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TIMELY TOPICS - The future is now! 3D Printing Game Pieces for Morels

-matt s.
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So, last year a friend of mine introduced me to Morels. I had seen it before but never played it. I really enjoyed it and picked up a copy direct from the publisher. Unfortunately, it didn't have the nifty hand-crafted foraging sticks and plastic pans that came with the original Kickstarted versions:

Board Game: Morels
Board Game: Morels


The wood foraging sticks were originally made by hand by the designer, Brent Povis! Hundreds and hundreds of them! I missed out

My version came later and just had the cardboard chits:
Board Game: Morels
Board Game: Morels



I had thought I would make fimo ones like others had made, or make my own wood ones, possibly like these:
Board Game: Morels
Board Game: Morels


Then, last October, I saw these nifty little pans 3D printed by someone with access to a 3D printer at work:
Board Game: Morels


That wasn't QUITE what I wanted out of mine, but it definitely inspired me to look into 3D printing further. I started reading more about 3D printing and online 3D modeling applications.

Then, I started out playing around with TinkerCad and really found it intuitive and easy to use (note that I used to do CAD, including some 3D, many moons ago, so perhaps was more intuitive to me than for some, but I have heard of kids using it fairly easily, so it really isn't THAT hard).

There are many 3D drawing applications out there and available. The thing I liked most about TinkerCad was it had a really innovative way of making things where you didn't worry so much about dimensions but more about choosing basic 3D shapes from a palette, crossing and merging them together to make new shapes, then adding in other shapes as 'holes' to create void space! Merging holes and solids together caused it to calculate and draw all the intersecting faces and such for you automatically. Really REALLY neat piece of software!

BTW, there's this other amazing application that is quite fascinating to play around with called Shapeshifter - try both this and TinkerCad, you'll really like them! Both applications are actually owned by AutoDesk, makers of AutoCad and such. They actually took over TinkerCad last year when it was about to be tanked by its owning company - I'm really glad they kept it alive!

Well, after getting up-to-speed with the tutorials, I then started on my project by first creating the pans which were relatively straight-forward, although I took a non-traditional approach and intersected a large parabola (well, two actually) with a squat cylinder to make the pan, then merged a long round ovoid piece to make the handle. Not much detail, just playing around a bit.

First 'cut' before merge:
From gallery of tasajara


Second 'cut' before merge:
From gallery of tasajara


Final version:
From gallery of tasajara


And, this is how the printed version came out:
From gallery of tasajara


Then I started messing with the sticks. I wanted to have a 'carved' feel to them, just like the hand-made ones. So, I started with a simple long, thin cylinder, then added two more smaller ones to make a 'Y'. Finally, I used a series of individual and grouped parabolas and cylinders of various sizes to 'carve out' areas along the edges.

Here's a late step of doing some of the final 'cuts':
From gallery of tasajara


This is a detail - see the dark areas on the orange stick? Those are the areas being 'cut away' when I do the merge:
From gallery of tasajara


The dark shaded areas are object 'holes' that, when merged, 'remove' material from the 'solid' object.

This is the final 3D model:
From gallery of tasajara


And, here's the final printed stick:
From gallery of tasajara


Because they are white its hard to see all the detail - I tried to highlight it against the dark pan and you can see some of the detail there.

These are how they look sent directly to me after printing at Shapeways which is an online 3D printing service where you can print in a wide variety of materials (depending on the size of the object, and the depth of your pocket book) ranging from plastic to chrome to gold to multi-colored ceramic, plus a variety or other metals and plastics. The great thing is you generally only pay for the amount of material used, plus shipping! (The shipping is the gotcha unfortunately when only printing small, cheap items). I paid close to $30 for my 12 sticks and 2 pans. OUCH!

BUT, I did it at Christmas time during a special promotion and got a $10 credit for future prints. AND, I didn't have to shell out thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time to build, test, and calibrate my own 3D printer. In all honesty, it was truly a proof-of-concept for myself to see what it looked like, felt like, and what the entire process was, so was definitely worth it for me to get that experience.

I should note that Shapeways does a really great job of checking your work for holes or areas that are too thin and sending you feedback if there are problems. I should have started out right off with their recommended tools to check myself though - would have saved me a bunch of time 'debugging' my pieces in terms of thickness. They post all of their tolerances for each material type and you MUST look at those and figure out what the requirements are or it won't be printable.

As to the pieces themselves, the plastic has a sort of rough feel to it (which works well for these items) although they have some plastics that are smoother (or they put them in a tumbler to smooth them later). It can be painted which is my plan for these in the near future so the sticks will be in the brown/tan range. I may add some highlights to the pans as well to give them a more metallic look.

Well, that's my first look at 3D printing. I have been wanting to write this piece for a few weeks now and, because I JUST today received my 3Doodler it has got me thinking about 3D printing and the future that it holds. The 3Doodler is certainly NOT going to produce anything like this, but I think it may have some other applications such as with storage or simple custom on-the-fly made pieces. I'm also looking forward to just creating some neat 3D art pieces in general.

Hopefully I'll get it to the table soon and then show what some of the capabilities of it are in a future post.

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