Thursday, December 25, 2014

Want To Create Your Own 3D-Printed Minis?

by SandWyrm

Merry Christmas!

We've gotten an email from Michel Daab, who's working on a website called "Create Your Minis". Where you can design your own minis, have them 3D printed, and sent to you. Cool idea, but how good is the service?

From Michel's Email:
"We will launch a kickstarter campaign December the 18th, 18:00 GMT and we wish to show you our work. It's a website where you can design your own miniatures,  you select a body type (male or female human for example), then you select the clothes, the weapons and the equipment. Then you choose a compatible pose, after a couple of minutes your 3D model is built.
If you like it you can order it, it will be 3D printed and sent to you. You can also save your model to reuse it later, as a template for other models for example. Or you can share it with friends by giving them the ID (you find it through the “share” button, you have an ID and a couple of  image links).
If you could try it and, if you think it's interesting of course, could you talk about it a little? 
Our website:
our kickstarter campaign:
We got a lot of good feedbacks on forums like dakka
You can see that we are really open and we take suggestions into account.
If you can read French, you can see the same her:"

So what do I think? Well, I went to the site and started making a model. Here's a screenshot of the interface:

And... that's pretty much when I said 'No Thanks'. I got as far as making the guy with the chainsaw arm at the top of this post, and then quit in frustration.

Examples from the project's Kickstarter page.

I can see that there's some neat things happening in the back end of this web app, and some of the example models on the Kickstarter page are OK looking. But the interface is absolutely effing terri-bad. Really, not one in a hundred potential customers is going to go through the torture of making one figure, let alone a whole army of them this way.

The project's funding goal is reasonable though, and about half-funded already. So maybe they can hire a decent user-interface designer and end up with a usable product at the end of it all. We'll see.

But fundamentally, I'm not sure that this 'build anything from scratch' approach is the right one. It has a certain utility, but anything made using this system is going to be awfully generic looking. No matter what options you choose.

A much better approach, I think, is the one being taken by sandboxr. Where you have a pre-designed figure that's been animated doing various 'action' things. You pick your pose by scrubbing a timeline, and then you can tweak equipment, colors, etc.

Because fundamentally, most folks just aren't that creative. They want to modify something cool, instead of trying to come up with something great-looking from scratch.

Like these models from "Create Your Minis" own Kickstarter stretch goals:

Man! let me pick an animation pose on one of these babies, swap a few weapons/details, and ship it to my door already! They have the character that's always going to be missing from the models their web app is designed to create.

What does everyone else think?


  1. If you look at the miniatures already available from existing providers, there is not much that these kind of projects can offer at the moment. Considering the effort that it takes to design what you want, you may as well allow professionals to be employed to do that work. I know that there are issues as well with the materials that they print with, more specifically; the way they interact with commonly used paint media. I think this technology has a long way to go before it finds its niche.

    1. Everything has to start somewhere. These guys are among the pioneers of what will one day be something awesome. The first metal and plastic minis weren't all that great by today's standards either.

      There's a place for a system like this, with a better interface. But I think the future will be professionally designed models that can be easily 'modded' into something unique to each player. Such that there will be a continuum of mods (and modders). All the way from custom heraldry, to weapons, to arms/heads, to full models.

      All that's really missing is a marketplace to set standards and allow the producers and the modders to interact in a healthy, profitable way.

  2. I was literally at fifteen minutes before reading this. Its nowhere near as freeform as the site listed above, but the interface is heaps better. However what really struck me and made me stop was the cost. More $ than GW for a model quality that they recommend not painting :(

    I think that print your own has a much better target market among RPG'ers. When I DM I often want six different monsters, when I wargame I want squads.

    1. I've got some 28mm infantry on the way from Shapeways. I'll be doing a series of posts on how good they look, and how easily they paint up.

    2. Oh, and the models I ordered were 4 figures for $22.85. Single-pose, non-custom.

      That's pretty price competitive with unassembled GW plastics, and way cheaper than their metal/finecast prices.

  3. I am test painting a model for a new company; it's clear from the kinds of challenges they are facing just how formative this technology is, they are creating a new type of business from scratch which is exciting but also a stab in the dark. They really are pioneers and I'm sure the icebreaking they do now will benefit the industry for a long time to come.

  4. Really interesting. I'm very curious to see some of the painters on the web make and get some of these models. All the 3D printers I've had access to are horrible at printing things this small.


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