Perhaps more than self-driving cars, tablet computers and virtual reality, 3D printing is an awesome technology that I can't wait to have in my own home. Right now, for me, it's still on the expensive side but give it even a just a few more years and it will be more affordable for everyone. Thankfully, there are a lot of people with 3D printers at their disposal and they're making great things for the diecast hobby.
One such person is Adriel Johnson, who otherwise goes by 3DBotMaker. Adriel managed to find his way to Redline Derby and shared his design and 3D printed, electronic 4-lane finish line for diecast racing. That article linked to his Etsy store front where I saw he had other diecast accessories, including what looked like a wonderfully simple and compact starting gate. I contacted Adriel about his products and he graciously donated one of his 4-lane starting gates to Redline Derby Racing for a review.
- Durable plastic and construction
- Works with standard Mattel orange track
- Great, compact design
- Very affordable, 2-lane and 4-lane options
- Car length limit is about 3.5"
Where to buy
4-Lane Magnetic Raceway Start Gate from 3DBotMaker
What caught my eye first with this starting gate was its compactness. We've seen a lot of great designs and builds around here for starting gates...from spatulas to plexi glass to vintage playsets. They all work great but many are often limited to working with a single track and can't be moved. Adriel's starting gate is compact and mobile so you can take it from playtime to race time without any extra work or worry.
The 3DBotMaker starting gate is a simple mechanical gate. Mid-lane pegs keep the cars at bay until you push the lever down. A magnet keeps the pegs up. There's nothing magical here...the only magic is that it was designed and printed by Adriel on his 3D printer.
One thing I always wondered about 3D printed objects was their durability. Despite knowing the printers use plastic "ink" (most often), I somehow expected it to be brittle but this is not the case. This starting gate is as solid as any playset accessory you would buy at retail.
The starting gate set comes with the gate and a clamp & screw so you can attach it to your table for fun time play. I tried out the clamp with my preschooler and it held up great. She loved playing with it and had no troubles using it. But after that first test, the starting gate was quickly transferred to my home derby track where it is used without the clamp...and so far so good.
So the starting gate is a quality build, but that's not the best part. The greatest advantage this gate has over others is that it is compatible with standard Hot Wheels orange track. That means the hundreds of feet of orange track you have collected up over the years can finally be used with an affordable starting gate. But I guess if you're a Drag Track or Blutrack racer, then it doesn't help much.
If there's one thing to complain about with 3DBotMaker's starting gate model I received, it's that the starting pegs are just a tad short. Some of my mainline cars with higher bumpers wouldn't sit well and that let do some misfires. I mentioned this to Adriel in an email and then I was reminded about the other great aspect of 3D printing - you can change things whenever you want.
Adriel informed me that he had already changed the design of the starting gate to add a good 1/8" of height to the pegs so now the gate supports 99% of the cars instead of just 95%. Since he makes the starting gates on-demand, he can continually improve designs based on feedback. By all rights, every version of an accessory he produces will be better than the last. Now that's powerful.
UPDATE: 3DBotMaker sent me an updated version of this starting gate I can confirm that the pegs are taller and appear to be a bit thicker too. The cars that had issue with the pegs before no longer have any problems.
If there was one other very nitpicky thing to mention, it's that there isn't much spacing between the lanes. When I connected 4 lanes of orange track they were very tight together...not to the point of warping or bending but maybe a little too snug for my tastes. Again, this is very minor and doesn't really impact your racing, just something I noticed.
Easy, durable and affordable
To say the 3DBotMaker 4-lane starting gate is worth the price of $25 would be an understatement. What you get is a single-purpose, well-made accessory designed by someone who saw the same problem you do...there's nothing like this on the retail shelves. And if you don't need 4-lanes, you're in luck because he also produces a 2-lane version for only $17...so you have no excuses.
Adriel makes several other diecast racing accessories including 2-lane track connectors, 2-to-1 lane funnels and even an electronic sensor finish line (which I'll be reviewing in the near future).
I've messaged with Adriel a few times and I can tell you that he's excited about making these accessories and is open to your ideas for improvements and new products. He's a RLD member so you can always send him a message through our site.
Oh, and I forgot to mention one other downside to this whole thing...seeing just a few of the wonderful accessories you can 3D print for diecast racing just makes me want a 3D printer even more. Imagine all your ideas being just a few clicks away. Think about it...track accessories, custom car parts, trophies...just about anything. Right now I'm thinking I might ask Santa for a printer this Christmas.