Stereolith / Rapid Prototyping.
My friend and neighbor Tom Madden has done an excellent job of explaining
this new and exciting technology which is starting to be within reach of the
model railroad industry for making resin masters in tems of cost and accuracy.
It promised to revolutionize making of masters, particularly in N scale where
making a master is on the out edge of model making skills.
But there is more to the story. It is entirely possible and using
commercially available technology to scan a large scale master, change the sacle of the
scan data, and then with stereolith make a new amster to whatever scale
desired. In essence you could scan an O scale box car body and make a master to
reporduce it in N scale resin. Or you could make the master in 1/2" scale and
reduce it to HO to make kits.
My daughter sculpts horses and an company scanned her 1" scale orginal,
reduced it to 1/4 size and made a new master. They could have made the master in
wax and then made a lost wax casting of it in brass or any other metal. The scan
cost about $2000 and the 1/4 size master around $400. As Tom M. says, the
technology and accuracy is here but it is far from the "do it yourself"
stage....many pitfalls if you don't really have the leading edge technology.
I have been doing engineering design of injection molded cars and locomtives
for virtually every HO and O scale manufacturer for many years using AutoCAD.
For what it is worth, my guess (and Tom concurs) is that the "man hours"
involved in doing a set of 3D CAD designs for a resin master is about the same
as for doing an injection molded car. The injection molded design takes a bit
more because of air brake piping, etc. which are cast instead of letting the
modeler form from wire.
What this means in terms of $$$ is a function of what hourly rate you set for
a CAD design engineer vs a highly skilled modelmaker. Interesting question,
but basically it is what themarket will support!