Symbiosis: Miniatures & 3D Printing
3D printing has been around for a while, but only lately has it become widely accessible, due to the rapidly dropping price of 3D printers. This must be the golden age of affordable 3D printer startups. A quick search on Kickstarter produces multiple successfully funded projects with an almost 3000% funded ratio.
The mass of 3D printing startups is also generating a large variation in the printing methods. This variety and competition is pushing the quality of these printers to better and better resolutions.
The main hurdle we perceive, in regard to the 3D printing revolution getting its first true foothold, is the lack of a mass-market, profitable focus for the technology. Currently, most prints are either made as a curiosity to garner attention for the burgeoning technology, or for use as industrial design prototypes. The greater public often finds the technology interesting, but are at a loss when trying to identify how it could change their lives or have a profitable, real-world application.
Proposals of being able to print mobile phone covers, etc. are not going to generate the demand necessary for this technology to become widespread. There has to be a viable, cost effective, real-world application for 3D printing before the technology sees broader acceptance.
Since 3D printing cannot compete with the volume and mass-production of traditional molding, printing one-off objects is often more expensive than purchasing an injection molded object. We believe the solution to this is customization, the infinite reusability of the digital files (molds break and wear out – digital files do not), and access to the means of production (most people cannot visit a factory to have a one-off object fabricated for them).
We believe that, with the right combination of 3D printing and miniature modelling, not only can the way miniatures are produced for tabletop gaming be revolutionised, but 3D printing technology can additionally find a much-needed demand to fuel its further progress.
What is 3D printing not good for?
Let’s get one thing clear first. 3D printing won’t be replacing mass production of items anytime soon. Printing multiple copies of a single miniature, for example, doesn’t really make sense. 3D printing can’t compete with the speed and quality of injection molding – at least not yet. That is why we don’t aim to produce zombies for our game using 3D printing – at least not initially.
3D printing is ideal for printing customized, one-off models
While producing multiple copies of a single model doesn’t make sense with 3D printing the technology is ideal for producing one-off models. We want to offer to our gamers a virtually unlimited selection of miniatures. Gamers playing Lands of Ruin will be able to nearly limitlessly customise their miniatures including equipment, pose and other characteristics and then use 3D printing to get their individual miniatures exactly the way they want to have them.
Not everyone will have a 3D printer
Even though 3D printers are becoming cheaper, better and easier to use, we are far away from them being part of every home. We expect 3D printing shops will arise to serve large numbers of people (similar to the way traditional, paper print shops appeared before printers were feasible for most people to have one in their homes). We will be connecting our gamers with skilled printer owners and stores for the production.
Quality of 3D printed models
Currently, most affordable 3D printers cannot compete with the more established model production methods in quality. While the quality isn’t bad even now, it is unlikely that it will satisfy gamers whose interest in the hobby is more model oriented. Our test prints that used a bit older, and expensive, professional-level printer (B), as well as more affordable, newer printers (A), have not produced results that are fully satisfying.
The pace of the 3D printing technology revolution is promising. A modern, DIY printer can now almost achieve the quality level of a 7-year-old, professional printer (which originally cost several thousand dollars). We believe that new types of 3D printers will arrive on the market very soon with printing processes that can produce results with noticeably higher detail. Printers using non-deposition methods are already showing signs of extremely high resolutions all the way to 0.001mm layer thickness.
Unlimited opportunities, 3D modelling
The reason we believe that 3D printing will revolutionise the way tabletop game miniatures are produced in the future is the unlimited permutations that can be created instead of a small selection of static poses or selection of multi-part kits.
Computer games, especially first person shooters, have been using 3D models for their characters for a long time. Naturally, they do not produce multiple models for each character to create the multitude of poses a character can take in the game. They use a single model for each character with algorithms defining the movement of said character. We want to bring the same approach to miniature gaming. We will be creating character models that can be moved into a full range of interesting poses and then printed. Each gamer will have his or her own set of unique models on the table, even if they were all based on the same digital starting point.
Character customisation doesn’t end with pose. Most modern computer games have sophisticated equipment customisations that are reflected on the character models in-game. We want to bring that aspect to miniature gaming as well. Gamers will be able to equip their models exactly the way they are fielded.
How does all this work in practice?
We don’t expect gamers to have high quality 3D printers in their homes anytime soon. So, how are they going to get 3D printed models?
We will be bringing together people and companies who have the means to produce these prints with the people who want to buy them. We will provide a normal online storefront for our gamers. This store will be fully integrated with our game system, so the gamers will have their team compositions readily available to them, as well as easy access to any relevant information they need from the game.
On the other side, we will have a list of trusted, 3D printing companies or individuals in widely dispersed locations. We will automatically map the gamer’s order to the closest printer. All this will define the delivery time of the product (depending on the bandwidth and size of the queue of the selected printer) as well as the price. Customers will be presented with pricing and shop options at the point of purchase. Once the gamer places the order, the customised model will be sent to the printer who will send the product directly to the customer once the print is complete.
We’re looking for 3D printing partners!
We’re currently looking for people and companies to partner with to get the wheels rolling. In the first stage we need people who are willing to work with us to prove that 3D printing is a viable option for producing customisable tabletop models.
Eventually, once the process has proven viable, our partners would need to be capable of handling a large volume of prints at any given time.
If you own a 3D printer or are part of a company that might be interested to partner with us, please don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com. What we propose here is an application for this emerging technology as well as sustained flux of business. While this is an area of keen interest this will not be our core money making mechanism. That means that most of the potential profit will be going to our printing partners.
We’re looking for skilled 3D modellers!
The other part of the equation is the 3D models. We are looking for skilled 3D modellers who are capable of producing human models with industry standard levels of detail. We will need a small range of 3D models created, based on our character concept art, to use in our test prints.
If you’re a skilled 3D modeller and would be interested to be part of a true revolution of miniature gaming please let us know by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org!