I wanted to share another project with you I did some time ago. As you may have gathered, I do some design in my spare time and my main tools are Modo and Zbrush. I wanted to share this particular project with you just to show the power of 3D “sculpting” software in combination with 3D Printing. Maybe this story will be insightful to some or just fun to read. I will explain some thought-process and how I dealt with some challenges in this particular project.
A certain company wanted to create some concept versions of different “bases”. If you are familiar with the miniature-gaming world or also called, table-top gaming, you will know what these are In the world of table-top gaming these are tiles which can be used in combination with the game or/and it’s miniature models of soldiers, buildings etc. A well known example is “Warhammer 40.000”. Anyway, there are rules for building and painting stuff like this in order to keep it all consistent.
Traditionally, these models are sculpted in clay, they make a mold of it and use injection-molding to mass-produce the parts or models and sell it ofcourse. The “big companies” (Mattel for example) are already using 3D modelling/printing technique’s for manufacturing. The catch here is that you have to keep in mind the following things when designing this kind of stuff:
- you are bound to certain sizes
- you have to be careful not use big or high objects on the bases because of the injection-molding technique
- You are desiging for some high-end 3D printers, at least 10 microns, so you can put in detail.
- you have to keep in mind you are designing for something that’s 25x25x1mm, sure, you can put a lot of detail in it in 3D but that doesn’t show up once it’s printed! The eye works very differently from what’s on screen. Besides, on screen you always have it close-up Fun-fact: The company had another guy working on a similar assignment but in America, AND working with clay! So he could compare what works faster and more cost-effective.
I had to come up with approx. 6 to 9 different versions of a base and the theme here was supposed be ‘Jungle’. The base size was 25x25x1mm, 40x40x1mm and also 1 50x100x1mm. So I also had to make some different sizes. I made base-meshes in Modo because it’s really easy to setup size and get the same look and feel as a real-life base.
After that I really organized my folders and files to keep everything neat and professionally and exported the base-meshes to Zbrush for further detailing.
Normally I would sketch some stuff out on a piece of paper but here I thought it would be cool to see if I could come up with some fast workflow so it would also save me time. So I looked up lots of references, I got some generous sample bases from the company (for which I’m very thankful, cool stuff!!) and with that I got some ideas of where to go with this. I figured I would make some “Insert Multi-Mesh Brushes” or IMM for short, in Zbrush. The way this works is fairly simple: you create a model, let’s say a flower for example. You make it low-poly but detailed enough. You make another bunch of models/meshes in the same space. After that you hit a button and voila, with one key-stroke you have instant access to different models which can add in a instant to your existing model! Imagine having a bit land or grass and just plopping flowers, stones etc everywhere just like that
IMM Brushes I made to work fast
So I thought to invest some time in creating IMM’s with various objects like grasses, mushrooms, stones, frogs, plants etc…everything Jungle-esque… This took me approx. 6-10 hours of work. That’s including making the 3 bases in modo and refining them in Zbrush and filling them with various plantlife etc. That might seem like a lot but I can reuse a lot of it. The other size bases, the remaining 6, were ALL done in 3 hours tops! So I would say that’s a huge timesaver! Fun-fact: client asked mid-proces to have certain sized hole at the bottom of the bases. People put tiny magnets in them so they can group a whole bunch of them on a plate and it won’t move, or it will be moved as a whole.
So, last but not least! When everything is approved I would need to make them handable and printable. At this moment every base consists of multiple meshes, a lot actually. For it to be watertight and be treated as a whole it would be best to merge everything together as one big mesh. Zbrush just works miracles at this particular feat! Well, I think it does To be short: you merge all the objects together, make a copy, use Dynamesh to make it one mesh. After that you can easily project the detail from the copy back onto this mesh. The new mesh wil be less dens (less polygons that is, like millions!) and you still maintain lots of detail. After that I bring the polygon count even further down with Decimation Master in Zbrush and export it out for checking in Netfabb.
The final injection-molded versions
After everything is ok I send the files to the client and he will have concept versions made by injection-molding. You can go pretty big with the files, polygons-wise that is. Each base was around 500.000 Polygons just to make sure all the detail was still there.
After a while I got some test-samples from the company which is just incredibly cool to have That’s why I love designing stuff like this Hope you got some idea of how I do things and what to think of. Cheers! Andy.