Monthly Archives: March 2014

Faire Play Funding Goal Reached!

Yesterday, thanks to the combined efforts of 238 individual backers, Faire Play reached its funding goal of $5000 USD. I couldn’t be happier, and I’m very excited to begin work on the parade armor.

I’ve created a digital token of gratitude for my backers and social media enablers: the Faire Play Recurve Bow.

doll with bow

You can download the bow and quiver right now, for free, for real, no strings attached, from The Forge. Print it out and send Barbie to the range with Katniss and Merida.

This bow is sculpted from organic, locally-sourced vertices, filtered and purified from the droppings of only the mimsiest free-range borogoves, and it’ll fire a 6″ cosmetic swab across a room with dismissive ease.

The flood of support and media attention that Faire Play has received has convinced me that a not insignificant portion of the world wants to see Barbie wearing and bearing more medieval armor and arms.

I’m a huge fan of Giving The People What They Want, so I’m announcing a modest stretch goal.

If our little community can add another $1000 to the Kickstarter’s original goal, I’ll redesign the bow so that it can be printed as a single piece on Shapeways. Then anyone, anyone! will be able to make their Barbie dolls deadly at a distance with a couple of clicks. My initial tests show that Shapeways should be able to print a bow for less than $10.

During the redesign, I’ll naturally be making the bow and quiver more elegant and lovely than they are now. The quiver in particular will be a fascinating design challenge; to keep printing costs down I’ll have to remove as much material as possible from the design without compromising utility or strength. Fortunately, I live for this kind of thing.

And mascarpone with green apples. I live for that too.

So thanks everyone. This project has been a wonderful experience so far and I’m really looking forward to the next step.

If this is the first time you’ve heard of Faire Play and you’re all like whazzat? here’s the original Kickstarter video. TL;DW: It’s Barbie-Compatible 3D printed medieval armor.

Oooo! One more thing I’ve been meaning to get to! Last week I was interviewed by @dutchmogul and friends for their Go For Rainbow podcast. We talk about design and 3D printing, and eventually segue into discussing video games. Fun stuff, give it a listen.

On Wonky Geometry

The Faire Play Kickstarter is doing great: 17 days and 8% to go! Go give it some love if you’d be interested in seeing Barbie don some 3D printed medieval armor.

The Athena Makeover Kit’s been out in the wild for twelve days now and there are several photos of prints floating around the internet. I’ve collected two of them here.

First: Bill Owens’ print of the AMK with a cut-down spear to fit his printer’s bed, with tunic hand and machine-sewn by Maddy. Nice job, Bill and Maddy!

Bill has made some suggestions for improving the boots, which I’ll be taking into account when I release the final STL files to backers at the end of the Kickstarter.

owens large

Second, Josh Ajima’s hot-pink Aegis print, shown here with a Percy Jackson figure. Love this one.

percy jackson

Josh also made a modification to the aegis clip that will help it fit other Barbie dolls with inflexible wrists. You can download it from Thingiverse. Creative Commons licensing roolz.

5mm clip

Mr. Ajima blogs at DesignMakeTeach.com, and has all kinds of great resources for STEM educators over there.

If you’ve printed an Athena Makeover Kit, Send it my way with as much info about yourself as you care to reveal, and I’ll get the photo up on the blog toot sweet.

Early printers of the AMK might have noticed some fugliness at the intersection of the shield and medusa. To wit:

aegis fail

I’ll fall on my sword for this oversight; my initial prints handled this intersecting geometry just fine, but other folks using different slicing software have had some problems with this. Here’s what it used to look like in wireframe:

bad geometry

See how the medusa is just kind of jammed into the shield face and creates some intersecting geometry? That’ll print, sure, but it’s a less-than-optimal solution to the problem. We here at Zheng Labs prefer to minimize less-than-optimal solutions.

So! Here’s what it looks like now. I’ve welded the vertices together and now the mesh is watertight as the proverbial frog’s ass.

joined geometry

The final print result is now much improved. Go on over to The Forge and Download the latest and greatest model.

aegis better

Can’t wait to see your prints.

Finding Sparky’s Voice

In early February I debated whether to make a promotional video for my Kickstarter. The 3D modeling was done, the armor was printing reliably, and I figured the concept of 3D printed medieval armor for Barbie dolls would just about sell itself to the right crowd of people. Did I really need to invest the time in making a video?

SPOILER: I ended up making the video.

I dithered and hemmed and hawed for a day or two while I weighed the pros and cons of investing even more time in the Kickstarter. Eventually the creative itch won out over the practical hurdles of lighting, shooting, and editing with less-than-professional tools (my vendetta against Apple Motion 5 continues unabated) and after much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments I released this to the world:

I’m glad I did because people really seem to enjoy it. It’s also on Youtube and Vimeo now, BTW.

Acquiring scenery and minifigs for the video wasn’t a problem, but I clearly needed a Big Bad. I rooted though every bookshelf and toybox in the house and came up empty. The Zhengspawn are growing up quickly, and are more interested in playing with software than they are with plastic. Clutter is the enemy, so only the most cherished or useful toys remain in the house.

Candy Crush is also the enemy, but no matter how many stakes, silver bullets, DDT, UV, and Slim Whitman Indian Love Calls I use, I can’t seem to rid Zheng Labs of that particular infestation.

Last year’s purge resulted in an unfortunate paucity of plastic dinosaurs in the storage tubs, just when I needed one the most.

Ever supportive, the Lovely and Talented Mrs. Zheng3 dropped by the local thrift store, popped some tags, and returned with Sparky. She found him in the discount bin for a dollar, on account of his non-functional pushbutton speaker.

Sparky is a generic-looking therapod carnivore with very broad feet. Artistic compromises were clearly made during his design, but I think the size of his forearms pegs him as a reasonable attempt at an Allosaurus, with a little pre-1990’s tail anatomy thrown in for stability’s sake.

sparky full

I’ve spent a lot of time with Sparky, and now I’m curious about his origins. Somewhere on the Internets there’s an expert on cheap plastic dinosaurs who can take one look at Sparky and identify him immediately. Until that person surfaces, our only clue is a “MADE IN CHINA” stamp between his legs, which narrows his origin not at all.

The wear patterns on Sparky’s maw, brow, and toes suggest that he was extensively played with in the past. He’s definitely attacked his fair share of villages. Sparky, at some point in his life, was loved. The discount bin would be too ignominious an end for such a loyal toy.

wear pattern

To the workbench with you, my Jurassic friend.

Whoever sculpted Sparky did some nice work, especially with the reticulated scale patterns on his skin, but the person or people who inserted his speaker botched the job a bit; I think a hole saw was used to access his chest cavity but the opening was messily enlarged with a knife at some point before the speaker was jammed inside.

sparky hole

With some prying and pulling I’m able to extract the speaker assembly, hopelessly mangling it in the process. It uses two LR41 batteries, which are easy enough to come by, if redonkulously expensive when purchased as singletons.

Sparky’s noisemaker is a simple affair. A speaker is connected to a small circuit board, activated by a (gray) plastic plunger that completes the circuit by touching that solder squiggle in the middle.

But wait, you say? How does nonconductive plastic complete a circuit? There’s a circular swatch of black, conductive somethingorother glued to the bottom of the plunger. Any EE’s who swing by, please tell me what this stuff is called, for curiosity’s sake.

If you squint and turn up the contrast on your monitor you can see a dark circle in the southwest corner of the circuit board. That’s where the recording of Sparky’s voice is stored underneath a blob of epoxy. A little more on that later.

speaker

Two fresh batteries later, here’s what Sparky sounded like straight from the factory. Turn your speakers down, it’s a bit unpleasant.

Hmm. That roar sounds familiar. Here’s Godzilla, king of monsters:

Here’s the two of them, side-by-side with a little bit of audio cleanup in Audacity. Sparky is first, followed by Godzilla. Big G is sped up by 90% with an accompanying change in pitch to make Sparky.

waveforms

It appears to me, at least, that someone just ripped off Godzilla when Sparky was made. I’m offended.

A little research tells me that I won’t be able to hack Sparky’s audio chip and record my own roars. Apparently the audio is burned onto an IC at the factory and then covered with a little black blob of epoxy. “Flip-chip” technology, this sorcery is called, and working with it is beyond any magic I possess at Zheng Labs.

I’d love to be able to hack these chips because they show up everywhere, especially in Happy Meal toys.

I do have a toolbox full of electronics, and I might be able to cobble together a replacement roar for Sparky after the Kickstarter is finished. At the very least, I can print him a new bezel for his speaker today.

sparky fixed

Guy can’t be walking around with a nasty hole in his chest, now can he?

Also. All the time I’ve spent on TVTropes? It actually paid off: see how many tropes I managed to cram into one video, and post in the comments below:

I’ll give you the second one for free: Action Girl. Or is it Badass Princess? Reasonable people can disagree.

Faire Play: Barbie-Compatible 3D Printed Medieval Armor

With all the hustle and bustle here at Zheng Labs, I neglected to put the Kickstarter on the front page! D’oh!

Here it is. Watch the video below, or just jump straight to the Kickstarter page.

You can check in at faireplay.zheng3.com for updates, or peek into The Forge for a look at the Athena Makeover Kit, my Barbie-compatible aegis, spear, and winged boots.