Thursday, October 17, 2013

ODST Corpsman, Outbound

So here's the finished product of the Extra Life 2013 ODST. It's packaged up and on its way, first-class, to Steelheart of Grievance Gaming, along with a little note to whomever will be the lucky recipient of this fun decoration.

You’re the recipient of a 3D printed model. This model is composed of a composite plaster powder, 3D printed in color, which has been bound and cured in a cyanoacrylate (similar to super-glue) bath. The parts were then sanded, assembled, and painted by hand to achieve a finer finish before finally being waxed.

The composite material should be about as resilient as modeler’s resin. It can withstand a moderate amount of heat without any issue—temperatures of less than one hundred fifty degrees should not be an issue, and higher temperatures for short periods of time can be withstood—so keeping it on a desk beneath a normal desk lamp is perfectly fine.

For a cursory and humorous overview of 3D printing, feel free to visit my blog on the subject here.

Thank you for helping Grievance Gaming support Extra Life and help the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals. Doing good for others isn’t always easy, but sometimes it can be fun.

Ben’s Nerdery

I really hope you'll support Extra Life. As a father, I'm really sensitive to the mission of the Children's Miracle Network, and it's a pleasure getting to do something, however small, for them this year. To help you appreciate this piece, here's an overview of the work that went into this miniature.

The computer data related to the miniature has to be prepared and transferred to the right format. In most cases, there's a lot of cleanup to do, and this was no exception. Fortunately, I'm a big Halo fan--or was, before the dark days of Xbox One loomed over the franchise (and seriously, a mobile game!?). Anyways, that meant that I'd already spent a lot of time tidying the data into something easy to use and modify. This particular data is also highly accurate and high-resolution, being able to be scaled up to life-size just fine, so I didn't have to fill in or add any details, which is unusual for such parts. The base I designed in Blender (a powerful, free app for drafting, rendering, and animating 3D data), including the Grievance Gaming logo and a label commemorating the event itself.

The data cleaned and reformatted, I hollowed out the data to make the part lightweight, faster to print, and a little more secure. It's a counter-intuitive truth that models like these can be too thick to be resilient: it's easy for a thick part to become too heavy in relation to its tensile strength, since interior volume is printed with lower density binder.

Okay, you should probably just skip over those last couple of sentences. Might be a little too much information. I make data good to make good miniature.

Once the model was printed, I dipped it into an infiltrant of cyanoacrylate (CA), a thinned out superglue that gets into the sandstone-like pores of the model and cures quickly to make the part stronger and watertight. This is also the fun chemistry moment of building a part. All adhesives result in a chemical reaction that generates heat. The faster and stronger the chemical reaction, the more heat is generated, usually. So if you take a baseball sized model in hand and dunk it in CA, you might burn the holy feldercarb out of your digits--cheap-ass gloves or no. Chemical burns are unpleasant, kids.

When the fume-bombs are done throwing around their migraine-smoke, you have a sturdy part that feels even rougher than the sandstone part with which you started, so then you sand. Sanding cuts down on the gritty feel of the powder-based model and helps to reduce the layered-cake effect of 3D printing, without reducing the detailed accuracy of the part--if you do it right.

With that, I decided to re-prime and paint the parts. Priming a 3D printed miniature helps only slightly to cover the layer effect I mentioned, but most importantly it adds the slight grit to the part that you need to paint--otherwise a well-sanded print will be too smooth to take paint nicely. Now even though the 3D print was in full color, there's a couple of reasons why I wanted to hand paint the part. First, a full-color print can have color streaking and inconsistency in the color matching. Hand paints eliminate that. Secondly, the paint used on the visor had a slightly metallic glossing effect that you can't get with 3D printing.

After painting came assembly. I'd made the base and helmet as separate parts to speed up build time, make painting easier, and to ensure that if anything broke in the process I could reprint and replace it. Once everything was painted, I glued the base and helmet together again and stuck it in a hot wax bath to give it that nice, fresh-off-the-lot feel. The final part weighs 163 grams (about .36 pounds), and is about 4" wide x 4" deep x 5" tall. The base is hollow, so you could conceivably weight it or insert a little goodie of some kind in the cavity. The material itself is about the same strength as a thin, dense hardwood, meaning that if you ever find reason to modify it you can always dremel it to suit yourself.

So that's my little contribution to Extra Life 2013. And if any of you are interested in Grievance Gaming, check out their impressive list of represented games. They also have a wide-ranging series of Youtube videos that feature guild news as well as general gaming news and hype. And Grievance Gamer Girls is a subset group that focuses on the ladies, which is always nice.

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