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Friday 3 February 2023

Marc Pavone's experiments with 3D printing: Food for thought?

Marc Pavone is one of the stalwart supporters and users of my PORTABLE WARGAME. He regularly contributes to the FaceBook page as well as to the Compendium.

He recently contacted me about his experiments with 3D printing, and I was so impressed that I asked him if I could feature some of his prints on my blog, along with some explanatory text by him.


I use a ToyBox brand printer; it's geared towards children, so quality is sacrificed for speed and ease of use. Despite the limitations I've managed to do quite a bit. Everything is made up of very basic shapes and the results are a bit rough as the closeups show. They also illustrate the limitations of an inexpensive 3D printer.

I started by simply trying to create a hex of the correct size, in this case 37mm. That was quick and easy so the next step was making a raised hill that I could place a figure on without it falling over.

This was also easy to do, so the next thing I tried was making a hill that wasn't a perfect hex. I did that by overlapping 4 truncated cones which left me with a flat space to put a mini on while also giving it a little slope so it's obvious that it's a hill.

The mountains came next and they're just overlapping cones. I made a few different ‘mountain ranges’ so there's a little variety. These were designed with the intention of making it difficult if not impossible to stand a figure on without them falling over, as I use the mountains as impassable terrain.

The last terrain I designed were the forts and forests. They are simply cubic walls with cylinders for the towers. The trickiest part to design was the arch for the gate since that tool is opaque in its implementation. The different design options don't change what it seems like they should, but I got it working. The layers of the print work to my advantage here since it gives a stacked masonry look. The forest hexes are cleverly designed, even if I say so myself. Three of the trees are the same height while the other four are of lower, varied heights. This allows me to stand a unit on top without it tipping or sliding off. Then I added domes as boulders and shrubs to complete the look. The unpainted fort on the left was an experiment in how detailed I could make it. I like the result, but it takes longer to print.

I then tried creating some 3D soldiers. They are almost entirely cylinders and cones, with a couple cubes thrown in to make the backpacks. I was surprised that I was able to include a nose on the face as well as a brim and decoration on the soldier's shako, in addition to his feet. The musket is still a tube, but notice in the second picture, the soldier has hands that are posed appropriately. The soldiers in the first picture are the simplest and were more about learning the design app than realism. They are about 1" tall and are shown front and back and are printed at 100%, 75% and 50% scale. The nice thing is scaling them is a matter of a couple clicks and it's done. The soldiers in the second picture are also 1" tall but I included the bedroll, backpack, nose, brim, decoration on the hat, rounded the shoulders, added hands and feet and the crossbelts so the body has some detail. Overall, they have a very Nutcracker look to them.

My last project was to create 37mm hex bases that I designed for use with paper minis. There is a raised unit number (1-6) on the back side for the player's reference and a raised triangle pointing in the direction of the unit's facing. After printing I had to clean out the slot a bit and then I used a black permanent marker to ink in the number and the facing arrow. The slot will very snugly hold a paper mini printed on card. I like to use Patrick Crusiau's paper minis for my games. They're cartoony without being silly and just accurate enough without being unusable in any game besides a Waterloo game.


I was very impressed by Marc's experiments in 3D printing. It is something that I have considered doing but felt that it was probably beyond my level of competence to do, but Marc has demonstrated that with a bit of trial and error and some patience, anyone can design things that can be 3D printed and that will fulfill one's own wargaming requirements.

It has certainly given me something to think about, and with my birthday not far off, who knows if I'll buy myself a simple 3D printer as a birthday present to myself!

14 comments:

  1. Bob -
    Qualitatively these productions look fine to me. The soldiery I really like, though how 'mass produceable' they are mighht determine how worthwhile would be that project.

    I was looking at my 'Darkest Aithiops' East Africa sailboats today and wondering about what I could do for deck crew and gun crews - purely symbolic, of course. May something along these lines might be the caper!
    Cheers,
    Ion

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    1. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

      I’m no expert, but I understand that it is possible to set up larger printers to print a number of figures at the same time if they are joined together by a simple, removable lattice that seems to resemble the sprue found in most plastic kits.

      Simple 3D printed figures and guns would be ideal crews for your Colonial sailing vessels.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Most impressive - I’m amazed at what Mark achieved there, Bob, starting with basic hexes and ending with full BUAs and perfectly serviceable model figures, too!! Thanks for sharing that 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼.

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    1. Martin S.,

      I think that his incremental approach to developing his 3D designs is the right way to go, and it’s inspired me to give serious thought to buying a simple 3D printer. If I do, I’ll certainly share my progress online.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. This is another great example of how 3D printing can really help the wargaming world. It's amazing how simple shapes can be put together to create very clear and evocative products. I've been working on mostly colonial units at my blog. I also have some hoplite/early Roman republic, Vikings/Saxon, 18th Century, and ACW units designed. Each stand costs me pennies. A complete set of armies and some basic terrain for The Portable Wargame could easily be had for $10 in material cost. You'd still want/need to pain them and the detail wouldn't match metal castings or injection molded plastic, but you could have a semi-custom range that you could easily expand as necessary.
    (https://compactwargaming.blogspot.com)

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    1. RyanRecker,

      I agree that 3D printing is a real game changer, especially for those wargamers who don’t necessarily want highly detailed figures. Years ago, I used loads of 15mm Peter Laing figures that were less detailed that the ones that Marc Pavone has designed and printed.

      I have to look into the cost of buying and running a 3D printer and producing - for example - a hundred 15mm figures, but I suspect that it is less than the cost of buying the equivalent number of metal castings by quite some margin.

      I like the sound of your $10 PW figures and terrain idea, and I’ll be paying your blog a visit later today to see what your armies look like.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Bob,

      I just ran some quick numbers on material costs. A block of 6 infantry figures scaled to 25mm (to top of head), in my colonial range, mounted on a 30mm square has an estimated cost of $0.18. Cavalry would use more plastic and have more plastic used in supporting overhangs but would certainly be less than $.50 per stand of 3 troopers.
      A $10 investment would easily pay for the material cost of 2 armies suitable for the Portable Wargame. The printer itself is more of an investment. They are coming down in price, but can still be relatively finicky.
      Although it primarily gets used for wargaming/board gaming pieces, I have used the printer to make some replacement parts for aging farm equipment, custom baby monitor mounts, home decor, and some woodworking jigs. Excluding the wargaming/board gaming efforts, It still probably hasn't paid for itself yet.
      Unless you're looking for another hobby, I'd try to find a local hobbyist who can print off a few things for you. Their machine is probably sitting idle more than not.

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    3. RyanRecker,

      Thank you very much for the cost breakdown. I found it very helpful and it certainly makes buying a 3D printer even more appealing.

      I’ve tried finding someone local who owns a 3D printer, but so far my search has been to no avail.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. The Infantry figures in the second figure picture are great - I would use those for PW as they are; just need cavalry and artillery, plus a set in blue plastic! Great work Marc, and thanks for sharing these images Bob.

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    1. Maudlin Jack Tar,

      They remind me of the sort of figures one sometimes seems in children’s books from the nineteenth century, and would be ideal for imagi-nations set in that period. I hope that Marc will produce some guns and cavalry in due course. I’d love to see what designs he comes up with!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. I like these! I haven't done any designing of my own, but there are plenty of models available on Thingiverse and WargamesVault that I can print in the teen tech lab at the library. Check your own public library; there are many these days with 3D printers for use. I'm hoping to have a couple War of the Pacific ships printed next week.

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    Replies
    1. Jennifer,

      Thanks for the tips about where to find existing designs that I can download and use.

      I have checked our local libraries and unfortunately none of them do 3D printing. The do lots of activities including IT and computer skills courses, but no 3D design work.

      I hope that your War of the Pacific ships turn out all right. I assume that they were designed by David Manley, who is the doyen of British naval wargaming and a professional naval architect to boot.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Thanks for the kind comments, everyone. I thought I'd drop in 24 hours later to answer questions and address comments:
      @Archduke Piccolo - The software allows you to copy/paste objects on the virtual printer bed so mass production is quite simple. All I have to do is scale them, copy/paste and arrange them on the printer bed. I could even add a base in the software so there's no need to glue anything to a base. I can print 3 37mm hexes at a time and that runs about 15~30 minutes depending on the complexity of the print.
      I also took copious, detailed notes on paper so I can change elements of the figure relatively easy, even if I'm rebuilding from scratch.
      @Maudlin Jack Tar and @ Jennifer - Cavalry, artillery and even, maybe, some flatiron ships are my next projects. I think I'll work on the cavalry and artillery as flats though. When making 3d prints you have to be very careful of "overhangs" during the print. They require support or some clever positioning on the bed to minimize them. The gun barrel of an artillery piece is a prime example. A horse may very well be too much for me to design for now. Thankfully I have 3 sets of Risk! that come with very nice, generic figures. I have used the artillery and cavalry from those as generic soldiers.
      @Bob - Get the best printer you can afford. Ours came as a Christmas gift for our 11 year old boys. They like printing pre-designed items but they haven't gotten into designing their own toys yet. The software you use is important to what you will be able to design. I have to look more into using the free Microsoft 3d design software bundled with Windows. It seems a step above the ToyBox software. Definitely look into finding "hacker" or "maker" spaces near you. They will often have good quality 3d printers you can rent time on and they'll have people who can give really good advice and guidance when printing. I like the websites Hero Forge for fantasy miniature creation and Cults3d for free 3d printer files for things I can't design myself just yet.

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    3. Mr. Pavone,

      Thank you for the very extensive feedback. I’ll certainly be taking your advice to heart and have been looking at somewhere I can see a 3D printer in action.

      All the best,

      Bob

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