Hold on to your pauldrons, you're in for a long post...
I've spent the past few months playing around with products from Shapeways (www.shapeways.com
) and figured I'd write it up and post it. Let others learn from my mistakes! The first thing I did was order the sample kit just to get some hands on time with the various materials. It's a bit expensive, but it does come with a coupon that mitigates that a bit. It's a lot smaller than it looks on the webpage, being about 95mm x 50mm.
It contains eight samples:
1 - Antique Bronze
2 - White, Strong and Flexible
3 - Alumide
4 - Full Colour Flexible
5 - Black Detail
6 - White Detail
7 - Transparent Detail
8 - Grey Robust
It arrives kinda dusty actually. I was expecting something slicker after my experiences with cast material but it's mostly dusty, especially the sintered parts. A quick brush got rid of most of it though. Antique bronze looks nice, but it's got (and this will become a constant chorus) a slightly sandy texture to it, like something that's been sand cast and not polished yet.
White Strong and Flexible (WS
&F), which many many of the 40K
parts seem to have as their default setting is the next sample in the kit. It's also really sandy feeling. I'm hoping that a coat of paint or two will cover that up.
Alumide basically feels just like the WS
&F, only a little colder since metal transfers heat more efficiently. It does have a better detail than WS
&F, but it's not as good as any of the Detail plastics.
Full Colour is colourful, but a touch muted. The colour separation around the printed letter that labels it is fantastic, but the edges are a little sandy and they also have a lot of little white bits of flash on the edges. Those might be easier to clean up if the piece wasn't trapped in the sample frame. It is pretty soft, and a fingernail can scuff up the surface.
The three Detail materials are basically the same. They do not have the sandy feel of the WS
&F and feel closer to cast resin parts. The clear seems to have slightly more details than the others, and the white feels the hardest. The black and clear have a slightly more rubbery feel to them. However, the differences are not major.
The Grey Robust feels the strongest, but it also has the most obvious tool marks on it. It's actually sort of distracting, it's got enough ridges that it sort of looks like the surface of a record.
I then ordered a field gun and vehicle light in WSF and some bolt-heads in Clear Detail (CD).
The first picture is of the detail bolts that I ordered They look fantastic really. Haven't worked with them too much. They're really tiny. A few broke off during shipping, but that's not really a big deal, since you want them off the sprue anyway.
The field gun came in a number of pieces allowing you to assemble several different gun options. I think I'm gonna need more magnets. Or I'm just going to build one and use the rest for parts.
Once again, it's smaller than expected. One really does need to pay attention to the dimensions when ordering. It would be fine for IG
, but it's a little small for orks. Having worked with it a little the WSF is really strong. In order to assemble the two gun barrels I had to use styrene tube. The creator figured why print tubes when any modeler worth their salt has already got some. Save you a bit of cash. If you look at the las-style barrel (the one on top) you'll notice a little cast ring. What is hidden behind the barrel is the thin bit of plastic that's holding that ring in place. I had to drill through that ring to drill out the base. It was, to be perfectly honest, a recipe for disaster and even though I was drilling very carefully I expected it to tear off at any second. It did not. The pieces were actually sort of difficult to drill into. They were also sort of difficult to file down. They were also sandy. The piece required a bit of brushing and the use of various pointy things to clean un-sintered powder out of the various voids. No flash or air piping to cut off, but it's got it's own special problems.
It doesn't take zap-a-gap real well. It's too porous and the glue sinks right in. I've dug around on the forums and they suggest using the actual gel zap-a-gap since even the thicker "gap filling" style soaks right in. I wasn't able to find actual gel style superglue, but I did buy a tube of the extra-thick FLGS
glue and it seems to work just fine.
While searching for glue advice I found these links which might be of interest.
Painted tiny tank turrets (and a demonstration of why it's called White, Strong and Flexible)
The same individual had problems with White Detail warping. Something to keep in mind when ordering something with long thin bits.
I assembled field gun kit as a mortar and bitbashed some of the remaining parts into a sorta freakishly long Kan-gun and both of those sorta primed. I also used one of the bolt-heads on a piece I later made a cast of with less than stellar results. The rough texture of these parts tends to grab your mold making material, even when you remember to apply your mold release stuff.
This stuff really is stronger than it looks. It looks like it's made out of sugar cubes and it makes you really nervous handling it. Then you try and saw through a bit and it actually seems stronger than plain old polystyrene. One problem with modding WSF is that any place you cut or saw has a smooth surface instead of a sandy one.
Priming is interesting. WSF is porous, so it soaks up primer. This isn't a real problem unless you've got something you've already bashed together that is a mix of polystyrene and sintered nylon. The PS
is completely, thoroughly primed after one pass and the nylon is just sorta light grey. It also looks like the standard GW
primer doesn't stick to the sintered nylon really well after it's been cut. It works just fine on the sandy bits, but the smooth spots left by sawing don't hold onto it well at all, coming clean with just a scrape of a thumbnail. I might need to sand it a bit before priming again, or find something designed to stick to nylon. Or I can just superglue a piece of PS
sheet over it.
So in short, I'd be wary of using this in a project that involves doing a lot of cutting since you'll wind up with smooth bits. You also want to prime your piece before you start gluing other bits of plastic to it. Once it's primed it takes paint pretty well, but drybrushing tends to go awry due to the rough texture of the surface you're working with. You can slightly smooth out your surface by ignoring the THIN YOUR PAINTS rule and applying them a bit thick. Here it is completely painted. I didn't really "ork it up" much due to the aforementioned difficulties in mixing WSF and PS
. If anyone asks I'm going to just say it was recently captured and the meks haven't had time to tinker with it yet.
Working with the various detail plastics has it's own problems. First off, a lot of the time your model will arrive slightly damp. You just need to set it for a day or two to let the fluid evaporate. Do not try and assemble a damp model, it doesn't work. You may also need to clean off the substrate that is used to support the model while it's being printed. Depending on exactly what product you used for your printing you'll need to use different cleaner. The shapeways forums have advice depending on the material. Sometimes it's a simple as simple green, other times it's pure acetone. Don't skip this step, as horrible as the cleaners may be. It's all that stands between you and a lumpy model. The details plastics, while not as powdery as the WSF will have a distinctive "grain" caused by the printing process. There is no way to control exactly how your model will be positioned when printed, so you just have to roll your dice and take your chances. Once again, a good thick non-thinned layer of paint can help hide the grain on large smooth surfaces.
Working with these is a little different than PS
. They aren't as flexible and thus may snap instead of cutting cleanly with a knife. If you have to make any cuts through thick parts you probably want to bust out the razor saw. They do at least take primer a lot more like PS
, so you shouldn't have as much trouble mixing and matching PS
parts with detail parts.
After finishing working with these pre-designed parts I decided to try and make my own. Why the hell not... I decided to try and make Killa Kan weapons since I'd got a pack of the new plastic Kans for my birthday and was sorta pissed off that despite Kans coming in squads of three, and being sold in boxes of three ...
you only get one of each weapon even though you pretty much always field them with matching weapons.
I started off with a pencil and paper, doing a bunch of quick sketches. Many of these sucked, and quick sketch is as far as they'll ever get. The ones that didn't suck got more detail added. I usually used some pre-existing weapon for an inspiration, and then orky-fied it.
This one is based of an Ork-ified version of the old Mitrailleuse early machine gun.
Once I had a good number of sketches I then realized I hadn't used a 3D rendering program since using Lightwave. On my Amiga.
I wound up using Blender since it was free. Now, there are plenty of tutorials available for Blender, but most of them are for older versions and thus don't really help. Make sure to check that version number before you start reading, or you'll get really detailed instructions calling for you to push a button that no longer exists.
After a few days of intermittent work and swearing ... I was on my way.
When you're making a 3D model for printing the big concept to keep in mind is "manifold". Basically this means that you've got a model with an inside and an outside. Otherwise the program can't figure out what should be solid and what should be empty. Hopefully this diagram will help. If you mess this up your model won't print. You also want to make sure that none of your parts are too thin. There's a guide on the shapeways site listing the minimum thicknesses of the various printing materials.
You want to build your model assuming that the grid squares in blender are going to be one millimeter.
The next step I took is to scan my drawings and lay them in the background of blender so that I can use them as guide to start working on my model. Since I was working on a Killa Kan gun I also took a photo of a killa kan gun and used that to make sure that my scaling was correct.
The shoulder ball is exactly
7mm across. Scale accordingly.
Of course I only figured this out after screwing it up once and producing some hilariously liliputian weapons.
Once you've gotten your design finished you need to select all the pieces you want to print and "Export as .stl file". Then upload it to Shapeways, tell them that 1 unit is equal to 1 millimeter and wait for them to check it for manifold problems. This usually doesn't take more than ten or fifteen minutes.
Some of you might be wondering why I have sprues on a model that is being printed in 3D with lasers. Shapeways doesn't support multi-part models, so you have to make little sprues to join all your parts together. Don't make them too thin or bits can break off and get lost during the packing and mailing process.
The finished Mitrailleuse style Big Shoota.
Of course RPGs
will still be around.
I might have watched too much Robotech as a kid.
The other Big Shoota.
These designs are for sale! SHAMELESS PLUG