Interesting Times

For the last year or so we’ve been experimenting with 3D printed models in various shapes and forms. We’ve been playing with different printing materials from different printing houses, different types of mould, different ways of preparing the models before moulding and so on. Some have been successful, such as the ranges of 6mm and 15mm SF desert buildings which have sold so well they’ve funded the experiments of other types of models. Others have been less successful, and have resulted in destruction of some rather expensive masters. Yet more have been previewed here on the blog and then disappeared from sight without further mention. And yes, we know that lots of other companies have pretty much mastered the process and there are mould-making and casting specialists out there that we could have turned to and got them to do everything for us. But we’re nothing if not stubborn, and we have been convinced that we could master the process ourselves and keep everything in-house.

We’ve switched to a new printing company for the high-detail models, and the first batch of prints arrived recently – a mix of 6mm and 15mm vehicles. The quality of the prints was better than we’d had previously, and more importantly the material looked to be much more robust. Last week we previewed some of them, a range of 6mm Indonesian Republic tanks for our Iron Cow range. We’re pretty pleased with these, but on very close inspection the castings are not quite right – some of the surfaces are rough or pitted and some of the detail is not as crisp as we would like, so they aren’t suitable for release quite yet. So we tweaked a few things, and tried another mould, this time of parts for the 15mm scale Neo-Soviet Bizon tank. And here’s the result:

Pleased ? That’s a bit of an understatement … I had a grin like a Cheshire cat all the way home ! On this close-up you can see nice smooth, crisp castings which fit together perfectly.

So we reckon we’re almost there now. This is obviously only a master mould, the parts need to go into production moulds and the hull, which will be made in resin, also needs moulding. But we might see 15mm Neo-Soviets and 6mm Indonesians released this side of Christmas with a bit of luck πŸ™‚

Tiny Houses

As mentioned in a recent post, we’re planning to expand our range of 2mm scenery as part of the Land Ironclads range. To this end, we were rather excited when a bunch of 3D prints arrived the other week.

The first batch consisted of 20 different English village buildings – mostly houses, with the odd inn and shop thrown in for good measure. Each building is unique, so it will allow you to build a largish village or maybe two small hamlets without any repetition.

The second batch was nine English churches in various styles. The larger size meant that I had to model the towers separately from the naves, so I took the opportunity to make a common join, which means that any of the tower designs will fit any of the three nave types. There are three main tower designs (crenelated tower, steeple, low-pitched roof) but each is slightly different, so it’s possible to make up to 27 unique church designs.

Unfortunately, the prints weren’t all that we had hoped for – the definition isn’t great and some of the buildings are mis-shapen. They certainly aren’t as good as the various forts and lighthouses that arrived before them. We can’t decide whether it’s a bad print, or it’s simply that we’ve pushed the limits of this particular 3D printing material too far with these tiny, tiny houses (some are only 5mm across). We either need a (better) reprint using this material (which we like for buildings because of the natural rough surface finish) or find a material that can cope better with very small models. Either way, we won’t be able to put them into production immediately as we had hoped πŸ™

Back to Neu Celle

Neu Celle has had to take a back seat recently with the preparations for SELWG and Crisis, but I managed to find some time in the last couple of days to do a little more work.

The buildings have all finally been drybrushed, which has pulled together all of the staining and shading from the washes, and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the final result. The combination of the staining from the various wash stages and the lighter drybrush has resulted in some pretty worn and weathered looking buildings, exactly what I was after. All that’s left to do for now is paint the doors and other details, and then I’ll be able to put them on the table (at last).

I’ve also painted the rubbish skips and Moisture Collector Units (MCUs) which we released recently. All of the models were rinsed in clean water first to remove any dust from the 3D printing process, then given a quick white undercoat from a spray can once they had dried. The skips were easy to paint, just a simple coat base of paint followed by a heavy wash to dirty them down. Incidentally, after a slight redesign of the models we’ve dropped the price by about 65p or so, which has to be good πŸ™‚

The MCUs were superglued to 1Β’ (euro) coins to act as bases (and weigh them down nicely so they don’t topple over). They were then washed in Citadel Badab Black, followed by a drybrush in white, then some small coloured details (just a red band around the top). The base was textured using Tamiya textured paint (this is very expensive but I had some left over from a previous project, so I might as well use it up !). A little bit of flock on the base and that was it. The MCUs will be very handy as small terrain pieces in both 15mm and 6mm – there’s not much to give their scale away.

Threat from the East

Anyone who has read the background and history of the Iron Cow rulebook will know of the rise of the Indonesian Republic toward the end of the 21st century. Conquering many of their island neighbours and even threatening the eastern coastline of India, they emerge as a major world power at the turn of the 22nd Century. Steve Blease wrote some notes on a campaign between the Indonesian Republic and the Pacific Federation some time ago, now we’re finally catching up with models !

Today we’re previewing a new range of Indonesian armoured grav vehicles in 6mm – these are pre-production castings with an undercoat (I haven’t yet had time to paint them).

Indonesian Republic tanks

No target date for release just yet, as mentioned these are pre-production castings so there’s still the odd casting issue to iron out first.

Rubbish and Water

The average town or city produces lots of one and requires plenty of the other. Neu Celle is no different, so we’ve put our minds to servicing the town’s needs.

Firstly, the rubbish needs to go somewhere. So you need bins, skips or dumpsters, and we have the perfect ones in 15mm. Two British-style rubbish skips for the big rubbish and three dumpsters (large rubbish bins) for the household stuff. Find these now in our Brigade3D Shapeways store.

And now to water … despite decades of terraforming, Mars is still mostly arid. The icecaps have yielded sufficient water, but in more remote areas the problem is making it accessible. The answer lies in moisture collector units which use heat exchange mechanisms to condense water out of the thin Martian air, and store it in underground tanks or the roof tanks built into the domes of most buildings. Again, these can be bought directly from our Shapeways store.

The City of the Future

Terraformed Mars is a harsh place – cold, sandstorms, nothing but rocks and desert for miles. Life in the colonies is tough. Unless you live in one of the few cities of course, where live is comfortable, clean and almost like living back on Earth.

Lowell City is the largest city on the planet, the de facto capital – or at least it would be if the various Earth powers would stop squabbling over Mars long enough for a stable planetary government to be formed. Although still small by Earth standards, Lowell City is a clean, modern place with all the facilities needed entice families to move offworld.

As promised earlier in the week, here’s a preview of our new 6mm SF buildings – these are completely different in design to the existing desert buildings, with a far more futuristic look to them. The first four are three houses of various sizes and a small apartment block. The sort of houses you’d find in the suburbs of Lowell City.

As you can see, we had the doors and windows printed in a different (higher detail) material than the building shells, so I still need to do quite a bit of assembly and cleanup before they go into production. But you get the idea …

There’s no release date on these yet, we were hoping for SELWG but a combination of late delivery from the printers and overload from the last leg of the sale means that is now unlikely.

That’s All, Folks !

So the last part of our sale is all done and dusted … and what a sale it’s been ! September is normally a very slow month, no-one has any money after their summer holidays and it’s generally rather quiet on the order front. Not this time. In the last nine days we’ve taken more than double what we’d normally expect for the whole of an average September ! This is a fantastic response to our sale and I guess shows that we must be doing something right. We’ve already had to order in extra supplies of metal and resin to cope with the volume of casting we’ll need to do.

It means that we’re now going to be incredibly busy picking and packing all of these orders and doing any necessary casting ! It will mean that there could be a slightly (EDIT – for slightly, read quite a lot…) longer turnaround than usual on orders, especially larger ones or ones with lots of resin models in (we sold a lot, and I mean a LOT, or our 6mm and 15mm desert buildings). This will probably have a knock-on effect at SELWG where we won’t have time to produce as much stock for the show as we would have liked, so if you’re after any buildings that day it’ll probably be best to pay us an early visit. We also have some new-style 6mm buildings that we were hoping to get out for the show, but they may have to wait until afterwards now (they’re the start of an SF-city range – I’ll preview them on the blog later this week).

What I will bring you this morning is some previews of other new stuff; a new parcel of 3D printed buildings in 15mm, 6mm and 2mm scales turned up this weekend (eventually … the UPS driver managed to leave it in someone else’s rubbish bin on the other side of town, but that’s a long story …). As mentioned above I’ll leave the 6mm buildings for later in the week since they need a little bit of cleaning and assembly work on them first.

The first model is a 15mm version of our 6mm-scale vehicle garage, of which we sell lots and lots so it makes sense to have it in the larger scale as well. The door has been printed in a high-detail material which contrasts with the rough surface of the building.

The rest of this morning’s previews are all in 2mm scale as part of our Land Ironclads range. This batch concentrates mainly on various fortifications, with the odd lighthouse thrown in. First we have the largest of the 2mm models, Fort Boyard (or Bouyard) which is off the west coast of France in the Bay of Biscay. It’s better known as the site of a TV game show, but was in fact built in Napoleon’s time (well, started anyway – it wasn’t finished until 1857). It’s large (as 2mm models go) so will go into production as a resin casting.

The next image is a pair of Martello Towers. These are a common site around the UK coast, but the design was taken from a Genovese tower at Mortella Point on Corsica; in typical British fashion we took the design but got the spelling wrong ! Not all towers are the same, this image shows a couple of different types, with either a single gun or a second design with a clover-leaf style arrangement of three gun positions.

The third fortification is a very small fortification, Fort Vauville, on Normandy’s west coast. This unprepossessing building isn’t much more than a stone house with a surrounding defensive wall, so much so that when I walked around it on holiday I didn’t notice it – I just thought it was a holiday home with a big stone wall around it ! I was more interested in the WW2-era bunkers scattered around the same beach.

Switching from fortifications to more peaceful structures, we have a small lighthouse. This is based on the Little Red Lighthouse on the Hudson River in New York, but at this scale could just be a small generic lighthouse anywhere in the world.

Finally, we have a daymark – these are a bit like lighthouses, but without the light, and are used for navigation during daylight hours. This one is based on Gribben Tower in Cornwall. (As Phil pedantically pointed out, surely a lighthouse without a light is just a house !?)

This marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a major expansion in our 2mm scenics and buildings range. As well as fortifications we have villages, farms, factories all planned (the first of these have already been ordered from the printer and more are about to be).

Painted Mobile Phone Mast

A couple of weeks ago we mentioned our new 15mm Mobile Phone Masts which were available through our Shapeways Store. I’ve finally had a chance to paint the first of these, the tower mast with three antennae.

I first stuck the model onto a 40mm round figure base, with a large washer stuck underneath to weigh the base down and make the tower stable. I made a little stand from it from a square of plastic card with a bolt in each corner made from hex section plastic rod. The base was then covered in PVA and sand. Normal superglue works fine when sticking Shapeways plastic parts, you don’t need any special adhesives. Once everything had dried, I undercoated with a spray can of white primer.


I then painted it in two shades of grey, a pale grey for the base and top framework and a green-grey (Tamiya Slate Grey) for the tower body (although this isn’t too obvious from the photos). After a black wash and drybrush, the three antennae were picked out in white. The final touches were a few splashes of orange-brown wash for rust patches (these towers are out in all weathers after all). The base was painted in Tamiya Flat Earth, drybrushed a pale stone and then patches of static grass were PVA’d on.

So that’s it – a simple enough paint job, bringing communication to the backwaters of the galaxy.

The other phone mast, the larger lattice tower, is being saved for a later date – I have a slightly more elaborate base planned for it.

Phone Home …

We have a new item in our Shapeways store today. As I commute back and forth to London in my day job (that’s the one that pays the bills, not this one !) one thing I notice through the train window (when I’m not asleep) is the proliferation of mobile phone masts and towers across the countryside. These struck me as ideal subjects for 3D printing, being tricky to produce in traditional metal or resin castings. So I’ve made a couple of different styles, one being a solid tapering pole with three antennae at the top, the other a triangular lattice mast with nine antennae. They’re ideal for modern-era 15mm gaming but also look techy enough for sci-fi layouts – mine will be painted up and added to my Martian Neu Celle township.

The masts are currently sold as a pair, but if anyone wants just one type then let me know and I can add the individual types to the store.