I know that there is a market for mass-produced collectible statues, and I know that there is a market for resin-cast “garage kit” sculptures. As I have been 3D printing the past few years, the quality of those prints has increased to a point where they are as good or better than what can be reproduced through casting. So, is there a market for 3D printed statues?
I hand-painted this print of “Tusk” to showcase the model, because I have the .stl file available for sale on Cults3D for $5.
But what if you don’t want to print and paint the model? You would just like a cool statue, hand-painted by the artist who sculpted it! That seems like an work of art, right?
I put this Statue of “Tusk” on eBay for auction, to get an idea of how it might sell. It had 15 people bid on it and sold for $60.
So that makes me think there might be a market. What I will need to do is print out about 10, so that I can paint them as a group. Then sell as a limited edition!
In February, I debuted the PuzzleLock Caves and PuzzleLock Dungeon at Con Nooga in Chattanooga. The response was very good, so tomorrow we are launching a Kickstarter to fund the creation of more PuzzleLock playsets!
These playsets are 28mm scale terrain for tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. They help create an immersive gaming experience. They are printed on a $200 home 3D printer, and I printed the entire dungeon on a $20 roll of filament!
Unlike other systems, PuzzleLock doesn’t require any clips or magnets. It goes together like a jigsaw puzzle!
The Caves are 100mm point to point and about 35mm tall. The sides of the hexagons are 50.8mm (2″) and can connect to any other PuzzleLock playset.
After working on my Caves project, I started thinking about all of the different “locking” options that are being used to connect the terrain tiles on the tabletop. I had an idea of interlocking the tiles with a jigsaw puzzle connection, which would be identical on every side. That would allow you to lift a tile from the table and replace it with a “trap” tile or “secret door” tile without disturbing the rest of the dungeon!
I started with a standard 2″ tile (50.8mm), and started working out the geometry for different polygons: 4-sided, 6-sided, 3-sided, etc. to allow the most flexibility for laying out a dungeon…
Regarding scale, I wanted the walls shorter than the standard 2″ height, because terrain blocking line of sight for the miniatures was one of the complaints that I read in the Facebook group (3D Printing for Gaming Terrain). I decided to design the walls about 32mm tall, which would be about 8′ tall at 28mm scale. This should leave enough height to detail the terrain, but give greater visibility to the miniatures.
Another thing that I noticed when I looked at other terrain systems, was that the details and the “dungeon dressing” of many props was not at a consistent scale. For 28mm miniatures, the scale is supposedly 6′ from the soles of the feet to the top of the head (for a human sized miniature). That scale (1:56) is 4.17mm per scale foot.
Using this as a guide for my measurements, I hope that this terrain will look better with the 28mm miniatures that players are using for D&D, Pathfinder or similar RPG.
The Caves system that I already designed, also works well with a puzzle-lock. And since the hexagon is designed with 2″ sides, the caverns will easily work with the dungeon tiles.
The puzzle-lock system should work with any type of tabletop terrain tile, such as sewers, burrows, etc. My plan is to finish up my own set of puzzle-lock .STL terrain files, and then launch a Kickstarter campaign to sell it. Part of the set will be the basic puzzle-lock shapes, which can be used to adapt existing terrain .STL files to this system using Meshmixer! So if you have already purchased .STL terrain for your game, you will be able to modify it.
I would also like to make the shapes available to other designers, so that they can offer a puzzle-lock version of their 3D printable terrain.
PuzzleLock Caves are now a part of the Caves terrain set available on DriveThruRPG:
One of the strengths of 3D printing is the ability to create shapes that cannot be manufactured with traditional methods like injection-molding. I want to try and create miniatures that take advantage of this, rather than cut up the model as if it were going to be molded.
Since my last project was 3D printable Caves for tabletop gaming, I decided to create some miniatures to populate those caverns, and to design them for small SLA printers like Anycubic Photon and Sparkmaker to take advantage of the amazing level of detail that they can reproduce.
The “Drider” is a creature familiar to players of Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. It is part dark elf and part spider. Driders are often portrayed as a “spider centaur” with the upper body very human (or elf), but I decided that my cave driders were especially cursed–even their faces transformed into a spider!
I have 3 different weapon poses, and also a Dead Drider option–so that the Dungeon Master can switch out miniatures rather than tipping over the dead monsters.
This Bundle of STL files is available for only $10 at Cults3D
Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.
This is the opening paragraph of FL-108, from the US Copyright Office… There is some confusion that I have run into on online forums regarding 3D printed miniatures for games, where there was a concern about being sued for violating the Intellectual Property rights of companies such as Games Workshop or Wizards of the Coast by creating miniatures for their games without a license.
IP rights are Copyrights, Trademarks, or Patents. There isn’t any other type. You can’t copyright a game–only the art or text within it. Ideas are not protected by copyright, only their artistic expression in fixed form. Some people think that the rules (game mechanics) are protected since they are within the copyrighted rule book, but that aspect of the work is specifically not protected by copyrights:
In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work
This is from a ruling on a cloned tabletop game, where the judge ruled summarily that there was no infringement. The artwork and story can be protected by copyright–The rules cannot.
This issue came up in 2011 when an artist created 3D printable versions of pieces for the game Settlers of Catan and made them available on Thingiverse. The 3D printed tiles are not based on the printed tiles from the game (which could make them derivative work), so are perfectly legal in regards to copyright.
Trademarks are a different type of intellectual property, that identifies the source of a product or Service. Games Workshop has a trademark on the term “Space Marine” as the name of a product:
The Trademark (word mark) identifies “Space Marine” as a product of Games Workshop. This trademark identifies the source of the product–specifically the tabletop wargame. It does NOT mean that Games Workshop owns the word, except as the name of a game.
The actual miniatures and illustrations from the many Warhammer Codexes are protected by copyrights. To create your own version of these pieces, if based on them, would be to make a derivative work–a violation of copyright.
However, there is nothing preventing an artist from creating miniatures intended to be used as space marines, which is why you see miniatures from 3rd parties such as Scibor Miniatures:
As long as your sculpture is original and not based on a copyrighted drawing or painting, it is not a violation of anyone’s intellectual property. As stated above, games are not protected under copyright.
There is an “Open Gaming” movement, which I have an issue with–The copyright holder granting you a “license” to use their rules to make your own content! Wizards of the Coast started this with their D20 System, to encourage 3rd parties to create content that was compatible with their game.
But game rules are not protected by copyrights, there is no need for permissions at all. The OGL license does not grant the right to use any of Wizards of the Coast’s copyrighted artwork, so it is essentially granting a license where none is required. Maybe this is a way to relieve 3rd party creators concerns that they could be sued, and to encourage them, but it also creates an illusion of “IP Rights” that don’t exist….
In this new era of 3D printed tabletop games, an artist could not only create a line of miniatures for 3D printing, but also publish stats (warscrolls) for playing them in Warhammer 40K, Hordes, Warmachines, D&D or Pathfinder!
Another possibility is to create standardized tabletop rules, where players can bring in their armies that they have bought, built or printed and play them against any army–regardless of the setting they were originally created for–A Multiversal Wargame™
There is a new class of SLA (Stereo Lithography) 3D printers that is using an LED screen to generate the UV light, instead of a laser or DLP projector. This innovation is bringing the cost of SLA way down, as low as $250!
The SparkmakerFHD is selling on Kickstarter for only $250. It is big enough for making miniatures and jewelry
Another is the Anycubic Photon for a little more than $500, and is great for miniatures.
I have been watching the adoption of 3D printing by the Tabletop Wargaming community, and I think this class of printer is making it possible for gamers to print their own 3D printed miniatures at home.
I believe this technology is a game changer for the hobby of tabletop Wargames and miniatures, because the detail is much finer than can be created through traditional molding, and the cost of printing these miniatures is much less that the mass-produced ones.
When I first played Dungeons & Dragons as a teenager, the first adventure was the Keep on the Borderlands. The monsters were in an area of the map called The Caves of Chaos! I have a lot of great memories of those years, so when I started thinking about designing some 3D printable terrain for table-top gaming I naturally started think of those caves….
There are a number of kickstarted companies that are selling .STL files for 3D printing. I realized when I started checking them out, that the gaming community has eagerly adopted this technology, and there might be an opportunity for me in this area.
Before 3D printing, a company called Dwarven Forge was already making a very high-quality hand-sculpted and hand-cast resin terrain for gaming, but it is very expensive. What I noticed right away about the designs from these newer companies is that they were basically copying the designs of Dwarven Forge– The tiles were all 2″ squares, about a half inch thick, in all sorts of configurations to help you layout your dungeon.
However 3D printed PLA plastic is a lot lighter than Dwarvenite resin… So the 3D printed pieces have to be clipped or glued together so they don’t get scattered all over the table. I felt that the designers had failed to approach the problem from scratch with the strengths of 3D printing in mind. On top of that, the Caverns and caves were all rectangular and ugly….
I decided that I would start from scratch. One of the strengths of 3D printing is the ability to create complicated shapes that would be difficult or impossible to create through traditional manufacturing. I wanted to build complete pieces that were ready to paint and play, with no assembly. Instead of squares, I started with a hexagon and began to calculate the number of possible passageways that could come in and out of a 6-sided tile.
The biggest tile that I can print on my Printrbot is 6″, though that is pretty small compared to a lot of FDM printers, which would be big enough to not get knocked over during play. Since it doesn’t have to attach to the other tiles for stability, That gives you the freedom to rotate the tiles and quickly reconfigure the game map. Because the 3D print is starting from the ground, and there is no need for the additional structure to clip tiles together, I decided to make the floor 1/8″ thick–thick enough to be sturdy, but not wasting plastic.
I kept the 2″ standard for the openings of the passages, and the 2″ overall height (taller than that interferes with visibility of the miniatures).
My wife and I visited Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville Tennessee, which is the largest cave complex in our state, for some inspiration.
Once I was back home in the studio, I opened ZBrush and created a template for the tiles, ensuring that I could make all of the tiles mate up perfectly when printed.
I ended up creating 22 Hex tiles, which could create and endless cavern across the tabletop. The tiles print with no support, and require no assembly.
Here is just a quick sample of the types of cavern layouts you can create:
Once I had the pieces sculpted, I decimated the models to create a high-resolution polygon mesh, and exported the .STL files.
Edit: I have gone back an added some Cave Entrances as well as Hex rings with OpenLOCK and Magnetic connection (because people kept asking for it), and an OpenLOCK compatible dungeon entrance so that you can connect these Caves to the rest of your dungeon:
If you are a gamer, and would like to print your own endless caverns and caves, you can get the set of .STL files here:
This was a custom martini glass of 3 bear cubs climbing a pine tree. The client provided some photos for inspiration and specific volume requirements for the martini. Originally conceived as a 3D printed piece through Shapeways, I designed around the requirements for their process. However, because this was a luxury item, the client opted for using a traditional foundry and had the glasses cast in stainless steel.
Because of the need for precision for the glass, I modeled the basic form in Rhino. Then I exported that Geometry and brought it into ZBrush for the sculpted elements. I looked at a number of materials from porcelain to steel to give the client some options for materials, as each material has different specifications for minimum wall thickness.
The basic bear cub was modeled in ZBrush, and 3 different copies of it were posed on the stem of the martini glass
The details of tree bark, branches, and roots were sculpted on the geometry that I created in Rhino
The foundry used a 3D printed pattern to create traditional molds and then cast the final glasses in stainless steel.
I thought that this project was interesting because I was able to combine the precision of CAD, calculating the liquid volume, with the artistic freedom of digitally sculpting in ZBrush. I also liked how well it turned out, as an actual martini glass.
The client was also very pleased with the results. and says that the metal also serves as an excellent heat sink, keeping the martini cool!
I was thinking about sculpting miniatures for tabletop war games, as an opportunity for freelance work, and I made a list of all of the companies launching new games or miniatures on Kickstarter. There were dozens of successfully funded projects, and the money raised was significant–it looks like tabletop war gaming is booming.
But along the way I discovered that the companies producing these games and miniatures are not paying very much for the original sculpts used to mass-produce the figures. Maybe it is the high-cost of traditional tooling for injection-molding or spin casting that makes the business model so lean, or maybe something else… For the producer, the sculpt is just one of the expenses, along with molding, painting a sample for marketing, etc. ( They pay about as much for the custom paint job as for the sculpt!)
This kind of blows my mind, because the sculpture is the whole product! Without the sculpt, there is nothing to produce.
If you want to freelance for a miniature company, you will be offered only $350-$400 for all rights to your work, and your native ZBrush file… No royalties, just that small amount of cash. If you spent a whole week on a miniature, you would be working for slave wages….
So I had to sit down and rethink… clearly there is a demand for tabletop miniatures, but the traditional approach is not going to work for me. I can’t see how it works for anyone!
When a traditional company wants to manufacture a mini, they will use a high-resolution DLP 3D printer to build a master copy, that they will cut up and prepare for molding. Whether the miniature is manufactured with spin-casting or injection molding, the customer will have to clean up the parts ( seams, flashing, sprue marks) and assemble the final product like a tiny model kit.
But there is an alternative to the traditional model. With Shapeways, an artist has access to the same high-resolution 3D printer used to print the master copy. Instead of making a mold of that master, you can sell those 3D prints directly. An artist maintains all of the control of their copyrights, and has a product that is superior to what can be molded. There is no need to cut it up into pieces. With 3D printing, you don’t worry about undercuts, or assembly, or seams.
The customer will still do a little bit of cleanup. There is a support scaffolding that is generated when the sculpture is printed, that has to be removed, but this is easily accomplished with a few minutes with an exact-o knife. Most of this support is cleaned-off by Shapeways.
The same DLP 3D printer that is used to make the final product, as is used to create the “master” copy in the traditional process.
Shapeways calls their black resin “BHDA” for Black High Definition Acrylate. I think they could come up with something catchier like “Dark Matter”.. But whatever you call it, this is clearly the way forward for producing a line of miniatures as an independent artist.
I’ve done a few pieces as tests, so that I can confirm the quality for myself. I will be adding more to my Shapeways shop as I move forward. Now I just have to let people know about them (marketing…)
Tusk is the elephant watchman at the oasis of Lund. He keeps the peace around the waterhole and watches the gates at night. He can often be heard teaching his son Rollo about life. Tusk is rumored to have been a gladiator for the Blue Faction in the arenas of Kor–prior to Kor’s destruction by the Chiktakk Horde…