Computer Assisted Terrain Making?
This is something new (to me at least) that seems to have a lot of potential. Lately I have been experimenting with using a 3D printer to make terrain with. Has anyone done something like this? I am not a very good sculptor, but my drafting skills are a little better so it’s great to be able to make something exactly as I draw it. I tend to be a bit of a megalomaniac when it come to my gaming terrain, so instead of printing the actual piece I planed from the beginning to make molds and cast these so I saved myself a lot of work and simply printed a complete master mold instead of bothering to only cast the desired object. What came out of the printer was literally ready to have some silicone poured into it to form the mold. Has anyone else given this sort of thing a try? Personally I think that this is going to be a major game changer in my approach to terrain making

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The first project I want to show you was very quick and easy to do, but would have been very difficult to actually make in a more normal manor. Hopefully it will give you a clear understanding of what I am trying to do with the next project. I started with a very simple crystal shape, then copy/pasted, some more and played with the size and dimensions a little. Merging them all together was the majority of the work, but it enabled me to get some very interesting overlaps. This part would have been very difficult if I had done it with actual objects, and not on the computer. Because all of the crystals have a vertical orientation they also stack up very nicely to form larger clusters and barriers.

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This second project is a series of pieces that can be combined in multiple ways to form a modular bridge. This one is still a work in progress since it isn’t nearly as far along as the crystals are. These pieces will all require a two part mold to cast in resin. Basically the idea goes like this. Most of a bridge is simply flat featureless roadway that part is easy to make. The hard part to do is the detailed railings and superstructure. These parts are for the most part very repetitive so they can easily be cast from a small number of molds. What I want to do is make a collection of bridge “bits” that can be combined in many different ways to make whatever size bridge I want.

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The plan is to make seven pieces (to start with at least) I have only shown four of them in this picture because the other three will simply be mirror image left and right versions of the other ones. Each piece will be about 3” long with the one containing the extra odd numbered post being 3.5” long.

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By combining these pieces with something flat (hardboard, foam core, cardboard, or something similar) I can easily make a bridge of any size I want.

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So far I have only done a test mold and resin casting of one of the pieces. Any thoughts on this concept?
CATM Computer Assisted Terrain Making

My thoughts are:

This is awesome.
You are not the first gamer to use a 3D printer. (1)
There are four people, other than yourself, on this board that have, at least, dabbled with CATM. (2)
Two of them are selling commercially. (3)

1— Go check out there are lots of 3D printable gaming pieces out there.
2— The four others (that I'm aware of) are: AndySlater, NealCrankshaw, wdlanghans, and some guy named Pendrake. The first two have product for sale over the web. Not sure if Andy does or not.
3— The others above have used 2D CAD to create laser cut materials.
4— Caleb has created laser cut parts for RC controlled model ships—so there are five if you'd like to count boats as terrain.

@Neal: windows! do you have a selection of windows? Filigreed, Elvish, Art Deco, Gothic, fiddly hard to do from scratch sort of thing? If not, you should.

@wd: If you collaborated with VetSgt and created laser etched road beds...the combined kit would be really special.

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Design consideration on the bridge:

Are the ends slightly different, different slopes or lengths? Because of the columns... Huh
Is the deck designed to be 3mm thick or 1/8th inch thick?

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I think the idea of making re-usable, silicon-ready master-masters is freaking awesome! This allows you to easily replace molds that have become old, worn, or torn, and lets you endlessly replicate the molds themselves, leading to much higher production rates. Pendrake is right, you could easily sell both of the items you've demonstrated here.

Hell, I'll even be your first customer! I play Necrons - how much do you want for a mess of those crystals cast in clear resin? PM me.
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Sorry Pendrake, I must not have been very clear since you seem to have misunderstood me. I am well aware of all of the 3-D printing going on regarding the hobby. What I was talking about was printing a master mold directly without ever printing the actual model itself. It is very common in commercial applications, but at the hobby level this is something that I haven’t seen. Normally I would do the mold making process using clay to establish the part line. Now that I have tried it using the computer, I am amazed at how much easier it is to do this way.

To answer your questions regarding the design of the pieces. No the angle stays the same with both of the sloping pieces. I have played around with some stair concepts that required a different angle (to get the rise and run to come out properly) The end posts are roughly half way between a sloping one and a flat one. The deck thickness is actually unimportant since they are designed to be as versatile as possible. Any thickness that is rigid enough will work, however something really thin would need some cross bracing to keep the model sides square.

[Image: Canalbridgewithstairs2_zps0df56f1b.jpg]

If I add some extra pieces to the original 7 ones, like some stair pieces, and some railing only pieces. Then the possibilities would expand to enable things like this canal bridge to be built.

Munin, I’m glad you like the idea! I have actually been toying around with the idea of selling the molds themselves and not the castings. Let’s face it terrain like this is only really great if you can cover the table with it. Who can afford that however unless you are making it yourself? These are a lot thicker than what Hirst Arts sells, so they would cost more due to the substantially more silicone used in the mold. Would you be interested in purchasing a mold rather than castings or would you prefer just the castings? This is a hypothetical question since I am not yet ready to start selling anything.
I think selling the molds would be more appealing to customers.

My brother has a couple 3D printers and he's joked about helping my terrain with them, but the stipulation is that I had to create the computer renderings myself. Except I don't know how to do that. Tongue I only ever thought to print the pieces themselves, not a mold. This is very interesting.
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(01-13-2015, 04:34 PM)Vet Sgt Wrote: What I was talking about was printing a master mold directly without ever printing the actual model itself. It is very common in commercial applications, but at the hobby level this is something that I haven’t seen.

And you're unlikely too see much of it because of the learning curve.

You clearly have significant knowledge about casting as well as using the 3d printer software (a big enough curve in itself). Perhaps more knowledge than you realise. Imagine how long it would take you to explain to somebody about undercuts, allowances and modification to dimensions that need to be made in order for components to fit together, etc. and you'll realise just how much you know. Then take a look around the Internet and observe that a lot of people can't even crop and resize a photo. This is pretty advanced stuff you're doing.

I consider myself to be pretty advanced but I'd be scared to create a mould directly; I'd want to print master pieces so I could test fit them and check that everything works in the real world as it does on the screen, and then make a mould from those.

Personally, I'm trying to avoid looking at 3d printers at the moment because I am sooooo tempted but don't need the distraction.

You say you're "not a very good sculptor" but here's a tip from somebody who sculpts: I rarely start with a block or a blob. 99 time out of a 100 I'll find something of a similar shape to what I want and use that as a starting point. I have ideas for things that I would like to print with the intention of using them as the basis for a sculpt i.e. I would then cut into them and or add greenstuff to make my master. I'm also seeing that the output from the cheaper (<£2000) printers has texture marks in the surface... however this could be buffed out. I'm told that it can also be removed by a quick brushing with acetone... but that sounds a bit scary to me.

As for the commercial possibilities:

When I bought my laser there was very little information about them on the web because there were very few people using them for anything other that engraving pens, name badges, and the like. We now have a number of people on TG using them who, I guess, like me, were interested in the technology and got one for their own use with the idea that they might sell some stuff too. I hope the others are doing better than I ever did with the sales. Smile

In fairness I've probably made back the money I spent on the machine but no way have I made back the cost of the time I spent learning to use it... and every new design takes up more time which can take a long time to recoup. In my experience there are more people seeing this tech and envying those who have it and/or pestering them with impossible requests, than there are buying the end product.

I anticipate that it will be the same with 3d printers. There will be some here who will see your designs and want to buy them. There will be more (given the nature of this forum - we make stuff) who see them and want a printer. Very few of either will ever do anything more that want... and then there will be some who ask you "can you do this for me" and with whom you enter into a frustrating dialogue (because they have no understanding of the parameters) to iron out a workable result with may or may not result in a sale (usually not).

nb: I'm not pointing the finger at anyone here on that but I did, for example, have a very lengthy conversation last year with a guy (not a TG member) about a "terrain module" that he needed dozens of for a show. His design was "bugged" so I gave him a lot of free help on ironing out the problems. The whole thing fell through... and that's not the first instance I've have of this. A potential order for about $10k worth of stuff with a company who did very well (over $200k of sales) via a kickstarter campaign also went to somebody else after I'd helped them iron out issues with their prototype design.

I realise that I am sounding very negative here but you asked the question Vet Sgt so what I'm saying to you, based on my experience, is: make what YOU want for yourself and if you get some sales, regard that as a bonus that helps pay your expenses. Be VERY wary of working on things that other people say they want unless there's money up front (or it appeals to you for YOUR OWN USE). What I am saying to everybody else is that if Vet Sgt is producing something you like, forget about buying a machine and learning to do it yourself and give him some money. Smile

nb: I still sell laser cut parts and the skulls I sculpted and I have a trickle of sales with both that justifies doing them... but I am no longer willing to engage in lengthy conversations about other people's designs. Be very wary of that.
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(01-13-2015, 02:08 PM)pendrake Wrote: @Neal: windows! do you have a selection of windows? Filigreed, Elvish, Art Deco, Gothic, fiddly hard to do from scratch sort of thing? If not, you should.

So far all I have done are some generic sci-fi windows and doors here

That is not a bad idea - consider it on the drawing board. Thanks!
I guess before i can answer as to which I'd prefer (the mold itself or the castings), I'd want to look at costs. I'm not sure I'd need enough pieces to justify purchasing the mold, but you're right, it would be cool to have the capability to make lots of them. It would also encourage me to incorporate them into other terrain, which might be cool too.

As a side note, in your first photo you have greenish crystals - how did you achieve that effect? Did you mix ink/pigment with your clear resin? What kind of clear resin are you using, and does mixing a pigment change its curing properties? Or did you cast the crystals clear and then hit them with a layer of ink afterwards? Either way, the effect is realy nice!
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(01-14-2015, 07:01 AM)NealCrankshaw Wrote:
(01-13-2015, 02:08 PM)pendrake Wrote: @Neal: windows! do you have a selection of windows? Filigreed, Elvish, Art Deco, Gothic, fiddly hard to do from scratch sort of thing? If not, you should.

So far all I have done are some generic sci-fi windows and doors here

That is not a bad idea - consider it on the drawing board. Thanks!

No probs.
After thinking on it a bit, add medieval lozenge-ish stained glass to the mix of suggestions. I dunno how authentic/period it is but I would guess it's what gamers want most often.

@VetSgt: Yup, I miscomprehended. I have not heard of anyone selling mold masters as a hobby/business. Sounds like a decent idea — it fits with a business principle: "stick to your core competency". If, for you, that is 3D design and 3D printing, then just do that part. Although, I think you could make a go of the crystals, particularly if you could offer other colors. Blue? Red? Smoke(black)??

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