Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Miniature Figurine Revolution Starts Sooner than You Think

In the early days of this hobby if you wanted to have a miniature for use in your war game or role-playing game you had three options: go to the store and purchase a figure; trade for a figure you liked; or make your own. As time has gone on we've eschewed the proud tradition of making our own miniature figurines in favor of purchasing figures from name brand manufacturers. For some manufacturers, such as Games Workshop, this has resulted in a very lucrative business where the enthusiast pays an ever escalating price for their figurines. Those days are coming to an end.


MakerBot Digitizer

In recent years 3D printing has gone from being the sort of thing that only existed within the manufacturing and wealthy hobbyist realms to something that is within the budgets of many homes. 3D scanners are making the copying of existing designs easier, and the software required for creating original miniatures designs continues to evolve into a simpler and user friendly form. Then there are sites like Thingiverse where you can download 3D modules to print your dungeon terrain and miniature figures.  Combined together it is easy to foresee a future where this technology eliminates the traditional miniature figure manufacturer.

It's so easy to see that earlier this year Hasbro entered into the fray. In February Hasbro announced that they had partnered with 3D Systems to "develop and commercialize innovative play printers and platforms" that would be used with all of Hasbro brands. Then neither side said another word until a patent was filed on May 9, 2014.

The patent was for a ". . . Computer software for creating, designing, modifying, customizing, sharing and saving computer generated representations capable of being printed by a three dimensional printer to create physical objects, namely, jewelry, ornaments, arts objects, artifacts, household goods, toys, games, hobby models, accessories, office products, and various other consumer products . . ." that would allow for the ". . . Custom prototype fabrication via three dimensional printing for others of new parts, components and models . . ." (Patent Application 86276566). The patent also mentioned that it would be ". . . providing a website featuring technology that enables users to download, modify, and share three-dimensional designs on the internet for use with computer driven machines for making three-dimensional embodiments of the designs; providing online computer games and interactive multiplayer online games via global networks . . ." (Patent Application 86276566).

With Hasbro providing a way to create your 3D designs based on their brands it seems a natural extension that miniature figures for the Dungeons and Dragons game would become a part of their overall plan. Imagine being able to purchase a set of designs for an adventure you were playing in that would give you all the miniature figures you needed and all you had to do was print them out. It would be a revolutionary change in how we purchase our figures.

18 comments:

  1. 3d printers are going to be the game changers of the next 20 years in many areas of life. I am really looking forward to seeing where the gaming industry goes wiht the technology as it becomes more and more common.

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    Replies
    1. I've already been seeing people in my G+ stream printing out figures and terrain. It's really cool for the hobby, but terrifying when you consider that larger versions of these printers are already being used to build houses in China.

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  2. Errr, am I the only one who thinks these patents are completely crazy?

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  3. Our entire civilization is on the cusp of transition. It seems silly but 3-d printers are going to change everything. It is currently possible to printout toys, cups, individual parts, molds for parts to be cast and machined that can't currently be printed. the day could be around the corner where you print a dish set for a fancy dinner party and recycle it afterwards. when you order a product it will be printed and assembled at the fulfillment center, the auto shop will have every part ever made with just a little waiting. Big box stores will either vanish or become production points with show rooms for the range of products they have licensed to produce on site. International trade will shrink and transform to a trickle of products requiring skilled precision assembly work and the raw supplies for the printers. Energy and raw materials will be the limit.

    I've been doing concept art with lots of 3D work for years. I've been shopping for a home 3d printer for a couple years now and the technology is evolving at a breath taking pace. My first black and white 300 dpi laser printer retailed for just over $10,000.00 when it first came out. I figure my first 3D printer will actually cost less. To be able to hand my customers a part to show their potential customers and bosses 6 months to years before the real part would ever exist would be beneficial.

    It would be darned cool to able to use my professional skills to produce figures for my hobby.

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    1. "It would be darned cool to able to use my professional skills to produce figures for my hobby."

      True story!

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  4. I would welcome this change if it meant not having to buy random mini boosters or any of GW's many ways of screwing you over. As a 40k player, I definitely welcome any innovation that will bring GW down to earth.

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    1. I'm seeing a future where you find a lot of 3D models on torrent sites that will have every mini ever made. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so.

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    2. One could digitize old classic minis from the early days of D&D and post those designs as well. Make your retro game LOOK retro on the table!

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  5. I... would probably use mine to make 3D porn.

    --Dither

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    Replies
    1. I had never thought about that before, and now I can think of nothing else. o.0

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    2. I do not have enough succubus minis. Or dark elves. Or mind flayers.

      #TooMuchInformation

      --Dither

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    3. No not #TMI, #NotEnoughInformation!

      Be honest, have you already written the script?

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    4. I don't have a title yet. I haven't come up with a sufficiently obscene pun on the term "Underdark."

      I figure it's the one place where all three of these things converge, and I'm a nerd so my porn has to make sense in continuity. ;)

      --Dither

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    5. You've sent me down a very bad Google search path. I don't know if I'll ever be the same again!

      Delete
  6. Yeah, see, I am imagining customizing Heroclix or Gundam models and then scanning them into a 3D printer to make full versions of my own characters and mecha.

    Screw Hasbro and it's patented designs.

    "You can make copies of our warrior!"

    "I can make my own warriors out of your warrior and copy them! Have At Thee!"

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