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Creating Plastic Miniatures - QUESTION(s) OF THE DAY

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jonu5123
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Hello Everyone! I just recently joined this Forum and I am hoping to use this site often as I start creating my board game. I will eventually get to the Game itself in another Forum (fantasy board game - almost 80's style!!) but I need to get a few questions out there so I have ideas on where Im going with this. Prototype Pieces are all made for playtesting, However I am unclear on the creation certain pieces.

Question #1 - The plastic miniatures you see in All board games, what is the process of creating these? What material is used? Are they hand sculpted into a mold first (then mass produced from that mold)? Or are they, or could they be done in a 3D program and a mold made at a company like shapeways? I am a 3D artist and might choose to go this route or 3d sculpting.

Any thoughts or suggestions? If there is anyone who maybe can go into super detail about this topic would be greatly appreciated!

jonu5123
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The Game Crafter
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The ones you see in

The ones you see in production board games are almost always injection moulded. You either hand sculpt and then 3d scan the sculpture, or just make the sculpture in a 3D CAD program. Then a heavy steel tool is created using a CNC mill to carve out what are called cavities. The more cavities the more expensive the die, but also the cheaper it is per unit to make the pieces.

Injection moulding is a fairly expensive process for start up. The die can cost between $2,000 and $25,000. The per piece cost is cheap after that though. But since it has a very high startup cost, you don't do it until you know you can sell 100,000+ pieces.

As for play testing, either buy premade pieces from thegamecrafeter.com/parts or make some custom in 3D using a company like shapeways.com.

jonu5123
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Plastic Pieces

THanks! So i have been using the D and D minis i had in my closet to playtest my game. BUt I will eventually need to make my own - 6 in total (4 if its too costly). I was told a year ago that companies can make molds for about $800 or so based off a 3D miniature. I wil most likely making the sculpts insde of my ZBrush program.

So what would you suggest if I went through a 3D sculpting process? SHould I submit for a mold to Shapeways? Or is there another route. Im still confused about how to really push the pieces. Im not concerned about price right now.

thanks!

The Professor
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Much Needed Reposnse

jonu,

Thanks for asking the question, and I'm very pleased with The Game Crafter's Response. One of the things that I think BGDF does exceptionally well is bring together all of the board game elements to one location...not just designers, but developers, craftsmen, publishers, etc. The other thing about this type of passionate-driven work is the fact that, and I trust that I'm right about it, most people don't dive into board game design for the money...it's about giving back to the community of gamers.

Cheers,
Joe

The Game Crafter
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I can't really comment on

I can't really comment on what you've been told. The pricing listed is what I've seen.

Shape ways doesn't make dies / moulds. They just make 3d printed components.

There are are hundreds of plastics producers around the world. They all have a wide range of offerings and prices. Some can make dies while others can produce 3D CAD files while others can produce the parts, while others can do some combination of the three. Here are a few examples:

Protomolds = http://www.protolabs.com/protomold
Lijia Industries in Ningbo China = http://www.cnlijia.com.cn
Rolco Games = http://www.rolcogames.com/

jonu5123
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Thanks for this! Actually i

Thanks for this! Actually i use your card template from GAME CRAFTER to create my own cards!

danartman
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rubber molds

Using a small rubber mold (using rubber) in a normal plastic drinking cup you can make copies of small miniatures using resin. A small "cup mold" will cost about $20 and you can make about 80 copies in such a mold before it breaks down and is unusable. You can only make so many copies a day as the resin heats up the mold and you have to let it cool between pours or it destroys the mold. It's messy. But it works. Resin model kits (with rubber molds) are a proven technology for short runs.
I have also contracted this service with model kit friends. So if you want to make say 50 to 80 copies of a small object (about an inch tall) you can do it in a cup, for cheap. The resin is very durable. They also make "shrinking" resins. Once the resin drys, it shrinks. So a one inch model becomes a 50% smaller model and it's perfect. You could then take this model and make an even SMALLER molded piece. I have sculpted things at 3 inches and then using shrinking resin made smaller copies. it's pretty cool. All of this is available through smooth on and other mold making places. Watch a few videos about mold making and you can see how it's done.

jonu5123
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Shapeways to MOLDS

THat is pretty cool. I watched a few of these molding demos. But here is what I am looking to do. Let me know if this sounds right?

-Ill be making a model in a 3D program (ZBRrush)
-Then i would like to send the model to a site like Shapeways where they can make a small plastic miniature for me.
-WHen the time comes, can I can use that miniature to send to a production house where they can make the mold from that model?

Is this how it could work as well? I know shapeways doesn't make mold, but they can make the miniature to base a mold off of?

The Game Crafter
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The miniature is not

The miniature is not necessary. The CAD file is (or zbrush in your case). The 3d print is for your own purposes as a proof to make sure that it came out how you expected.

jonu5123
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Great thanks! So right now I

Great thanks! So right now I am working on the 3D model and will send it to shapeways to make sure it comes out the way I intend. As long as a company can make the mold from the STL file (or whatever file they need) then that will be fine.

THanks

tony5518
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Ningbo Lijia Industry

It's really a good post about how to develop and manfuacture miniatures pieces.
All above is almost correct for the first steps of developing miniatures. After your approval when you get models made by 3D printers, you need find a professional miniatures factory to make moulds to get physical industrial mainiatures. For playtesting, models from 3D printers are normally enough for your playtesting. Perfect and industrial miniatures need be made by expensive special moulds which need almost USD2000 to 3000 according to different cavity configuration. This special tooling is different with normal tooling by CNY because of detailed miniatures, it need casted moulds. You can contact following miniatures manfuactuer for process detail and costing inf.
Ningbo Lijia Industry Co., Ltd.
www.cnlijia.com.cn
sales1[AT]cnlijia.com.cn

Soulfinger
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This may help

http://trollforged.com/store/production-services.html

Missouri-based spin cast plastics used by Red Box and Impact for their KS projects.

Broadsword56
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I recommend using 3D design,

I recommend using 3D design, and having them printed through a third-party site like Shapeways. I do this for my line of historical age of sail miniature ships at 1:1000 scale. Shapeways offers a wide range of materials and textures, and they use industrial-quality machines that print far better than anything you'd use at home. You can print the pieces for your own use and prototyping, and/or offer them for public sale on their site though a Shapeways store.

My own site, if you're interested, is Swash & Buckle Naval Miniatures:
http://www.shapeways.com/shops/swashbuckle

Soulfinger
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I also forgot that Wargames

I also forgot that Wargames Factory has been doing some great work producing figures for Wyrd, Dream Forge, and others. With Tony Reidy long out of the equation, the Chinese guys who took over have been doing a great job running the company. I would consider them as an option when you are looking at a production run.

jonu5123
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Wow thank you everyone! I

Wow thank you everyone! I have a friend who has a top notch 3D printer at google. He will be making my first protoype of my 3d sculpted model. The game im creating is in the middle of tons of playtests right now. I have to hold off on any more modeling or art work until this game is solid. Once everything is in the works i will be getting on this site more often for some feedback. by the way, how do you upload images? I would like to show my 3d model for feedback.

Also, another question. Say i work with a company like Panda Games to develop, package and create most of my game. But I have another manufacturer creating my miniatures and molds. Does that manufacturer send all these pieces to Panda once they are done, or do I just take the one mold from the manufacturer and give to Panda games to produce?

And, what is the common typical plastic material used for games. The plastic pieces like in RISK, etc. etc.

Thanks again everyone!! I'm saving those site links!

jonu5123
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Model finished

Hello everyone! Its been a month or two since i been on, been busy with work and a loooot of playtesting my game. I also finished one of my miniatures in ZBrush. My problem though is that i sent it to shapeways and the model came back terrible. It has this contour look and a ton of details got lost. I DO expect losing details but not like this.

I read through some of the comments but kind of need a clear understanding of my next step.

-My model is done. Is there a way to upload the image of the model here to get some feedback?

QUESTIONS:
I want to know what i can do with this file to get a perfect mold out of it. Someone here mentioned a professional miniatures factory to make molds from my 3D model. But i need to see a nice version of this first, not a sloppy Shapeways model. Does anyone where to go to make a nice clean version of a model and who to go to to be used as a mold? If the mold is expensive i dont want to pay a ton of $ only to find out the model isnt the way i want it. Any thoughts or suggestions on my next step?

And how to post images here?

questccg
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As simple as I can explain it!

jonu5123 wrote:
...And how to post images here?

Upload the image using the left-hand navigation "Create A..." > Image. Give the image a recognizable title that is not too long, click on "Choose File" and browse to your file. Next click on "Preview" and if you are happy with the preview, click on "Save".

Next on the right-hand navigation click on the "Title" of your image. This should bring up the image and comments. Next you want ONLY the image, so you right-click on "Open image in new Tab". Then the address bar should display the BGDF link to the file.

Lastly in ANY message, use HTML syntax < img src="..." > < /img > without the spaces. The "..." is the address bar link for the image. Oh yeah, a last detail is below your message there is "Input format", click it and select "Markdown". Markdown allows you to use more HTML commands like Anchors, Headings, Horizontal Rules, AND IMAGES, etc.

Like this:

jonu5123
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Im sorry, i feel dumb asking

Im sorry, i feel dumb asking but you mention using the left hand navigation? What does that refer too? Am i supposed to be left click in the comment area? Im not sure what you mean by left and right hand navigation. Sorry im a newbie. Thanks for the assistance.

questccg
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Clarification

On the LEFT-HAND side you have A STAR with your ALIAS and then there is a TREE of options: Personal > Blog / Messages / Friends, Create A... > Blog entry / Forum topic ... IMAGE!

On the RIGHT-HAND side you have Dates with message AND if you SCROLL after the messages, you will SEE LATEST IMAGES UPLOADED!

Does that clarify things???

jonu5123
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Yes it does, i honestly was

Yes it does, i honestly was looking in the message window and right clicking and i was at the bottom of the page so the left hand and right hand margins were blank and out of view. Im new to this site so forgive me. But in the meantime thank you.

jonu5123
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3D Model

< img src="http://www.bgdf.com/sites/default/files/images/FireWizard_Comp.preview.jpg" > < /img >

From Illustration to 3D Model to 3D PRINT Here is one of the 3D models i sent to Shapeways. I DO understand i cannot achieve all the detail, but the model Print was lacking a ton and came out pretty awful.

-What company does anyone know of that can make a nice smooth model (miniature size) without the stair stepping? I read through the Forum but maybe i can get some last hints at good places.

-Also, once I have clarified that my PRINT is successful, could a company use the printed model to creat a mold or would they still just use the file? I understand that the 3D print is more for myself and a Prototype but the main thing is if they do use the file how would I know if I will get the same quality output im looking for to create a mold?

ANy suggestions would be great.

jonu5123
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3d close up

ok well the image doesnt appear, and im posting the HTML link wrong, i cant figure it out. anyway there is a link there. Here is a close up view of the Printed model

http://www.bgdf.com/sites/default/files/images/photo%20(1).preview.JPG

questccg
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Image

You forgot to REMOVE the SPACES...

jonu5123
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haha thanks. I was going

haha thanks. I was going through every combo. I must have tried several times and said screw it. The only HTML i ever made was copy/pasting for my site. I appreciate it!

Joska Paszli
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https://www.heroforge.com/ ch

https://www.heroforge.com/

check that site

Soulfinger
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Joska Paszli

Joska Paszli wrote:
https://www.heroforge.com/

check that site

Have you used them before? It looks like just another one of those sites that design an overpriced "custom" miniature from stock templates so the buyer can be the butt of jokes from his friends. I've yet to hear anything good about one of those services in terms of quality from a reliable painter or collector, and I expect that their 3D printer's output isn't any better or cheaper than what's available from Shapeways. As the following reviewer observes, Heroforge's "ultra detail" miniatures aren't even as detailed as Reaper's Bones figures and are tremendously brittle:

http://ragingowlbear.blogspot.com/2015/02/hero-forge-miniatures-not-read...

This may be helpful for the OP:

http://www.gatekeepergaming.com/article-6-how-to-get-minis-made/

They found that Shapeways gave them a better product for $15 than the high end rapid prototype that they had done for $300. Looking at the photo of your figure, it looks like you may want to try their "Frosted Ultra Detail" instead. If that ends up too brittle then their stainless steel may still be cheaper than traditional rapid prototyping.

Ceramicwombat
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Hero Forge uses Shapeways for

Hero Forge uses Shapeways for their printing, so their "ultra detail" is the same as Shapeways "Frosted Ultra Detail." They are brittle but can be used as masters for production molds.

jonu5123
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awesome thanks! Its a slow

awesome thanks! Its a slow process but I am now finishing up the rest of the 3d models of my characters and a few other components. I need more heavy playtesting though before i can get to more of the artwork.

thanks everyone!

bandrus
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15mm Minis

I am working on a game, and I am wanting to have minis similar in size to Axis and Allies. My understanding is that this is 15mm scale. Because they are so small, I don't need extremely detailed minis... just a bunch of them. Is injection molding the necessary method? How many molds? etc... I remember in the 80's that you would break them off of a "sheet" and that there were multiple sculpts molded in to one. All the info I seem to find are for the bigger, more detailed type of minis. Again, think the AH type of minis...A&A, Shogun, Fortress America, etc... Any advice?

Soulfinger
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bandrus wrote:I am working on

bandrus wrote:
I am working on a game, and I am wanting to have minis similar in size to Axis and Allies. My understanding is that this is 15mm scale. Because they are so small, I don't need extremely detailed minis... just a bunch of them. Is injection molding the necessary method? How many molds? etc... I remember in the 80's that you would break them off of a "sheet" and that there were multiple sculpts molded in to one. All the info I seem to find are for the bigger, more detailed type of minis. Again, think the AH type of minis...A&A, Shogun, Fortress America, etc... Any advice?

Just to make sure, you understand that you are talking tens of thousands of dollars here, right?

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