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I would like to introduce more map-based props (figures, terrain, obstacles, etc.) into my game. In particular, I'd like to be able to use a 3D printer to make props specific to whatever encounters a game session demands. While I know that Thingiverse has some nice gaming models, it still seems a bit limited as of now, especially as applied to gaming. Does there exist a good resource for printable models useful in tabletop gaming?

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I assume you have a reprap? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jan 25 '12 at 22:39
    
Not yet, but I'm tempted to get a printer (maybe a MakerBot?) if I can find enough things to do with one. –  Chris Granade Jan 25 '12 at 22:42
    
I want one of the printers pretty badly, but I can't think of enough uses to justify the cost. –  Cthos Jan 25 '12 at 22:53
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Let's make some… I'm a product designer with enough knowledge about 3D printing. Let me know if you have anything in mind and I may be able to help. –  edgerunner Jan 26 '12 at 16:34
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For those who don't know about it, there is a 3D printing site proposal in commitment at area 51 at the moment: 3D Printers, Laser Cutters, & Personal Manufacturing –  Mark Booth Jan 29 '12 at 15:27
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Well I was going to point you to thingiverse and the modular wall system that's up there, but that's the first thing in your link.

I do have some generic useful things to know if you're looking into 3D printing for gaming.

  • There is a resolution that comes with these printers. It depends on the settings and the program you use to turn the model into printer instructions, and I need to play with them some more, but you won't get the fine details that you see in pewter figurines. You'll see the lines between levels. I've heard of people sanding after the print, but I don't have experience with how well it works.
  • On the flip-side, the only hindrance to making largish miniatures is time. The cost difference is minimal, and the larger it is, the better it will look. You can't make those colossal dragons, but you could probably create huge creatures.
  • It depends where you are, but see if there is a hackerspace in town. One of those things that they often have is a 3D printer. If they don't, I imagine they'd like to get one and would help pool some money.
  • It takes some serious tinkering to get a makerbot up and running. Other models may be more of a finished kit, but you can't be incompetent if you want to assemble a makerbot.
  • Once you do assemble a makerbot, you are instantly granted +2 geek cred and after a 3 day ritual have the ability assemble dungeons as a standard action.
  • You'll still have to paint. Unless you're ok with assaulting the dreaded dungeon of blue.
  • You will be temped to print out that weighted D20 they have on Thingiverse. Don't give in to the darkside.
  • 3D printing is good for crates, barrels, arches, walls, and whatnot, but I don't think it's the best option for terrain like hills and cliffs. You're fairly limited to the size of your object, even with the "huge" print-space of the new makerbot. Stick to layers of cardboard glued together, or a stack of books with some cloth over them. 3D printing is awesome, but not everything is a nail.
  • It's honestly not that hard to crank out some basic 3D models in Blender or Autodesk's 123D once you get a handle on the program.
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Actually I think that most of the pastics used in 3D printing will deform if you make extra large minis. That is why Games Workshop for example uses resin for its extra large minis instead it its normal chepo-plastic. So you will run into structural considerations depending on the polymer used, mass of your object, etc. –  Canageek Jan 27 '12 at 0:32
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There is a whole world of plastics. We're using ABS right now (lego stuff), and it's pretty solid. You would have to try to break a wall that is more then 4 lines thick. But layers don't always stick to each other, and there ARE defects. But the biggest fragile factor is probably slim protrusions like swords and arms. The 3" D20 I printed out is practically a sphere and you could kill a man with it. –  Philip Jan 27 '12 at 15:55
    
Thanks for all the useful suggestions! I haven't had much luck learning Blender, but I started trying out OpenSCAD to make some of my own models, and it seems pretty useful. I also somehow missed the modular wall things on Thingiverse, so thanks for pointing that out, too. –  Chris Granade Jan 27 '12 at 17:39
    
@Philip I am aware of that: I took a 4th year uni polymer chemistry course last year. However I didn't know you could print with them: A lot of the better ones get more complicated to create. Have you considered buying lego or metal props then attaching those to the printed miniature? –  Canageek Jan 27 '12 at 20:51
    
Mixed medium projects with the printer would be interesting. But no, I haven't seriously considered it. It's another layer of complexity and, well, I'm really not that skilled at this crafting stuff. That's why I program a computer to do it for me. –  Philip Jan 27 '12 at 22:35
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