Bear Cub Martini Glass

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.

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The basic bear cub was modeled in ZBrush, and 3 different copies of it were posed on the stem of the martini glass

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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.

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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!

The 3D Printed Alternative to Traditional Tabletop Miniatures

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…)

3D Printed Miniatures

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I’ve been doing a lot of commissions through Shapeways this year, many of which are miniatures.

There is a new material that Shapeways is testing called High Definition Acrylate, that is ideal for miniatures.

email-blog-hi-def-acrylateSo now I’m thinking about creating a series of miniatures myself and offering for sale… What about a series of 54mm miniatures inspired by my Dark Lead sketchbook?

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or maybe something like this Alice in Wonderland piece that I made for my daughter?

Here is a sample I just got from Shapeways at 54mm height:

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Thoughts on 3D Printing

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It seems incredible to me that I’m looking at a bronze sculpture of YodaBuddha created  by 3D printing. I conceived the idea in the morning, sculpted it in ZBrush, and uploaded the file to Shapeways in the afternoon.

The “buzz” about 3D printing has been on the technology, the printers themselves, and those start-up companies like Makerbot and Formlabs who have entered the hardware market in the last few years. The story of the individual designer with his home factory creating limited edition or bespoke items is just beginning.

From a designer’s perspective, it is very empowering to be able to go directly from an idea to a manufactured product–No set up fees, tooling costs, or minimum quantities. While it is possible that the technology could bring some manufacturing back to the US from Asia, I think that something like a home-factory craft business may emerge here.

If you have a great product idea, it should be possible to produce it directly with 3D printing. What comes to mind are short-run items like garage kits, designer toys, miniatures, collectibles. The kind of art objects that are done with silicon molds and casting resins. The same companies doing that type of product now are also places that might provide some freelance opportunities… Artistry and skill come with years of practice. The ubiquity of 3D printers doesn’t change that, but it does create a market for designers who can turn an idea into a printable file.

I was (like many artists, I’m sure) eagerly reading the brochures and specs of the latest machines–excited by the prospect of getting my own. I was about ready to place an order for the Form1+ when a news article gave me pause…Auto Desk announced their intentions to enter into this marketplace as well… Now, they create great tools–don’t get me wrong–but the majority of folks buying their content creation tools are dreaming of being artists and animators.  The spectacular Hollywood animated features and the blockbuster visual effects have them inspired–but not everyone is going to end up with a job at Pixar… Similarly, people are excited by the technology of 3D printing and rushing to get one of their own–many inspired by remarkable artwork that they see posted on ZBrushCentral –as though the right software and the right magic box is going to turn them into the next Michelangelo…Rather than being fleeced, those artists might be better served by a modest investment in some watercolors and a box of Sculpy….

Keeping this in mind, I thought I better figure out what I am going to make and who I’m going to sell it to before I plunk down the money for my own printer. Our public library has Makerbot Replicators that you can use if you have a library card ($50/year if you live outside the city), and Shapeways has lots of material choices that I can experiment with for now….

Edit:
After all of that, I finally broke down and bought an awesome Printerbot Simple Metal. for $599– It was in the top 4 in Make Magazines 3D Printer shootout!

 

3D Print your own TAR of Zandoria Collectible!

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Download and 3D print your own TAR of Zandoria collectible statue! Print it and put it on your desk. Print it and give it as a gift. Take a picture and share it! Every time someone sees this statue, they are going to ask “What IS that!?”

That is going to help spread awareness of this project, and the cost of the .stl will help me keep the lights on 😉

Pierre at Cults3D invited me to upload  my sculptures to their new 3D model marketplace where people can buy print-ready models to build on their 3D printers. It seems like a great idea–I imagine that there are only so many Stanford bunnies and Yoda heads that a person needs… As 3D printers become ubiquitous there is a need for high quality sculpts to fill the build platforms.

I foresee that there is going to be a market for commission work too, so if you need a little help bringing your idea to life, please give me a shout. Here it is on Thingiverse

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Landscapes

I have been a little torn between using somewhat realistic CG landscapes or digital paintings for this project. After doing a number of tests each way, I felt that a hybrid matte painted look was going to be better for the introduction of this character…

I started with a Digital Elevation Map (DEM) and exported a greyscale image from MicroDEM. The DEM files and software are available for free here.

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Using the greyscale values, it is pretty simple to generate a terrain mesh. In this case, I used Zbrush to generate the geometry, but I exported it to Sculptris to work on the detail and textures. The reason I wanted to use Sculptris is that I could use the Reduction brush to simplify the geometry in the distance. The detailed rocks in the pass is where the main action of the scene is, so I figured that I could just drop the landscape in as a PROP and render everything in A:M…

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Unfortunately, the maximum texture resolution in Sculptris was too pixelated when rendering up close. So I decided to render the landscape by itself to get the lighting, and retouch it in Photoshop to create matte paintings to use as background rotoscopes in A:M.

I added the dunes in the distance, and the sky, as layers underneath the rendering. Then I added extra detail of the rocks and scrub as an overlay layer.

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I set the ground plane to Front Projection Target and Flat Shaded.

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Now the only object in the shot is TAR. The dust particles are Sprites emitted with each step, and are drifting off to the right as though blown by the wind (actually there is a fan Force Emitter creating the wind).

I started rendering the shot (in HD, 1280 x 720), The first couple of frames took over 1-1/2 hours!  With over 400 frames in just this shot, that was way too long…I knew that I was going to have to make some compromises….  I eliminated global illumination, ambient occlusion, and multipass–relighted the scene with Z-buffered shadows instead of ray-tracing. The new render time was only 2 minutes per frame!

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