Crowdsourcing Plastic Model Kits


Flexiscale, the company that crowdsources and crowdfunds model kits, made a showing at the World Maker Faire. We’ve seen their work before, but this time we got to touch base with [Chris Thorpe] and get a handle on the future of user-requested model kits.

Right now there are over one hundred proposals for what Flexiscale should do next. They’re mostly narrow gauge railroad locomotives and rolling stock, but [Chris] tells me they’re looking to branch out into larger projects including American locomotives as well as planes, ships, and buildings. This is a really, really cool project, and if you’re into models at all, you should at least be aware of what Flexiscale is trying to do.

If you have an idea of what Flexiscale should do next, write up a proposal. I made one for the PRR GG1 electric locomotive, and if enough people support it, [Chris] will scan an engine and make a kit.

8 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing Plastic Model Kits

  1. I love what those guys are doing!

    Unfortunately, a lot of the train collector and building hobby has died and is dying. Kids just aren’t getting into model making. Kinda like they aren’t getting into Ham radio. Phones and robots are cooler, or something. But that is what it is..

    Me, I love tissue covered balsa airplanes. My hope is that low cost laser cutters will allow out of production kits to be produced at low cost from scans of old kit plans. Laser cutting balsa is far cheaper than die stamping, etc.

    Taking it a step further, I think with 3D surface data of an aircraft, it should be possible to automatically generate the profiles of many of the balsa components. Which is close to what the Flexiscale folks are doing.

  2. I think some of the trouble with modeling as a hobby is that it generally requires access to sharp knives, toxic glues, paints, and other chemicals – unless we’re talking about snap-in models. Fewer parents are willing to supervise their children dealing with such materials at the ages which would be best suited to learning the hobby. Likewise, very few parents understand the basics of radio, so teaching a kid how it works is not on the schedule.

    As far as trains – models rose in popularity when trains were still a dominant mode of transportation. I don’t know more than a few adults, let alone kids, who have ever traveled by train. Light-rail or perhaps commuter trains are a little more frequented, but it’s definitely not like it was in the early days of air travel.

    My grandfather came out west by train-hopping, but I’ve never stepped foot on anything above a BART train. And BART just isn’t glamorous. :P

  3. When I was a kid I built plenty of models and no supervising was needed. They just gave me a box + some glue and I was busy for weeks ;). It’s indeed a shame they’d rather let them play on an ipad for days instead of working with their hands and improve their problem solving+motor skills that way instead of getting to the next level of angry birds…

    1. Angry birds? That is a perfect example. With real angry birds, the ipad skills would be no help.

      If you recall the hitchcock movie, it was actual construction skills that allowed them to board up the house and protect themselves from the angry birds.

      So when the angry birds come, it will be the maker/construction skills that will save you.

    2. +1 Same here: I spent many many hours making plastic models and have inhaled way more toluene than I probably ever should have, but I’m okay. Model building is a fantastic way to get kids to learn useful skills that will benefit them later in life, even if the models turn out terribly (like some of mine did).

      Years later I was learning some machining skills from a professional machinist (a true genius who’s been doing it for 30+ years). He decided to teach me to sharpen a drill bit, which I did and gave it back a few minutes later. He looked at me in a very puzzled way, took another drill bit, chopped off the tip and stood by and watched me sharpen it. It took 4 or 5 minutes, and I showed it to him and asked him if that was okay. He just looked at me and said “It took me two years to learn to do that!” It was both awesome and embarrassing at the same time. But I was using the same set of motor skills as when I was making those model kits.

      Now I do experimental optics and spectroscopy for a living, and still use the same skills. Model building is a great thing for kids: it sure helped me.

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