August 16, 2012
Starting today and running through August 19, thousands of people are streaming in to Indianapolis to view the fruits of rapid manufacturing. Is it another manufacturing convention? In a way. These people are all heading to the geektopia that is Gen Con 2012.
Anyone that just clicked that link without knowing what they were in for might be scratching their head just about now. What does a gaming convention have to do with 3D printing or rapid manufacturing? The technology has infiltrated many different industries and gaming is one of them. Specifically, miniature wargaming.
Wyrd Miniatures (pronounced “weird”) is the developer behind the skirmish miniature wargame Malifaux. Until recently, they created minis the old fashioned way by sculpting the initial model and then casting production models in metal. A number of companies prefer metal for their minis because it retains a solid amount of detail after casting, but the price of the metal used for this process has gone up in price by up to 80% in recent years.
Enter Geomagic and its Freeform 3D modeling solution. By using 3D modeling software, Wyrd – and its product design firm, Ghost Studio – is able to create miniature designs ready for fabrication 30% faster (according to Geomagic) than using the old method. A switch to plastic as the material of choice has also reduced costs and allowed Wyrd to stamp out plastic sprues of its minis while retaining as much detail as possible.
“Just several years ago it took between 90 and 120 days to move from design to manufactured part for a typical toy. And that’s just one part. Today using Freeform, Wyrd is moving from design to finished parts for 5 characters on a sprue in far less than that, and achieving levels of detail that were difficult if not impossible to obtain in the past,” said George Sivy, co-owner of Ghost Studio. “I’ve used Freeform for many client projects over the past 10 years, and I can honestly say that Freeform stands alone in its ability to achieve such detail while also enabling a vastly improved manufacturing workflow.”
Wyrd isn’t alone in the wargame industry in using rapid manufacturing tools to improve the pace of design. Privateer Press is using 3D printing to create prototype models up its upcoming large scale miniatures for its newest expansions to its Warmachine and Hordes miniatures games. While it’s difficult to tell from the pictures I’ve seen, it looks to me as though Privateer Press used (or contracted out) a stereolithography machine to produce the prototypes.
If you happen to be curious as to what goes on at Gen Con, I’ve included a video highlighting last year’s convention.