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This isn't just wishful thinking. If you are a game designer, or someone who likes to "pimp your games"... then you really must click this link:

Cube 3D Printer

I'm starting this thread because self-publishing board games is JUST about to enter a new and never-before-thought-possible level.

Discuss here the exciting possibilities of 3D printing with resin, with printers costing anywhere from $900 to $1300.

Do you already have one? Talk about how you are using it!

Design software? Discuss your design ideas here!

I listed the consumer 3D printer as one of 5 scientific breakthroughs of 2012 that REALLY caught my attention. Self-publishing, small quantity board game pieces... did it catch your eye as well? I'm just so excited I could CRY!
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Re-posting data from another thread about a previous kickstarter product to seed your more general conversation about 3d printing...

---


3D printing is something of a hobby. Deciding to get into 3d printing is a little like saying "I want to learn to work on my car" or "maybe I should try one of these board game thingies". It will consume your life.

My friend has a Makerbot, and of course our goal is to produce a game. But we're not there yet. Not nearly. Out of 10 attempts, we're lucky to get one or two pieces that are servicable. And we're not trying anything fancy like a game piece - we're just trying to make a hollow cylinder, like a plastic shot glass.

Details are hard to do. The angle of certain pieces make the whole thing wobbly during construction. Calibration is a nightmare. The plastic feeding tube gets clogged up or loose or otherwise just needs to be watched throughout the whole process. It's loud. It's hot.

Currently, it's winter and the air is far too cold to do reliable 3d printing work -- and this is California winter we're talking about. In addition, we're in the second story of an apartment and so the minute vibrations of people walking around the house or cars driving nearby can screw up the alignment of the plate.

It's a hobby. It's a little like starting computer programming for the first time. You start small and get more ambitious, and you have many successes and setbacks along the way.

I'm not discouraging anyone from getting into 3d printing, but do some research. Know what you are getting into and if you have enough patience, free time, and curiosity to really get into it.

It's kind of like when you try painting miniatures for the first time and have to educate yourself on all these bizarre painting terms and concepts you've never known, have to discover the different shading effects of various colors, have to deal with light issues, and on top of all that have to concern yourself with frustrations in paint consistency, brush thickness, and manual dexterity.

It's like anything else. It takes effort, time, and a sense of fun.


darksurtur wrote:
I don't think 3-D printing is currently ready for anyone but enthusiasts and experimentalists. Too difficult, too time-consuming, and too sensitive. It'll be commoditized soon, though - probably within 5 years.


BeanThere wrote:
lordrahvin is right in saying that 3D printing is a hobby in and of itself. Unless you buy the insanely expensive commercial printers, don't expect "plug and play". You should expect a decently steep learning curve in construction, calibration, and software use.

That being said, I don't think it is as bad as he says. Of course I only have experience with the Makerbot Thing-o-matic. So I have no idea how reliable other printers are. But I've had mine inside the house on the second floor with people stomping about with no problems. I also currently keep it in the garage and it is winter in Utah right now. I actually think it prints better in the cold. Heating up may take longer, but the plastic cools faster once it is put in place.

What I'm saying is, with some work, you can get a good amount of reliability. It took me a while, but I can now take my laptop to the garage, load what I want to print, and click build. I can then unplug my laptop and walk away while it heats up, prints, and cools down automatically.

As for gaming pieces.... do not buy a 3D printer for game pieces. It can't print the details you'd like.


thedacker wrote:
To add to [BeanThere's] credibility, I have and thoroughly enjoy 8 of some basic game-piece trays he made. They're simple, yet solid and well designed.

I also took a look last week at a TI3 trophy he created. He's got an image of it somewhere. It's awesome!



smakab wrote:
All that you have said is true with regards to current at home 3d printers but take a look at www.shapeways.com they have high quality printers that don't screw up you product, you just have to learn to use some acceptable software and upload your files to there site. Then you can purchase your model. I have used it so far to create dozens of models.



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The tech just hasn't caught up to us yet. It is getting there. and the Makerbot has seen some upgrades that allow for more refined pieces.

Id say that in 5 years or less we may see this as more viable. Right now its more a pipe dream still for game designers. But once these things can reliably tool out viable GW level minis. WATCH OUT! Things will go crazy!

Note the reliably part though. Right now that is still lacking to some degree.

The other problem is that these machines are only as good as your 3d modelling skills. Suck at 3d modelling? Then youd better have someone on hand or be willing to slog through that as well.
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Omega2064 wrote:
The tech just hasn't caught up to us yet. It is getting there. and the Makerbot has seen some upgrades that allow for more refined pieces.

Id say that in 5 years or less we may see this as more viable. Right now its more a pipe dream still for game designers. But once these things can reliably tool out viable GW level minis. WATCH OUT! Things will go crazy!

Note the reliably part though. Right now that is still lacking to some degree.

The other problem is that these machines are only as good as your 3d modelling skills. Suck at 3d modelling? Then youd better have someone on hand or be willing to slog through that as well.


Ok so I guess it's a good thing my daughter majored in Game Art and minored in 3D modeling at Full Sail. I know she has talked to me (at length) about the software and painstaking work required to get the design just right. But, then again, the ones on display at the university are highly complex, and large by board game standards. These projects were created more for inclusion in film and/or video games.

I was not aware that temperature and humidity affected the quality/performance of these printers. Honestly, though... on a "small scale" where the output is 4" cube or smaller, I'm thinking we're closer than 5 years - maybe 2 - to a reliable, functional, affordable in home printer.

I'm wondering what software folks have had success with.

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sturner wrote:
I think people are getting the business model with 3D printing wrong -- doing it at home is not the way to go.

I can print photographs at home if I buy a printer, photograph paper, and ink, but I don't. I instead submit my pictures online to Walgreen's. They (and many other stores) print the photos up on a commercial quality printer in under an hour for less than I could do it for at home.

I think this is where 3D printing may actually go. There will be people at home with 3D printers, but they will be more of a cost and hassle than sending your design file to a place with a large commercial quality printer.


And same reason home printing hasnt revolutionized the gaming industry and made every designer a garage store.
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Well, yeah, we're not trying to make plastic cubes and stuff. Our goal is to make new race-specific plastic ships for Twilight Imperium.

For that, you need a lot of patience and a 3d printer with a pretty decent resolution.
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lordrahvin wrote:

Details are hard to do. The angle of certain pieces make the whole thing wobbly during construction. Calibration is a nightmare. The plastic feeding tube gets clogged up or loose or otherwise just needs to be watched throughout the whole process. It's loud. It's hot.

Currently, it's winter and the air is far too cold to do reliable 3d printing work -- and this is California winter we're talking about. In addition, we're in the second story of an apartment and so the minute vibrations of people walking around the house or cars driving nearby can screw up the alignment of the plate.
[...]

As for gaming pieces.... do not buy a 3D printer for game pieces. It can't print the details you'd like.


Omega2064 wrote:
sturner wrote:
I think people are getting the business model with 3D printing wrong -- doing it at home is not the way to go.

I can print photographs at home if I buy a printer, photograph paper, and ink, but I don't. I instead submit my pictures online to Walgreen's. They (and many other stores) print the photos up on a commercial quality printer in under an hour for less than I could do it for at home.

I think this is where 3D printing may actually go. There will be people at home with 3D printers, but they will be more of a cost and hassle than sending your design file to a place with a large commercial quality printer.


And same reason home printing hasnt revolutionized the gaming industry and made every designer a garage store.


I'd like to emphasize these two points.

I use rapid prototyping at work. (And I mean "rapid prototyping", not "3-D printing". 3-D printing is one of many techniques for making things quickly, but it's not the be all and end all of them)

Even industrial rapid prototyping tools have limitations, often serious ones for any particular application. Sharp interior corners (ie, fine detail on miniatures) are often hard to make. Smooth surface finishes often require additional (hand) work. (How smooth is smooth? What do you want your pieces to look like? Many professional rapid prototyping places give away samples; you may be surpised by how rough the surfaces look and feel.) And so on.

People pushing rapid prototyping -- and 3-D printing in specific -- often say "You can make anything!", but what they really mean is:

"You can make anything!*

*: Some limitations apply. Your milage may vary. See page 17 for a detailed list of requirements, specfications, and exclusions."

I don't mean to dismiss rapid prototyping. My work depends on it. Years ago, I had a prototype made by a model shop. It took weeks and cost a fortune. Now, I can get nearly as good made overnight for next to nothing. I would't go back to the old way.

But rapid prototyping *is* *not* *magic*. It's not gonna make you a creative genius. It's not gonna let people 3DPnP commercial-quality pieces... and maybe not even "good" pieces. It may not even be better than simply writing in your PnP game rules:

"Get tokens in three colors. These rules assume they are red, yellow, and green, but you can use any three colors you like."

or

"You'll need at least two distinctive kinds of miniatures. I recommend using Hamwarmer40k pieces for thematic feel."

Where I think rapid prototyping will make a big difference to the gaming industry is the big leap from having a rough copy of a game that you can play/playtest with your friends to the first short production run. With older manufacturing techniques, that leap often required expensive stuff to be made: molds for pieces, printing plates for boards, etc. Now, it's possible to send all that stuff out to a company that can make you 10 or 100 sets of pretty good quality (or really good quality, if you're willing to pay for the finishing and other hand work) for very little of your money.

Which means you -- and every other game designer -- gets to try more designs on wider audiences without having worry that one poorly-selling game is gonna bankrupt them. And that is excellent for the future of boardgaming.
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Just to clarify... I wasn't suggesting that any kind of mass production was just around the corner.

The reality is... the combination of the printer and AutoCAD software and an individual *could* create their own game pieces for personal use. It's certainly less time consuming than my woodworking (between the Dremel for shaping, table saw, drill, sander, glue... wait for glue to dry, paint, paint again)

Sure there are some kinks to work out.

But with companies preparing to prospect and mine near-Earth asteroids by 2015... I'd say the technology is here. There are no BIG puzzles to solve in order to make it happen.
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mrudis65 wrote:
Discuss here the exciting possibilities of 3D printing with resin, with printers costing anywhere from $900 to $1300.

The cost of the printer is almost meaningless. It's the cost of the materials that matters. The company you link to sells a single cartridge for $99 that will create "13-15 cell phone covers" in a single color. That would be extremely expensive for making game pieces. And phone covers are "hollow" models, not really the same as game pieces. Making more than a few 25mm figures seems like it would require multiple cartridges.
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lordrahvin wrote:

Well, yeah, we're not trying to make plastic cubes and stuff. Our goal is to make new race-specific plastic ships for Twilight Imperium.

For that, you need a lot of patience and a 3d printer with a pretty decent resolution.


Yup ... I did the same thing with Eclipse. Even using the highest quality resolution materials at Shapeways.com the results were less than fantastic, and way too expensive. It is going to be awhile yet before we get home 3D printing good enough for minis.

Somebody said above that it might come to the board game realm sooner rather than later because we're working small, but the opposite it true. You can actually make better looking things at LARGER sizes right now than smaller.
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mrudis65 wrote:
Just to clarify... I wasn't suggesting that any kind of mass production was just around the corner.

I got it.

mrudis65 wrote:
The reality is... the combination of the printer and AutoCAD software and an individual *could* create their own game pieces for personal use. It's certainly less time consuming than my woodworking (between the Dremel for shaping, table saw, drill, sander, glue... wait for glue to dry, paint, paint again)

Sure there are some kinks to work out.

Lemme try an analogy about those kinks...

These days, most people have pretty good printers in their homes and/or have easy access to a better printer (at an office supply store or whatever). So, telling people to download a file containing text and graphics for a game gives decent results. It's not as good as offset printing, but the price is right.

The problem with 3DPnP as I see it is that home 3-D printers are in the "dot matrix printer" stage. (Anybody else remember dot matrix printers?) They're certainly better than nothing... and as with your comments about woodworking, certainly better than copying a set of rules and graphics by hand. But the quality is pretty low compared to commercial quality, and if one is going to send the file out to a service bureau for printing, there's no cost savings over the designer offering to provide "semi-pro" components instead.

And I just can't get away from the ease of substitution. Sorry, I have issues. I have a closet full of games. When I play PnP games, I've got tons of pieces to swipe from professional games. Often I make do with pieces that aren't as thematic than the designer might want, but if the alternatives are either paying for pieces made by a professional shop or playing with kinda ugly home-made pieces, I stick with my mismatched bits of salvage.

mrudis65 wrote:
But with companies preparing to prospect and mine near-Earth asteroids by 2015... I'd say the technology is here. There are no BIG puzzles to solve in order to make it happen.

Yeah, yeah, yeah... if they can put a man on the moon, why can't they cure the common cold?

You're right that there aren't any big problems, just a quantity of little ones. So to invert an old line, quality has a quantity all it's own. I expect to be just as excited by home 3DPnP five years from now just as I was by professional rapid prototyping five years ago.
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Pointed out from the action figure side of the interest in home 3d Printing. Here is a listing of many types of 3d printers and some commentary on some as to their usefullness.

http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/29/3d-printer-guide/
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Evilest Dave wrote:


Where I think rapid prototyping will make a big difference to the gaming industry is the big leap from having a rough copy of a game that you can play/playtest with your friends to the first short production run. With older manufacturing techniques, that leap often required expensive stuff to be made: molds for pieces, printing plates for boards, etc. Now, it's possible to send all that stuff out to a company that can make you 10 or 100 sets of pretty good quality (or really good quality, if you're willing to pay for the finishing and other hand work) for very little of your money.

Which means you -- and every other game designer -- gets to try more designs on wider audiences without having worry that one poorly-selling game is gonna bankrupt them. And that is excellent for the future of boardgaming.


Sad I have only one thumb to give for this quote. This is exactly what will transform the industry in the short term.

I will add though that the rate at which innovations improve is enormous. 3D printers will improve in price, quality and consistency much more rapidly than folks on this thread are predicting. Finally, the 3D modeling skill isn't such an issue, since many talented folks will share their designs, either freely or at reasonable cost, just like people sell wordpress themes and graphics today.
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ender7 wrote:
Evilest Dave wrote:


Where I think rapid prototyping will make a big difference to the gaming industry is the big leap from having a rough copy of a game that you can play/playtest with your friends to the first short production run. With older manufacturing techniques, that leap often required expensive stuff to be made: molds for pieces, printing plates for boards, etc. Now, it's possible to send all that stuff out to a company that can make you 10 or 100 sets of pretty good quality (or really good quality, if you're willing to pay for the finishing and other hand work) for very little of your money.

Which means you -- and every other game designer -- gets to try more designs on wider audiences without having worry that one poorly-selling game is gonna bankrupt them. And that is excellent for the future of boardgaming.


Sad I have only one thumb to give for this quote. This is exactly what will transform the industry in the short term.

I will add though that the rate at which innovations improve is enormous. 3D printers will improve in price, quality and consistency much more rapidly than folks on this thread are predicting. Finally, the 3D modeling skill isn't such an issue, since many talented folks will share their designs, either freely or at reasonable cost, just like people sell wordpress themes and graphics today.


Absolutely. I am able to print on my homemade machine now to a quality that I wouldn't have anticipated a few years ago. There are some key limitations and quality issues to consider (the print will be layered, you cannot print in midair without support, etc) but it is perfectly workable in exactly the was that ender7 and Evilest Dave said above.

In fact, give me a second to snap a photo to illustrate what sorts of prints you can expect from a 2 year old homemade printer

http://i.imgur.com/SSHtvY2.jpg (please forgive the quality, it's dark here and I had to use the flash)

Aside from the mathematical structure and the chair (from http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:21999), the rest of the pieces here are from pulled from various PnP games that I had to hand. There are Dungeon Heroes meeples below the chair, some Tsuro dragons for my homemade copy, some red brain damage tokens (out of focus) for Android:Netrunner front+centre (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:23512, blue Catan pieces (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:14473). stands for Zaibatsu pawns (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:14473).
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I think it seems a bit strange the assumptiong htat home 3d printing will just be dismissed along with regular ol' 2d printing. I think the PnP fans will be the first to adopt 3d printing for games and with sites like www.ponoko.com popping up, ordering the parts printed in small shops will be a viable way to go as well ("should I print at my house or at kinkos or artscow?..."). I look forward to the option and look forward to using my 3d printer to make game prototype pieces.
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jmucchiello wrote:
mrudis65 wrote:
Discuss here the exciting possibilities of 3D printing with resin, with printers costing anywhere from $900 to $1300.

The cost of the printer is almost meaningless. It's the cost of the materials that matters. The company you link to sells a single cartridge for $99 that will create "13-15 cell phone covers" in a single color. That would be extremely expensive for making game pieces. And phone covers are "hollow" models, not really the same as game pieces. Making more than a few 25mm figures seems like it would require multiple cartridges.


It all depends on how the figures are designed, and what service/printer you are using. I assumed it would be way too expensive too, because everything I've been reading for the past 2 years online about 28mm miniatures being 3D printed is "The tech is way too low resolution, it will take 5 years minimum before it's good enough"

Yet I'm designing a 28mm miniatures game right now. I have completed 11 3D models for the units already, and I've priced them all on Shapeways (an online 3D printing service that uses the expensive industrial-size 3D printers) and my light infantry (actually robots, which is perfect for 3D printing because the shapes are angular and boxy, which makes the details come out easier) are only going to cost about $24 for 6 figures. That's only $4 a figure, AND I'll still have enough profit margin to put them on sale for up to 20% off. Albeit a very tiny profit when on sale that much, but still.

Now, having said all that, my designs are built specifically for 3D printing, and the tanks, for example, are completely hollow to cut costs drastically, yet they are more rigid and strong than I expected. In fact, they are much stronger than any pewter miniatures I've ever owned, and possibly even some of the plastic ones. The tanks I've designed are also a bit smaller than typical 28mm tank models, but this is actually part of the background of the game: All units in a battle are basically un-manned vehicles, so tanks do not require a physical tank crew, drastically cutting down on the space needed inside the vehicle.

So yes, the home printers might not quite be up to the quality of a real 28mm miniature, but with the right kinds of designs, on the high-end SLS (selective laser sintering) printers you can get really close to the quality of traditional methods. If your model is not designed to use the minimum amount of material, it will be too costly, but if you design it right, you may be surprised at the price!
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mrudis65 wrote:
Omega2064 wrote:
The tech just hasn't caught up to us yet. It is getting there. and the Makerbot has seen some upgrades that allow for more refined pieces.

Id say that in 5 years or less we may see this as more viable. Right now its more a pipe dream still for game designers. But once these things can reliably tool out viable GW level minis. WATCH OUT! Things will go crazy!

Note the reliably part though. Right now that is still lacking to some degree.

The other problem is that these machines are only as good as your 3d modelling skills. Suck at 3d modelling? Then youd better have someone on hand or be willing to slog through that as well.


Ok so I guess it's a good thing my daughter majored in Game Art and minored in 3D modeling at Full Sail.

That seems like a very shrewd life choice. It is going to be a huge business. Good luck to her.
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sturner wrote:
I think people are getting the business model with 3D printing wrong -- doing it at home is not the way to go.

I can print photographs at home if I buy a printer, photograph paper, and ink, but I don't. I instead submit my pictures online to Walgreen's. They (and many other stores) print the photos up on a commercial quality printer in under an hour for less than I could do it for at home.

I think this is where 3D printing may actually go. There will be people at home with 3D printers, but they will be more of a cost and hassle than sending your design file to a place with a large commercial quality printer.

Absolutely. Rentals is going to be the growth sector for a while. Not sales.
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I think the other technology to pay attention to is laser cutting. It's close to the point where just about anyone who wants to can get access to a laser cutting machine, so even in 2D, "print and play" doesn't have to mean paper.
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There have been some advancements in the home 3d printing. but its still a long ways to go yet. But some of the little assemblers are rather neet. If very unreliable and very slow at times. If you do not mind the wait times and having to redu, or lower quality then these are quick approaching a viable state. Some of the more pricy home printers are pretty good if you are willing to fork out for the printer and the plastic spools.

POD 3d printing has also made some more leaps. But it is still way too prohibitively costly for casual PNPing.

But we are getting progressively closer.
 
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I made a little tutorial for 3D printing your own components.
 
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