Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bad Pictures of Good Mini's

All of my recent orders have been coming in on top of each other, today's arrival was a test batch of ships and things from Shapeways, a Dutch company that does 3D printing on demand for other companies. That probably doesn't make sense, but basically, someone uses a CAD-like program to create an item in 3D, such as oh say a spaceship miniature, then uploads it to Shapeways, who handles the printing (using one of those expensive rapid prototyping tools) and delivery, and the creator gets to set his own commission as well.

A bunch of guys have started creating miniatures through Shapeways, there may be others, but I've only come across the spaceship ones. The Star Ranger site also provides a good listing of what manufacturers are around, and now includes the Shapeways companies.

So I placed a test order from most of the companies, in the basic material (white strong flexible), which I knew going in does come with a kindy of grainy texture that apparently is ok once painted and viewed at a normal distance. Have seen the texture in person now, it is kinda like the feel of a sugar cube. There are other materials, but they cost more, and I spend too much on this stuff already!

There is generally very little flash, maybe a bit of sanding along edges is all a couple of them need. It seems like they really come ready right out of the box; apparently you don't even need to prime them.

So the project these mini's are going to is my own VSF universe, which is to include Iron Stars for spaceship gaming, Aeronef for aerial gaming (as well as some Sky Galleons of Mars), and Land Ironclads on the ground. Most of this order was for space, but I also got some ironclads, as you'll see.

The setting combines a few things, a lot of Space 1889, but with that setting's Martians moved to Venus, and Wells' Martians occupying their proper planet. There are Moonmen, really from other star system, Jovians (white ape-like sentients), and a mysterious murderous race from beyond (tentatively GW Ork-like).

Once I got today's order, after the obligatory fondling of the miniatures, I tried taking some pictures, and now see that they mostly suck. I forgot to put on the close-up option, but I think the real problem is how white and reflective the material is, they have a lot more detail to them than these pics show. Anyway, till I get these painted, here's what I got:

Two shots of a gothic destroyer from "Objects May Appear". He actually has some bigger ships (BB and CV), but I thought they might be too out of scale with my Irregular Heirs of Manacus and Uranus ships. I can probably go bigger, but this is a nice ship. I was going to make it German, but seeing the pagoda-like structure on top, and relative simple lines, I may make this style belong to one of the Chinese factions in my universe. Probably Imperial. Oddly enough, when sketching out my universe, long before I saw these ships, I'd noted that the Chinese ships had castle-like lines with buildings on the "deck".

I picked up OMA's Ether (left) and Air (rightx2) frigates as well. Unfortunately as the store images suggested, they're very similar, so I can't use the "Air" line as one faction, and the "Ether" line as another. I'm going to go with the Ether line, if I get any of the Air ones I'll call them sub-variants. I will get the Air SSBN though, as my universe calls for the French to have sub-like ships. These frigates will belong to the URA (my universe's USA - there's also a CSA).

This is "Irrational Designs'" Belter Attack Cruiser. I'm not sure which nation will use it, I'm leaning towards the Ottomans, but the Austro-Hungarians are still with a ship line (since I canned the "Air" faction per the previous paragraph).

At the top is ID's Jovian Schild Cruiser, which will either go to Germany or the Black Nippon, a militant Japanese splinter group that disappeared into the ether years ago, and supposedly left the solar system and came across some very high tech. But since I took away the Gothic Destroyer from the Germans, they need something as they're a major faction, and I like the look of this.

Below is one of ID's Martian ships, but I'm giving it to the Moonmen, who came from another star system hundreds of years ago, crashed on the moon, and have been there every since, enslaving the local Selenites. Now that they've run into humanity, they're getting back out into the stars (since some humans are conveniently trading with them for raw materials).

Although I gave away the Martian's saucer, they do get this rocket, from Pat and Walt's Starship Emporium. This is a small R-rocket. I'll get some bigger ones as needed, I wasn't sure how this big this would turn out to be.

AOTRS only makes one in the line, and it is pretty cool. I think it's kinda Japanese looking, so either for Japan proper, or the Black Nippon rebels.

Pat and Walt also have their Mulcien line, which I'm giving to the unknown aliens from beyond. The main fleet will be bigger than this, as with everything, I was testing sizes. The holes in the side of the ship, as well as some other depressions, take the weapons parts shown here as well.

The weapon and comm equipment on sprues are really neat. If my math is right, 112 bits came in the order, 8 of the large 10-item sprue, 4 of the 8-item sprue (there's some overlap between the two). Besides outfitting my X aliens, I'll be using these bits for other projects:
- secret VSF project "New London"
- orbital space fortresses (I got some small space stations from OMA too, but this is for some Battlefleet Gothic type stuff)
- armored WWII trains (see last week's post - this wasn't even planned but now I have turrets!)
- the satellite dishes are PERFECT for 3mm Vietnam firebases; I was wracking my brain as to how to do one myself...

And then finally, some land ironclads. Maybe Russian, maybe German (the gun is a German thing). These are from OMA, there's some other stuff in the range, but nothing quite as cool as these.

So all in all an interesting future direction for miniatures, at least in part. I think the output would be too soulless for figures of humans or creatures, but certainly for mechanical things this is great. Hopefully more people start offering product this way, who may have never done so via traditional lead or plastic. I don't want to see those disappear, but for those odds and ends that would never be profitable to sell that way, here's an option.

And if anyone is reading this who wants to do 1/600 and 1/300 aircraft this way, have I got a wish list for you...


  1. Really interesting minis, these, thanks for doing a review like this, in the flesh as it were; I'd been following a thread over at TMP about them and this 'granular' surface - I'd quite like some of these myself, but how well do you think they would take paint?

  2. From what I understand the material initially really absorbs the paint, but then the second coat "takes". Next week I may try one of the ships to see what happens; it's nice not having to go through the trim, file, sand, prime routine for a change.