Tuesday, July 25, 2017

3D Printing for Wargames

I've decided to join the 21st century of wargaming!  I've messed with 3D printing only in so much as I've contracted a guy to create some 3D models for me (Bedford truck, Canadian LAV III, and Canadian G-Wagen) then had them printed for me by Shapeways (online 3D printing service).  That gets the job done and is ok for one off or small projects, but it gets rather expensive in the grand scheme on things.

So I up and bought a FlashForge Creator Pro.  To be perfectly honest, I've been eyeing a 3D printer for no less than 2 years ... but never pulled the trigger.  All the research I have done to date made it sound like getting into 3D printing was going to be one massive headache of learning through trial and error - mostly error (and expense).  I'm happy to report that it has been nowhere near as complicated as I thought it was going to be.  Some of that is based on my pre-research, but the other part is the extremely helpful community of 3D printing folks who are out in the interwebs and on Facebook.

I had the printer setup and ready to print in about 10-15 minutes ... it fact it was so fast I was sure I had screwed something up ... but no, I did everything right.

I figure I'm not the last one to head down this path so I figured I would put together a short "getting started and lessons learned" blog post here so you can avoid the mistakes I've made over the last couple of days (at least as it applies to the FlashForge Creator Pro).  This is also useful in understanding what it takes to get started with 3D printing.  One disclaimer, I still have tons to learn, but at this point I'm printing stuff off that is coming out great!

I don't claim to be anywhere near an expert at this point ... but I'm certainly underway with several completed models ... a picture of my Vauban fort progress below ...

Not too shaby!  I've been happy with the FlashForge Creator Pro so far ... humming along nicely.

A few basic things you should know:

  • Extruder (printer part) - This is the nozzle on the 3D printer that heats up and discharges the printing material (filament).  The FlashForge Creator Pro is a dual-extruder printer, meaning it has two nozzles for discharging printing material (filament).  You can print two colours at a time or have two types of printing material loaded up (e.g. I have PLA on one and ABS on the other).
  • Filament (material) - This is the material used for printing - like the ink in the ink cartridge for a regular printer.
  • Platform (printer part) - This is the surface that your object gets printed on (base plate).  Heated plates are essentially required to get any PLA or ABS type printing done.
  • PLA (material) - PLA is a type of filament that is used for 3D printing.  PLA is polylactic acid is a biodegradable thermoplastic, made from renewable resources like corn starch or sugarcane. Outside of 3D printing, it's typically used in medical implants, food packaging, and disposable tableware. The main benefit of PLA is that it's easy to print.
  • ABS (material) - ABS is another type of filament that is used for 3D printing.  Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is an oil-based thermoplastic, commonly found in (DWV) pipe systems, automotive trim, protective headgear, and toys (like Lego!). Objects printed with ABS boast slightly higher strength, flexibility, and durability than those made of PLA, at the cost of a slightly more complicated print process (complete with nasty fumes!).
  • Slicer (software) - The "slicer" is essentially the software program you will use to prepare and print your 3D model.  When 3D files are created they are not ready to print.  Most commonly I've seen STL files created for 3D projects.  The STL files need to be converted into something your specific printer can understand how to print - that is done with your slicer.  I have been using FlashPrint from FlashForge with great success so far.  I load up an STL file and fill out some very basic info (which extruder to print with and how much infill should be use) then produce the file for the printer (in my case, a file with an X3G extension).
  • Infill (print job setting) - The percentage of fill and fill pattern to use on the "inside" of an object.  For FlashPrint the default infill is 15% in a hex pattern.  I typically reduce that to 5% for anything that isn't a small object.  More on that in a bit though ...
  • Layers (print job setting) - Every model consists of a number of layers that will be printed.  You can adjust how thick each layer is for each pass the printer makes.  I'm currently using the default 0.18mm thickness for my printer.  The smaller the number the more detailed - but longer - the print will be.
  • Speed (print job setting) - How fast the extruder/head unit will move while printing and positioning.  Default is normally good, but for small objects you may have to slow things down or project multiple objects at once as if the extruder is in one place for too long it will melt layers that have already been produced.
  • Temperature (print job setting) - The extruder needs to be hot enough to melt the filament.  If your filament is coming out of your extruder constantly when not printing it is likely the extruder temperature is too high for the type of filament being used.
I've been using Hatchbox PLA to print my models so far.  I bought the filament from Amazon for roughly $22 per spool.  I'm still on my first spool - that includes everything I've printed for the fort, along with all my mess ups and test models (lots of those!).

Once I've created the printing file, I copy it to a SD card (comes with the printer) then put the SD card into the slot in the printer and use the little control panel to select the file to print.  Some pictures below of prints in progress ...

Printing the bartizan turret roof.

Finished bartizan turret roof.

Working on the bartizan with turret.

Great, so you get a model printed.  Then you try to remove it from the plate and it is essentially super glued onto the base plate!  For gods sake don't force it - in my case I have to heat the base plate to 100C before I can remove the model.  A 3D print removal tool is essential (and inexpensive).  The tool is pictured below on the left side.  My printer has a menu that allows me to head the base plate (bed) - at 100C the 3D removal tool slides right under the model and it removes easily.

When I print, my extruder temperature is 200C while the base plate (bed) is 50C.  Fundamentally, the reason the model sticks to the base plate is because you don't want it to move at all while the print job is in progress - precision, precision, precision!

When I was still in test print and mess things up mode I managed to get filament stuck in the extruder.  Oh joy!  The printer came with the tool pictured above and on the right side.  I pre-heated the extruder that was clogged and used that tool to push the blockage through the extruder hole.  Took a little bit of muscle but worked perfect.  I was then off and printing again.

One of the first things I read about 3D printing was that you need to have patience.  Boy howdy that was the best advice so far.  I'll also mention that there is a great community out there that is helpful.  I've joined a couple of Facebook groups for 3D printing.

I mentioned infill earlier.  For my smaller turret top (pictured below) I used the default 15% infill (hex pattern) ...

For larger prints this is not needed and only results in more material being used and a big increased in printing time.  For larger objects, like the walls for the fort, I use a 5% infill, pictured below ...

One challenge I need to solve but have not yet, is printing with overhangs or hallow objects that will have layers printed at elevation with not layers underneath them.  Some recommend adding supports under those parts of the object, but that gets tricky.  I've seen a few things where it seems a hollow object was printed without supports can came out great.  I'm continuing to research this topic and will figure it out one way or another.  More test prints in my future.

Here are some close up shots of one of the parts ... with a 28mm ACW miniature for scale.

So, more adventures in 3D printing to come.  At this point I figure the larger parts of the fort are costing me about 2 or 3 dollars in filament each.  It just takes time to print (8-10 hours for the larger projects).  Much of that is because I wanted a higher quality print (thinner layers).

As far as durability is concerned ... I'm thinking I could drive my truck over the parts and they might break then ... otherwise extremely durable (especially with infill).

I'll stop there ... that should give you some idea of where I'm at and what it takes to get started.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

General Update - HistoriCon, Blood & Plunder, and 3D Printer

Hello all!  Well, believe it or not, I've been very busy!  I'll have several updates posting after this one and through the weekend.


HistoriCon 2017 happened this past weekend.  While I've always wanted to go it just have never worked out.  June is normally a very busy month for me so it is hard to get away to the east coast for an extended weekend (and KublaCon in the San Francisco bay area is at the end of May).

Now, while I didn't attend this year - my "brother from another mother" Mr. Ivor Evans (Saturday Mornings blog) was there running is awesome pulp game (pictures below with link).  Pictures are from the Lair of the Uber Geek blog ... check out his excellent HistoriCon reports here.

Ivor's game - picture from the Lair of the Uber Geek blog

Ivor's game - picture from the Lair of the Uber Geek blog

Ivor, being the most awesome dude on the planet - acted in abstentia on my behalf ... and picked up the special edition HistoriCon miniature for Blood and Plunder from the Firelock Games booth for me (miniature was free with purchase).  He also was super kind to pack me some more surprises - special edition HistoriCon figures!!  What a guy!!!

HistoriCon figures!

Convention special miniatures giveaway for Firelock
Games, with purchase of course!

David S. also has posted some excellent photos from the event as well ... I recommend check those out:  Wed photos, Thurs photos, Friday photos, and Saturday photos.

Blood & Plunder - No Peace Beyond the Line

First up - a big congratulations to Firelock Games on their outstanding and epic Blood and Plunder, No Peace Beyond the Line Kickstarter!  922 backers pledged $226,783!!

Every single stretch goal has been unlocked!  Personally I've pledged a small fortune as they kept adding things I wanted.  I'll have a ton of stuff coming in March (if they deliver on schedule).

Stretch goals ... all unlocked ... whoot!!

I'm really looking forward to getting everything from this Kickstarter.  Although my pirate collection has just begun, it is already progressing to completion of the first wave quickly.  My target is to run a game at CabinCon on the labour day weekend here in the US (first weekend of September).  Certainly an aggressive schedule, but I'll be pushing for that objective.  We'll see how far I get.  Fingers crossed!

3D Printer!

YES!!  I have a FireForge Creator Pro 3D printer ... oh man ... the possibilities!!!  Right now I'm busy printing on endless Vauban fort parts for a shore battery/fort position for my pirate games ... ooo ... sexy!  My next post will cover this is much more detail ... about half written at the moment.  I'll be giving you all an idea of what it takes to get into 3D printing of terrain for your miniature wargames ... hopefully for any of you looking to try it out it will save you some pain.

Print in progress ... next post will show completed prints.

That is it for the moment ... Wednesday is beer night ... so off to the pub to raise a glass or 20!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Man Overboard - Blood and Plunder

Yes, man overboard!  This has been a great week with almost everything I've ordered to get my pirate project underway having arrived.  I'm still waiting on:

- My buildings from Brigade Games (from their Caribbean line).
- My Unaligned dice set from Firelock Games - this was missed in one of my orders ... was supposed to be included in the last order that came, but alas, is still missing.

So, how about some pictures of my pirate booty?!!

Everything ... so far.
I've taken advantage of the set deals you can get from Firelock Games.  I've managed to end up with a healthy amount of stuff.  All four factions that are currently available (adding the new ones after March of 2017 when the new Kickstarter is supposed to ship).  4 frigates, 2 x Brigantines, 2 x Sloops and 3 longboats round out the current fleet.  I've already put the money forward in the Kickstarter for 2 x Galleons (along with 1 each of the other new ships).  Dice, templates, books, extra bits and cannon ... all making for a great new period of history to go game!

Some pictures of each of the current factions below ...

The English with their special character, dice and cards.

The Spanish with their special character, dice and cards.

The French with their special character, dice and cards.

The Unaligned with their cards.  No dice yet, still waiting
on those to arrive.  Also, since there is no special character
I've taken it upon myself to buy the "Captain Jack Sparrow"
miniature from Black Scorpion ... he'll serve as my
Unaligned faction commander.

So, many more posts to come as I make progress here.  I plan to share posts covering my assembly and painting of the ships as well as the terrain I'll be doing.  If all goes well today I'll pack up all four of the factions and ship them over to Artmaster Studio to get them painted and the crews done within the next couple of months.

Stay tuned, I'm still mulling over the table design/layout and approach ... but getting close.  I'll be taking a stab at getting a ship done here very soon.

Galleys, Guns & Glory AAR

Ok, getting back into the swing of things ... with a game!  I've been doing spring wargame cleaning ... a massive task that involves my shed and my cupboards in the garage.  I've managed to free up a ton of space and I've identified a large pile of stuff that I need to sell off.  I still have to go through all my board games ... of which I have far too many!  Anyways ...

Ahoy matey!  It has been a while since the 1/300 galleys made there way into the light of day so I decided to host a game yesterday (I've been off work this last week - mostly cleaning).  Dan Kerrick, Roy Scaife and Adrian Turner joined me for some fun naval action in the renaissance.

The Venetians and allies had four commands:

Group 1:  Venetian - 1 x Galleass, 3 x Galley, 1 x Galiot
Group 2:  Venetian - 1 x Galleass, 4 x Galley
Group 3:  Knights of Malta - 1 x Lanterna, 2 x Galley, 2 x Galiot
Group 4:  Spanish and Papal States - 1 x Lanterna, 4 x Galley

The Turkish fleet had three commands:

Group 1:  1 x Lanterna, 5 x Galley, 3 x Galiot
Group 2:  1 x Lanterna, 5 x Galley, 3 x Galiot
Group 3:  6 x Galley, 5 x Galiot

Although the Turkish fleet has the numbers, the Venetian fleet has much more firepower and a great number of larger ships.

Preparing the Venetian and allies fleet.

Preparing the Turkish fleet.

I played the Turkish side with Adrian while Dan and Roy took the Venetians and allies.  Adrian and I opted for a straight line of battle, with our right side being a holding action against two enemy commands (one Venetian and the Knights of Malta).  The Knights of Malta are tough so we just wanted to keep them busy enough while we push on the left and in the center.

Another priority was the two Venetian Galleass.  They are very nasty.  12 hit points (a Galiot has 3, Galley 6, and Lanterna 9) and cannons reload on a 4+ instead of the normal 5+ with the ability to shoot from the port/starboard sides as well as 180 degrees around the forward tower.

If you have never played GGG, I recommend it.  The models look great, are easy to paint and rig, and the game plays fast and fun.  The round markers you see on the decks of the ships are crew markers (with one being distinct to represent the captain).  Smaller little boats are added behind the proper boats to track hull damage.

The battle was bloody for both sides.  I would have to say the MVP are the two groups of 3 Turkish Galiots that got around the flanks of the Venetian fleet and did some significant damage to the Venetian command by the Knights of Malta and the Spanish and Papal States command.  Of course the Turkish Galleys has softened up the targets, but those Galiots ramming into the sides of enemy Galleys was the death blow to many ships.

At the end, we called it a "very" minor victory for the Turkish fleet.