Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - TRO Art and Minis

Thank you for your patience, everyone.

The Miniatures Arrive!

We have received the three miniatures of the JR7-X from Shapeways. They were done in white detail. Bill has two and I have one; we have been futzing with them for several days and have some information we’d like to pass on to the rest of you who might be considering a purchase of this mini or others like it from Shapeways.

- The minis are made from a process neither Bill or I know of, but which gives good detail. The sculptor (in this case, Dorian Sherratt) did a good job not only with the detail but also with adding large, deep sockets and long pins for ease of assembly.

- There are step lines on each model which speak of a machine or process which uses a coordinate system (X-Y-Z axis) to control the laser or whatever is doing the sculpting. These will have to be smoothed. We don’t know yet whether a second coat of primer will do the job of ‘smoothing’, but the first seems to bring these step marks out and dry-brushing will certainly accentuate the appearance. That said, the marks can only be seen if you are closer than four or five inches to the model.

- Each model had to be gone over with a dry toothbrush to remove the excess gunk. I cannot think of a better way to describe this material – it is almost dry but not quite, like gel. Or snot. You have to brush it out of the crevices and crannies and holes in order to assemble the mini and get the detail that was designed into the model.

- This gunk is on every surface. It is on the pins and in the holes that receive them – I spent several minutes with a paper clip and my fingernail removing it well enough just to fit the parts together. I don’t know if it is water-based or not.

- Bill has complained that the ankle joints are the weakest. He says it is the material which is flexing, but I suspect from my own experience that this is not so – if you do not clean the gunk away from the joint area, you will essentially be supergluing gunk to gunk, and that will flex and fail very quickly.

- Gunk aside, the hip to body joint and the leg to foot joint should be drilled out with a pin vise and then pinned together with copper or brass rod. These are the weak points in any case. I am going to ask Dorian to revise the design so that the hip-body joint has a larger pin and a deeper socket to mate more securely. These parts will still be able to rotate in the X-Y axis.

The ankle joint I will leave strictly alone – it is necessary to leave it as-is in order to permit reposing as needed. That said, I do not recommend posing this miniature standing on one leg. The joint, even pinned, is weaker than if it was made of pewter and will not stand any sort of stress (such as when packing and moving the miniatures to a game).

I am going to spend about $30 on an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner to see if that will remove the crappola which seems to coat the entire mini. Of course, not knowing what the mini is actually made of (Bill thinks it might be cornstarch!), there is a chance I will end up with a puddle of crud where my mini parts used to be. I will experiment first with the launchers – which I will be replacing in any case with the more slender versions Dorian has posted on his Shapeways site.

Replacement Art

Some time ago – about four years, to be precise – I decided it was worthwhile to begin replacing a few of the pieces Vlad did for the original version of the TRO. As the art piled up and the writeups began to take on some polish, this need for better illustrations grew and grew. I made a few mistakes in choosing and paying artists, so some of the work we did over – has to be done over again. And paid for – again. As it is coming out of my pocket, this is the price I pay for being hasty.

There are some pieces I commissioned which were intended for the TRO interior plates, but they will not appear because the mood they evoke is not appropriate for a TRO. I am saving them for the next project, an Infantry Primer to be used in playing infantry in BattleTech. No sense wasting money more than I have to!

Some of you may have noted that Eric Ou offered sketches as the basis for replacing art that clashes with the copyright laws. I have not taken him up on these for that reason, but in order to replace sub-standard pieces that are on hand but no longer meet the quality standards of the bulk of our art. This will take some time, but then so will Bill getting back to the drawing board and finishing his layout duties.

Current Progress

- I am in the process of paying Stephen Huda, Karl Olsen and Matt Plog for their artwork. I am also trying to catch up on the last of the money I owe to Paul Skowronek, who did an outstanding job editing the entries for this Technical Readout.

- Dorian Sherratt is waiting on my cuts for the Werefox line of miniatures. We have been in a bit of disarray here; I am currently shifting hours at work and Bill is going under the knife for knee surgery. Dorian has nearly finished the entire line while I have been skylarking – take a look at what we have so far.

- Karl Olsen is still working on the backgrounds. He has also been commissioned to create a new Stingray and a new Bengal. These two ‘tanks’ Vlad did were inspired by the work of ShamanX over on deviantArt and while they might make great subjects for the cover of a sci-fi novel, they ain’t BattleTech.

Even so, we might have used them if we’d been able to find a way to clean up the art. We did, finally, thanks to David White, but could not get the required software and decided the best course was just to re-do both pieces.

- Matthew Plog has presumably finished inking our piece for the Quiang-ton and is currently awaiting payment. When he gets his dough, we will get the art.

Entry #108

I swore over a year ago this would not happen, but there is going to be a new machine added to the TRO. We saw some of the pieces Eric Ou had laying about and decided to make use of one. It just looked really good. Darn you, Eric! Your stuff is so tempting!

The machine we designed was too heavy for the art, and Eric obliged by sketching something new. We are still talking it over, but the design itself is a definite ‘go’. It is a really solid addition to the game, looks like it will be fun to play and actually performs its intended role. We’ll get art for it one way or another. I have already sketched out the basic writeup and sent it off to Geoffrey for fill-in. When we have beaten it into shape, we’ll send it to Paul.

This new addition is something we do not yet have in the TRO – a genuine aerospace fighter. (The Urugan does not count, as it is conventionally powered and is atmospheric only). The reason we have insisted on keeping this new design is because it looks to be very effective but does not duplicate the mission or warload of any other fighter in its weight class. It is quite unique, and unless I have missed something, should be popular with the folks who would like to add a little aero to their game but have not found a solid reason to do so.

[Update: Dorian and his sweetie took just two of these fighters to a game yesterday. I believe on the first pass, they nailed a nearly fresh WoB Grigori. To borrow a phrase from that funny BattleTech/Hitler video, it went down faster than a Clanner on the third date.

Needs more ammo, check. Some AMS, check. Change the SSRMs to SRMs to widen the ground attack profile, check.]

Thanks for stopping by.



Steven Satak said...

Geez, no comments at all?

You guys must be burned out.

Well, we finished paying Matt Plog. Now to get to the rest of them.


 Ashley said...

Not so much burnt out as gobsmacked.

L Richardson said...

The 3d Printing method being employed is likely selective laser sintering or some other depositional method. The material media is in a build chamber as usually a liquid or a powder with some kind of leveling device. The laser melts the media into a solid layer and the table drops down a step so that the laser can congeal the next layer. There are many variations on this sort of additive process.

It is true that machines of this sort used to use starch sometimes as a media but those days are more or less over. Less expensive technologies are available that can build the models out of usable materials.

Some of the fancy SLS machines are able to do titanium and aluminium at a resolution of 0.005 mm. The structures that can be created are arbitrary. I saw an example output piece that was 7 layers of a sphere in a sphere in a sphere ect. Holes were left in each shell so that you could see what was inside. The neat thing was is these parts were independent pieces, ie each sphere was free to spin completely independently of the next layer. There is no known conventional machining method that can do this. Similarly, another example was a "printed" working planetary transmission that could not be opened. All the moving parts inside were built in place.

I've been lurking your little site for a while, I just figured I would pipe up when I had something to add. ; )

Steven Satak said...

That is pretty cool.

Got the Ultrasonic machine. No bubbles, but it does have the ultrasonics going on. Unfortunately, plastics absorb the energy so it's back to the paperclip and toothbrush.

Fun to clean stuff off various metal objects, though. Very effective.