I've been a bit of a Mech-head since the nineties, watching Escaflowne and Gundam Wing as a kid. As I grew older my interest only grew and it seemed only natural to learn 3D modeling and work on games and movies! In the end, that never worked out but I kept 3D modeling as a Hobby, spent about 7 years on and off as the main Artist and co-creator for a Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance mod pack called BlackOps. Starting in 2014 I started looking into 3D Printing, at the time consumer grade printers didn't really get the fidelity I wanted so I started working with Shapeways from a recommendation from a fellow Supreme Commander Modder. Working with Shapeways was a fun little side project, never really made much from it overall until the tail end of 2017 when I was contacted about making one of my SupCom prints available in a different material. Well one material change turned into a large revamp, which turned into even more revamps and my collaboration on a large Fan Battletech TRO project. So large in fact that I'm still working on new stuff here in 2019 and we keep adding more designs to be done! These new models really helped my shop out, I did more sales in 2018 than I had the 3 years prior on Shapeways.
But all things come to an end, near the end of 2018 Shapeways started making a number of changes that I felt where not in my best interests as a designer and as such also not in the interests of my customers as well. So early in 2019 I closed my Shapeways shop, bought an Anycubic Photon and got to work familiarizing myself with this new printing method and started reworking my designs to be compatible with the Photon in order to run my own site where I can offer better prices and service compared to what I could through Shapeways and if you're reading this it's working!
Although things haven't progressed as fast as I'd liked with the Day Job and life in general getting in the way and sidetracking me I am getting there and just me writing this and you guys reading this is a milestone in of itself! I just want to take a moment to thank those that have stuck around while I figure this out and welcome anyone seeing my work for the first time!
As you might have noticed from the paragraphs above my products are all 3d Printed. This has a lot of Pros and Cons compared to other production methods and it is something to be considered when looking through my products so I would like to take a bit of space here to talk about those pros and cons and help you guys get a better feel for why I've chosen to do things this way.
Let's start with the Cons and get them out of the way first! The biggest one and probably most relevant to you guys is Print Lines and the overall fidelity of the miniatures. In the end, there will be visible print lines on the minis, as well as other potential minor imperfections due to the way the prints are set-up and the support structure they use. This is an unavoidable side effect of 3D Printing but I have a couple things working in my favour in regards to this. First is that my overall style is pretty blocky, lots of squares and flat surfaces which are pretty easy to clean up when it comes to the print lines and such. Second is that because I handle all of the design and printing I can take into account the need for supports and the printing process in general when designing the model and working out how to break it down into parts. This lets me optimize the model to some degree to minimize the impact the supports will have to some degree.
The next major issue is overall fidelity. The Printer can only handle details of a certain size and still keep them crisp and visually distinct. This is where the majority of the work goes when adapting a print file meant for Shapeways and making it work on the Photon. I always try to keep the basic shapes the same but sometimes I'll need to change around details and smaller elements so that they still look good. Overall the Photon prints will not be as high fidelity as the old Shapeways prints but overall it is only a small drop in overall fidelity.
The last issue of notable relevance would be production times. The Photon isn't exactly a large printer and the DLP printing process isn't exactly fast to begin with. Especially for larger designs like the Sledgehammer, whose Artillery cannon barrel on it's own takes 8.5 hours to print! In the end this should be a fairly minor issue for a couple of reasons, products might take a bit longer to come back in stock if they've sold out but the reason this is more of a minor issue is twofold. first, although the printer itself isn't that big I can print things in batches. So the Sledgehammer's Artillery Cannon barrel that takes 8.5 hours? I print 10 of them at a time. The Second reason is that I've already gone and bought a second printer, functionally doubling my production capability, more or less. So it will potentially have some effect on keeping things in stock and supplying new products but unless I get really busy it should be fairly minor.
But how about them Pros though? Well there are a few for sure and I think they're pretty impactful but first among them for me personally is that I now have complete control over the process from start to finish. It's more work of course but having this level of control gives me the option to do things that were much harder to do than before, like the option to do sales or offer discounts of assorted kinds which you simply couldn't do on your own with Shapeways and they don't even have offer very often if at all anymore.
A big one, especially for you guys, is lower prices. Any of you that purchased or browsed my Shapeways shop will remember that some of the prices, especially for larger units, were pretty high and let me tell you, they were high even before adding my small markup! Doing my own printing gives me way more control over the pricing and will result in notably lower prices for everything compared to the old SW pricing. As mentioned above this gives me room for varied discounts, promotions and other events which I will try and do once things get more settled.
Next is that I have a lot more flexibility when it comes to the products themselves. Adding new options for stuff on Shapeways was a bit of a nightmare as each set had to be approved and was tracked separately for print success and doing my own orders had a 3-4 week turnaround just to receive them, and if something went wrong or I needed to make further changes, well that's another 3-4 weeks! Now, I can just design, test and print up the new parts needed all within a week or so depending on the complexity. In short my overall turnaround time is much shorter now which means more timely service for you guys! This will also mean I will be able to offer more options when it comes to Custom Orders and hopefully be able to offer them fairly frequently when I have the time.
And this basically it, a solid rundown of my process and why, hopefully answering your questions and concerns but if you do still have any questions still feel free to get in touch, I'd be glad to help clear them up for you!