Tag Archives: bloxen

A Little Relief

floral

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Last week I came downstairs to find the elder Zhengspawn had gotten into my box of acrylics and was busily painting one of the myriad bloxen that lurk in the crevices of Casa de Zheng. The original was printed in clear PLA on my Printrbot Simple; I think this is a nice improvement.

painted

I thought it’d be fun to give her paint job a little relief and re-release it as a new bloxen.

The first step in the process is getting the real-world paint onto the 3d model. The easiest way I can think of to do this is to photograph the painted block and then texture map the model.

It occurs to me that I could also have used Autodesk’s 123dCatch to capture the surface of the bloxen, but Lao Zheng is old school, or what passes for old school in the 3d modeling world, and dislikes giving tessellation tasks over to the Cloud.

So photographs it is, just five of them since I’m not doing anything to the bottom of the model; one snapshot for each of the four sides, and one photograph for the top.

Next, I’ll take a basic bloxen and set up a UV map.

UV coordinates on a polygonal model are roughly analogous to latitude and longitude on a globe; they tell the paint where to go on the model’s surface. The first step in assigning UV’s is to unwrap the model’s surface and lay it out on a grid. There are automated processes for this in many applications, but with a model this simple it’s probably easiest and most intuitive to do it by hand.

block uv

And here’s the bloxen with a loose texture map on it. I’m not going to worry about the underside of the model for this project because ultimately it’s destined for 3d printing and the bottom needs to be smooth so it’ll stick to the print bed. Some of my textures are out of focus and distorted and I didn’t bother to texture the sides of the tenons, but I’m just using the painting as a rough guide anyway.

bloxen textured

You can download the UV’d model if you’d like to mess around with it yourself. Converting to STL wipes out UVs so the model’s in OBJ format. Enjoy.

The next step is to subdivide the mesh many, many times so that Maya’s paintbrush tools have some vertices to work with.

subdivided

Most of the setup is done and now there’s a fun few minutes of using Maya’s Sculpt Geometry tool to bump out the vines. (Flowers will come later)

unforeseen problem After a bit of painting I find some WTFfery going on amidships, so this requires a step away from creativity and into the realm of Just Fixing Things. It looks like there is a line of extra small polygons in there, probably created by the subdividing script I’m using. They’ve gotta go, and sometimes the best way to fix things is to Just Delete Them.

wtf

The process destroys my nice quad-only mesh but I’ve been to enough rodeos to know that this probably isn’t going to sink the model later. Moving on, I make a bunch of little flowers, rotate them randomly, and stick them onto the surface of the bloxen.

add flowers

The flowers are very simple models so booleaning them to the bloxen is easy, except for the one flower that rounds a top corner. This one needs to be bent a little bit before it can be added.

deform flower

After adding the mortises on the bottom of the bloxen, merging all the stray vertices, and checking the model in netFabb to make sure it’s manifold it goes to print. No problems whatsoever, which is strangely disappointing since my 3dprinting failures Pinterest board hasn’t been updated in a while.

Ever since I replaced my delrin plungers with an extruder upgrade and switched to a BB ball-bearing based filament spool my MakerBot’s been rock solid.

This little project got me thinking in new directions, so #staytuned for an update sometime in the next few weeks.

Scarab Queens Battle Flag

Battle Flag, Scarab Queens

“A chambermaid found the first grub, and we knew the battle was already lost.”
–Qie Zi, The Art of Seej

In 2012 the Scarab Queens announced themselves to the world of Seej with the publication of the Hexstone Bloxen, but didn’t get around to hoisting their battle flag until just recently.

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The Scarab Queens infest the works of Men, slathering the Pennon with comb and royal jelly. This model is a one-piece print on an FDM printer. I had decent results printing at .18 layer height with ABS, but I’ve done test prints with PLA too that worked out fine.

The Scarab Queens rule variant allows a player to add one projectile to his stockpile for every three hexstone bloxen in his fortification, provided he also fields a Scarab Queens battle flag.

This model and many like it are available for download in The Forge.

ComposiMold: First Impressions

The friendly team at ComposiMold recently sent me a sample of their product for review. Like many experimenters I’m mostly unacquainted with mold-making and casting but I’m willing to get messy and give it a go. Let’s dive right in and see how this stuff works.

TL;DR Summary: ComposiMold is easy to use, reuse, and reuse again, even for a casting n00b. It’d make a great gift for a Maker kid. Highly recommended.

Composimold: The Unboxening

open container

Opening the 10-ounce container releases the faintest waft of lemon. It’s not unpleasant or pronounced; only bloodhounds and those accustomed to huffing day-old mimeographs will have the chemoreceptors to detect the scent.

It’s firmer than I expected. I was thinking I’d have something a little gooier, but when ComposiMold is cool it’s got the consistency of a flexed bicep. At 10 ounces the sample container feels satisfyingly dense in the hand. I feel like I could make stuff with this.

Virgin ComposiMold looks surprisingly like honey. So much so that the lovely and talented Mrs. Zheng3, slightly less talented than usual at 5:30am, nearly dropped a heaping spoonful of ComposiMold into her oatmeal. I probably shouldn’t have left the container on top of the microwave last night.

In theory, the mold making process is simple and straightforward: heat ComposiMold, pour it over the object you want to reproduce, allow to cool, and then extract your object.

Naturally I screwed it up.

Jumping into this project like an enthusiastic idiot I naturally made a a rookie mistake right off the bat. I forgot to coat my mold container with a release agent. So I restarted the project. What you’re seeing here is actually take two on my quest to replicate a Seej bloxen.

So! Into the microwave with you, ComposiMold.

in the microwave

Another brief installment of Zheng’s household hints: before photographing the inside of a microwave you’ll want to clean it so the Internet doesn’t think you’re a gavone. Put a cup full of vinegar in the microwave and nuke the bejeezus out of it. The steam will soften the Hot Pockets splatter off the inside of your microwave so that you can wipe it clean with a rag. The healing brush in Photoshop will take care of any pastacules you might have missed.

Thirty seconds in my microwave and I’ve got a golfball-sized nugget of ComposiMold suspended in honey-like goo. Stir with a craft stick (always, always, always have craft sticks around any maker project), give it another 20 seconds of non-ionizing radiation and we’re good to go. During the melt the lemony scent is a little more pronounced but doesn’t stink up the kitchen.

bloxen, masonry
I’ve decided to try and cast a Seej Bloxen for my first project. I’ve made sidewalk chalk bloxen using a 3d printed mold, but I’m interested to see how ComposiMold picks up the detail in the 3D modeled grout and stones of something I’ve already printed. This particular bloxen was produced during my review of Filabot’s recycled ABS filament.

Composimold: Making A Mold

I give the bloxen a rub with some vegetable oil and put it into an old laundry scoop. Here’s where I run into my first unknown unknown in the mold-making process.

pouring

unforeseen problemThe plastic object I’m trying to copy is less dense than ComposiMold, so it wants to float. I try holding it down with a craft stick, but I’m unwilling to wait half an hour for the ComposiMold to solidify at room temperature. I throw the whole thing in the freezer to cool and abort the first try at mold-making.

It’s 9AM on a Sunday morning so I take a break and have some cheese danish before the kids get up and eat it all. After twenty minutes and a cuppa joe I cut open the mold to see how well it captured the details. Click to embiggen.

detail

The detail’s quite fine here. ComposiMold even picked up the layer artifacts left by the 3d printing process. Each of those parallel lines is about 100 microns wide. I can’t use this failed mold for casting, but it provides an excellent chance to test ComposiMold’s reusability.

Forty-five seconds in the microwave and I’m back to pouring a new mold. Easy peasy George and Weezy. So far ComposiMold is living up to its promises.

This time I’ll try suspending the bloxen from a stiff piece of hookup wire before I pour. I drill a small hole in the side of the bloxen, superglue in a wire scrap, and wrap it around a craft stick. (See previous admonition about having craft sticks around.) I’ll use a plastic cup for my mold container this time, because I can just cut it away without having to worry about pre-treating it with mold release. The vegetable oil gets everywhere and I don’t want it schmeered all over my camera and light box.

suspended

The bloxen remains submerged this time, if a little off-kilter as the unsecured bottom of the plastic tries to float upwards. The newly-poured mold goes back to the freezer for fifteen minutes or so before I cut away the plastic cup.

The mold resists my hobby knife with the strength of an overcooked ham, but splits easily and the bloxen pops right out. A little vegetable oil on the inside of the mold and it’s ready to be filled with Plaster of Paris.

ready

Composimold: Casting

ComposiMold’s produced a perfectly usable mold. The process has been simple even for a mold-making novice, but today I’m wishing I paid more attention on casting day in sculpture class.

In all fairness, I was trying to get the lovely and talented not-yet-Mrs. Zheng3 to notice me at the time.

plaster

Notice that almost all the bubble artifacts on this plaster bloxen faces inwards; this isn’t ComposiMold’s fault, it’s mine. Either I didn’t get the plaster/water ratio correct or I didn’t agitate the mold enough after pouring, or my plaster’s old, or something else. I’d love to see what ComposiMold can do in the hands of someone with more casting experience. ComposiMold also sells a bubble buster that will assist in the casting process that wasn’t included in my review sample.

A couple hours of playing with this product has given me all kinds of great ideas for where to go next with this. Traditional casting and 3D-printing are a powerful combination, so #staytuned for another casting attempt, this time with cement. The younger Zhengspawn and I have a project in mind that’s perfect for ComposiMold. We’ll see how an 8-year old does with this stuff under lax supervision.

If you’d like me to put your Maker-related gizmo, material, tool, or software through its paces at Zheng3.com, email me and I’ll give it a shot.

New Seej Player Race: Barrow Lords

Bloxen, Barrow width=

“With engines hewn from the bones of giants marched the Barrow Lords, shuffling and relentless and putrid.”
–qie Zi, The Art of Seej

downloadThe recent launch of the 2013 Seej Starter set got me thinking that we haven’t updated the list of playable Seej races since the Scarab Queens back in 2012. Sure, Men have been cranking out many different bloxen since that time, but a new race? Not until today.

I’m a firm believer that Everything’s Better With Skulls, so it was only a matter of time before I scratched this particular creative itch. This model is printed in black PLA and spray-painted white to bring out the texture of the constituent bones.

I’ll be releasing the Barrow Lords’ battle flag on Wednesday, so #staytuned for a forthcoming rules update.

Which reminds me, the Scarab Queens don’t have their own flag yet. I’ll have to get on that.

In the meantime, grab the model and start printing. You’ll need at least three of these to take advantage of the new rule. You have two days.

This and other models like it are in the Seej Fortifications section of The Forge. If you print one, let me know, and I’ll put it in the gallery.

Seej Starter Set, 2013 Edition


downloadThe original Seej Starter Set gets an upgrade to take advantage of the advances made in home 3D printing over the last twelve months. Other Seej models are available for free download in The Forge.

The dawn of the hobbyist resin printer is upon us, so the set includes a one-piece flag and a fancy voronoi bloxen you can use to show off your printer’s capabilities.

The proliferation of inexpensive filament printers with smaller build platforms requires the advent of a smaller Seej engine, so I’ve added the Marshmallow Mangonel to the kit.

The classic catapult gets improvements inspired by community feedback, too. It’s all compatible with older prints, and is much, much more accurate.

Seej is an Open Source tabletop wargame designed to advance the state of 3d printing through competition and player-directed evolution. Rules for Seej are at www.s33j.net.

#staytuned, I’m releasing a new player race next week.

#stayreallytuned, I’ll be releasing a new Seej Starter Set in 2014.

ABS Printing, First Layer


It’s possible to get a mirror finish on your first layer when printing with ABS on kapton tape. Make sure your bed is level and give the kapton tape a quick wipe with ABSynthe; dampen a paper towel with acetone, rub it a few times across a failed print, and then wipe your kapton tape with the residue.

Look closely and you can see the little folds left in the print from bumps and bubbles in the kapton. I’ve given up trying to get my kapton to be perfectly smooth, because I have enough things in my life that give me agita. A few little wrinkles aren’t going to make your print fail if your bed’s level and you’ve got an ABSynthe wipe on your kapton.

If the bottom of your print looks like this, you might have a little trouble getting it off the build platform. I’ve had my best results giving the side of the print a little tap with a hammer while holding my build platform in place. It helps if the platform’s still warm from the print.

This print of a Masonry Bloxen uses Filabot’s recycled ABS at 250°C on a 110° heated bed, on a Replicator1.

Filabot Recycled ABS, second print


downloadI think I’ve got the Filabot Recycled ABS settings pretty well dialed in. I’m generally printing at 245° on kapton with a swipe of ABSynthe on at 110° HBP. This model is a Masonry bloxen, the primary defensive model used in a game of Seej.

Priming your HBP with ABSynthe is easy and really helps with print adhesion. First dampen a paper towel with a little acetone. Take a failed print, preferably something with some surface area, and firmly brush it a few times with the damp paper towel to get just a little plastic on there. Then wipe the towel across your kapton tape.

Note the color change from the first print a few days ago. As I’m working my way through this roll I’m finding that the Filabot Orange is clearly giving way to Filabot Natural. Right now we’re kind of looking at Filabot Creamsicle.

I’m not sure if this roll was a one-off sent to me by Filabot or if this is a consistent quality issue with the filament; I’ll get in touch with them and report back.

UPDATE: Filabot tells me that they sent a “purge extrude,” created in the process of transitioning from one color to another. Customers get filament of consistent color all the way through. Since the orange was pretty consistent while it lasted, I have no reason to doubt this claim.

Next up: catapults.