Being a bit of hodgepodge of subjects, it seems appropriate for another episode to chronicle myÖ Tales of Interest!
First up, I forgot that I never showed the final renders of the Chaos Marine helmet I did last year in college due to my hectic schedule. It turned out quite well, so it seems only fit to show it in its complete state. Better late than never.
For added visual interest under the front grill I designed my take on a Vox speaker and a vent for breathing when atmosphere is available, and in the ear you can see my take on audio pickup device.
Under the back panel you can see communications device with two antennas, and the module with the hazard stripes is mean to be the replaceable re-breather filter for less hospitable environments.
Time was a real consideration with this build, so for as much detail as there is, I wasnít able to go too overboard getting down to smaller detailing. Given more time I would have hollowed/shelled the helmet properly and made the face plate removable, opening the door to the chance to detail the inside. I also wanted to add a collar component and would have liked to make the horns a little more organic, but the project just didnít permit the time investment.
I changed the surface from my first rendering, from a gloss to a satin and I think it suits the helmet better. It was mentioned that the gloss finish seemed give it a Star Wars meets Warhammer 40K feel, and I had to agree. While I wasnít able to do anything elaborate, I was able to add a bit of texture to the horns to make them feel a bit more organic. Solidworks really isnít meant to create authentic renderings; in that I mean, rendering objects that have a bit of wear-and-tear and looked used, as one would likely expect of a Chaos Marine helmet. Itís very good at factory fresh objects that are right out of the box or sitting on a showroom floor, but I wanted to at least try to rough it up a bit. I was able to add some very convincing paint chipping with use of decals (normally used for branding and the like) that I was quite pleased with. With the limited time, I couldnít find a technique to also add some scratches and weathering marks to the other metal components, however.
Next up in our planned public service announcementsÖ The Bad
. *Insert ominous Slaanesh-approved music here* Unfortunately, thereís no fictional blurb to accompany this one yet, but I will have one in future.
Thereís good news and bad news with the Spartan kit. The bad news, in a wordÖ the tracks! ErrÖ wait a second, thatís two wordsÖ
Itís my understanding that the track components have now been integrated onto the side-hull section on an updated version of this kit that is now shipping from FW. While that does solve the only real problem with this kit, I was not lucky enough to get one of the new kits and I can see exactly why these parts were such a hassle. Not only are they delicate, with the link edges and other small bits very prone to breaking during shipping and/or during assembly.
Beyond being fragile, the tracks simply do not fit the model correctly. Even Forge World was unable to get the tracks to fit on their studio model pictured here.
Put simply, there is roughly half a link too much in the track set, and no matter how you try to adjust the fit you canít get a convincing clean fit for the tracks all the way around. I consider this ĎThe Badí because this is a design flaw pure-and-simple, and I think it could/should have been corrected before they put this model into production. Given the obvious nature of the problem, the reasonably small size of the parts involved, and the capabilities of the FW studio, I canít see how it could have been too hard to rectify. Add in the cost they ask for the kit and the fact that Iím sure theyíve sold many
of them, correcting something like this before going to production seems fair to me.
Iím still not sure how Iíll handle the problem, and Iím not really sweating it too much (itís a small detail after all) but Iím likely going to follow FWís example and simply shave it down. I think I can do it in such a way that it can look like a narrow Ďmaster linkí that should be reasonably seamless, but Iím not too worried either way; Iím trying to tame my modeling OCD just a wee bit
, and aim for Ďreally goodí instead of Ďnear flawlessí and itís working. Iíve done more actual productive assembly in the last year then I have in several before it. I wonít be able to really dig in and finish anything significant until college is done (twoÖ finalÖ semestersÖ) but when the time comes I should be able to bring several projects to completion in short order. I canít wait! *Wipes away the froth forming at his mouth* MustÖ finish
Beyond the tracks, the Spartan assembles very nicely with no real surprises; the main hull fits together with the kind of work youíd expect.
The top front door is a bit thin, especially after I shaved off the eagle on the outside, so I reinforced it with some styrene. I prefer to button-up my vehicles, so itís no bother to me. Iíve got enough to worry about with the outside of vehicles.
It did require a bit of clamping to get a really nice tight fit on the final assembly, but after that the main hull was as solid as rock. With a bit of sanding to even up the edges everything was ready. Iíve attached some 80 grit sandpaper from a belt sander (virtually indestructible) to a thin strip of oak to create a sanding tool that can really remove material very fast. Great for quick leveling job just like this.
This is how a model should come together. After some straight forward subassembly the build is stress free.
Thanks to the properly fitting keys that lock the side hulls to the main hull assembly, from here itís simple to finish the largest part of the build. Unlike the Sicaran kit, the fit for these parts on the Spartan is near prefect all the way around the vehicle, top and bottom with no modification or forcing.
So there you have it, the Spartan is well on its way to being assembled and now ready to be fit for future studio kits.
Beyond the issues with the tracks this is a really
nice model. Where some FW kits will exhibit some slight bowing of surfaces and other minor idiosyncrasies the Spartanís lines and surfaces are nice and true. To me, it shows that FW is really starting to hone in on how theyíre producing their kits and Iíll be interested to see if this trend continues with any future kits I purchase that have been produced after the Spartan.
The Spartan is also a perfect illustration of something Iíve meant to bring up from time-to-time. With the popularity of my Ďtrim kitsí Iíve been asked on more than one occasion if Iíll be doing a trim kit for Ďinsert model name hereí. Put simply, some hulls lend themselves very well to something like my trim; lots of clean straight lines that I can follow, with enough surface area that can reasonably accommodate the width that the trim will be. The Rhino hull is excellent for these reasons and the Spartan is a good example of a hull that would be a real pain to make a good trim kit for. With all the surfaces and detailing, there would be so many small bits that it would be a real pain to design a custom fitting kit. The Spartan will get The Dark Works treatment, but not a proper trim kit, more than likely.
Iím also mentioning trim kits for a specific reason because they have been something Iíve been keen on improving for quite some time. For those who take some interest in how I make my kits and the process involved, Iíll give you a look at my love-hate relationship with these kits. The skinny on the trims, as it wereÖ
These rather unglamorous looking four moulds are what it takes to create just one reasonably simple trim kit for a Rhino hull.
When you cast with resin you generally need to work very quickly. If you want it to fully harden in a reasonable amount of time, the plastic you use will begin curing (AKA: kicking) very quickly, getting thicker-and-thicker by the second. The delicate nature of my trim kits makes this a problem; if you inject the resin into the moulds quickly (and you have no choice, as the seconds slip by when the resin start to kick in) it will cause the mould to bulge and expand, overflowing from the voids that create the parts. This will cause some tissue-paper-like flash at best, and thatís acceptable; or the flash is far too thick and it completely ruins the part, costing both labour and materials. Up to this point I have made due with simple but effective mould clamps/boxes locked in place with wingnuts that apply even pressure over the mould to fix this issue. While this solution works very well, with four moulds per kit that adds up to sixteen wingnuts that need to be unfastened and refastened each time the parts are removed from the mould. Along with carefully de-moulding these delicate parts, itís simply too much labour for a product that needs a reasonable price point because of what it is.
Now I learned a lot about my materials and process since I first started producing these trim kits, and Iíve got some ideas on how I think I can improve the process to reduce the mould count and make them easier to de-mould to improve on labour. For these kits to remain viable going forward, these improvements must be made. I really do like the trim kits as a product, and they are popular in my shop, but I really do hate
the labour involved to produce them, and I somewhat dread having to do any significant casting run of them.
So, with these plans to improve the manufacturing process I wanted to also do new sets of trim prototypes for the endeavour. Having used my Zing successfully in the past for both studio and college, I set to work on my new designs.
While Zing is a capable little cutter that can really do amazing things, itís just not up to the task of cutting arrows and points that are 2mm wide in styrene.
The cutting blade on the Zing needs to pivot to turn corners, and while itís an extremely tiny pivot, it just isnít responsive enough in the dense styrene plastic. In lighter vinyl, for example, the Zing would actually be able to achieve these shapes with some adjustment of the settings and the blade height, but in styrene itís just not possible. I tried to Ďdial iní the settings, and this did improve the results, but not enough to make it acceptable; the extra density of the styrene simply forces the blade to take longer to pivot around to the new cutting direction. Note how the simple shapes cut well enough, (adding small Ďswing around loopsí at corners will create very sharp corners) and it can almost get acceptable results of the simpler endpoints, but when it comes down to actual arrows it just canít handle it.
A test with a pen shows that the Zing has the accuracy required, but with the pivoting cutting blade, it just canít get the same results at this scale. And the scale in this case is worth noting; these bands are just 2mm wide and the arrows are roughly 4mm tall, so these are very small details to be asking Zing to cut. If the pattern was simper (like the Mk.II Land Raider kit I made with Zing) and/or a little larger in scale (like the Shield Generator I just finished building) Zing would have a much better time cutting the parts out. So, while Zing isnít up to the task of cutting parts for my trim kits, it has still been invaluable for building models for college, and it still has plenty of potential for larger scale cutting jobs.
The silver lining to this outcome is that the designs are all digital and now created in Solidworks, so changing these into models that can be rapid prototyped (RP) is all but done. The plan was to do these at the beginning of the summer but the complications forced me to put them off. And then I got a littleÖ distractedÖ *looks sheepish* by the Shield Generator project; itís turned out as good as I had hoped, but took a little longer then I wanted it to. But thatís a subject for another wall-oí-text.
Shown large so you can get a good feel for the lines of each design, Iím not making massive changes to these first kits, just refining the concept.
A direct evolution of the Mk.I (a personal favorite) The Mk.III is obviously intended to be a straight-up Chaos/Renegade version. The Mk.IV tones down the overt arrows to more decorative points letting it work well with either Chaos or Loyalist, and 40k or 30k. Finally, the Mk.V can
be used for Chaos, but is really intended more as a Loyalist design, again for both 40k and 30k.
With a change to RP to make the prototypes, the two main hurdles for these kits and any other trim kits that I design (be it a kit for a specific hull or a bulk trim kit for a builder to use how they see fit) are surface quality and the very thin nature of these parts. The first, surface quality, (which effects every RP I plan to make, really) will simply come down to the RP method used to create the parts; there are
methods that can produce extremely good surface quality but they are not cheap and there might be a problem trying to find it locally due to how specialized (read: Expensive!) the prototypers are that can produce the results Iíll be looking for. While cost is a major consideration I can appreciate the value of a good prototype and have no problem carefully investing in them when it makes sense. Being such low volume objects should also make the trims in particular a good early RP candidate; they should be reasonably cheap to have RPíed.
My main worry is the delicate nature of the parts, and if they might be a little too thin to safely RP. Or more accurately, to remove from the build tray after the part has been created. Not including the rivets the parts are less than 1mm tall, and 0.5mm at the thinnest points. Iíve made the sprue a thickness Iím sure will be safe, but Iím still worried the parts may be too thin and brittle, breaking apart before they can be moulded. Conversely, they might be so thin that they are prone to curling and/or warping and staying 100% flat and true is key to these kits being successful kits. All said, I will
find a way to make my trim designs work. I like how these kits produce a subtle-yet-striking result to the parent model and I can see them evolving considerably once I smooth out any production kinks; expect to see some with delicate filigree and more much unique/ornate lines, bands adorned with spikes, hooks, and chains suitable for attaching trophies (Read: Spikes done right
!), trims with runes and symbols of power etched along their length, and those are just what comes off the top pf my head. 3D modeling opens a door to a level of detail that will be very interesting to my design process, to say the least. Stay tuned!
These, along with a few other 3D models that I have lurking in the shadows will be the first components Iíll be having RPíed locally and theyíll be used to test a few different methods to find the one/s that will work for my future studio projects. The wonderful advantage of working locally is that the turn-around time for prints will go from 2-3 weeks down to as little as 2-3 days if I choose. Faster turn-around costs more, but when itís a difference of weeks, and itís with a supplier that I can directly communicate with to get the best results in the timeframe I want, thatís worth the extra investment.
So here ends this, my most recent Tale of Interest
*the words echo slightly*, and the accompanying chapter dedicated to ĎThe Bad
í Spartan build. Coming soon, ĎThe Ugly
í Fire Raptor build, complete with emoticons to illustrate the swings in mood that kit has forced me to endure. Donít get me wrong, the final model is absolutely gorgeous, but the build is Ďadvancedí at best and maddening at worst, especially if youíre a bit particular about fit-and-finish, like myself. Iíve successfully learned to tone down my perfectionist ideals in the name actually getting some projects done, but the Raptor holds a special honour for very nearly giving me a mild brain aneurysm. But all is behind me nowÖ *stares blissfully into space*
But before that, expect a smallíish update on the Shield Generator project; as mentioned, while it did take a little more work than planned, Iím more
then pleased with the final outcome and canít wait to see one completely assembled. It really has pushed my production methods to their limits, and itís been very valuable in teaching me some lessons in casting large components; something I absolutely plan to do more of in the future.
OkÖ Iíll stop rambling nowÖ *Subtle wanders off to do something else productive*