Tobold's Blog
Saturday, May 06, 2017
 
Cartoonish characters vs. realistic

If I look sideways at my wrist and hold a tape measure in front of it, I see that it is about 4 cm thick. My fingers are even thinner, my ankles are about 6 cm thick. That is all solid enough in the real world not have broken in the last 50 years. However what happens if I scan myself in 3D with a laser scanner and start printing a horde of Tobolds for use in a tabletop game? The usual scale for tabletop D&D is "28 mm", which corresponds to the 1 inch square equals 5 feet scale of the battle map, which corresponds to a 60:1 miniaturization.

So I'm printing my imaginary army to Tobolds, armed with daggers and maces, and what happens? The wrists, ankles, daggers, mace handles all come out at 1 mm thickness or less, and that doesn't work well with a PLA filament printer. Either it doesn't even print right, or those spots are extremely thin and fragile. I could hardly remove the figurine from the printer bed without breaking it off at the ankles.

While I am not printing Tobolds, I do print miniatures of humans, humanoids, and monsters that I find on the internet. And a lot of them are "realistic", that is to say the dimensions of the body correspond to the dimensions of the artists drawings in the monster manual, which strive to make them look as real as possible. Some models are smaller and thinner than humans, lets say kobolds or elves, some are about the same, some are a bit sturdier. But unless I print an ogre, many of the things I print have this problem of having thin spots.

Some of the problems can be fixed. I can use Tinkercad to add bits and pieces to a model, so several of my models which were holding axes or maces are now holding axes or maces with unrealistically thick handles. But at least those print okay. But if I can find a monster model which is more cartoonish than realistic, it frequently will print a lot better in 3D. The cartoonish exaggeration and simplification of the body ends up with a lot less thin body parts.

One other method I am using is fattening the monsters myself. For example I take the model of the kobold and scale it up by a factor of two. Now the thickness is better, but it is too tall. So then I just change the scale in the Z-axis, while keeping the X- and Y- axis at their increased values. I end up with a kobold that looks a lot fatter than the drawing in the Monster Manual, but that I can print. Still there are a lot of monsters, like everything with tentacles or eye stalks that are really problematic for printing.

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3D newb here. Is there hope for sturdier materials in the near future? Are there some out already, but just too expensive for casual use? Or do all current 3D mats inherently have to be this fragile in order to be pliable enough to print with?
 
Funny thing is, feminists have been complaining about the unrealistic size of Barbie dolls for many years. And it does in fact go the other way for Barbie, who is disproportionately thin compared to a real woman.

Makes me wonder if there is a happy medium in size in between miniature size and doll size, where ordinary proportions would work. Or would Tentacle Barbie or Skeleton Barbie have the same problems as miniatures?

(Of course, Barbie is made of tougher plastic than 3D printed miniatures, so that would help.)
 
Are there some out already, but just too expensive for casual use?

You can actually print with titanium powder, which is fused in 3D. You can even print gold. For home printing you are limited to plastic, but a more expensive printer can print ABS instead of PLA, which is less fragile. However PLA is favored by many for home print, because it doesn't smell like plastic when melted by the extruder, but rather like burned sugar.
 
And Tobold just realized why all the Victoria Secret models are over 185 cm, despite the average woman is 165
 
I keep reading a Tobold who is desperately trying to love his new 3D printing hardware... But who also not-so-secretly hates it ;-)

I can feel your pain. I've been following the 3D market for a while and I've always been convinced that it still is too early for "nice" results. I mean, even the best stuff still looks like a cheap Indian toy.

While I understand why you want to go 3D, I personally think that 2D tabletop miniatures are still the way to go (quality, details, colors, price, variety, ease-of-use, ...). Unless you go full-in and spend a lot of cash, in which case 3D is phenomenal.
 
I don't think Tobold has buyers remorse. He just doesn't sugar coat the printers short comings.

Technology is ever evolving, if you wait to get the perfect product for the cheapest price you'll never buy anything. I have wasted money on wayyyyy stupider shit than a 3d printer :-)
 
The main reason I don't have buyers remorse is because I printed 3D stuff elsewhere before I bought the printer, and was thus already well aware of the limitations. For me it is less a printer that I bought because I wanted to create a certain item of a certain quality, but rather a gadget whose use provides a certain entertainment value through a learning experience.
 
What are your thoughts about just scaling everything up so that your 3D prints are now 2 components? That seems to be the solution people are going with, you make puzzle pieces and combine them after. This way you can get the finer detail in and make the figures not so fragile. I haven't tried it myself, but it seems fairly straightforward to make 2 pieces that are made to fit together out of one piece.
 
The "splitting in half" is actually a method to print without supports. If the resulting piece still has parts thinner than 1 mm, it might be easier to print, but the result will be just as fragile.
 
Oddly enough, this post reminds me of the Starcraft review (https://starcraft.com/en-us/articles/20719767), where their initial attempts at photo-realistic models with standard body proportions were just a couple of pixels wide. They fudged it by making everything wider and thicker, accidentally creating the archetypal cartoon Blizzard look.
A shame it probably isn't as simple as just doubling the x-axis.
 
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