The Wrath of CAD
I downloaded several of Miguel Zavala‘s designs picking them based on my personal preferences for designs I’d like to try and with varying complexity. However, when it came down to scheduling some quality time with my library’s 3D printer, I chose the Bulette. I think they’re cute monsters and the calculator at 3DPartPrice.com indicated a relatively short print time and cost. It would be a perfect starter miniature for my first attempt. Making an inexpensive miniature of a monster that was based on cheap knock-off figures of Ultraman kaiju that Gary Gygax found in a drug store would bring the Bulette (aka Kemura) full circle.
The Maker Lab is rather new, most people prefer the laser cutter, so my project was something that hadn’t been attempted yet. We ran into a minor snag almost immediately. The 3D printer’s software alerted us to “errors” in the design which would have to be repaired before it could be printed. Fortunately, this is common and a relatively quick fix in a program the library has called Netfabb.com. Netfabb found the same issues with the figure, but a mere click of the repair button, followed by apply fixed it.
There are a few things to watch out for when printing a figure like Bulette. It has a tail and a raised head. This requires temporary supports during printing, otherwise they’ll sag. If you find you have a figure that needs supports, it’s better to just let the slicer software that goes with the printer do it, if you’re new to this.
Another, is that a 3d printer can have various quality settings. The higher setting gives you the best results, but will also use more time and filament. The lower quality setting costs the least amount and is fastest, but can come with lots of printing errors. The fast setting is the one to do if you want to make sure nothing spectacularly bad is going to happen in the printing of the design before making a good print. I was offered that option, but when I thought about it, I thought, “You know what Jack Burton would say at a time like this?” Jack Burton would say, “What the hell.” and go for it. If it failed, I’d still have a good baseline and great gooey photos of a lump of plastic for this article.
Therefore, this Bulette was printed with red ABS filament (it’s what they had loaded from a previous job) on the “normal” setting which is neither the fastest or the highest quality. It took about ninety minutes. Since I was in a big public library, this was no problem for me. In fact, I think this is ideal. I’d watch it between book browsing to see it coming along, but it really doesn’t need monitoring.
After it was done I was left with excavating Bulette like a fossil from the supports and rafter. Most of it snapped off, but some I had to help along with an X-acto knife. It didn’t take long. In the end I was left with a figure I was more than pleased with, since I didn’t even expect it to come out this cool looking. I’d like to paint it, so my next part of this project will be to experiment with that. ABS is the same material Lego blocks are made with, so it may take some work. The next thing I’d love to try printing would be Zavala’s more complex displacer beast design, or perhaps a more humanoid figure to see exactly how small and detailed my library’s printer can go.
I have to admit I may be making many more trips to the library Maker Lab, even though I don’t use miniatures. The cost is very low. The only drawback is time, but since it’s a library it’ll be easy enough to start it during a regular visit. In the meantime, I am considering calling this Bulette “Steve”. Mostly so I can justify the number of times I wrote “Bullitt” just now.