3D Printing What does it hold for the miniature based hobbies?

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01/30/17 12:35 AM

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Okay, so owning a 3D Printers and knowing what it can and can't do, as well as learning those two differences, I am wondering what the impact these will have on the world of miniature gaming in general, both long and short term planning and thinking for different companies. I see the pros and cons of this and at the same time I see it as being able to bring new life to the hobby as well as headache.

Also many of these have scanners in them and thus I could see many extinct and OPP miniatures making a come back and thus leading many to have the moral delimia of do they buy or make these or even use them as well as companies crying over lost revenue since it's easier, well once you figure it out, to make your own then to buy them. But at the same time I could them also selling 3D Print files that allow you to download and print these and thus you have given them something and gotten something in return.

So what are your thoughts on this?

Given time and plenty of paper, a philosopher can prove anything.
Nic JansmaAdministrator
01/30/17 09:08 PM

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I've been thinking this as well Eric. I have a 3D printer that I've used to print some models. Today's consumer 3D printers can print good enough Mechs, vehicles and other support structures for personal enjoyment, but they definitely won't have the look, feel or heft of a commercially molded model.

So far, I've been using free models (thingiverse.com) to print hex-sized buildings and terrain, and I think these look good enough to play with. I still prefer proper minis for my Mechs tho.

What have you tried printing? Any things that work well?
-- NicJ
01/30/17 10:37 PM

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Well let's say that my ideas and hopes have not quite gotten to the point of things being on the amazing scale, good but not amazing. Mainly sizing issues and scale for what I have been printing. But I do a very nice printed Atlas that is the size of an old red school block eraser, you know the small one...And a nice lion statue that is the size of a coffee cup that was suppose to be the size of a salt shaker...still learning.

But the one building I printed, a Water Tower turned out very nice.

Given time and plenty of paper, a philosopher can prove anything.
01/31/17 01:44 AM

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If you can get the sizing down, I would figure the printed ones would be better to play with, as you are less likely to be pissed off when a pet runs across the table, breaking several of them at once. Ten bucks for a pewter one a few years ago is alot when you don't have it to begin with.

If you can get some ok's might turn out to be a decent thing, though not sure they would do so. I don't see them having to big of a problem with personal properties ones.

Would love to hear more of this as you get info.
02/02/17 02:58 AM

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In the long run, I can definitely it hurting the bottom line for Mini manufacturers...each generation of printers will shrink the "quality gap".

I would expect intelligently-run companies to sell "Official" print files, and work hard to keep up to date with the greatest variety and the most detailed models possible.

Keep in mind...the margin on a file download is much higher than on a physical product.
Peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stands around reloading.
--Thomas Jefferson
02/08/17 03:24 AM

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A tech geek/artist friend of mine was working on "sculpting" her D&D character using 3D software then running it through a conversion that her printer could understand. Her goal is to be able to print multiple versions of the same character in various poses and with various equipment.

Lots of virtual sculpting time, but easy to print.

I imagine the mini industry will follow suit, charging for the code and not having to bother with actual manufacturing, shipping, et cetera.

I'd pay ten bucks for a file that would allow me to print several versions of the same mech.

If Ironwind or others adapted quickly they could transition pretty readily. It would hurt the retailers, though.
02/08/17 11:10 PM

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I can agree to having characters/mechs in several poses. Nothing like having a favorite character that is using the wrong items, or in a stupid pose. Also nice to have one piece units instead of having the glue not hold when moving the unit.

The last statement of hurting retailers is true for ALL of the internet bought items. Amazon is doing very well removing the 'brick and mortar' aspect of buying. Get what you want in what ever color you want without worrying if it is in stock or not.

Might be a good idea to maybe even think of making items other then the mechs, like trees, bridges, even hills. It might be nothing more then an upside down box to put the mech on, but if you are using terrain, it might work better then the styrofoam. Now this is based on not knowing the price of the 3d materials. Even a clip together units, similar to legos might sell well. It can be used for more then just battletech terrain.
03/09/17 03:52 PM

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"Amazon is doing very well removing the 'brick and mortar' aspect of buying."

I'm not convinced this is a good thing...

... Despite living at the tail end of a city where it takes me two hours on public transit each way to GET to my closest gaming store...

I mean, sure. At the very least, if you live in America, or in Europe... Amazon, I've heard, is great.

Not so much in Canada.

But Brick and Mortar stores - when run a certain way - do more than just sell product. They're providing gaming space, time, safety, and public access. And taking the selling of product from them, removes the profit they require to do that.

In fact, Asmodee, who is reknown worldwide (and especially in Europe) for Board Games, recently enacted their policy which was designed to shut out Deep-Discount Online-Only Purchasers who feed things like Amazon, in order to promote the Brick and Mortar Store with equal-to-higher discounts, because they acknowledge it is the "Friendly Local Game store" that drives their business GROWTH.

Yes, you can theoretically sell more for cheaper through the online medium - but in their research, it plateaus as you are not providing an advertisement front to your product which the Games Store does, and basically, doing that advertisement ON YOUR OWN, Worldwide, will cost a ****-ton more than giving a small discount to Brick and Mortars to do it for you.
CEO Heretic BattleMechs.
03/12/17 09:03 PM

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I agree that brick and mortar stores are needed. Without them, people have no jobs, or income.
For some things, like clothing, the information given isn't always correct for what you need.

I will support the issue with the closest gaming store being so far away, and alot of times, they don't have the product that you want when you get there. Sometimes they don't even order those game items. It is far easier to have them delivered as well. I live about an hour an a half from Los Angeles at this time, and that does not include driving in the city itself. Used to live if Las Vegas, and the stores near me didn't carry more then a few things for gaming. But I still tried them before going on line. I like to see the product BEFORE I pay for it.

And a word of warning. More then a few online sellers change names as the items they sell are cheaper knock off, or in horrible shape, They disappear after a few orders. No refunds as you can't find them...

One last thing. There have been items that you can only get online anymore. Most of them are the older things that aren't in print since the 80's or so. Some things like the original D&D items come to mind. Or atleast I have not found anywhere they even think they can get a copy.

Oh yeah. One more thing came to mind. The PDF files people get do the same thing for putting the brick and mortar stores out, as no one needs to get the books from them.

Edited by ghostrider (03/12/17 09:05 PM)
03/25/17 01:58 AM

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@MJB, your tech geek/artist friend might be who I'm looking for. I'd love to find someone who can make some kind of images of my mechs for me. 3D printing would be cool eventually, but I think it would all have to start with graphic design. I'm not a graphic designer, though. My CAD skills only run as far as being able to spell CAD.

Anyway, I'm shopping for options. Let me know if your friend might be interested.
04/02/18 11:46 PM

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3D Printers are still very, VERY expensive. Maybe a Print-on-Demand service for 3D Printed miniatures would make more sense, instead of just selling the files for it. For the customer, it is slightly less convenient and slightly more expensive (ignoring the fact they probably don't have a 3D printer of their own), but for everyone else (companies and stores alike) it becomes a lot better for them overall.
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MechEngine (Beta) - Development Resumed
01/30/19 12:58 PM

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As can be seen from the below FB Battletech International post, this subject is brought up on a regular basis. There are a lot of subjects covered in that thread, but here is my short reply to the OP question:
TLDR: The current CGL status on BT /AS minis is a hot mess, IWM and Ebay prices are insane for the quantity/quality price point, new players are screwed in getting into BT/AS if they want affordable minis apart from the two new box sets, 3D mini printing (locally, and oversees form Russian and China) will eat into IWM and CGL sales if they don’t address this issue fast, and I will pay a boatload of money for paper/cardstock box sets of Mechs by Era or Faction, along the lines of the (4-6 boxes I already own) of the Pathfinder Pawns series.

[url=https://www.facebook.com/groups/battletechinternational/permalink/2297005860373107/?comment_tracking=%7B"tn"%3A"O"%7D]FB Post[/url]
01/30/19 09:32 PM

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3D Printers are not that expensive, price keeps coming down every month, the learning curve is the issues, some are easier to use but you get crap out of them, others are hard to use but you decent to okay, and then some fall in the middle and you good to okay. Then comes the material used, and which one is better.

I own one, I have printed mechs, basically what every I can find on the net and that in itself is a challenge, and what every I can make on one of the programs to design 3D stuff, so far out 15 printed 3 have turned out looking close to what they should, vehicles on the other hand have better luck with.

CLG/IWM need to do something and they could be giving us more to buy in lance boxes either by faction (not the best idea) or like the old Ral Partha lance boxes aka fire team, support etc..they could also convert to plastic which would lower the cost some what.

Faction and Era are not that important in Battletech games, this is NOT WH40K, thus doing that I think will limit sales far more then just a box of mechs that make up a lance, they can still sell them as individual mechs as well.

Given time and plenty of paper, a philosopher can prove anything.
03/16/19 03:48 AM

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Sean posed a similar question over on reddits' r/battletech.

The RepRap project (see reprap org) is a project which aims to develop a 3d printer which can print 3d printers.
Their site has a wiki and forum with a friendly community and a wiki full of information.

IMHO, the absolute minimum anyone should know are the following basics on how 3d printers work:

To print an object, a 3d model has to be created. This can be done via various software tools.
The 3d model is saved in e.g. the commonly used STL file fomat.

This file is then fed to the slicer - a software which calculates the individual layers making up the print. The slicer also turns the layers into G-Code, the language/file format used by the printer firmware. This consists of various instructions like "move the print head to position 0,0 and start extruding" - but in a language computers understand.

The printer firmware reads the G-Code instructions and interprets them. The different commands are turned into varius outputs, which in turn e.g. make a motor run at a certain speed for a certain time (which in turn e.g. moves the print head).

Many printers use a printing method called fused filament fabrication , where a thread of filament is heated until it liquifies, pressed through a nozzle and deposited on the printing surface. The material cools off, hardens and solidifies again and thus the object is build layer by layer.

Powder printers deposit a powder on the printing surface and then place droplets of a binder fluid. The next layer is formed by depositing more powder and applying binder and so on. When the print is complete, the powder is removed and only the printed object remains.

Printers based on stereolithography use ultraviolet laser beams to harden a photosensitive resin. Where the laser beams touch the print bed, the material hardens. After hardening a layer, the print bed is moved and the next layer is added onto the existing layers.

And, of course, various other methods, but the three mentioned are the most common.

Of course, there are loads of different printer types, but most are "cartesian robots" which have an X-axis, Y-axis and Z-axis. Each of the axes is driven by a motor and uses e.g. a belt and pulley system or threaded rods and linear bearings to move the print head and print surface (print bed).

Now, that's not everything there is to know about 3d printers, but it covers most of the basics and holds true for at least ~75% of available printers.

As for the impact of 3d printing on the hobby:
Like any other technology, 3d printing brings new posibilities and new dangers.

An indepth study on the topic can be found on the rep rap wiki - it's called
"Impact of DIY Home Manufacturing with 3D Printing on the Toy and Game Market"
(warning: lotsa heavy reading)

In my opinion, if manufacturers went from producing miniatures and instead sold/licensed the CAD files/3d models of their minis and if brick and mortar stores got 3d printers and offered printing services, not much would change for the players. Except that maybe "I'm waiting for my new minis to be delivered" turns into "I'm waiting for my new minis to be printed".

Then again, maybe we will see a move away from brick and mortar stores and towards "print and play" clubs.

The big looser here would of course be the production companies which the manufacturing of minis gets outsourced to nowadays - unless said companies switch to producing 3d printers maybe.

Anyway, I hope I could shed some light on 3d printing.

PS: I think it was mentioned already, but "thingiverse" is a great site for finding permissive licensed objects to print. Their categories "wargames" and "architecture" are of special interest - with a bit of rescaling, a lot of objects could be repurposed as terrain for CBT.
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