Friday, May 1, 2020

Sci-Fi Dinosaurs Kickstarter coming soon

I've been working on this project for over a year and it's close to fruition.  Of course, the pandemic kind of threw plans up in the air for a while.  I'm still hopeful to get these guys done this year -- and this is the concept art that started it all!

Edit: Photos of the actual sculpts are now up!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

How expensive is it to get into 3d printing?

Someone posed this question to me recently in the form of "this Kickstarter has neat model ships -- how expensive would it be to get a 3d printer and print them?"  Here was my answer, although I can boil it down to the last paragraph -- you aren't buying a 3d printer; you are buying a new hobby:

How expensive is it?  That's a long answer.  Really long. :0

My flippant TLDR answer is that it will take you $704.52 and 1 year, 6.5 days, 3 hours to print one ship.  At least, that's what it's taken me :-)  If you want a new hobby and this KS is the catalyst for starting that new hobby -- it's a great hobby!  It's fun and rewarding when you finally get a print just right.  But if you just want a model ship -- hire somebody to print it for you and let them deal with the headaches.  

The $704.52 is for: buying your first printer ($300), buying your second printer after something goes wrong with the first one and you try to fix it and FUBAR it ($300), the price of the filament for all the failed prints before you get a good one ($100) and the $4.52 in filament when everything goes right and you finally get your ship to print exactly right.  Oh -- and that is ZERO dollars for labor.  (How much is your time worth?)

The time is for: the 1 year learning curve from knowing zero to finally becoming somewhat competent at printing.  At "competent" experience level: Your prints still fail, but they usually aren't catastrophic failures and you can either live with the errors, fix the errors in software and reprint, or fix the errors on the print with sandpaper and super glue.  The 6.5 days is for printing the actual models -- those ship hulls each consist of at least 3 pieces, each of which will take 12 to 20 hours to print.  And the 3 hours is with sandpaper and hobby knife cleaning each piece up and then fitting it to the next piece -- you know, if the piece actually printed near perfectly and didn't warp at the bottom (due to the heated build plate) and now the parts don't quite line up...

If you don't want a new hobby, you can get someone else to print it. would be quite expensive but the quality is guaranteed.  And there are a number of websites where you can submit a project and get bids from other hobbyists on printing it for you.   Also - if the library or your job has one -- ask them how to use it and try it out before you buy one.  Try printing a set of normal 6-sided dice and see what you get.

So you want to get into 3d printing?  First question -- what kind of printer do you want?  In general -- FDM or FFF (fused filament fabrication) printers are good for large projects like the ships in the KS and are less expensive to purchase and operate; Resin printers produce way better quality, so they're good for the miniatures in the KS, but the cost is higher both for purchase and for materials.  

Here's my experience for what it's worth. All that I said above in the TLDR holds true for FDM (fused filament) printers. I don't have any experience with resin printers as, although they far exceed the quality of FDM printers, the resin used and the fumes from the resin while printing are both toxic. Seriously - you literally need to wear gloves and not get this sh*t on your skin or breathe it in.  Someday I will convert part of my storage shed into a resin printing station but not now when the kids are young.

Why would I want a resin printer?  Because if you print with a resin printer, you get a miniature figure with all the high detail you expect. It will look exactly like it does on the computer screen.  Well, it will after you spend a few hours with an ultrasonic cleaner, alcohol bath, wet sanding, etc..  Oh and using a UV protective primer so it doesn't melt in sunlight. :-)

FDM works for me for now and for the SHIPS in this KS, it's arguably a better choice because the build plates are so much bigger (for the price).  Resin printers are limited in their size unless you spend big bucks.  So you're looking at maybe a 5x5x2.5 inch print area.  My FDM has 8x8x8 -- it's not a huge difference but it adds up when you are talking about multiple parts.  (That, by the way, is the reason that the KS has a pledge level just for resin prints - they have to be smaller parts).  But for the miniatures -- you're definitely going to see some lines on them with FDM.    (You'll see lines on the ships, too, but that will be easier to sand away).

Right now, the 3d printing industry is like the early computing industry.    If you buy a low-end printer (below $300) you have to expect you will spend time tinkering with it.  If you tinker with it enough, you will break it and have to repair it.  Or FUBAR it and get another printer so that you can print the parts to fix the first printer (that's where I'm at right now).  But it's ok -- you will have learned so much by FUBAR'ing the first printer that you will have much greater success with the second.  And guess what? In the meantime, the printers have gotten faster and better and dropped in price!  Sound familiar?  In 1993, I read an article about the first 3d-printer.  It was the size of a refrigerator, cost $100k and could print a cube the size of a postage stamp.  (again - sound familiar?) And I remember thinking that in 10 years I would have one of those on my desk.  Well, it took a little longer but that's where we are today.

But the next step is to raise it to consumer level like an inkjet printer -- and we're definitely not there yet.  In 10 years, there will be a resin printer with a recyclable cartridge for the resin, non-toxic fumes, fast print speed, non-damaging light for curing (did I mention needing eye protection while you cure the resin? Don't want to go blind, you know.) and only fails as often as an office printer (think the frequency of paper jams, clogged toner, occasional maintenance that's easy to perform -- that sort of thing).

What you have now -- your print might not stick to the build plate, so at 17 hours into an 18 hour print the printer knocks it off into the floor and spends the next hour pouring molten plastic over it. (done it).  Or maybe it sticks too well, so when you pull the part off the printer the part breaks (ditto). Maybe your x-axis stabilizer wobbles so every 4th line is juuuuust a hair off and your print looks like crap and you have to tear the whole machine down and re-seat the bar (done it).  Or one of the 300 (not exaggerating) settings in the slicer (the software you have to learn to take the stil that you get with the KS and turn it into gcode that the printer can understand -- a bit like compiling C++ code into machine instructions) is just a hair off and you have to print small test prints over and over and over while adjusting JUST ONE of those variables each time until you figure out why you are getting so much stringing (thin, wispy plastic that occurs when the nozzle moves from one part to another across a void) -- done it, done it, done it to death.

Here's a good website with illustrations about Things That Go Wrong: 

And here's one of mine that did go wrong :0 --

And oh god, I haven't mentioned that your build plate has to be absolutely level, that you have to do that by manually adjusting multiple screws around the plate, and that it has to be within a tolerance level of a single sheet of paper.  Again, not exaggerating -- you put a piece of paper on the build plate and lower the nozzle until it touches.  Auto-leveled build plates are coming -- high-end ones have it now so it will trickle down to low-end within a year or two)

And that's just the hardware.  I alluded to the fact that you also have to learn how to use a slicer.  The good news is there are some good free ones -- the bad news is I was too dumb to figure them out and had to buy one.

CONCLUSION:  It's a wonderful, wonderful hobby. When you can print a glow-in-the-dark My Little Pony for your daughter and she falls in love with it and sleeps with it every night as a night light...yeah, all the trouble is worth it. Just be aware that when you buy a printer today, you are buying a hobby and to get good results you are going to be spending some late nights one-on-one with your printer, your slicer and the generally wonderful support on reddit forums while you try to figure out one glitch after another.  Or you just accept the imperfections and move on -- that's generally what I do.  I am printing out some ships now and there are strings all over the railings.  So am I reprinting it?  Nope - I'm taking some side cutters and cutting them off and lightly sanding them smooth.  An hour doing that is better than re-printing for 12 hours or spending days trying to tweak the slicer.  And in my spare time, I do tinker with the slicer -- some day I'll find just the right setting.  In the meantime, I've got some 15mm sci-fi tanks to print!  And then some houses.  And then a pirate ship.  And a rainbow-colored toy boat for my daughter's bath-time. And then a sky ship.  And then...

Friday, March 6, 2020

15mm Quar Kickstarter on now!

Zombiesmith's Quar 15mm 2.0 Kickstarter is underway.  I've loved the Quar since I first came across them and their murderous little hearts.  I'll be using them for both Chain of Command and the Company level game that is being produced as part of the KS.  KS ends March 23 2020.

I love their vehicles and came up with this for the Creevin "Anfyr" tractor: "In my head-canon, in order for the Creevin to fire that big, off-center gun on the Anfyr tractor, they first put the turret in "neutral." When the gun fires, the whole turret spins around one entire revolution to absorb the recoil. This vertigo-inducing behavior can result in the crew staggering around and chundering for hours after an intense firefight. As a result, Creevin tankers are often referred to as "Drunken Dragoons" with varying degrees of respect depending on whether their posterior was just saved by one or if one just drove over the nice foxhole you just dug."

Monday, May 13, 2019

First Bones 4 model painted

Yep, the ghost pirates from Bones 4 sucked me in.  :-)  Here's my first model painted from the ginormous plastic pile that was delivered a couple of weeks ago.  Pretty good for me to get this painting table so quickly.   Oh, and my wife and I are aiming for "tabletop good enough" paint jobs for these, so I haven't done anything with the basing.  We have so many to get through we just want to put paint to plastic and get gaming with them!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

New Terrain - Infinity Colored

I'm a huge fan of these Infinity Colored terrain pieces.  They have a nice retro-future look to them and most could be at home in fantasy and near-future as well as far future.  Looking forward to getting some good use out of them this year.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

A brief post about Warlords of Erewhon

A brief comment on Warlords of Erewhon

I'm a fan of Rick Priestly games and had a wonderful opportunity to chat with him at a GW Games Day in Baltimore.  In fact, he signed my WH40K softcover ("It's been a while since I've seen one of those!") and gave me a one-one-one demo of the system that would become Warmaster.

So when Warlord Games announced Rick's Warlords of Erewhon, I took the unusual step of pre-ordering it.  And I'm glad I did.  Why?  Because when I set up a simple 2 unit scenario to demo the games to my wife, it turned out to have a really interesting set of decisions.  Let's set the stage:

I put together a unit of 5 Roman Legionnaires using the Dwarf warrior stats.  My wife took her Amazons which actually do have stats from the Olympians army list.  I randomly put the units out and they turned out to be about 16" away from each other.  

I drew the first order and realized that I couldn't charge her unit.  So I just moved it 5" closer -- this put me at a disadvantage as the only way that I could get my charge in first next turn would be to draw my order dice first.  My wife had a much more interesting choice.  She could either hope that she would draw the first order next turn or go on Ambush this turn and wait for my attack.  I would have gone for the Ambush but she chose to trust in luck.  Unfortunately my luck held out.  

Turn 2, I drew the first order and charged in.   For this combat, we treated the Amazons as having spears and my Romans took a casualty on their charge in despite their high armor.  Then thanks to some abysmal rolling I ended up losing the combat and retreating.  In the following turn the Amazons were able to charge and auto-routed my Romans by getting more pin results.

And that was it - a very simple demo that left me wanting to play more.  I like the activation, the system is modern and clean with simple die rolls and simple modifiers.  My one complaint is that there is no insight into the points system.  I want to add the Shieldwall rule to my Romans but there's no advice on how to cost it.  It's a minor complaint, though.  [UPDATE: Points system has been published by Mr. Priestly)

All in all, a very solid set of rules and I'm looking forward to getting my skeletons finished and getting my goblins and orks to battle once more.  It's been a long time for those guys.

What happened to 2018?

This is becoming a theme, isn't it?  Well, a new baby (our second) coupled with some health woes kept me from returning to blogging.  I'm going to try to do better.  And I have good reason to -- Invasion:UFO is nearing completion and will be heading to Kickstarter along with at least 10 beautiful sculpts done by the talented Andrew May of Meridian Miniatures.  Final sculpts are done and I will soon have the first models off the molds.  In fact, I am looking for some professional painters to paint a few for the Kickstarter. Drop me a line if interested.