Ok, since Iíve procrastinated on writing a proper update now Iíve got comments and feedback from several perspectives and different corners of the interwebs I think itís better to just ramble a bit about these kits and how they related to my design philosophy. Making quality bits is a balancing act between a few factors and sometimes they force a designer into certain corners.
As a first tangent, itís been mentioned/questioned a few times over the years if Iíve considered using Shapeways to produce some of my designs. While it can be tempting I wonít being going that route for several reasons. The simple primary factor is control; Iíve spent several years working out the kinks in the entire process and part of what I want to bring to my product offering is that itís all
done in-studio to a very discerning standard. That
is the business I want to grow into something larger and I want to keep complete control of the creative, production, and ultimately profit flow.
As an extension of that idea I really donít like the Polyjet 3D printing process that is used by Shapeways for their high resolution prints. Iíve commented on it in the past since Iíve worked with it a few times (once with Shapeways and several other times as well), and it really is an amazing 3D printing technology but not for the one-off quality I want at this scale. Some people donít mind it, and if youíre a hobbyist then thatís a fine call to make, but Iím someone who wants to produce at small-to-medium scale and I want the product to be the best
quality I can achieve. It really is the extra small scale that just pushes Polyjet to its limits if you demand results like Iím after. The results I was getting from professionally printed components using Polyjet was specifically why I took the time and effort to research and requisition Servitor Solus and even now that Iíve got the high resolution 3D printing I needed to achieve the results Iím aiming for I still spend quite a bit of time tweaking and adjusting my designs to assemble cleanly and fit correctly. Even with the tools and equipment in-house it can take several tries to get parts to fit the model or even each other correctly, so no, I donít think Shapeways is a good solution for producing most of the kits Iíll be creating. Whatever could be saved in lead times would require too much loss in quality and control to make it worth the trade.
∙ A perfect example how a rather simple component can require a few test prints to ensure the fit is correct. These barrels can be used on different models but theyíre specifically designed to fit the new Havoc models.
Iíve used digital calipers to measure the Heavy Bolter in the Havoc kit and tried to model it as precisely as I can manage, and while Iím sure itís very close I wonít know if Iím completely correct until Iíve got the bits in hand. (Very soon) I model parts with tolerances of 0.1mm to 0.05mm so it doesnít take much for something to be off and make a fit too tight, loose, misaligned, etc.. Naturally, trying to match straight lines is reasonably easy but as soon as curves are involved it becomes harder; thereís little choice but to model it as close as possible and then make adjustments after the first test prints. In this case, even the little peep-sight-like detail on the front of the Heavy Bolter isnít complex but I can only make an educated guess at the radius of the curve; same goes for the depth of the notches on the sides at the base which are close but Iím not sure if theyíre perfect. Theyíre just too tricky to measure precisely on the model.
∙ The new combi-weapon bits had to be a balance of several things and theyíre a good example to showcase the design thinking I try to employ.
It basically comes down to balancing the practical needs of the design, personal creativity, and the fictional niche Iím trying to fill. Practical issues can be things the end builder will deal with like magnetization and/or how a kit assembles, but it can also be something to accommodate the manufacturing or 3D printing process and that says mostly on the studio side, where, if I design it correctly you donít know that I made a clever part that casts really well, but you should appreciate the lack of mould lines and bubbles. My personal creativity is just having the idea as a starting point, but itís also a key consideration in that I need to create a unique and interesting enough design that suits the Warhammer universe but is something new that Iíve created from my mind; I donít want to directly copy or mimic things made by GW, I want to make original versions of my own ideas that blend right in with the official kits. And that leads neatly into the idea of the niche that Iím aiming to fill and the design language that GW uses for similar objects/wargear or just in the Warhammer universe in general; my professors in college would have referred to it as finding the Ďsympathetic detailsí that you aim to draw into a new design, creating something new but with a notable linage.
∙ GW has the side-by-side Combi all buttoned up so I figured Iíd go with an over-under configuration; not only do I like the look I came up with but the slimmer profile is also very nice.
I always try to incorporate what I call pseudo-plausibilityô into my designs, which is an intentionally silly verbose way of saying that I try to design details on my models with consideration of how the object would operate and work as a blend of the 40k universe and real world considerations. Yes, these are completely fictional objects that many times are based on science-fantasy but that doesnít mean vents, grills, hoses, pipes, hydraulics, buttons, switches, fasteners, seamlines, and a million other minor details canít be given a bit of common sense consideration. That said, I have to be careful not to take it too far or I can start to obsess over trivial details (something Iím far too apt to do, but Iím getting much better) and waste time on them, and/or I can overdetail something in an effort to get it just right
and really authentic. When youíre modeling something thatís 50x larger on your computer screen then it will be in real life and itís meant to be a model
100% authentic, itís very easy to create details that either struggle to be created during the 3D print process or are so small and delicate that theyíre lost at the tiny scale theyíre produced at. I want them sci-fi, but not too
sci-fi, and I want them realistic, but not too
realistic. When it doubt, I lean toward making it blend with the Warhammer aesthetic and chuck realism in the corner for later.
∙ Oh, you knew it was going to be magnetized, right? From a practical perspective it was simply easier to incorporate the magnet in the vertical orientation.
Iím still not sure if one pair of the 1.65x1.65mm magnets used here will be enough attraction for my liking, but itís not hard to add a second set of magnet holes if I want to make it stronger. The hand also might get one more round of tweaking; itís almost there but even after altering the thumb a bit, I think it needs a little more work to get a better match how the thumb is on an official model. Nothing major and likely not even a big deal considering how small it is and where itís located. For the test prints, the backs of the hands will also sty flat since thatís what best suits most of the models that are in the GW line, but it wouldnít be too hard to add a ball-joint or pin feature that could easily be removed if unwanted, so that doesnít seem out there. If/when I start making more elaborate assemblies I will always try to use ball joints and articulated hinges wherever it makes sense to provide more posing options.
Iím also leaving the left hand off for the first test prints; I know that one-handed versions will likely be very popular but Iím sure some people will want a proper two-handed version. I suspect itís the one-handed setup and the tall profile that makes these models seem a bit more like pistols, but I can assure you that the lower Bolter is 18mm long which is a tiny
bit longer than a Bolter in the new Chaos Marine kit. The larger ammo drums and wider zig-zag feed magazines that hold more shells might also add to the bulk a bit making them seem a bit more pistol like. Whatever is going on, itís just an optical illusion that Iím sure will vanish once theyíre in context and not floating in a white void.
∙ ďMissed itÖ by that much.Ē ~ Maxwell Smart Ė Yeah, I was close but the fit is just a bit too tight and it doesnít quite want to close. Close, only counts, horseshoes, hand grenades, yadda yaddaÖ
So the fit isnít quite correct here, but it would even be worse in a cast since itíll shrink more ever-so-slightly. Iíll need to loosen this up considerably to make sure itís not a problem after all the effort is made to mould and cast it. Itís all good, thatís what test prints are for. Right now Iím still testing the limits of Servitor Solusí so Iím mostly happy with how well the subtle curves of these parts turned out. A few spots benefited from a light sanding with 600 grit soft sanding stick but thatís hardly a problem when the results are so good. Despite it not quite closing around the arm I couldnít ask for a better fit and finish.
∙ Solving the minor fit issue will be easy enough but the ammo feed is going to be the final hurdle to get past to complete this kit.
The final tweaks to the head have it looking very nice and printing without any issues, and despite the fit on the arm it still looks pretty good in these photos. The ammo feed is the final piece to this little puzzle thatís going to need to wait until I can make a mould and cast the part in polyurethane. As Iíve discovered, the 3D printed resin can be bent after heating but it still remains rather brittle and prone to breaking very easily as its being shaped.
I do wish I could make the arm just a bit
slimmer but the three barrels made to mimic the gauge of the shoulder mounted cannon just doesnít make that possible. However, in turn the three barrels do give a proper reason why the arms are as thick as they end up being. Theyíre no larger in width than the original arms so I guess itís a more effective use of the space. I suspect theyíll grow on me more when theyíre not bright red-orange and painted to blend with the model. Even some primer would go a long way.
∙ Long overdue because of various delays and some changes to the design, the armour plates for the Predator are being prepped for mould making.
I simplified the design a bit from the original Predator armour I created so now the armour plates on the weapon systems are interchangeable between each weapon or the stowage/ammo/battery on the turret. It makes them a bit less customized to each mounting location but it really helps to trim down on the number of parts for the kit so itíll be more straightforward to produce and it suites the lighter nature of this design, I feel.
Once these are casting Iíll be making the clean Mk.2 version for Imperial builders. Now that all the kinks are worked out with regard to fit it will be much more straightforward to get future variations complete and into production. I may also take the time to do the more elegant Mk.4 version because Iíd like to see something with some more flowing lines and subtle details, but Iíve been getting a lot of request to get the Land Raider kits back in stock. I will be restocking the current ĎRaider kits one more time but Iím eager to get working on new kits using the new equipment in the studio. Iím already starting the 3Dmodeling of the Land Raider and Iíll also be doing the Sicaran along with it, so expect to see some updates for those in the somewhat near future.
Servitor Solus will be quite busy for the foreseeable future, so expect to see some prints of these combi-weapons in the next few days along with further updates on the Mechanicus components since I still have the other Kastelan arms to do and the Onager bits as well. Stay tuned. Spring is here, and the longer days are bring an upswing in the energy and while I might be too busy to write as often as Iíd like, thereís lots in The Works.