Tag Archives: dice citadel

You’ve Got Fail!

TLDR; I released suspect geometry into the wild. Also 3dprinting.fail is now a thing.

failed citadel

Despite rumors to the contrary, it’s not all mimosas and backrubs here at Zheng Labs. There are times, thankfully few and far between of late, when we fail to make the proper sacrifices to the 3D printing gods and models go kablooie on the print bed.

To wit: these Eyrie caps that bought the farm before they could reach their full potential.

eyrie cap

The bottom surface of the Eyrie cap is a thin circle and occasionally won’t adhere to the build platform. Double woe if one gets ambitious and prints multiple models at a time; one failed print can catch on the extruder nozzle and get dragged into its doppleganger, causing a calamitous cascade of failure.

The printer, being blind, deaf, and completely lacking in agency besides, has no idea that this failure is happening and if left to its own devices will merrily continue extruding hot plastic into thin air.

Fail.

A quick primer on 3D printing for those of us who don’t live and breathe this stuff. One can break the process down into three basic steps, about which one could proceed to write volumes of details.

Step 1: Creation! By some mystic means, a 3D model is created. My weapon of choice in this arena is Autodesk Maya because I use it in my day job, but there are scores if not hundreds of software packages that will export a 3D printable model. Amazingly, even Minecraft can do it with the right mods. Tell your nine-year-old niece.

Step 2: Slicing! Before it can be printed a model must be divided up into a vertical series of horizontal layers. If you’ve accidentally introduced wonky geometry in Step 1 the slicing process will create toolpaths that kinda work, but might result in a less-than-optimal print in the real world. More on this and a mea culpa in a bit.

Step 3: Printing! A tireless bot with a melted plastic-filled hot glue gun draws successive layers on top of each other. The plastic cools and before you can say Bob’s your uncle you’ve got a brand new Dice Citadel. Usually it works, and sometimes this happens:

The reasons for print failure are legion, but I’m guilty of letting an avoidable one slip through my quality-control network with the Classic Citadel. Back to slicing and the aforementioned mea culpa:

Here at the lab our preferred slicing software is Cura. Cura has been churning out perfectly usable G-code for months and I’ve printed dozens of citadels with nary a problem. But here’s the rub, mein grübenses: not everyone out there uses Cura.

Printing problems started cropping up once the Citadel was released into the wild. Users of slicers Simplify3D and slic3r were shocked to find that their printed citadels, walls too thin to withstand an assault even by Marshmallow Mangonels, were crumbling to the touch– see the photo at the top of the post.

Mea maxima culpa, I really should have run the models through several slicers before releasing them. Parallels may easily be drawn between the current state of 3D slicing and the early Web when different browsers would render the same HTML in completely different ways. 1996 was a great year for flannel, but damned if I enjoy the return to crossing one’s fingers and hoping that WYS is truly WYG.

Wizzywig. Now there’s a term I’ve not heard in a long, long time.

But! Thanks to the heroic and dogged troubleshooting efforts of Strongholds backers Chris Yohe and Nate Johnson, the problem’s been fixed as far as I can tell. I’ve uploaded a new Citadel to Pinshape and alles gut. Print, my friends. Print LIKE THE WIND!

Other backers have been busy printing Eyries and plinths a-plenty. If you’ve got a print you’d like to show off to our little tribe of medievalists, send it my way.

backer prints

Unexpected creative output: There’s plenty of downtime to be filled while the printer is producing Citadels and Eyries for physical rewards backers, we’ve been thinking about failure a lot lately, and here at Zheng Labs we’re certainly not ones to let a good domain name go unclaimed.

So I went and registered 3dprinting.fail, polished up my JavaScript-stealing chops, and made a nice slideshow of some of the spectacular messes my printers have created over the years. Tell your friends. Tell your mom. Tell your mom’s friends at the next euchre tournament.

beast fails

(That model’s a Beast Token and you can grab your own at The Forge.)

So! That about covers it for this week. Back to printing backer rewards and obsessing over the Next Thing. Here’s another wee teaser for that project, which I’m hoping to release within a month or so:

wee

Who loves ya, baby?

Lao Zheng out.

Prelude to a Kickstarter

Sharp-eyed readers and hominids with their auditory orfices pressed to the earth will have noted by now that there have been rumblings in the distance that might just possibly, herald the coming of Zheng3 Kickstarter #4.

Clearly a throng of hardcore loyalists who really enjoy the work that we do here at Zheng Labs exists, but with the exception of the lightning-in-a-bottle success of the original Faire Play, our Kickstarters have failed to gain traction with a wider audience outside the 3D printing community.

I suspect there are two reasons for this:

  1. Zheng3 crowdfunding ideas are mostly unappealing to people not named Zheng3.
  2. Desktop 3D printing still hasn’t reached a significant enough market penetration where backers are willing to receive digital-only backer rewards. People want stuff.

This time around I think we might have a concept that deals with obstacle #1: instead of appealing to the Barbie-age grrl warrior demographic or geeks who might want infant children cut their teeth on Dungeon Blocks, we’re going slightly more mass-market. But only slightly, mind you.

Behold, the Dice Citadel.

slate blue square

Oh, yeeeeeeeah.

The citadel makes a nifty container for one full set of RPG dice, including an extra d10 so you can get your percentiles in there too. The battlement on top unscrews with a quick twist of the wrist.

dice cu

Best part? I’ve got a whole bunch of these ready to go in Colorfabb Glow In The Dark filament.

glow

Now, as for problem #2: people wanting stuff. THINGS. Physical products that they can hold in their hands and show off to Aunt Tillie. I’ve grudgingly accepted that the time for widespread adoption of digital-only backer rewards has not yet come, and have resigned to printing an oxcart full of these citadels and their Kickstarted descendants for those geeks outside the Venn diagram intersection of the 3D printing and RPG-playing communities.

Here’s the thing about Kickstarters: even an unsuccessful one is really, really hard to pull off. If you’ve never done one before you’d be amazed at how much pre-production goes into the process.

Amid all the planning hullabaloo there are known unknowns that can be minimized, however, and one of those is the production capacity of the small facility here at Zheng Labs. To that end, I’ve started moving my prototype Dice Citadels on Etsy. Fulfilling actual orders some outside accountablity in the process, and will help iron out printing, logistics, and shipping issues before we get into making dozens of dice towers for Kickstarter backers.

So! Join The Horde to be notified when the Kickstarter launches later this year.

Thanks. Lao Zheng out.