Viewpoint – May 2017

If you’ve been involved in this hobby for any length of time then you can’t help but notice how it constantly changes. Some of those changes are obvious, whilst others are more subtle and don’t become clear unless you make comparisons with what was happening say, 10 years ago. It’s all part of being a vibrant hobby. If everything stayed the same all the time then it would very quickly begin to stagnate.

Change is healthy, even if at times it makes us uncomfortable. It refreshes, it brings in new concepts and it challenges what we know and are comfortable with. There will always be some who fight against change, who feel that the status quo must be maintained, but they miss the fundamental truth that discovering new things will help us to retain our enthusiasm for the hobby. The same can be said of your career or your life in general, but let’s not get too evangelical because this is about the hobby that you and I pursue.

I’ve been around modelling for the past four decades. I’ve seen it grow and change massively in that time, but I’ve also seen that some things remain constant. Technology has changed, making a big difference in the general quality of kits that are available. However, it is dangerous to assume that this automatically consigns older kits to the scrap heap. There are 40 and 50 year-old kits out there that can comfortably stand alongside  many kits that have been released in the past 10 years in terms of their quality and finesse.

One of the most exciting developments in our hobby in the 21st Century has been the growth of 3d printing technology. There is an awful lot of ignorance and misunderstanding out there about what is (and is not) possible at present and a vastly over-optimistic assumption about how quickly it will replace the traditional injection moulded product, but the potential is vast and it is already making significant impact on our hobby.

You won’t be seeing full kits that you can order online and then ‘print’ on your home 3d printer anytime in the next 10-20 years. We’re a long way from the high quality printer that is affordable to the average modeller. Instead, manufacturers are increasingly using 3d technology in a different way. They are moving away from the traditional scratchbuilt ‘master’ and increasingly having the master designed in CAD and then printed. The resulting product still needs a significant amount of clean-up, but it creates a much higher quality finished product that can then be cast in resin in the traditional way. Equally, the ability to scan entire objects such as aircraft and then turn them into CAD files is having a major impact on the plastic model manufacturers.

The other way that 3d technology is influencing our hobby is through the ‘print on demand’ market. It allows individuals to create accessories and conversion parts and then sell them through a third party printing specialist. The critical thing here is that in order to create 3d products you have to have a knowledge of computer aided design (CAD). Without that knowledge (self-taught or otherwise), a modeller cannot create their own pieces. Over the past three years I’ve started to regularly buy components for my various 1/48 scale projects via this method. The choice is increasing all the time but we are still way behind the model railway fraternity in terms of the choice, variety and sophistication of what’s available today.

Change also happens at an organisational level. By the time you read this, the IPMS (UK) AGM will have taken place. Each year a selection of the Executive Committee posts become vacant and elections take place to fill them. Sometimes the faces remain the same but often there are changes. The committee is a dynamic entity. It changes character and style dependent on the individuals who make up the group and this is how it should be. A committee that is only interested in what we already have will never be able to adapt to the hobby as it changes over time. 2017 will see several new faces on the committee, bringing with them new enthusiasm, new ideas and a renewed commitment to keep IPMS (UK) relevant within the hobby. Above all we need to be willing to try new things and to take the occasional risk.

That recipe of gradual development, of new ideas mixed in with tried and tested processes, has given us a strong basis to maintain the health of the Society. The changes are incremental, in tune with the changing face of the hobby. If we try to hold back that change we will suffer for it. The Society I joined nearly 30 years ago was a very different beast to what it is today, but there is enough of the ‘old’ balanced against the ‘new’ that I remain as passionate about IPMS (UK) today as I did when I joined it all those years ago.

IPMS (UK) is larger than ever and continues to grow. We have been able to adapt and grow with the hobby, to remain relevant to modellers and to be able to look to the future with confidence.

John Tapsell

Copyright IPMS(UK)

First published in Scale Military Modeller International magazine