Thursday, July 30, 2015

Action Figures and 3-D Printing

3-D printing is pretty damn cool.

I have limited access to the use of a 3-D printer and I've recently tried to make some original designs for use with my various action figures. One of my most notable attempts was to create a small "stage" to use as an environment to just take simple photos of the figures.

I use Google SketchUp as the design tool to create the actual 3-D model that will eventually be printed. I decided to create a corner with a floor platform.

The design phase went pretty well; at least I thought so. In creating the various extrusions coming out from the wall just a little, I have discovered that I'm really not that creative and just need to "play" with SketchUp more.

I used white PLA filament and the original print turned out decent, but there were errors in the print. More on that later. The next option that I decided to try was to add color. I used a combination of permanent markers and acrylic paint (of dubious quality). Mistakes were made. Bad choices. Combined with the mediocre detailing, it looked like shit. So just spray paint the whole damn thing, right?
Not good. Not good at all. As the paint dried, it kind of shriveled and distorted the wall section and the floor panel. Ugh.
Oh, that's good! The paint bubbled up on the plastic! Wonderful...
Time to try again. 

For the next print, I tried a new color filament - Army Green!
 The color doesn't quite hold true for this picture. It's a bit too washed out.
Here are the two pieces glued together. There's a slight curve on the front edge due to the cooling of the material as it is extruded and layered. That's a design issue to consider. On the original print, I printed both pieces on separate print jobs. This time, I figured I would just load them together and print both together. Not a good choice. The closest edges had stringy filaments connecting them together as the print head went from one piece to the other.

The printer builds from the bottom up, laying down thin layers of material in tiny little layers. That's also a drawback to current 3-D technology because the tiny layers show up in the finished print. I'm thinking they could be sanded; maybe I'll try that on another print in the future.

In general, I'm pleased with what I created, but I'm not satisfied. This will work for now as I go back into the redesign stage. I really need to improve on my "geebly" skills for all the extra detailing. Plain walls are boring, but these look weak in their design. It's the learning curve, that's all.
Here's another shot of a design flaw with the extrusions that I pulled out of the wall in SketchUp. The printer wants to just build the bottom edge of the extrusion but it really doesn't have any surface to print it on. As you look at that square-ish shape with the circle pulled out of it, you can see the distorted bottom right corner. The printer just couldn't recreate the design. Additionally, along the bottom edge of each extruded shape, there were loose filaments as the printer lay down filament in an attempt to create the pulled out shapes. You following me? Play along...

So there's things I need to consider as I redesign new pieces similar to this. I won't paint this one and I won't reprint it. That's what is fun about this whole process. The math involved in creating the virtual 3-D objects as well as figuring out how to create the slots needed to assembled the pieces.

Another option may be to build them in individual walls and assemble them at the corner. If the model is flat on the printer bed surface with the detailing rising out, then the details may print cleaner. Lessons learned, I suppose.

For now, I'm back to the virtual studio to try again. Stay tuned for future 3-D printing updates!

I decided to take a bunch of pictures of various figures just to showcase how the environment can work as a background. Enjoy!
 Looks decent, but those crappy details... Ugh!
 No, Tartarus. You're too big.
 Goblins and Dwarves?
 Hulk like!
 Bombstrike is pleased!
 Clonetroopers!
 No, Al... You don't fit.

Stay tuned for more 3-D printing updates!

1 comment:

Tony said...

3D printers are going to put toy manufactures out of business,lol.I can't wait to get my 3D printed hands on one.