Monday, 11 March 2013

Bad Guys and Aliens

After setting up a Shapeways shop, I decided to fill in the ranks with some new designs. My Dindrenzi Fleet (bad guys) didn't have any fighters, and I had acquired some new ships for a mixed alliance of aliens. So it was back to the electronic drawing board for some more designs.

The Dindrenzi

These guys are the aggressive invaders, and arguably the bad-guys in the storyline. Their ships have an attractive slab-like construction that reminds me of a WW2 Tiger tank. I wanted to make sure the fighters mimicked that look.

Right from the start I knew my fighters were going to be mostly square looking, with box engines and a longer layout. I only created 3 styles, partly for some difference, partly because the latest updated game rules made one of the four fighter types relatively useless.
These designs are very simple shapes, and they 3D printed fairly well. A little paint and they matched the style of the commercial designs rather well.
You can find them in my shapeways shop as the Aggressor faction. Even if you're not into buying them, there are more photos and a spin-around animation with each. It acts as a free gallery too!


The Aliens

The ones I'm calling the Aliens are a mixed alliance of minor faction non-human creatures. They don't typically deploy large fleets of their own, instead banding together to form mixed fleets. I really enjoyed the opportunity to play with different styles here.The names have been changed to keep me out of trademark trouble!
I did not produce a full range of fighters for each minor faction. They just didn't need it game-wise. These guys are also scattered about the shapeways shop under the names listed on the CAD renderings. Did I mention it was fun? Maybe I did. There are more on the way, and the next post features some more large ships.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

What is Shapeways?

I've mentioned it a few times, but I should probably explain what Shapeways is. Shapeways is a company that provides a 3D printing service. They have a big selection of 3D printers that can do different things. What you do is upload your 3D CAD design to their website, it gets checked, you then select the material/process that you want to use, then Shapeways prints out your design and mails it to you. This is all for a price of course. There are a few other companies that do this, even some with storefronts like 3DPhacktory in Toronto.

What's interesting is the Shapeways store. If you have some designs that you'd like to share or sell, you can open a Shapeways store within the framework of their website and peddle your creations without ever having to go into production in the traditional sense.

It's really very simple. You upload your design, add some photos, a description, etc to dress it up. You can add a mark-up to the cost of printing the object, which acts as your designer's fee. Shapeways handles customer service, production and shipping. They offer a variety of print materials from plastic-like-resin, nylon, sandstone, metals, wax, and ceramics. It's very convenient, and the advantages are obvious.

The drawbacks are higher cost. A 3D printed object is generally more expensive than a cast object, so you can't really add a big mark-up since you can easily price your designs out of your market's budget. Some people just like to share, and some objects have no mark-up. Some people also offer their CAD designs for free download.

After struggling with pricing sets from my own 3D printer, Shapeways seemed like the ideal solution for selling my little space fighters. It was around this time I was getting the most requests. If I was going to run a set on my own printer, the sale would have to be more than $20 + shipping or I'd lose money. Once my time and effort was calculated, it wouldn't really be worthwhile printing anything for less than $50 -- which is a lot for little space fighters! From Shapeways I could provide sets of 10 identical fighters for around $5 per set. So I set up a shop! Cheaper for the buyer, more printing options, less work for me.

I had tested my designs on my own 3D printer, but I ordered a few samples from shapeways to see what they'd look like. I don't want to sell crap, plus I wanted to have an idea of what the different materials did.

They all turned out rather well. The Strong White Flexible is the most economical option. Frosted Ultra Detail is very high quality. In fact it's so good, that the parts turned out better than many metal castings I've seen -- the edges are clean and crisp, and the details are very fine.

So if you are in to designing your own things, Shapeways (or some other company like it) might just be the way to go.

Here you can see the same samples primed grey. The SWF is a little grainy, but not bad for it's size.

Friday, 1 March 2013

A big one.

Happy with the reptilian and aquatic fighters, I decided to try something bigger. Much bigger. There was a minor faction of aliens in the game I was playing that had rules for ships but no models to represent them. I wanted to give those ships a try. Normally what people do in this case is use a proxie -- a stand in ship from another model line, a cardboard cutout, or a scrap of paper with a name on it. I decided I was going to model my own ship and print it on my 3D printer!

I had never created a large ship before. By large I mean 5-6" inches long. Most of the fighters are about 1/4" (6mm) and fairly simple. Big ships need a lot of details, otherwise they look out of scale. This was going to be a lot of work, but I was excited about it.

The ship is supposed to be a carrier vessel -- a big ship that deploys smaller fighters in battle, very similar to a modern day aircraft carrier. This vessel had no precedent, so I had to come up with everything from scratch. Unlike the two sets of fighter, there was no style to imitate. After some brainstorming and image searching I had two sci-fi vessels as inspiration.You may recognize these as the Trade federation Battleship from Star Wars I, and the Bentusi trade ship from Homeworld.

The idea was a doughnut shaped vessel with a central command bastion in the centre. This was something I hadn't seen often. Tactically it offered some advantages over a traditional wedge-shaped ship. The inner surface of the ring was safe from enemy fire, so I thought that might be a clever place to put the openings for launch bays (any opening in your armour is a weak spot). The outside edge of the ring would look well armed and armoured. The inner bastion would house the crew, command, and reactors. It would be armoured at the upper ends, less so in the middle.

The first attempt (unfortunately I lost the image) looked a bit silly. The outer ring looked the same as the final version, but the inner bastion looked like "a Disney Castle", as one fellow put it. It was a struggle to get that part "right". Another fellow finally gave me the suggestion I needed -- offset the inside edge to create the outer edge of the bastion. It made the bastion look a little "beaky" but seemed to fit so much better.

After a few more tries I came up with this:

The model is made of three parts -- the outer ring, the inner bastion and the tiny turrets. It needed to be split for printing purposes. The support structures would have been a mess if it was all one piece. Plus I needed to paint the inside and I was pretty sure I wouldn't get my brush in there with everything in place.
Here are the builds:
Those turrets are pretty small!

After some cleaning and sanding and painting it looked like this:
I painted little lights on the inside to give it some life. I later added markings to the outside surface, but just a few.
I was very happy with this design. It's available for printing in 3 separate parts here. It is known as the "Rushi Battle Carrier". It's a bit expensive, but it's rather large! (4.5 inches long, 3.3 wide) See below, with other model vessels for comparison.