Category Archives: Faire Play

Curiasser and curiasser

Faire Play backer rewards are all I’m thinking about these days. The Athena Makeover Kits are done and should be winging their way towards my midrange backers shortly, and now I’m printing a suit of field plate armor for one of my top backers. My printer is working on a lovely pair of sabatons in the background as I type this.

Nothing’s ever completely straightforward at this level of 3D printing, and of course now I’ve got a strange little gremlin that didn’t surface the last time I printed a cuirass: I’m getting a small line up the side of the print where my printer’s print head stops, lifts, and begins a new layer. Take a look at the cuirass on the left.

cuirass lines

I’m doing my best to make this suit as nice as possible and I’m aesthetically offended by artifacts of the printing process like this one.

What’s wrong here? The geometry hasn’t changed since the first print, the filament’s exactly the same, and as far as I know I’m using the same slicing algorithm. I have replaced a worn-out print nozzle, but I can’t imagine that’d be the source of the issue. I’ve changed every setting I can think of and I’m still getting this weird little printing track.

Truth be told, it’s a fairly minor aesthetic problem in the grand scheme of things and now that I look at the original armor I do see some traces of this artifact there, too.

Even if it can’t be completely eliminated, it can at least be put on the back side where it’s less visible. The best way to do this is to just rotate the model 180° around the Z axis before printing. Easy peasy: take a gander at the cuirass on the right.

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

My maternal grandfather was a painter. Not by trade but by passion; by day he designed lingerie patterns in The City and by night he retreated to his Bronx basement to exorcise his demons with oils and canvas. Or so my narrative of his life goes, cobbled together from snippets told by his wife and children.

Grandpa Joe died of cancer when I was six, so I never had the opportunity to know him well. My strongest memories of him are of the kind man who walked us to the corner candy store on every visit, and of the dried soil in the flowerpot next to his sickbed, dappled with orange seeds.

The smell of cigar smoke still conjures hazy, pleasant images of his presence.

To this day you can’t attend a family gathering without seeing one of Grandpa Joe’s paintings. Every uncle and aunt had (and still has) at least one of his pieces, every one a silent witness to history, now thoroughly infused with lasagna fumes and family drama. Some have even filtered down to grown grandchildren; we have one proudly displayed in an honored spot in my house.

One of his grandest works hung in our home throughout my upbringing. It’s a huge painting by a six-year-old’s standards, and still looms larger in my mind than it actually is. He painted this in 1946, in a world still reeling from war.

1946

There are two distinct sides in this conflict; left and right are rendered differently in style and tone. Panicked innocents flee from the blast of a fantastic sunset in the center. Michelangelo’s God touches no Adam here and instead judges from the middle of the battle.

Staring down from the family room wall, this painting spoke to me like Sauron’s Eye to Frodo.

“I see you,” it rasped.

I’ve felt this painting’s pull all my life. If computers hadn’t caught on in the 80’s I’d have eventually made a living airbrushing heavy metal scenes on vans. But despite years of 10 PRINT "HELLO", the notion that I could be an artist myself had already been planted in my head by Grandpa Joe’s work.

Grandpa excelled at painting details. Look at the capitals of the columns on either side of the painting and you’ll see delicate details and almost-arabesques. These are exactly the kind of decorative motifs I’d like to include in the Faire Play parade armor. Another painting has an appropriate flourish I’d like to include as an homage to my precursor, so I’ll burgle from this:

1967

My guess is that this is a depiction of the Virgin Mary appearing to my uncle and mother as children. I don’t think this is a rendering of an actual event, because you can bet your britches if Mom had witnessed a Marian apparition we’d have heard about it every Thanksgiving for the last 40 years.

Here’s the detail that I’d like to use as a recurring motif, from the lower left of the painting.

flourish sample

My old workflow for this involved tracing the flourish in Illustrator, importing the EPS, creating a planar trim and then tessellating to produce a polygon model. That’s the quick and easy path, but ultimately that journey is beset by N-gons and nonmanifold geometry, difficult to seamlessly join to an existing model.

Instead I’ll bring the image into Maya and trace the outline with the combination of Create Polygon tools, edge extrusion, and vertex pulling. This helps me to keep a model that’s built exclusively out of quads; it’s much less likely to cause me problems later on when I boolean the many flourishes into the base cuirass mesh.

flourish grow

This is going to be a slow, but easy, process, so I sip my coffee, put in the earbuds and some Quirks and Quarks podcasts, and achieve Csíkszentmihályi’s flow as I work. Twenty minutes later I have this.

finished flourish

The translated flourish doesn’t fit the space in the armor exactly, so it needs a little lattice work to deform it to the space above the bird’s wing.

flourish molded

And finally some extrusion and mirroring and it’s ready to become part of the parade armor.

extruded and mirrored

I’ll be appropriating details from both of these paintings over the next few weeks while I decorate the Faire Play parade armor.

A note to my future grandchildren, yet unconceived, osmosing this post with retinal HUDs on the shores of Central Park: do not judge my low-resolution geometry too harshly, and please pilfer your ancestors’ work to better your own.

Also, thanks to Dad for photographing the paintings and sending them my way.

Shielding Backers From Fugliness

First, you should totally join The Horde to keep up-to-date on the comings and goings at Zheng Labs.

The Horde is a relatively low-volume, high signal, low-noise mailing list, maybe one email a month with a digest of blog posts and whatever other interesting 3D printing scrapple I can sweep off the abattoir floor for you. Also: Horde members will be the first to hear about Zheng3 Kickstarter #2.

And now on to show-booty-bidness: I’ve been hindered by a repetitive stress injury for the last week or so, a remnant of my mouse-using days that flares up if I do too much high-detail work without resting.

Creating the selection masks for the parade armor’s cuirass is exacting work, and interesting enough that I postpone my RSI breaks for JUST ONE MORE EDGE LOOP AND THEN I’LL STOP I PROMISE.

Sometimes intense focus is a recipe for injury, and frankly I should know better by this point in my career. A fortnight ago the pain finally got bad enough to force me away from the Wacom tablet for a while.

But in this business you hip, hop, the hippie, the hippie, to the hip hip-hop and you don’t stop. You. Do. Not. Stop, not while you’ve got backer rewards to print and shipping infrastructure to be laid down.

So with NSAIDs and ice packs and my good wrist I kept going on the boring stuff, and finally this morning the wrist has healed enough to send me back to creative work.

I’m printing a suit of field plate for a backer right now and I’m displeased with the shield’s attachment point. My original design was good enough to be photographed (you don’t see the attachment in any of the photographs I’ve released so far) but now that I’m sending a piece of physical art out to a backer I can’t bear to let my name be attached to this fugliness:

fugly shield

That’s the mortise where a forearm cuff snaps into the shield. There are two problems with it: first, it violates the 45° rule, which means the printer can’t handle the slope as it builds up layer by layer.

Second, the mortise is too wide for the printer to bridge easily once it hits that 90° bend at the top.

This needs a few little geometry edits, like so:

shield geometry edits

First, make that slope a little less than 45 degrees. Second, add a little peak to the mortise so that the printer can handle the bridge a little bit at a time. Note that the shield prints upside-down: sometimes the best orientation for printing isn’t the most intuitive way to design a model.

A shield can take a while to print, so I’ll cut down the geometry and try it with a test piece first. This piece is skinny and likely to fall over while it’s printing, so I extruded a little brim on the bottom to keep it stable.

shield test

Fantastico! This works. The squiggly deformations on the left side of the test print tell me I have a little bit of temperature fine-tuning to do with this roll of filament, but I think I’m ready to try a final print of the shield:

shield fixed

I’ll incorporate the new shield attachment into both the field plate and the parade armor.

All That Glitters: A Tale of Shock and Au

In second grade I was exposed to the concept of Raw Umber when I laid covetous eyes on the well-to-do kids’ crayons, with the sharpener in the back and the 64 colors and the full-priced hot lunch with no unintended seasoning of classism sprinkled on top.

I made do with reliable BROWN, but was at least primed for fifth grade when I had some mental connection to the Umber Hulk in the 1st Edition Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual.

Everyone sees color differently; every printing press and every monitor is a little different from its siblings, and so other industries have put tremendous time into standardization of color. PANTONE is the gold standard for print, and even the crummy, now-archaic NTSC made at least some effort to keep colors consistent across platforms.

The world needs PANTONE for 3D printing filament.

gold variants

OK, so check this out. My Faire Play Kickstarter was a success, and now I’m into printing rewards for backers. I used up my first two rolls of this gold PLA printing Athena Makeover Kits. It’s the gold you see all of the Faire Play photos to date. Unfortunately the distributor I was using seems to have run out of this particular gold and I can’t find another roll anywhere.

So I picked up a new spool off Amazon. The vendor used the same stock image of “GOLD PLA FILAMENT 1.75” as the earlier filament, so I says to myself, “Self, just how different can these be?”

I’m used to some variation between batches of filament, but these colors are wildly different. The leftmost spear is the new gold, which looks more like Butterscotch to me.

Butterscotch is kinda gold, I guess? But definitely doesn’t match the original gold used in the aegis and center spear.

These weapons are going to be used to arm Barbie dolls. Can you imagine the Queen of Fashion wearing an outfit that doesn’t match? Horrors.

This will not stand. So Butterscotch gets relegated to the noble, but inglorious role of prototyping feedstock. The world needs ditch diggers too, Danny.

I try again, with a new gold filament. This is the rightmost spear. Still not a match. It’s a more lustrous, metallic gold, but still wildly different than the gold I’ve been using.

So it’s back to Amazon to twiddle my supply chain again. This time I print some winged boots:

gold boots

Nope. Completely different, once again. This time: same distributor as my first two rolls, different tone. Original gold on the left, newest gold on the right.

I like the antique look of this one, so I’m going to call it Burnished Gold.

I’m making excellent progress on printing the fifty or so Athena Makeover Kits that I need to ship to backers. Everyone’s kit will be an internally-consistent match in one of three gold tones.

No Butterscotch, though. It be fugly.

Shucks. Now that I’ve been chewing the cud of this blog post, I’m convinced that somebody’s gotta dig this ditch and create a standard.

I can’t think of anyone else dumb enough to try it, so 毛遂自荐。 I’ll volunteer. Filament manufacturers. Start sending me samples and I’ll develop and curate a color standard. I’ve always wanted to learn SQL anyway.

Squelching Squigs

Squigs. Sometimes we get them when 3D printing with extruded filament. Usually they’re the result of too steep an overhang in a model; there’s not enough shelf on layer X for the printer to lay down another layer of plastic on layer X+1, and gravity pulls the newly extruded filament downwards.

A squig is born. Small squigs are usually just an aesthetic issue, but larger ones will cause your print to be touched by His Noodly Appendage and then you’ve got a build plate full of plastic ramen. Not good.

I’ve entered into mass production of the Athena Makeover Kit as Faire Play rewards, and I’ve discovered a small problem. Every few prints something on the printer goes to Wally World and the spear’s clip gets all squiggy.

The clip’s strength is compromised and besides, it just looks fugly.

clip squig

Some of these Athena Makeover Kits are destined for the hands of folks who have never seen a 3D print in their lives. We can’t be giving them a bad impression of the technology’s capabilities.

Fortunately, it’s an easy fix. I’ve updated the clip to be just a little thicker at its junction with the shaft, which both makes it sturdier and eliminates the squig spawning grounds.

clip after

I also added a little bullnose between the shaft and clip, because I find 90° angles at transitional edges between volumes to be unlovely.

bullnose

Troubleshooting a Shapeways Print

April Fools’ Day (愚人节) has come and gone and, to the Internet’s credit, most folks weren’t taken in by my last post, Printing With Steel on the PrintrBot Simple. Good on you, clever people.

But now the blog post just lurks there, context-free and malignant, a coldly crystalizing piece of unexploded Internet ordinance, waiting to disembowel the unwary traveler who pays no heed to timestamps.

Also! Faire Play’s funding period is winding down and only a scant five days or so remain before pre-production on Barbie’s parade armor is set to begin.

Shapeways managed to deliver the first metal proof of one of Faire Play’s backer rewards ahead of schedule! I was expecting this steel Aegis Pendant to arrive after the funding period, but we got a little lucky this week.

Here it is, printed in polished gray. I’m impressed with how well Shapeways was able to reproduce the meandros motif on the shield’s face.

pendant

I’m a little less enthused about the stepping patterns on the gorgon’s face, but I think I know how to fix it. First, a simplified explanation of how 3D printers do their thing.

Hobby 3D printers and Shapeways printers’ work on basically similar principles. First, 3D models are digitally sliced up into multiple layers from bottom to top. A print head traces a pattern on an XY plane for each layer, either putting down a thin bead of hot plastic or sintering tiny particles of steel powder into a solid form.

Once the XY pattern for the first layer is completed, the printer moves up one layer and repeats the process.

unforeseen problem The moiré patterns on the gorgon’s face are an artifact of the printing process. If you look carefully you’ll see the divisions between layers, like elevation lines on a topographic map.

macro

Rotating the model 90° on its X axis might mitigate these artifacts. I’m fairly confident that the face of the pendant will be smoother if Shapeways’ printer prints the pendant as if it were balanced on its edge rather than laying on its back. This kind of edge-on printing isn’t possible with a hobbyist 3D printer, but shouldn’t be any problem when the developing print is suspended in Shapeways’ matrix of steel particles.

I’ll check with the gurus at Shapeways and see if this is possible, or if they’ve got some kind of auto-orientation function in their printing software that I can’t do anything about. #staytuned

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.