3D printing is nothing new; it’s been around for decades at this point, and people have been making cool shit for a long time. I’ve always been interested in seeing what can be achieved with different materials, and I’ve seen people design incredible things in 3D modeling software that then gets printed into solid objects. I thought I’d dip my toe in the water with a pretty simple first project: a fake car dealer badge like they used to make Back In The Day. My inspiration came from something I got off the Flintstone Scout, which still had the original IH dealer badge from Cumberland, MD stuck to the rear of the tailgate.


I started looking for the proper typeface and settled on a classic House Industries font from the archives, modifying the S and making minor tweaks to the other letterforms to fit the era I was going for. The lower typeface was another old favorite, Bitstream Geometric 212, that I’ve had for probably 25 years. I set them up on a rectangle like some of the others I’ve seen in reference, put two beveled screw holes in place, rounded off the edges, and looked into how to build a 3D file with the tools I’ve got here.

Adobe makes a 3D program but it’s only available as a standalone package (not part of Creative Cloud) so that was out. I read up on how to build a 3D-readable file from within Illustrator, played around with the settings, and tried to bring it into SketchUp, but found that they’ve put a lot of their file import features behind a paid plan as well. So I messed with my file some more, found a free converter that switched an .OBJ file to an .STL (which most print-on-demand services prefer) and sent out for a couple of quotes. I was, frankly, quite shocked to see what they were charging: the first shop I contacted quoted me $50.02 for a piece of ABS plastic 4.5″ wide.

So clearly, it’s cheaper just to buy a fucking 3D printer than it is to ask someone to do a one-off project. Shit, I had metal laser-cut, bent, and powder coated for less than half that price. I don’t know what that plastic is made from, but it must be more expensive by the ounce than printer ink or something.

Date posted: April 25, 2024 | Filed under art/design | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to Expensive Hobbies

  1. Eddy Young says:

    During lockdown, I was passing time with electronics projects. At one point, I had to make parts. Like you, I was outraged by the quoted prices to have them 3D printed by a service provider. I bought a printer and got more parts out of it for the same amount of money.

  2. idiotking says:

    Yeah, I briefly considered that idea. I think if I had more space and a clearer plan for what I might do with the printer (e.g., create parts and sell them) I’d pull the trigger. I’ve got a friend who has a laser engraver and he makes and sells parts to help with his truck hobby, which is tempting, but right now I’m holding off on pursuing another hobby (until I divest myself of three others).

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