I'm busy tooling up for a Stalingrad campaign using Chain of Command in 28mm along with a couple of friends Andy, Mark & Paul. Blogs from a couple of them can be found here and here and are well worth a look.
Anyway we were exchanging progress pics and I sent this one of some of my support options currently getting painted up. Left is a Perry Miniatures Pak 38 in metal from their Afrika Korps range, centre is a Warlord Games leIG18, right is a Rubicon Models Pak 36 and lurking at the back is a Butlers Printed Models StuIG 33.
In between banter it struck me that this pic shows just how varied and diverse our supply of toys has become, and also highlights the way technology is moving forward, even for hobbyists like us. The Perry and Warlord models are "traditional" metal, mastered (I assume) by hand from plasticard, brass rod and greenstuff then converted into production models and cast in a centrifugal casting machine. That can mean mould lines, flash and warping (though mercifully both were almost free from those) They're sold in plastic blister packs with only a generic card back. They're both very nice too, but are still being made the way we've been making wargames models for the last 50 years and if we had the talent you or I could set up with limited outgoings and do the same (though clearly not as well) from the garage. In fact the only thing that has changed about the whole process as far as I can tell since I started wargaming in the late 1970s is the packaging, which once upon a time would probably be a zip lock bag or cardboard box.
The Rubicon Pak 36 is a CAD (Computer Aided Design) model, digitally mastered which has then been converted to an injection moulded plastic kit. Detail is therefore precise and crisp. This is a big step up both in technology and scale of production. The mould needed to produce this kit is very expensive (relatively) and therefore only viable with production runs spin casters could only dream of. Injection moulding brings more detail and precision - unlike spin casting every model should be the same, and flash and mould lines are minimal. The kit is packaged "commercially" in a full coloured printed box with printed instructions. This is a quantum leap ahead of the other two, though you could reasonably argue that when viewed at the distance you would when they were on the table you would be hard pushed to tell the difference.
The Butlers StuIG is a 3d print. It's also the budget option. In all honesty the detail is ok but not great - in fact it is positively poor on the running gear particularly, and there are areas where it has failed to print such as the front tracks, but as you can see, it painted up well enough. I'm not going to harp on about 3d printing being the next big thing - I did that a few years ago when I first saw the Shapeways aircraft for Wings of War. The difference is that 3d printing is now within the reach of "Joe Wargamer" - in fact I know of at least two local chaps who have taken the plunge and got 3d printers. At the moment this is still an art or craft rather than a full on manufacturing capability, but assuming the usual laws of cost and capability continue, we will see both costs fall and quality rise on home 3d printing - then, well who knows?
I suppose I should mention prices. All the guns came in at around £12-£13 including crew (3 on the leIG, 4 on the Pak38 and 5 on the Pak 36) The StuIG was also £12. At the time I ordered it I thought it was the only model of this vehicle available in this scale but I later found out Company B do one - albeit for £30ish.