blue material, originally designed to be used in a lost cast process to manufacture jewelry from 3D printed models.  Shapeways use VisiJet M3 Crystal which is the translucent material we all know as Frosted Detail and Frosted Ultra Detail.

FXD has a much smaller layer thickness than FD or FUD, the thickness is measured in Microns and the thinner the layer the higher the definition or resolution.

FD prints at 32 Microns

FUD prints at 29 Micros

FXD prints at 16 Micros

Shapeways have set their parameters for printing in FXD to the same level as FUD; with the exception of the boundary box.  The boundary box is the overall size of model which you can print and they have done this for a very simple reason; time.  They have set the size to 50mm by 50mm by 200mm,  200mm being the hight.  If this space is full at a 16 micron layer thickness it will take 48 hours to print.  If they had set it to 200mm by 200mm by 200mm it would take 192 hours or 8 days!  Keeping the time down keeps this material cost effective.

Fortunately for a lot of my models this is not to much of an issue as most will fit, well maybe not the O Scale stuff!  The majority of my models have already been switched over so they are now available in both FUD & FXD.  One of the nice things about this, apart from the better quality, is the price.  Although the FXD costs more per cubic centimeter the base price is still the same.  Shapeways are charging a $5 fixed fee per model, as they do with FUD, plus the material costs.  So small models like my N Scale Three Chime Horns, as pictured below, are only $0.50 more expensive for a much higher quality in FXD.

Horns 3

Larger models like locomotive shells will end up costing a bit more.  For example my N Scale Baldwin RT-624, as pictured below, in FUD costs $55.  In FXD it costs $80.22. That may sound like quite a hike in price but when compared to other companies offering the same lelvel of high quality printing the price rise is actually minimal. (Please note the actual price varies depending on your country, taxes and currency exchange rate).

Baldwin RT-624 Render 3

A few of my models are still being converted, such as the big EMD DD35 so they are not available in FXD just yet. But it won’t be long.  If there’s a model that you would like in FXD and it is not yet available please contact me through the Contact Page or drop me an email at jamestrainparts@yahoo.co.uk and I can either make it available or let you know when it will be.

One downside to this exciting news is that Shapeways will no longer be offering models in their FD material.  This is because FD requires a lot more support material, which is as expensive as the main material.   So in order to make it cost effective they need to raise the price; however this will make it the same price as FUD which is a higher resolution material and therefore FD will become redundant.

This is a shame because FD was beneficial to large-scale models such as my O Scale UP Tender.  At such a large-scale the cost difference between FD and FUD was a lot. These are definitely too big for FXD.  However Shapeways will be continuing to offer FD untill the 29th of April 2015.  I know that is not long but you can still order the FD O Scale tenders untill then.

Another bit of good news, Shapeways are offering 10% off all orders untill the 23rd of April 2015 with the discount code ‘THANKYOU10‘.

All of my new models will also be available in FXD including the big Alco C-855 which will be making an appearance soon.  I will also be making my own orders in the FXD and I will be sharing them with you, that’s if you don’t beat me to it using the discount code.