SparkmakerFHD for Miniatures

SparkmakerFHD was a Kickstarter that I backed last year, for a low cost resin printer. Though I had vowed never to pledge on another 3d printer kickstarter again, I couldn’t resist… I worried when it didn’t ship when anticipated, but eventually it arrived!

My first print on the SparkmakerFHD

I had never used a resin printer before, so I was a little intimidated. I read through the manual a couple of times before I began. I bought nitrile gloves and lots of isopropyl alcohol, and watched some YouTube videos. Eventually, I overcame my fear and turned it on!

For my first print, I loaded up some of the miniatures that I had sculpted for my Patreon into Chitubox (the slicing software), used “Auto supports” and clicked SLICE.

I assumed that I would get some failures, and that I would use that experience to learn how to improve my prints. But when I came back and checked on it a couple of hours later, it was done printing and everything came out perfectly!

After removing the supports

When I had first shown these designs on Facebook, someone said that the weapons would be too thin, and these same models uploaded to Shapeways got flagged as unprintable, because the blades and crossbow strings violate their minimum feature sizes…

I have had some experience with Shapeways, because I was one of their Designers-For-Hire and had done some contract modeling for them as part of their Design with Shapeways service… Their minimums are put there to make sure they they never have a problem (and have to reprint or refund), so they are meant to play it safe (for Shapeways)…

But as you can see, the blades and crossbow strings printed just fine.

The Cimmerian printed at 120mm

My next print was to see how big I could go, so I scaled up Conan the Cimmerian to 120mm and let it print overnight. I added some more resin to the tank before I went to bed (I was paranoid that it would run out).

The Cimmerian at 120mm

I was totally impressed with how this turned out! This is on a resin printer that was only $250 on Kickstarter (it is $349 on their website)

Now that I’ve got this printer, I am thinking that I can use it to produce physical miniatures for sale. The level of detail that can be achieved is far superior to what can be done with injection-molding. There is no tooling cost, and no inventory, everything is print-on-demand.

I’m weighing this idea vs just selling .STL files, since even though it is pretty simple to do, there are many more gamers and painters who would rather just buy a mini, rather than printing it themselves.

The Problem of Miniature Scales

3D printing is enabling everyone to create their own miniatures, rather than buying mass-produced ones. This leads to a problem with scale, when all of these miniatures are on the tabletop.

Andrew Loomis “Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth”

Like most artists, I learned proportions using “heads” as a unit of measure, and the human figure as the reference.

Most of the Ral Partha, TSR miniatures that I have in my collection are 25mm scale–which for traditional wargaming, means that the figure is sculpted so that it is 25mm from the bottom of the feet to the eyeline. The actual height of the miniature might be 28-30mm depending on the headgear….

Games Workshop and others started making what is called “Heroic Scale“, and others have started use the term, but it is not consistent between companies, and with the dozens of artists creating 3D printable miniatures, the scale and proportions seem more confusing than ever….

Hero Forge Scale

This is a sample model from Hero Forge, A company that lets you configure a miniature and then order a print or download the .stl file to print it yourself.

Though this is a nominally a “28mm” figure, you can see that it is 32mm tall (28mm being the distance to the eyeline). I have heard some people give the advice to a new sculptor (wanting to make miniatures), to just base it off a 32mm figure, But that is not enough direction…look at the proportion of the figure based on HEADS–it is only 5-1/2 heads tall!

Normal human proportions, compared to “heroic scale”

When you look at a normal human figure at 32mm tall, the head is much smaller compared to the “Heroic Scale”. It is only 4mm, compared to 6mm. So even though the figures are the same height, the normal human figures look tiny….

This is true, even when you put this same figure on the table next to the old 25mm metal miniatures. The average size of the head on those old minis is 5mm.

5mm HEAD height

At 5mm head height, a normal proportioned human would stand 40mm tall (if standing upright), and the Hero Forge model would be a dwarf (as far as proportions go), but at least they would look right on the tabletop.

Since I am beginning to make miniatures myself, I needed to figure this all out and create a template for my figures that will work for my miniatures and look good even next to someone else’s miniatures…

5mm Head, 7 heads tall

A 7-HEADS figure with a 5mm head, is 35mm tall (standing upright). But when posed in an action pose, will stand a little shorter (28-32mm). This is the template that I came up with, after trying variations in proportions, that I believe will look good on the tabletop, even when mixing between traditional miniatures and 3D printed ones from different artists.

If sculpting smaller races, such as Dwarves, Gnomes and Halflings I will alter the proportions (4-HEADS) appropriately, so that they are shorter on the tabletop, but keep the heads 5mm.

It may be a non-issue, since whenever you are 3D printing, you can scale a model however you like… Whatever proportions or style of miniature that you prefer, if you are mixing and matching sculpts from different artists or companies, if you keep the skull sizes the same, they will look better on the tabletop.