Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shapeways Models!

After some failures and fixups, I finally received the 3D prints of my models from Shapeways.

First up are the simple missiles.  There wasn't much detail on these, but the nozzles on the back turned out to be acceptable.  In any case, they're for making markers, and now I've got 40 of the suckers.

I used the "white detail" material for the two 1/1000 scale VentureStar shuttles, and they turned out okay, with around the same amount of "grain" as the transparent detail material from the previous Shapeways posts.  The wings and tail-fins are bent a bit though, but I can probably use the hot/cold water method to straighten them.
The backs of the VentureStar models turned out okay, and the linear aerospike engines have the right shape.  The detail on the engines (separate segments of curved outer shells) are rather shallow though.  Maybe I should remember to make detail more exaggerated so they show up better in miniature.
For one of the shuttles, I put a hole on the bottom to accept the 1/8 inch rare earth magnets I use to fix models to stands.  The hole also offered an opportunity to hollow out the model to save money on materials.  This one turned out to be around 20% cheaper than the solid model.

These two are around 39 mm long, which is surprisingly large if you are used to "fleet scale" ship miniatures like me.  The real VentureStar was supposed to have been around 38.6 m long.

I also printed some 1/3000 scale VentureStars.  These guys are tiny, at around 13 mm long.  To make sure they printed well, I ordered them using the "frosted ultra detail" material, which cost more but allowed thinner detail to be rendered.  Here you can see the size comparison between them and their bigger cousins.

The FUD material actually does seem to offer a higher resolution.  As you can see in the picture above, the grains are much shallower, even though these models are tiny.

Overall, these are nice looking models, and a good first try for me.  The VentureStars don't have a lot of detail, so they were a good fit for my early modeling attempts.

The only real problem here is that Shapeways recently raised their prices, and their use of UPS as the only shipping option exposes me to the "Brokerage Fees of Democles" penalty.  I'm debating whether to keep on using them, but they are the only game in town, at least so far.  No other 3D printing service caters to small miniature makers like they do, and the ones that do print miniatures tend to be for prototyping.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Getting ready for another DBA campaign with the local group, I managed to finish my long-planned Parthian DBA army last week.  All of the miniatures are from HaT.  They are decent enough, but not as detailed and crisp as Caesar or Zvezda.

I didn't make all of the possible troop type combinations for this list, but there's enough to get several good combinations.
These are the main striking power of this army, the cataphracts.  The DBA 2.2 list actually allows five stands total, but I only painted four here, including the general.
 A close up of the general stand, with a standard bearer and drummer.
The horse archers, the backbone of this army.  The list actually allows 10 stands of them, but I only have 8 here.  In DBA, light horse are very hard to handle, and it really doesn't pay to have too many of them.
A close up of a horse archer stand.
Another horse archer stand showing the famous "Parthian shot", where the horsemen shoot their bows behind them.
The DBA list allows foot troops too, with a total of two psiloi and one auxilia.  However, I only have one of each.  The other psiloi cuts into a cataphract stand, and I don't want too many horse archers.

Here's the entire army.  I've been lucky playing with it so far, but an army with this many light horse has serious control issues.  Oh well, it'll be a challenge in the campaign.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

3D Models

Inspired by the Shapeways miniatures I bought, I got into 3D computer modelling in order to make some of my own miniatures using Shapeways.

I started out doing something simple, a missile miniature design that I intend to use as counters in space games.

Basically, I envision several of these small models on a base, representing a swarm of missiles in games that allow them.

Then I moved onto something a bit more complex. I've always been interested in real-world spacecraft designs, so I chose the next subject from that area. The Lockheed Martin VentureStar was an ill-fated 1990s design that was supposed to replace the space shuttle. However, various problems with the project caused its cancellation by NASA. I've recreated that model using various online sources, mostly artistic pictures of the small-scale test prototype, the X-33. Some of the details concerning the VentureStar were vague, so I tried filling things in using the X-33's design. The good thing too, is that this miniature can also be used as a sci-fi space shuttle. I'm making two different sizes of the VentureStar miniature for now, one 1/1000 scale, and one 1/3000 scale. These will be good sizes to use in games. If the first prints are successful, I'll make a bigger and more detailed model, maybe 1/500, that can be used for display purposes.

I've actually uploaded my finished files to Shapeways and ordered miniatures. I'm just waiting now for them to produce and mail the miniatures to me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Painted Shapeways Minis

I managed to get a basic paint job done on the ships from the previous post. The material seems to take Gesso and paint quite well, and I didn't experience any adherence issues. Because of the "grain" problem, I didn't do any drybrushing, in case the grain showed up even worse than before, but I will probably do a wash eventually.

The Dyna-Soar shuttles from the front. They look quite nice, and the grains are not noticeable unless you put your eyes very close to the miniatures.

The side and back of the Dyna-Soars.

The painted Orion ship and the two little corvettes. The grains are still somewhat visible on the larger ship, but again, only if you look too hard.

The back of the same ships. I really like the metallic look that the Orion push plate ended up with. The truss structure of the MOL corvettes didn't turn out badly either, even though they are solid rather than hollow inside.

A size comparison between the MOL corvette and a Kuan Yin class ship from Attack Vector Tactical. Sorry about the bare metal, it doesn't photograph well. You can see the difference between 3D-printed and metal models here. Metal can have much thinner structures.

Overall, it seems the Shapeways miniatures are perfectly fine for gaming purposes. I think I'll definitely get more of them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Shapeways and Hard SF

The 3D print-on-demand service Shapeways has been gaining popularity with miniature gamers, with many people trying out custom miniatures for very obscure or specialized subjects. I've always been interested in hard science fiction spacecraft, and some of the producers/sellers on Shapeways actually make them.

To try out the new technology and the subject, I ordered some spacecraft miniatures from a company called Hobby Fuzion. Hobby Fuzion, run by a guy with the handle Grimjier, offers a line of miniatures from his Legend of Sol: Torch War universe. As far as I understand, this is sort of an alternate history universe where proposed 1950s/'60s space technology came to fruition, and the Cold War took place in space as well as on Earth. This means there are plenty of goodies from space geeks' fondest memories - Orion spacecraft, Dyna-Soar, etc. I ordered a few select miniatures from the line to see how well 3D-printed products look. Sorry for the quality of the photographs, but the translucent material of the miniatures made it hard to take them properly.

These are a couple of "MOL Corvettes". They seem to be made from the Manned Orbiting Laboratory project's capsule module (the first 20mm or so of the model), with a long truss structure behind attached to thrusters. There are a couple of what appear to be radar dishes on the sides and a small launcher (for missiles?) on top. As you can see from the (rather blurry) close-up, the material is rather "rough", (and supposedly this is smoother than the non-translucent "white strong & flexible" material that's the default from Shapeways) and the 3D printing "layers" are visible. The truss structures on these models are also solid, with only shallow surface detail to show what they are. I guess at 42mm long, these miniatures are too small and thin to have real hollowed out structures. I will see how the surface texture looks after I've primed them with my usual Gesso.

Here are the backs of the same miniatures from above, showing the truss detail.

Next I have a couple of "Dyna-Soar NERVA" shuttles. The unfortunately named "Dyna-Soar" was a late '50s space plane design that was way ahead of its time. It was designed to be boosted into orbit on various types of rocket boosters, and was meant to fly back down like a plane, the same concept as the much later space shuttle. The booster on these models is the NERVA rocket, a later-abandoned nuclear thermal rocket design. These models are a much larger scale than the MOL Corvettes or the later Orion ships. The models measure approximately 32 mm long to the wing ends of the Dyna-Soar orbiter. This length in real life is supposed to be 10.77 m (it's a very small space plane). This makes for a ratio of 1/337 or so. Again, you can see the "grain" on the model from 3D printing.

The same model type, from the front and top this time.

And finally, the pièce de résistance - the "Idaho class Orion frigate". The 1960s Orion spacecraft concept was simple, outrageous, and probably quite effective if ever carried out - you simply drop nuclear bombs behind you and let them blow you forward! Orion designs had the characteristic "pusher plate", the big circular dish at the end of the ship supported by piston-like "shock absorber" tubes, designed to take the brunt of the explosion and let physics do its work.

This spacecraft model combines the Orion design with some maneuvering thrusters near the front of the ship, along with a submarine-like sail that makes it look like a warped version of Khan's spaceship from the original Star Trek episode. There's also a delta-winged shuttle docked at the front of the ship. Using the shuttle's size, we can estimate the scale of the model. If the shuttle is Dyna-Soar sized, at 11mm that means the model is approximately 1:1000 scale. This means the 72 mm long model represents a 72 m long spacecraft. Another interpretation could be that the shuttle is actually more the size of a modern space shuttle, since the Dyna-Soar was rather small to have a top docking hatch like that. If for math convenience we assume the shuttle is actually 33m long (the space shuttle orbiter is ~37 m), that means the scale is more like 1:3000, similar to miniatures from games like Attack Vector: Tactical. This means the overall ship is a whopping 216 m long, a giant battleship.

Here are a couple more shots of the model from different angles, using less light so the detail is clearer. Again, we see the "layer"/grain problem, but this model is large enough that grain will be a small issue.

Here is a close-up of the pusher plate structure. 3D printing allows this sort of interior detail to be all done in one piece, unlike traditional metal or plastic models, where this would be very difficult, if not impossible.

So what to think? 3D printing is a very exciting technology, but you can tell with these miniatures that there's still quite a ways to go in the resolution department. I'll see how well the miniatures look once they are painted up.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Elhiem Figures

Recently, I've been buying miniatures from Elhiem Figures (doesn't it seem more correct as "Elheim"?) in the UK. This company produces excellent metal miniatures in 1/72 (20mm) scale. I have pictures of miniatures from some of their ranges next to my Caesar 1/72 plastic miniatures to show how well they match sizewise. Sorry, they're not painted yet.

From the left, two cultists from the Elhiem pulp horror range, Caesar modern French soldier, Caesar modern insurgent, Caesar WWII nun.

From the left, Elhiem heroes from their pulp horror range, and the same three Caesars as above

A close-up of Elhiem heroes versus Caesar miniatures.

A couple of Elheim modern police miniatures, not primed or based yet. These actually match quite well. They only look smaller because they don't have the height of the bases.

So overall, Elhiem miniatures are an almost exact match for 1/72 plastics, and they should provide some excellent character models for games.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Another 15mm Army

Sorry for the long absence. I just hadn't been concentrating that much on miniatures for the last few months, so I didn't have any content to put up. However, the 15mm DBA group has gotten me painting again.

For the next DBA tournament at the local group, with a Crusades theme, I painted a "Komnenan Byzantine" army. This is the army of the Eastern Roman Empire during the time of the First to Fourth Crusades. It's an eclectic mix of everything from heavy cavalry, to mercenary horse archers, to some interesting infantry. For miniatures, I mainly used Khurasan Miniatures' excellent Nikephorian Byzantine line. These are very nice miniatures, although they are a bit early for the time period. I also used horse archer miniatures from Essex to fill in gaps.

This is the general stand, with figures in excellent lamellar armour giving commands.
These are all of the heavy cavalry stands, including the general. Between the two alternate lists for this army, these can be used as cavalry or knights.
A close-up of a cavalry stand.
These are the light horse stands. At this point in time, the Eastern Empire mainly used steppe nomad mercenaries for horse archers. These are from Essex's "Asiatic Hordes" line.
Some Bulgar horse archers with distinctive mustaches.
Some Pechenegs, who were the more common mercenaries found in the Empire.
During this time period, East Roman armies were cavalry-oriented, but they still had some infantry. These are regular foot archers, who can be quite useful in games.
And here is probably the most famous infantry unit they had, the Varangian Guard, Vikings who fought for Byzantium.
I don't have all of the options done, but the above are the ones I use the most. For the upcoming Mayday tournament, I'll stick with them.

(Well Mark, you've got what you wanted now. )