“Red Special” Ray Gun now with Display Stand

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As I posted before, my Red Special Ray Gun has been quite popular. I’ve printed a bunch now for people, but the one thing I keep hearing is “Boy, it would be cool if it had a display stand.”

Now it does.

I combined elements of the original gun, along with a very retro-Atomic-era style to complement the lines of the original, basically ripping part of the barrel off entirely.

I like it with the red rings, but I also found that black works well:

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New Ray Gun: The Constitution Class Phaser

Come on, admit it. You’re pissed you didn’t think of it:

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I have long thought that the body of the U.S.S. Enterprise (a Constitution Class Federation vessel), has a secondary hull that looked like it was originally intended to be the phaser weapon used in the show.

Slap a handle on it, and done.

So I finally did. After many years of sketching it this way, I finally did it.

I downloaded a model of the Enterprise from Shapeways (which I will replace with my own model later) only to adapt it to my hand-phaser concept.

St. John’s Row Houses Brooches

As seen in the past, I have done some jewelry pieces for my wife (and a couple of other family members) but it struck me I could make something marketable to a Newfoundland tourism audience, and so I set out to make a slightly whimsical take on one of the things that now makes St. John’s, Newfoundland world-famous, it’s delightfully coloured row houses, seen below.

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One of my friends lives in one of the three above – I never remember which one.

I lived in one on Queen’s Road for several years.

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New Ray Gun – The Ice Breaker

My latest ray gun: The Ice Breaker

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It all started with this, one of the most elegantly-shaped things I’ve ever seen in a museum. At the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, an exhibit came by of retro-futuristic design. This item really struck me.

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From this I created a very closely-contoured version and did a test print. I modeled it way too big. But here it is, without alteration. The aperture at the top I made a cap for but it’s not shown here. That cap will eventually have electronics, hopefully. But for now, it’s just an opening.

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This version has a spring in the trigger. Eventually I would use magnets.

I decided I would keep this version, but I also wanted to see where I could take it in a more futuristic Buck Rogers world. So I added a fin, recontoured the handle to make it fit better, and shrunk it down. I also added a more “ray gun” nozzle.

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The body is printed in three pieces, and this version is glued together. The plate is still there, but now has a dorsal ridge that fits in line with the dorsal ridge on the other pieces. It fits nicely and snaps off when needed.

This is version 3:

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I bought a cranberry red filament (the bright red is nice, but a bit – toy-like.) I printed it at .8 the size of the original bulky one. Fits nicely, and feels great.

I will later show the construction, which shows how the three main body parts are joined by a 1/2″ diameter 7″ galvanized heavy metal bolt and nut. I even printed my own tool to screw in the bolt because a standard socket tool would not fit.

The handle screws to the body with four #4 Black Oxide 3/4″ screws, and the bottom cap of the handle screws on with one of those. The handle has a cap so I can put two carriage bolt shafts in there for weight.

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I had modeled apertures for up to four more bolts for weight, but it’s nicely weighted without those.

And for now, in the panel opening I have placed a greeble object, a dummy object covered in nonsense to appear like it’s a circuit board.

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Exchangeable Emitters

My friend Matt said “Hey, you could probably swap the front and back, and make different pieces that fit.” The apertures for front and back differ, though, and while I could make them match, I wasn’t sure I’d like the new proportions, but the replaceable emitter idea stuck.

I immediately modeled five or six alternative emitters, and I’m quite happy with them. I have one or two more done that I have not yet photographed, but those are variants on these.

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Rocket Pastiche! The Bradbury

A very loyal and regular customer of late keeps sending me images of rockets he’s found on the internet. And UFOs. He and I share interest in the retro design aesthetic.

Here are the latest forays into 3D printed rocketry:

The Bradbury

Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles” was a TV mini-series based on Ray Bradbury’s anthology about mankind colonizing Mars.

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My friend send me images of the models used in the show:

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He was hinting rather strongly that he would like a couple of these. So I made them.

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Bradbury-For-Scale

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The interesting thing about this rocket is that the mini rockets on the ends of each wing rotate. They rotate in order to stay parallel to travel vector when the wings scissor outward. I modeled my version landed, and even included the gangway tube.

But not satisfied with that, I modeled a version with scissor wings. I sent the three rockets to my friend (he bought two), the scissor-wing version being a bonus. I didn’t take photos. I’ll print another one later showing the scissor-wing action.

Interestingly, my friend has been in contact with the man who created the original rocket prop and he’s quite interested in what I’m doing with my models. He offered to animate the CGI model I created.

GI Joe Jetpack V2.0 – The Evolution of the Cotswold Heli-Pack

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My latest project for Cotswold Collectibles is one they have been after me to do for a while now, ever since I showed it to Greg Brown at the Dallas GI Joe Convention.

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(Cross-eye stereo pic)

But I was very concerned that certain aspects of the design were fine for me, knowing what I know about it, but I was very hesitant to sell it to others due to extreme fragility in more than one aspect of the design.

 

Breakable Design

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The harness, which is a hard pipe harness that hinges down over a body and clips into place using two swing-arms and c-clamp clasps, is very clever, and works perfectly. But unless you are very careful, it can break incredibly easily.

atapfp-harness-handles-joysticks-both

Then the clips that hold the engine housings onto the body are also relatively breakable. It might take some force, but they could break because they were printed vertically.

When you print a thin cylinder on a layered 3D printer, the layers fuse, but those layers are never as strong as a single layer is. A cylinder printed upright will snap like a twig very easily. The same cylinder printed sideways will be very hard to snap but will also not be very round.

atapfp-shoulder-harness-pushed-in

It’s a trade-off. I created the first jetpack to look good, and not be terribly strong.

 

How To Fix It So I Could Sell It

How could I change the jetpack to make it so that I could confidently sell them without worrying someone would easily break it?

 

Harness

First, I harkened back to the Backpack Drone Carrier which I designed a couple of years ago. It held my aerial drone, and was a solar charging base as well as a launch pad for it. This used a harness made from elastic straps, and 3D printed connectors and strap adjusters. When I designed that, I wanted nothing to do with sewing. A complicated elastic harness might mean sewing strap bits together. I came up with a way that does the whole thing with one continuous length of elastic strapping with no sewing at all. Just heat-fusing the ends so they don’t fray.

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The jetpack was in itself an homage to, and a continuation of, the backpack GI Joe Action Pack sets of the past, especially the Turbo Copter. Those used straps as harnesses, either flexible plastic or elastic, clipped to a chest piece with metal clips.

Since that worked rather well, I thought I might be able to get away with that for the jetpack. So when I began work to completely redesign the jetpack, I had this new harness in mind from the beginning.

I created holes in the body that the strap would go into. I also designed it to screw together with 3 simple screws, but those screws would also clamp the elastic in place. I used a sawtooth strip on both the cushion seat and the front of the body piece to sandwich the elastic tightly, and it would not slip. Screws then go through the elastic to hold it in place on the body. Where the elastic folds in half, it fits into the chest harness piece and is clamped in place again by two screws.

PIC OF INTERIOR SHOWING TOOTH STRIPS AND HOLES FOR STRAPS – apologies. I still don’t have this pic!

The ends of the elastic are then fed into the strap adjusters and strap clips which fit nicely into the chest piece for an adjustable – and practically unbreakable – harness that I could now be confident could be sold to collectors without fear.

 

Engine Housing Clips

The original design printed the rotating engine arms upright, which makes for a perfectly smooth cylinder for easy rotation. However, that meant the clips that held the engine housings in place could be broken if enough force was applied. The layers could snap, breaking the clips.

So the solution was easy. Print the arms upright as usual, but make the clips separate pieces printed sideways. Sideways, the layers are both flexible and very strong. It would be practically impossible to break these new clips. They would get glued into the arms for a solid hold, and again, this makes the design much harder to break.

 

Complete Redesign

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My original jetpack was bulky and clunky and not terribly smooth. This was fine for a prototype or proof of concept, and it served me well. But again, not something I thought was aesthetically pleasing enough to sell. So I came up with a new concept which was much smoother in overall design, a bit smaller, and would have smaller engines, and would fit into the Adventure Team Vehicle without the racks I had designed, (though a quick redesign of the racks made those useful again anyway.)

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I began with tessellated cubes and used lattice deformers to warp the shapes into something cool and resembled my concept.

I soon had this ready:

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I was able to take the functioning part of the thumbwheel and arms directly from the old model without much alteration, except to make them a bit smaller.

I redesigned the engine housings just a bit to allow for the hub and spokes to work better. Those were incredibly hard to assemble as they were, and were not feasible as originally designed.

I was going to print the struts (spokes) flat in order to make a stronger central hub overall, but I didn’t want to lose the smoothness. So I deepened the slots the struts fitted into on the hub, and then created sliding slots for the assembled struts into the housings so they could slide into place, rather than be snapped into place awkwardly and with some danger of ruining the parts.

 

Why The Hub Bub?

Why the hub at all, you say?

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The engine housings themselves were designed to mimic the Dyson concept: air being pushed into the housing, and then pushed out through a ring around it, using an aerodynamic shell to funnel the air into a stable column. This, exaggerated to jet power, would provide enough lift for a human. It does not require that hub or struts.

The hub is there so when you remove the housings for storage or carrying, those can clip to the body. They are completely non-functional, though I did put a jet intake vent on it for looks.

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Problems With The Thumbwheel

The thumbwheel provided an issue. Originally designed to snap together very tightly, and not easily comp apart (so you could pull the engine housings off without fear of pulling out the rotator arms) this new version was giving me difficulties in assembly which involved a clamp to push the arms onto square posts on the thumbwheel.

However, I found that the thumbwheel bent during assembly and the arms would never snap fully onto the posts.

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I knew why. The post that goes “through” the thumbwheel actually was not a solid post. It was a shell and a part of the thumbwheel. So when you pushed hard on both posts, the thumbwheel itself collapsed a bit and the clamping process could not get the arms fully onto the wheel.

I could fix this by printing the thumbwheel with denser support, but I think there’s a better solution: Design the post solid, and make it exactly the same size as a hole in the thumbwheel. The 3D printer would see these as two solid walls and not make a solid of them, but print them almost as if they were two parts. This would mean clamping the arms onto the posts would be easier because the post would be solid, and not just look solid. It should work.

 

Sellable Product

With these changes made, tested, iterated on and approved, I was able to start printing.

One of the other original reasons I was a bit hesitant was that this thing took a long time to print. Scaling it down a bit helps, and having two printers certainly helps. And having a fairly nice lead time before they would be needed helps. I believe printing 30 of these won’t be too bad. It may take more than a month, but would be worth the time.

I’m eager to get these into the hands of collectors and gauge their reactions. I anticipate a quick sell-out of the first run.

 

Approval

I sent the jetpack, along with a dark green ATV rack-mount for it, (along with some color swatches I printed along with my own designed carabiner) to Greg for approval. The upper brass liked it apparently, but liked the rack mount so much they wanted to offer it up at the same time as an optional companion piece. So now I have to print some of these as well.

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Luckily there are only three individual parts, each have to be printed twice, and the pins four times each, in order to make one working rack. The two main parts are symmetrical so they work on both sides of the vehicle cargo bay, but with one part’s leg reversed. It’s quite a clever design if I do say so myself. The same legs work on either side of the tilted bay, but each one angled upward and the platforms snap to the legs.

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Of course the finished rack will not be in green, it will be in black to complement the ATV and the jetpack.

 

It Ain’t Always Easy

I was once intereviewed by an Afinia PR person. We chat on occasion and she loves it when I show her my latest 3D printed thing. She once asked me how often I get failed prints. I replied “Almost never.”

And that’s true. Sure, it happens sometimes. I’ll wake up, check the printer and find a huge hairball, but that is remarkably rare. Just a shade more often, I may get a print that has somehow caught on the print head and forced the print bed to skip, causing an offset.

The most frequent issue (and this happens more than I’d like, but still fairly rarely) is stress cracking. This is when the layers don’t fuse as strongly. I get it on some filaments even at my highest heat setting.

So it was frustrating to find out that when I had printed about a dozen of the body fronts for this project, a closer inspection showed me that I only had 3 good prints. Sigh. And it seems to happen mostly on my H480. Less so on my H479. The H480 just had its print head replaced a few months ago. You’d think it wouldn’t lose heat.

Anyway, it’s all part of the 3D printing process, and I’m just glad it’s a rare event.

ADDENDUM: On stress cracking. Yes, I sometimes get some depending on heat, but the frustration I was experiencing printing these jetpacks, I now realize, had to do with me buying a batch of old, outdated filament. I bought a 3 pack of yellow Afinia Premium ABS filament from a third party vendor on Amazon. It was when I was using that that I had so many jetpack bodies with stress cracks. I should have known there was a problem. These reels did not come in boxes, but in their mylar sleeves, which were scuffed up and buckled badly like these reels had been sitting in someone’s warehouse for a loooong time. I then ordered some fresh ABS from Afinia and did not experience that stress cracking.

I felt I should clear that up.

 

Final Words

Cotswold released the catalog, and here it is.

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I created 30 jetpacks and 25 ATV racks, my thinking was about half the people who buy the jetpack would have a vintage ATV in their collection, so I figured 15. We kept getting orders, so Greg Brown at Cotswold kept upping the order until we got to 25, almost a 1:1 ratio.

Not bad.

We are currently working on future projects! Keep your eye on this space.

UPDATE: I created a blueprint and instruction sheet for the Heli-Pack:

Cots_Heli_Pack_Blueprint

 

New Board Game Concept – Space Junk

SPACE JUNK – A Boardgame – by Sean Huxter

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Am I stupid? I’m exposing my new board game concept long before I have a working prototype. Won’t someone steal it?

I kept my first game concept, SP’LUNK, very tight to the chest until I had it tested enough to declare it ready. Still don’t know what to do with it. I am not up to Kickstarter-publishing it. I may begin submitting it to game companies.

No. First, this idea is not new. It’s not the first Space Salvage game. Check out Salvage Team, and even Firefly.

But what I want to do with this game is make a fairly fast, easy family game that can be played in an evening, even a couple of games, and not frustrate people, not make people do math, or think too hard about add-ons, statistics, and other stuff.

Like Ticket to Ride, it will be fairly simple, and fun.

Concept

I came up with the concept after 3D printing a model of the Rocinante for a friend of mine. It is a model freely available from Thingiverse, but it’s so low poly that it’s a bit embarrassing.

But it had this strange feel to me like it was a board game piece, enlarged. Low detail, bulky, solid, could easily be used (if shrunk down) as a board game piece.

Then I thought about The Expanse (the show the Rocinante is from) and the idea of space salvage came to me immediately. Not only would the game take place in the asteroid belt, it would consist of players who are “belters”, people who live in the belt and get by on space salvage.

Themes of Firefly come to mind as well of course, but Firefly is more about skullduggery. “I aim to misbehave.”

The idea is to crew a salvage ship in the belt and survive. Find and bring in salvage, lost cargo pods, lost fuel pods, and also a vital commodity in space – water, in the form if ice crystals.

The Board

The board will be made up of small hexagonal spaces, hopefully made up of a fairly large sheet of fabric, to take up a nice table top space. Lots of room to move.

I found a great piece of fabric on eBay that fits the bill perfectly!

space-junk-board-large I intend to paint the sheet with astroids and planets, stars and even nebulous cloud, but those are decoration only. They do not affect gameplay. Anything that affects gameplay on the board will be placed on the board during setup and/or play.

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The hex grid will be indexed by a two-directional indexing system. Since a hex grid can be indexed in three directions, a random location is hard to find in a hex because the angled rows will not be equal in length. Die-rolling a random location would be impossible.

So I intend to work on a two-dimensional index system. One just follows the hexes across a vertical wall, and the other has to have a zig-zag line, but as long as you know which way to zig-zag, it works exactly like a quad grid.

The Pieces

The pieces will be 3D printed.

The first pieces used will be the Salvage Ships themselves. Currently I will have 6 pieces, each a solid primary or secondary color, with detail, but not overly detailed, each of which will sit atop a black base, itself hexagonal, so it can fit on the board easily.

I concepted out six bulky, utilitarian ships on paper, and colored them solid. Over this past weekend, I modeled four of those, and fitted them atop a base.

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The Bull
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The Ram
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The Rhino
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The Elephant (or Mammoth, or Mastadon)
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The Gorilla
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The Bear
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Space Debris

Stuff that is found floating in space is open season for salvage. At this point I have three main salvage resources:

Cargo Pod
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This contains mysterious cargo. Value depends on a dice roll, or other factors

Fuel Pod
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This will add to your ship’s fuel reserves, randomly rolled.

Ice Crystals
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In space, water is a precious resource, worth its weight in … life. So finding water is a huge win.

Crew
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Crew members will feature in the game. Not quite sure how yet, but I was actually thinking crew decide how far you can go in a single turn, but that may be better done with fuel cells. Perhaps it decides how many tasks you can have at a single time, or each one gives a small bonus to something. There will be a maximum, I’m thinking six being a full complement (but that’s subject to determining what they are for), and with events and tasks, you can lose crew members. You can hire new ones at a space station, or perhaps pick some up at rescue missions, etc.

 

Mission Cards

Mission cards are dealt at setup. Each player picks 5 cards and must keep 3. (So they can discard 2 missions they find distasteful, too difficult, or too low reward.)

These are kept secret. Only at the end are they revealed, and if you were successful at any, you reap the rewards, which add to your score total. Highest score wins.

Mission cards can be collecting, action or other.

Examples:

Mission: Collect 7 cargo pods and 7 ice crystals. Reward: 1,000 Credits
Mission: Dock with a space station 12 times
Mission: Thwart 4 tasks from any one player

Task Cards

Task cards are not secret. You reveal them as you get them, and these usually contain simple, fairly immediate things you can do, and the rewards can vary greatly.

But also as the Task Cards are visible to everyone, other players are free to try to thwart the mission. If a player completes someone else’s task first, or prevents him/her from completing it, there is a reward that is usually half of the full reward for the same task.

Examples:

Task: A derelict ship has been detected at B24, R8. Dock with the ship and move all food supplies to your ship. Reward: 1,000 Credits. Thwart Value: 5,00 Credits.

Task: A passenger ship has sent out a distress signal. Detectors have located the ship at [D20], [D20] Rescue the passengers and crew. Reward, 5,000 Credits. Thwart Value: 2,000 Credits.

Tasks often involve “detecting” things that were not on the board prior to the card being revealed, but ship’s object detectors reveal them. This usually means the card specifies the object to place there, and a roll of two dice locate it (using the grid coordinate system I mentioned earlier.)

So suddenly something is on the board, and players can race to that location and reap the rewards, and others can try to stop them.

Space Stations

space-station

Space stations are placed on the board at setup time, and are stationary bases ships can dock at and do business. Business may include selling salvage, refueling, taking on new crew (crew count and loss of such will be a part of gameplay.)

Crew

Each ship has a crew. The captain is a given, but the crew (10) is expendable. Crew is kept track of by tokens held by each player. A ship operates best fully crewed. As you lose crew, the ship moves slower, or other disadvantages happen. Crew can only be gained by docking with a space station and spending money to pay them.

Winning

The winner is the player with most credits when the game ends.

End conditions come about in several ways.

Any one player achieves all 3 missions, and the game is over, (or that player can hold off on announcing if he’s behind, and can announce it later if he thinks he can win.)

Any player pulls the Game Over card (buried deep in the bottom third of the Task deck.)

I think we need one or two others, but I have not yet thought of those.