RC cars are hugely popular worldwide, and the RC car community on Shapeways is growing bigger every day. Designer James Knight of Knight Customs is a highly respected creator of RC car accessories. He shares with us how he got started, and how anyone interested in RC cars can use 3D printing to bring their dream cars to life. Let us know in the comments what parts you’d like to see James tackle next.
How did you get started creating custom RC car parts?
I have been a fan of RC cars since a very young age. Many of the cars I have collected were based on full-sized models but didn’t always have all the details of the full-sized vehicle. I started making custom parts to add those missing details and to create my own unique versions of a particular model.
Were you always using 3D printing, or did you begin with a more manual process?
Early on, I used a lot of traditional model-making techniques, glue and plastic, but it was very time-consuming to create multiple copies of certain parts. I also found that by using certain 3D printed materials I could create parts that were much more durable than if they had been created with traditional techniques that were available to me.
What inspired you to open your shop and offer your products to the RC car community?
People within the RC community often asked me to build them a copy of some of the parts I had created, so it just made sense to open a shop so they could purchase one of my creations.
Are there any designs that are proving particularly popular? What need do you see these designs filling for the community?
The most popular designs have been those that allow you to add more realistic details, such as working LED lights to your RC model. This is a popular upgrade for many RC vehicles and if you have ever seen an RC with working lights, they look awesome (see picture of our Halo lights fitted to the Axial Jeep®). Other popular parts allow the modeler to give a fresh new look to a stock vehicle. Just like in the 1:1 world, everyone wants their car to look a little different from the stock showroom model.
How did you determine which brands to offer parts for?
I take inspiration from the 1:1 world. I am a fan of off-road vehicles so I look at the classic and modern vehicles to see which are the most popular and what sort of modifications the 1:1 communities make to those vehicles. I partner with the real 1:1 companies to create officially licensed replicas of many of the popular off-road parts from great companies like Magnaflow, Smittybilt, RotopaX, Front Runner Outfitters, and Ripp Superchargers.
SOR Graphics make our licensed T-shirts and RC vehicle graphic wraps. We also have relationships with leading RC companies Axial, RC4WD, and Vanquish Products.
What advice would you give to RC car fans who are just starting to customize?
I would say make sure you pick a good base for your project. When you decide on the car you want, then check to see if anyone already makes that model as a kit. There are some great base models to use from the top manufactures like Axial and Tamiya. There are many great RC forums to go on to find information and inspiration on building your custom project. My favorite is www.scalebuildersguild.com. Doing a little research online will show you what parts are already available to customize your rig, and of course a search on Shapeways shows you all the great parts the community here have helped create. If you want to learn to create some parts yourself, I recommend Rhino CAD software. It has great functionality for the price and there are many great tutorials on YouTube teaching you how to create models.
In the Axial SCX10 Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon model featured at the top of this post, Knight Customs parts include:
AJ40011 Halo Light Bucket Set (frosted ultra detail)
AJ30006 Skull Face Grill & Mount (white strong & flexible polished)
AJ10030 Smittybilt XRC M.O.D. Bumper & Stinger (stainless steel)
AJ10018 Hood Latch (black strong & flexible)
AJ10023 Smittybilt XRC JK Front Fenders
AJ10020 Snorkel Tall (frosted ultra detail)
AJ10037 Smittybilt Stingray Hood
Thanks for sharing your story with us, James! We can’t wait to see what you decide to work on next.