Too much is being made of 3D printing, at the end of the day, it is just another tool in the tool shed. Will it replace injected plastic? I am not seeing it yet, as the cost will never be less. There will be those that use the tool now and others that wait to implement, regardless it is here to stay. Richard, I think you did hit the nail on the head as there is a substantial learning curve to get to the point where you can design and entire car and print it. The learning curve is much less for parts and that is undoubtedly where it will blossom.
You mentioned wheels. I did the Team Dynamic Pro 1.2 wheels on the Atom in about an hour. I went to the scan cloud and took a cross section of one spoke of the twelve, just a jpg screen shot. I took that jpg and embedded it into a CAD program and traced the outline. I then went to the Pegasus tires that I could source and determined the dimensions the wheels had to be, this was with blatant disregard to scale as I was matching something. I then scaled my spoke cartoon to the radius of the Pegasus tire. The cartoon was then revolved 360° into a 3D solid that you would recognize as a wheel blank having the shape of the wheel without any cutouts. Back to the scan cloud and measure the cutouts and apply them to the wheel blank and now it is really starting to look like the wheel. However, ... more compromise time, ... the spokes have to be a minimum of 0.7mm to be printable in WSF and that can't go on for very long as that does not dissipate printing heat. I decided that since they were holding the weight of the entire model, I would be cautious here and made my minimum 0.9mm instead. So the net effect is the outer points of the wheels are compromises as are the proportions, but, they don't look that bad. I then just went to the car with a verier caliper and measured the depth and other attributes of the lug areas and did those cutouts too. Fillet the edges, done. OK, a person working out of their house is not going to have access to a scan cloud, so, you end up throwing a straight edge over the wheel and measure the out and downs, ... same effect. Maybe it would have taken an hour and a half without the scan cloud. This is all something that could have been done in the open source Blender for free. My point being the design of parts is here now. Car bodies, that is a different issue and requires that you have the scan cloud or you are willing to ultimately compromise on reality.
As far as the porosity and other printing issues, let's go back to it is a tool in the tool shed, ... learn how to work with it. The printing manufacturers are not going to pander to you for a while as they have bigger more lucrative fish at the moment. Sealing it cannot be a deal breaker. Having to sand it smooth, again that cannot be a deal breaker. I am into the challenge of the design, so, I am going for something different.
Edited by NormL, 11 January 2013 - 06:26 AM.