Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Update April 24th 2012

Well I've been on a bit of a roll for the last couple of days. I’ve built a few new ranged weapons to go with the large number of melee weapons that I uploaded last week.  The bulk of the work I’ve done though has involved updating a multitude of my ranged weapons.  I went back and measured my test prints in WSF for my bolters and related weapons.  My master model in sketchup was scaled perfectly to match the rogue trader era plastic bolters I had on sprue. Unfortunately the STL files I had uploaded had a scaling error that made them approximately 15% larger. I believe this is because of the old process I used to use involving the software Cadspan.  Cadspan is hard coded to use inches as its measurement while I work in millimeters.  The result is a bit of scaling when I moved between these softwares.  The same can happen going between Meshlab during a shell operation.

When it comes to gluing miniatures together the 15% difference doesn’t mean much.  On standard weapons like the bolt rifle or “gyrojet rifle” it adds a quarter of a millimeter onto their thickness.  Tiny. Larger weapons like the multi-melta or “thermal cannon” have a more significant millimeter added onto their thickness.  Unfortunately 3d printing is a cubically priced so that 15% adds approximately 2 bucks to a printing in FD and nearly 4 in FUD.  This significantly drops the price of some products in the detail materials.  Unfortunately it also means that printing in WSF could fail.  I’ve disabled the Strong and Flexible line of materials.  Looking at WSF next to FD its clear the quality difference is worth the price. Of course if people want to gamble on WSF they can email me to request I turn on the material but I take no responsibility if it fails, often my designs are to detailed to print in WSF anyway.

I also took the liberty of removing weapon grips on most of my ranged weapons.  Unless the weapon grip is specially designed for the weapon there is no point.  Nearly half of the errors I’ve fixed over the past 6 months occur due to thin walls on the weapon grip.  Between the shear amount of work they have caused me and the fact that most people will cut the grips off to put them on a model anyway I’ve just decided to get rid of them.  At some point I’ll probably make a generic weapon grip that passes wall thickness so it can be mounted on any gun.

I modified pretty much all of my weapons this way.  This has resulted in a buck or two drop on pretty much everything with some of the larger weapons dropping closer to 3 or 4 bucks.  Of course this is a double edged sword, though the price dropped it limits the miniatures to the frosted detail range of materials which cost more to start.  It is seriously making me consider increasing the amount of weapons in each model, with the annoyingly high 5 dollar startup 5 weapons per model sets the price a bit high.  I know everyone would love to get more for their money but I’m not sure.  If I make models with too many parts in them I’ll never recoup the cost of my test prints.  I’ll have to think about it a bit longer.

So along with my revisions I also got some ideas for some new weapons.  I dusted off some common 40k weapons I’ve had half finished for a while.  These include flamers, heavy flamers, heavy bolters, arbites shotgun and infernus pistols. These guys are properly scaled the first time so I won’t need to go back and fix them for miss-sizing.  Of course once I start working I have to go overboard, so I also build a couple of new designs.  I designed a weapon I call a magnetic accelerator rifle designed vaguely off of a description from a star wars novel.  Its stout and rounded which makes it a bit bulky but still a good design.  What I spent the most time on though is my “advanced gyrojet” designs.  I started looking at the basic bolter design I originally duplicated and considering how it would evolve.  So I built a futuristic bolter design. It has some curves and is thinner and employs a modular tac system.  It sort of reminds me of a hybrid between the hk-36 and a bolter with some more rounding done to make it sleek.  I put together a couple of different designs, including the basic assault rifle design and an a sniper rifle.  The assault rifle includes the standard sickle clip and a modern sight design as well as a variant with an attached bayonet.  I also made a squad weapon with a box magazine and shell catcher, this variant has a mechanical aim assist on its barrel, I envision it as a tool to prevent muzzle rise.  The sniper rifle includes a traditional long range scope and a bipod for those dirty jobs. Its design is clearly related but much longer and more imposing. 

Well the new designs are up as well as the revisions.  If you get a chance check them out.  What’s next? Well blog wise I want to put up some more back story for my army designs and hopefully work my way around to getting some rule ideas for count’s as for them up.  Model wise, I’ve got a lot of revisions to do.  Along with my scaling issues I’ve discovered that my arms need heavy revision, I’m blowing out my arm designs into both male and female variants.  My current designs are scaled closely to what I intend to do for female marines.  A new variant with thicker arms and hands will be for males.  Further I’ll separate the hands from the arms allowing for variant hand positions.  The exception to all this will be the power fists line which will maintain their integrated hands by necessity. Unfortunately shelling power fists has proven to be too problematic.  As such they will generally remain solid but I plan on using extra detail to thin the designs.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Update April 16, 2012

Those who watch my shapeways store may have noticed a fairly substantial addition of product last night.  I finally got some time to upload some of my new weapon designs.  If you haven’t checked them out yet you can take a look at my shapeways store. www.shapeways.com/shops/dynath.  Now obviously I you can take a look for yourself but I figured why not talk a bit about what I’ve done with these designs and where my inspiration came from. 

Now as many people know I’ve been working on some of my mini’s for a while to make them better and cheaper as well as a bunch of requests.  Its eaten a lot of my time. Particularly the shelling models which adds a good 2 or more hours to the design process on a model.  Not to mention I have a pretty big backlog of models to try and shell.  Incidentally if a magical pixy wants to shell all my models for me shoot me a message LOL.

Anyway, I’ve been working hard on stuff that has started to feel pretty mundane.  That’s pretty much why I started a blog. To share wisdom and make myself feel productive when a single project takes most of an evening to finish.  Generally I work pretty fast on projects so one project taking forever feeeeeeeels so sloooowww…

So I’ve felt unproductive for a while and then saint patties day rolled around and I got drunk.  You know that sort of heavy buzz you get after 7 or 8 Guinness and a few shots.  Not throw up drunk or black out drunk just hazy enough that you remember what happened but maybe not the exact order.  Well I was out with friends and at some point, as often happens to me I started sketching stuff.  Of course when I get a good idea I gotta get it done so I came up with some designs and then out came my laptop and sketchup just happened to come on.  So about a week later I pulled out the stuff I built and decided it was actually good.

The two spear designs I made sort of inspired me to do some more work.  I shared some images with a couple friends and got some more inspiration from them.  What started as 2 spear head designs expanded into a series of quick weapon blades.  Each one took maybe an hour to make so they weren’t complex but they still had some cool unique details.  For the most part I was wasn’t so much thinking of making them as troop weapons as crazy cool one off weapons and such.  I still intend to toss some of them together as a variety pack at some point.

The first two projects and a couple that followed were inspired by a bit of celtic mythology.  A friend in Ireland by the name of Red has been requesting a bunch of celtic inspired icons for his space marine army. Apparently between the lager, the holiday, and the projects I’ve worked on for him I decided to Wikipedia celtic mythology.  I was particularly interest in how legendary weapons which I could make 40k variants of.  There is a particular legend about a spear named the gae bolga that thirsted for blood.  Once it penetrated a man it couldn’t be removed except by cutting it out of his flesh.  I pulled out real images of celtic spears to start and made an embellished but mostly realistic design.  But then a bit more spikey version seemed like the best way to go.  So I did a sort of fantasy design with nice point hook like fins on it to shred some enemy skin.  But then after a discussion with Red I realized that, the design needed to be both a bit more brutal and at the same time less common place.  So I went back to the drawing board.  I finally settled on a long sawblade like design with outrigger blades for that extra shredding power. 

Along the way I came up with some other ideas.  I tried a comet design that looked awesome but didn’t really scream brutal sea monster bone spear that thirsts for the blood of men.  But it also got me thinking about other weapons.  The celts had a lot of swords, most were remarkably like the gladius, double edged short swords with slightly curved sides to the head.  These were simple and easy to make but they also had a few unique designs. Heavily curved personal blades that are reminiscent of the indian kukri.  And of course the classic long sword like Excalibur were celtic too.  So I started making a few of them.

And then of course the celts did use axes a lot.  Almost all axes are the same design.  They aren’t fancy just a big heavy head.  The celtic axe is pretty strait forward. A slightly sloping blade supported by the body of an axe head that curves back from bottom to top making it narrower at the handle.  I built a head for the axe design and then started thinking about a personal project of mine.

I came up with an icon for an aquatic space marine chapter a while back and thought up an intriguing backstory.  So naturally I thought I’m working on an aquatic army idea so might as well make a couple tridents.  I started with one that expanded from a spear head to a trident.  It was simple enough to do but it wasn’t quite enough. An aquatic army needs a bit more aqua than a spear/trident transformer.  So I started with some sketches of waves and made an intricately bladed design with a squid like power cable design for the blades.  It felt right so I did it and I’m glad because the design looks great.

Finally I decided I needed a special armature for the pole arms.  I build an intricate pole arm that uses a more rounded handle and power block for the design.  This replaces the older handle and square power block that I designed a year or more ago when I started.  I figured what the heck and pulled out my old pole arm models then.  I used the new handle design rebuilt them.  For several I had to modify the blades. The glaives and scythes were particularly testy about a new handle.  The design was sortened and revised to make short handle axes as well.

So over all we get 24 weapons sets.  Over a dozen new designs and several redesigns.  They’re scaled off of my grey knights pole arms so most are about 40mm tall or more.  Take a look and enjoy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Scythes of the Emperor Background Pt2

Scythes of the Emperor Background Pt2

So it’s been a while since I posted something.  I’ve been working a lot on new weapon designs.  My intent was originally to shell the female star marine designs.  However my frustration with the process has made me temporarily abandon that process.  Instead after a night of drunken debauchery I’ve started making some new weapons.  I’ve got a few designs near completion that I’ll load soon.  Till then you’ll have to wait to see what I’ve cooked up.

In the meantime let’s talk background.

Now there are two things I hate in this world.  Being told not to do something and being told I can’t do something.  I’ve been told I shouldn’t or can’t make female marines as long as I remember.  I’ve never really thought the reasoning behind the arguments against it made sense.  There are really two reasons I’ve heard regarding why there aren’t female marines. 

The first is that women don’t belong on the battlefield.  I heard this one directly from an actual marine.  I kind of expect it from sexist military types anymore.  It doesn’t really surprise me some men think that way but it does confuse me.  Biologically women and men differ, obviously.  While I don’t subscribe to the notion that women are inherently weaker than men I recognized that each sex excels in different ways. My marine friend who so condescendingly said that women would be a distraction in a warzone conveniently forgets that for thousands of years many civilizations included females on the battlefield.  The celts, amazons, many native American tribes.  Women may not be able to achieve the physical strength of men as easily but they have a determination and ability to multitask that makes them equally effective with a weapon.  In animals females often do the hunting in packs.  And let’s not forget how fierce a mother can be caring for their young.  Women can be cunning and deceitful, resourceful and strong, violent and calculating. All these things can turn the tide of a battle as much as a wall of marines throwing themselves valiantly at the enemy.  I’ll argue that an ignorant male marine will never be worth half as much as an intelligent female one.

The second is simply, GW says there aren’t.  Now I always love this argument because it’s really all based on the fluff from back in rogue trader days that says the space marine process only works on men.  Of course I find this funny because fictional science is justification for the argument.  Beyond this the foundation is the opinions of writers that no longer work at games workshop.  Now scientifically in order for the genetic changes required in space marines to only work on men they’d have to be entirely based on the Y chromosome but it’s impossible that muscle development, build, reflexes, eye sight, and the myriad of other changes described are sex linked.  It’s quite likely that at least a portion of the augmentations would work fine in females.  Beyond this the background only says that the standard astartes process only works in males not that another process doesn’t exist.  A long list of augmentations both biological and mechanical exist in warhammer 40k.  And other female forces use them. IG use selective breeding.  Sisters of Battle use cybernetics and indoctrinated mental conditioning.  Then of course there’s the Sisters of Silence, it’s never explicitly stated augmentations they used but considering they could stand against battle hardened astartes it’s not unlikely to imagine they were also bioengineered by the emperor.  In the end I see no reason why the emperor would confine his genetic tampering to men.

Then of course there is the issue of sustainability.  Approximately 4500 soldiers died in the Iraq war.  At the peak there were 25000 soldiers there which means in a single protracted military campaign the best armed and equipped military fighting force on earth lost 18% of its soldiers or 2.6% per year of the 7 year war.  If you believe the fluff a single astartes chapter can produce 2 new marines per marine in their entire life time.  Assuming a life span of 1000 years that means the astartes chapter can produce 2000 marines in 1000 years. That’s 2 marines a year.  Combat losses of 2.6% per year would mean they lose 26 marines a year and only replace 2.  The Astartes process is comically unsustainable according to what we know of it.  They fight one military campaign and then have to sit out of combat for 2 decades to recoup losses.  Even with the potential thousands of chapters the odds are all chapters would go extinct in just under 1000 years.  And that’s just using real world numbers, if you read the novels produced by black library it’s rare that more than 2 or 3 members of a squad survive.  Which would kill off most chapters in closer to 400 years. 

Realistically there are two ways I can see that the Emperor could solve the attrition rate of the space marines.  For practical reasons I assume both are accurate.  The first is the most logical solution and the easiest to effect.  The Progenoid glands can be implanted multiple times.  This would allow a space marine to produce more than 2 sets of geneseed in their life time.  Now depending on the arduousness of this process the amount of geneseed produced would vary.  The background says the Progenoid glands can be harvested after 1 and 2 years respectively.  I believe this would be under optimal medical conditions.  Under medical supervision a single marine could produce enough geneseed to replenish a chapter in a few decades.  In this scenario it’s the marine selection process and training that make it so arduous to rebuild a chapter.  Without constant expert care I’d be inclined to believe the progenoid implant success is closer to that of birth rates in 3rd world countries. Basically only 1 in 25 progenoid implantations are effective due to radiation, chemical and biological exposure. This would mean a single marine would take 25 to 50 years to produce another under battlefield conditions.  That’s between 40 and 80 per year, effectively replacing combat losses with a minor surplus that could go to the Mechanicus.  This number is far more practical than 2 per year given originally but still insufficient to make decimated chapters recover quickly from their losses.  It would still take a god 100 years to effectively train a replacement for a veteran battle brother leaving a chapter that’s below half strength a good 500 or more years to rebuild while on light duty.

So I automatically assume marines “breed” faster than the default fluff implies.  So what’s the other solution?  Natural selection.  The Emperor created the primarchs to be his allies during the crusades but none of the Emperor’s plans were limited to the crusades.  We can easily assume that the Emperor planned that the Astartes would one day win the crusade.  In the early rogue trader days space marines were referred to as the next step of humanity.  I always believed that’s what the emperor intended, to elevate all of humanity to the level of the Astartes after the war.  But in order to do that the Astartes process would have to be executable without technological intervention.  There for I believe it was sort of inevitable that the Emperor would create female astartes.  In the official background there is of course no evidence that he did.  Of course there is no evidence he didn’t either. Instead we are left with the decaying remains of his empire and a bunch of male astartes chapters that defend it.  So if the emperor made female marines why aren’t there any left?  Well there are 2 unaccounted for legions that were expunged from imperial record.  So what do you do, that Horus didn’t, that gets you kicked out of the family. Generally, you get your creator to quit GW before the book is published.  However in the setting I’d suggest you give the astartes the chance to become a race independent of humanity.  The chance for humanity’s protectors to become the ones who surpass and snuffs them out for all eternity.  It’s the last thing they would want at the end of the Horus Heresy, the chance that any minute somewhere in the galaxy a female marine could give birth to a new Horus.

So that’s my logic.  The Emperor planned to elevate humanity to the level of demigods but got iced before he could do it.  In response the high lords decided to pimp slap the female astartes out of history.  As a result we are left with hot boy on by man war in the 41st millennium. 

Design Symbolism

When I first decided to make female marines I wanted to design a chapter that both captured the feminine mystique and embodied the astartes ideals.  I imagined that even in modern times female astartes would be tightly held secret.  So I imagined them as hooded and cloaked warriors much like the dark angels. One of my fellow players has a dark angels banner that depicts the angel of death, wings unfurled, scythe raised, face cloaked in darkness.  From there I just gravitated to the idea of “Scythes of the Emperor.”

As their icon I sketched out two scythes forming an ‘S’ shape.  I felt it was a fitting design as it reminded me both of their name “Scythes” but also of the symbol for infinity.  The scythes are a recreated chapter, though the details of their legacy are lost they are rising from the ashes to reclaim mankind’s destiny. 

The scythes would be hooded and cloaked but not just to hide their faces.  They are hooded to represent the death of old fears.   I envisioned a secret movement within the inquisition.  A growing discontent with the status quo, as well as a realization that the Emperor is the only possible way to save humanity.  Not the Emperor as he is, but the Emperor as he was.  The idealist that lit the fuse on the crusades and lead humanity back to dominance.  For better or worse I saw this movement as a sort of schism between the old guard who have protected the status quo and the more idealistic who seek to upheave the system.  You could make the argument that one or the other side is being manipulated by chaos and you might be right.  But regardless the idea is the foundation of a new Order in the inquisition.  The Ordo Carnificium, the order of endings.  A mix between dooms day believers who are convinced the Imperium is on the brink and young idealists seeking to restore past glories.  Both groups have put their faith in the hands of the Emperor. And if the Emperor can’t get off the throne to save them his vision, discarded so many years ago, just might.

Almost a year later I discovered that there was already a Scythes of the Emperor chapter.  I was quite dismayed by this because I thought I had come up with a cool original name for a chapter.  But then I decided it was quite fitting.  A secret organization like the Ordo Carnificium would be inclined to hide their militant arm. Where better to hide it than in plain sight.  So the idea of naming the chapter after a severely crippled military force currently in service made perfect sense.  The myriad sightings of the female scythes would be chalked up to the active military career of the male scythes.  Only limited editing of imperial record would be required to keep them a secret.  A combat doctrine to hunt down those that have seen them fit quite well into their secrecy pact. So the army could fall into the category of counts as Dark Angels army.  Of course Dark Angels aren’t the most competitive list but I’m fine with that.  They have the basic marine load outs and a slightly tweaked army build.  I imagine that in the next edition the revised Dark Angels won’t work for the Scythes anymore because of the new cool gee-wiz-wow junk they will get but oh well.

Aesthetically the Scythes needed to be as imposing as their male counter parts but as feminine as possible.  From my perspective the female form is a beautiful thing. I didn’t want to sully the idea of female soldiers by making them unrealistic. So the armor I designed was intended to be a practical application of the same parts that make up the male marines.  However instead of being a heavy bulky design I chose to go with a thinner structure.  The design uses real female proportions.  As a result the body is slimmer than the male marine designs.  The shoulders are narrower by almost a millimeter and the body has a noticeable waist which flairs out at the hips.  This forms the traditional hour glass figure so prized in modern femininity.  The legs are wider at the thigh and narrower towards the knee.  The thin design gives them a bit more graceful lines than the traditional marines making them stand out.  Also due to the thinning of the body they appear taller when stood next to male counter parts.  This illusion is intended to make them more intimidating without bulking them up like she hulk.

The armor designs themselves are pretty much the same as traditional marine armor apart from the curves.  The biggest controversy to deal with was the breasts.  Traditional fantasy convention holds that female breast plates have to accentuate the bust line.  Fans of warhammer consistently seem divided calling the cleavage zone a bullet trap.  I’ve been playing 40k since it was rogue trader. As a result I have a fondness for it being “fantasy in space.”  As a result I lean more towards having skimpy female armor than having androgynous super soldiers.  As for the cleavage issue, I personally think the bust on a female figure isn’t so much a matter of safety or realism as recognition.  It’s true that modern soldiers, male or female, wear the same uniforms but having the bust noticeable in a uniform is the easiest way to distinguish male from female.  It’s the fastest way to spot the difference at 28mm scale.  The rest of the details just add to the mysterious look of the figure.

The female figures I’ve designed are only partially complete.  The bodies are detailed but they lack the character of their settings.  Most notably they lack their shrouds.  Each Scythe wears a robe which I make with green stuff. It isn’t the same type of body covering robe as the dark angels, its better described as a sleeved sir coat.  The upper body has a pennant shaped cloth robe and the sleeves flair out below the elbo.  The design is intended to be flowing so that while in motion it conceals body detail.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Shelling 3d Models

Shelling 3d Models…

I’ve been working on a lot of models which are overpriced when I upload them.  I hunted around for tools that can assist me in shelling the model to lower the cost.  Now my search hasn’t turned up a single solution to shelling a model.  Many software’s, including blender and 3ds max, include integrated tools shell models. I’ve only had limited success with their software as their learning curve is a bit strong.  My personal opinion is that these integrated tools are poor implementations of what we need for solid modeling.

All this comes to a head in a process I’ve developed to shell my models.  It is based on the concepts I found here, https://sites.google.com/site/3dprintfaq/workflows/hollowing-a-model but I’ve modified it to make the process work for my projects.  This guide will be specific to my workflow and hopefully reveal some details which will help you adapt it to your workflow.

The Software I use:

  • Sketchup
  • Netfabb Studio Basic
  • Meshlab

Step 1: Build your model.

The first step is completing your first model.  As I mentioned in another post I use Sketchup as my modeling software of choice.  It’s simple and easy to learn and works especially well for linear designs.

Some important notes regarding working in sketchup

  • Work at 1000 times scale in sketchup.  Sketchup has a minimum line segment limit size that causes errors on small items.
  • Work in millimeters in sketchup and everywhere else.  Working in mm keeps you from having to figure fractions and since shapeways’ uses mm by default for its pricing so it just makes things easier.
  • Remove interior geometry and separate shells.  There is a certain camp at shapeways that says not to worry about separate shells or interior geometry because shapeways will solidify the model on printing.  This stray geometry causes errors when shelling a model and often results in strange aberrations when shapeways solidifies things.  Further it’s just bad design to leave parts laying around that don’t do anything.
  • Export your model as STL.  Sketchup can save STL models in the pro version, there are export plugins you can find on sketchucation for the free version.  STL is the preferred solid model format.  If you can’t export in STL you can export as 3DS to open in netfabb then export it from netfabb as STL.

Step 2: First visit to Netfabb

Netfabb is a fantastic software which is pretty integral to any solid modeling project.  The basic version lets you fix most errors in STL models.  The Pro version can tile models, divide them, and shell them.  Obviously I don’t have the Pro version, its price is excessive for a person like me who does this as a hobby, but for someone making a business of this it could save a lot of time and effort.

Now the important thing to use Netfabb basic for is solving gaps and major errors in the model’s outer surface.

  • Extract Surfaces as Part.  If you have stray geometry in your STL you can extract the surfaces to a new part to eliminate the geometry you don’t want.  Click  “Repair” (the red cross) then choose “Select Shells”.  You can then right click to “Extract Triangles as Part” the new part you create will not include anything you didn’t select.  Once you have the surfaces separated you can remove the original part by right clicking it in the parts list.
  • Run repair on the part.  Selecting the Part that contains your model you can then click “Repair” (the red cross).  The model will highlight holes, degenerate faces, and other errors.  On the “Status” page make note of the “shells” field that tells how many separate shells in your model.  The best thing to do is to run the automated repair.  It goes through the model filling holes, deleting tiny shells, and so on.  It won’t fix everything but it does fix most things.  Once done select “Apply Repair” to replace your repaired model for the unrepaired version.
  • Export as STL. Now right click on the part and select “Export Part” then “as binary STL” give it a name and save.  Occasionally you’ll get a warning that says faces may become degenerate.  If you do it will offer a repair option by merging faces below a certain threshold, set this threshold to something like 0.0025mm.  This will merge nearby points and fix the degenerate face error.  Then just save as intended.

Step 3: Freeing Models of Errors

At this point if you’ve done as directed in Netfabb your model should be free of holes, manifold errors, and multiple shells.  However if errors remain chances are they are severe and difficult to repair.  So severe in fact that you probably can’t fix them on your own.  Usually these errors come from “rats nests” inside your model.  Tangles of geometry that is hidden below the outer surface of your model so you can’t see it but it persists causing gaps, shells and manifold errors none the less.  Services exist to fix these problems.  Two services spring to mind.

Cloud.netfabb.com: made from the manufacturers of netfabb its presently a free service in beta.  It uses netfabbs functionality along with the processing power of the server to purge problems from models and rebuild the geometry. You have to upload your file for the automated process to be performed.  You then are emailed a link to download the processed file.  Netfabb cloud can be buggy and tends to reject files for no apparent reason some times. I don’t expect it to remain free as netfabb is a profitable company that knows the value of its products.

Cadspan.com: this is an independent cad design firm that has developed a specialized tool to make solid STLs.  The Cadspan web service allows you to upload an STL and then process the STL with some options to generate a water tight STL.  It does this by shrink wrapping the model’s geometry and removing everything but the outer faces.  You have to play with the detail settings to get the best results.  Cadspan has both a free service and a paid version. The free version limits the number of polygons in the model uploaded while the paid version is open ended.  They offer a 1 month trial of the paid service with just an email address.  Like netfabb the company seems to know the value of their product so their prices are out of my range but the free service is quite helpful. Cadspan does tend to generate excessive numbers of shells so it will likely fix your geometry error but need processed in netfabb basic after wards.

Step 4: Making the actual shell.

Now that your model is finished and error free we can make the actual shell you’ll use to hollow your model.  This is done in Meshlab. Meshlab is a free software that surfaces models in a huge variety of ways. It’s a bit crash prone and many processes take a lot of ram and processing power but they get the job done.  My workflow in meshlab is convoluted but it’s the only one I’ve found that doesn’t cause meshlab to crash. The crashing could be subject to the 5 computers I’ve tried it on but I doubt it very much.

  • Launch Meshlab and import your error free model. Do this by selecting “File” and “import mesh” then selecting your STL file.
  • Optional: Decimate your model.  If your model has gone through one of the two web services it’s a good idea to run a decimation operation on the model.  The cloud based error repair tools rebuild your mesh and can often generate strange geometry configurations that, even though correct, can cause meshlab to crash. Decimating the surface removes these complex model areas before making your shell thus avoiding the issue.  If you didn’t use the cloud services its likely your model is fine and won’t cause a crash.  To decimate select “filters” then “remeshing, simplification, and reconstruction” then “Quadric Edge Collapse Decimation”  this will collapse edges to form quads simplifying your geometry.  
    • In the Quadric Edge Collapse Decimation dialog insure “Preserve Boundary of the mesh” and “Planar simplification” are selected.   The other settings can be left at default, changing the boxes will generally result in the model being simplified more and more which isn’t helpful for our purposes.
  • Now we can generate the inner shell.  Select “filter” then go back to “remeshing, simplification, and reconstruction” and finally “Uniform Mesh Resampling”  The complex name basically means it takes the mesh you’ve loaded and generates another mesh a set distance away from the first one.
    • In the Uniform Mesh Resambling Dialog you’ll see two sets of two boxes you can fill in. The first line is “Precision” settings, the first box is Absolute and the second is Percentage based precision.  In the Percentage box set the value to 1, the absolute value will change to reflect it.  This is the relative accuracy of the shell you’ll make, if you set this to a tiny decimal the deviation of the shell would be minimal and you’re pretty much guaranteed the software will crash or take a year to finish. 1% deviation is good for our purposes as it isn’t completely accurate but not far off either.
    • The second line Offset with again and Absolute and Percentage entry field.  Here we are going to look at the “Absolute” field.  Any number we put in is the distance from the outer wall it will make our shell.  As I work at 1000 times scale in millimeters I move my decimal places 3 places to the right.  For instance if I’m working in White Detail I’d use “-1050” or 1.05mm after all is done. White Strong and Flexable I’d do “-750” or 0.75mm.  Frosted Detail, “-550” or 0.55mm” and of course for Frosted Ultra Detail “-350” or 0.35mm.  You’ll notice I’ve worked in a tiny bit of padding, this helps alleviate wall thickness errors caused by scaling issues on upload.  The exact thickness will depend on the scale you work at and the material you’re printing in. 
    • Also insure that “Clean Vertices” and “Multisample” boxes are selected. This insure the new shell is made from the best possible points extrapolated from your working model.

Step 5: Pointless busywork.

Now at this point you have an outer model and an inner shell model but the two exist as two separate parts in meshlab.  You can’t export them as one yet.  If you tried to flatten the layers into one at this point meshlab would crash.  Supposedly this is because of how the model exists in memory.  Really it’s just a headache caused by the programs.  So what we have to do is export the model and reimport it, then flatten it.

  • Export the Laters.  You can see the layers by going to “view” then “show layer dialog” a column at the right will appear listing your layers.
  • Select the “Offset Mesh” and go to “File” and then “export mesh as”  select ply from the options and export it someplace. Name it something you’ll remember, doesn’t matter what this is just a temporary holder.
  • Now we can close this project and start a new one in Meshlab.
  • We’ll now import the meshes.  Once more its “File” and “import mesh” then selecting your STL file. Then we’ll do it again this time importing the PLY you exported a second ago.
  • With both meshes imported once more go to “View” and “Show Layer Dialog”.  Now right click on the layer dialog and select “Flatten Visible Layers”  this will merge all your layers into a single layer.
  • Now, finally go to “File” and “export mesh as” and save your mesh as an STL or similar file type for further editing.

Step 6: Yes More Model Editing.

So you built the shell and joined the inner and outer shells into a single file.  Unfortunately since the inner and outer shell overlap shapeways will ignore the inner shell if you uploaded it now. Even if it did pay attention the fact the shell has no opening so material would be trapped inside and you’d still pay for the material.  So at this juncture we need to make an opening from the inner shell to the outside so it’s all one big hollow shell and can be properly printed.

  • Launch Sketchup and import your shelled model. 
  • One of the weird things about working in Meshlab is that when it exports it rescales things.  When you load it into sketchup or other software its generally been made larger.  Scale the model you import by 0.39 in order to return it to its proper size.
  • You can do this a couple of ways.  If you have the pro version of sketchup you can make a cylinder make it a group, make your inner shell one group and your outer model another.  Pose your cylinder where you want it.  Then subtract the cylinder from your outer model.  Then subtract your inner shell from the outer model as well.  This can be time consuming and for complex models may make some errors you’ll need to fix between operations.
  • Alternatively if you don’t have the pro version of sketchup you’ll need to do this a little bit harder.  Start by again making the inner shell one group and the outer model another and creating another cylinder and grouping it.  Position your cylinder where you want it then explode the cylinder group.  Then hide the outer model and explode your inter shell.  Select the cylinder’s outer surface and right click. Select “Intersect faces with model”.  Now go in and erase stray surfaces and edges.  Once the extra geometry is removed triple click the inner shell to select the entire set of geometry.  Now right click and select “reverse faces”.  Once reversed unhide the outer model and explode it as well. Select the extending part of the cylinder and once more right click and choose “Intersect faces with model”.  And once again remove the unwanted geometry.  Finally select everything and group them again.
  • It should be noted that models that are large will warp in some materials if they aren’t thick enough or lack enough support.  This happens particularly when working with materials like FUD at its minimum thickness.  Check your design rules. This is the right time to put in interior supports if you have to.  It’s much easier now than earlier or later in the design process.  A few thick cylinders running as supports through the cavity will prevent the model from warping during printing.  Follow the same process using either Union or Intersect Faces to make the supports part of your model.
  • With everything as one solid it’s time to finalize things for shapeways. Select the model you just made.  Now in the Pro Sketchup you can go to “file” and then “export” and “3d model” in the export dialog box choose STL.  If you don’t have the Pro version go to “Plugins” then “Export STL”  Save your STL file once more.

Step 7: Second visit to Netfabb

So once you’ve built a nicely shelled model you need to error check it and shrink it to the right scale.  Of course netfabb basic is fantastic for that.  If you believe the propaganda from netfabb the pro version would be able to do everything we needed up to now but that isn’t possible on my budget, on MOST people’s budget really.  Anyway lets skip my ruminations on the need for lower cost alternatives to fill these rolls and get back to work. 

Now we need to go through basically the same work we did before but with the addition of scaling the model to its proper size.

  • Scale the Part.  Select your part, then right click and select “scale”. This will open a scale dialog that allows you to type in a percentage to scale the part by.  By default the model should scale uniformly.  In the first box of the  scale dialog type your scale factor.  The other boxes will change to reflect it.  I work at 1000 times scale so I type in 0.001 as a scale factor.  This will take a model that I’ve built at 28000 mm and shrink it to 28mm.
  • Run repair on the part.  Selecting the Part that contains your model you can then click “Repair” (the red cross).  The model will highlight holes, degenerate faces, and other errors. 
  • Remove degenerate faces. Unlike before the model should have lots of orange lines highlighted. These are degenerate faces, faces that have become so small or corrupted they cause errors.  In the repair dialog on the right select the “actions” tab.  Now Select “remove degenerate faces” this will delete all the screwy faces.
  • Automatic Repair. Now we can run the automated repair.  It goes through the model filling holes, deleting tiny shells, and so on.  It won’t fix everything but it does fix most things.  Once done select “Apply Repair” to replace your repaired model for the unrepaired version.
  • Export as STL. Now right click on the part and select “Export Part” then “as binary STL” give it a name and save.  Occasionally you’ll get a warning that says faces may become degenerate.  If you do it will offer a repair option by merging faces below a certain threshold, set this threshold to something like 0.0025mm.  This will merge nearby points and fix the degenerate face error.  Then just save as intended.

Step 8: Upload to Shapeways

That’s it, the models done. Properly shelled, nice and pretty. Scaled to match other minis.  All we need do now is upload.  If things didn’t go right it won’t upload, generally giving you a manifold error.  For the most part though it should work.  Once uploaded you’ll need to limit your materials to the ones you intended it for or those with more stringent guidelines.