Thursday, March 3, 2016

3D Print Kit Interview: Tactical Game Systems 1:2500 MCS-7 Class Destroyer

NOTE:  You can click on most pictures to get a larger view of them.

I have started a new type of article here at Deepspace Pat.  Occasionally, I get into a very long interview process with the makers of the models that I review.  And in those cases, I walk away with a ton of interesting information that probably doesn't need to go into the review but instead warrants it's own article.

Consider this a sister article to my actual review of the Tactical Game Systems 1:2500 MCS-7 Class Destroyer.

T.G.S. Promo Mini-Poster

You can read that review at THIS LINK.

Before we go any further though, Dave who owns and operates T.G.S. asked me to point out that the model I'm working with is a PROTOTYPE.  So please keep that in mind when reading my review.

Tactical Gaming System has been around since 2006, focused on table top game design. In the last few years they have started using 3D modeling and printing to create game pieces for the sci-fi market.

Here is their important information:

As of the writing of this review, the website is currently online, but the webstore is not.  Per Dave, "We hope to have the web store up by May 1st,  2016.  This will include our current spaceship models, and other items like stands and other sci-fi miniatures.".

TGS creates models for space combat games, with a design aesthetic  that is based on a "hard" sci-fi storyline - a "space flight chronology", if you will, of the next 500 years of the solar systems growth.  There is no warp drive, but there are super fast fusion powered graviton engines.  At various times through that time frame, the systems of Earth, Mars and the Jovian Planets are at war.

The Carl Richardson, a MCS-7 Class Destroyer was inspired by the UNSS Amity-Verne Class "Warp 2.7" Cruiser as described on pages 70, 74 and 75 of the "Star Trek Space Flight Chronology" - Pocket Books, 1980.  Dave thinks that the Amity-Verne Class was designed by Sternbach.

Per Dave, "Its a very loose interpretation that I used to test my 3D printing ideas. I am also concerned about IP rights issues, so I tend to be inspired by others work - but really like to develop my own spin or try new things - or just reuse elements in a different way. I have a sketch somewhere as well."

Here is the 2D game piece that Dave designed about midway through development.  From this point on, he started focusing on the 3D model.

From here on out, I will present the Questions & Answers that were generated during my interview with Dave.

Q) Is there any clean up to the model before we the purchaser gets it?

A) After the model is printed we remove the structural supports that are added to the print – these supports allow overhangs (like the spikey bits) to be printed without failing. This also allows the model to be printed in different positions, which reduces the striations on the print.  The supports are usually most visible on the bottom of the model – they must be clipped off and the remaining “nub” sanded down (just like when you take a model off the kit sprue).  We also add a primer coat to the model if needed or if requested by the customer.

All of our prints are cured in a UV light box, which solidifies the resin.  This can also make the plastic brittle if applied for too long.  This sensitivity to UV light is another reason why primer is important.  The base coat will keep some model materials somewhat flexible.


Q) I guess that I meant to ask this question as, is there any work that the purchaser needs to do to the model once we receive it?  I know that most resin kits require the purchaser to wash the model in warm soapy water to remove casting oils.

A) When you receive the model you will notice the “de-sprue” marks from the printer.  These are very small bumps from where the sprues were snipped off.  These can be sanded down, just like you would on a plastic model kit. In some cases, you might notice a small dent or “divot” on the model where the sprue end point came off and removed a small portion of the model. These “holes” can be patched up on most models with modeling putty (and sanded and painted as normal) – or by using clear epoxy on the clear models we produce. The surface of the model can also be sanded to remove any striations that show up (again this should be minimal with our high-end prints), and/or the model can be painted with a “3d print filler” product (like Smoothon XTC3D), if needed.

Once patched and sanded, the model should be primed with a standard model paint. We prefer acrylic but enamels work as well. We would not recommend Krylon paints as some are very powerful and may distort the plastic if put on before a primer coat.  One thing to keep in mind is that some 3d prints will start to show the striations on the print once a “wash” is added to the model. For some folks this is a great look, for others that prefer a smoother look, sanding or priming is key – or minimal use of washes on flat surfaces.

Finally, when working with our products, it is important to wear gloves and eye protection.  3D printed resin is not as dangerous to be around and work with as standard resin based models, but it’s still a good idea to work safe and keep the dust away from important things like your eyes and lungs.

Q) Before painting the model, should it be washed in hot soapy water to remove any kinds of oils?  I've never dealt with a 3D printed model.  I know with resin kits, you need to wash off the oils that keep the resin from sticking to the molds.

A) Great question. You don't need to wash the model however it won't hurt. I would just be very careful because any strong soap or cleaner might dissolve some of the details. After we print the models, we usually blow them off with compressed air, or wipe them off with a no-lint cloth carefully.  If you do wash them, just be careful when you touch the model. In certain cases, you could leave scratches on the surface if you rub it too hard.

Q)  I use Testors Enamel paint.  That should adhere to it, correct?

A) I've been spraying the model with an enamel primer, and then painting over that. If you're going to use acrylics I would use an acrylic primer.  The nice thing about the enamel is that it seals the model very well.  Some of the 3d printed plastic is soft and fairly delicate if it's not finished properly.

Q) For this particular model, how long did you spend actually designing it on computer?

A) Well it’s a three step process. First there was time spent designing the ship, which amounted to a few hours.  Then the initial 3D computer model was built in about a day.  There were a number of elements that were rebuilt and modified during that time.  Then changes to the model during the prototyping phase (while test printing) added another couple of days to the project. Ships at 1:2500 scale require less detail than larger models, so this time frame (roughly one week of work per ship) is pretty typical of the smaller, less detailed, models.  Keep in mind this doesn’t include feedback from testers and reviewers – one of the amazing things about 3D printing based manufacturing is that we can make additional updates to the models (and custom changes) at any point along the model production run.

Original CAD File Built In Autodesk 3DSMAX

Q) How long did you practice printing it before you felt you were ready for production?

A) This model was printed about ten times, at different sizes, before we settled on the final size and details.  As we provide these to our customers at different scales (1:10000/1:3500/1:2500) we needed to test it at all those scales – then we had to modify certain elements (like guns and other spikey bits) so they would print at such small scales. The 1:2500 scale model was printed five times, with changes being made after each print.

Q) How long does it take to actually print the model?

A) We use resin based printers (SLA/SLS type) which gives very smooth and detailed prints.  The down side to this is that it takes a while to print. The MCS-7 in 1:2500 scale takes about four hours to print at high-res (.005mm) – but unlike FDM (plastic spool based / fused deposition) printers, there are no (or very minor) visible striations in the print.

The model can be printed at a lower resolution (.01mm) which is comparable to high-end FDM style output. At this resolution the print was completed in about two hours, but some lines are noticeable on the print. These can be sanded down in some areas. In the future we plan to invest in a few faster printers, which will help bring the costs down.  We are also hoping to start molding/casting these models in standard resins, to bring costs down per unit.  However, it may take some time to develop, as the copied details do not duplicate as well with resin, and certain elements on our initial ships are difficult to cast in resin (and build if cast in pieces).

Dave shared with me a bunch of his Work In Progress pictures so this seemed like the best place to include them.

First Test Print  at 0.1mm Resolution
Took about 2 hours to print.

Better View Of Support Matrix

Compared Old MakerBot Print at 1.0mm Resolution
to 0.1mm on the Form1

Compared Old MakerBot Print at 1.0mm Resolution
to 0.1mm on the Form1

Some of details looked great when compared to the FDM printer, but other parts were too thin on this printer and failed or just didn't show up.


The next version was printed in clear material and at a higher resolution. I had to update some of the items and fix the engines that were too thin.


As you can see, there was a bit of a size increase in order to resolve the printing issues between the versions.

And at .005mm resolution. the striations are almost gone.

Here is the 1:3500 scale version with her sister ships (both of which I have in 1:2500 scale now too).

Here she is in 1:10000 scale.  I had to modify the guns and engines again.


Q) Basically, I want to give my reader an idea of how much time you put into this thing from start to finished product in their hand.

A) Total time to produce a model like this is about one month of development (including design) and taking into account all the other models we are working on.  The time to actually print the final model and clean it up is about half a day.

Q) The model does not come with a stand.  Will you be offering the ability to buy stands on the website or do you leave the stand decisions up to the buyer?  It's actually rather common for the models to NOT come with stands so you are not doing anything different.

A) We would like to offer stands to our customers. These would be separate and would be available on our website.  Each model should have a small hole in its base, at its Center Of Gravity – the hole varies based on the scale of the model, but most are 1mm in diameter and will accept most “pegs” from standard table top game ship stands.

Q) Will all of your kits be one piece or will you have some that require gluing?

A) At this point, all of our models are one piece ship models.  One of the benefits of 3D modelling and printing is the ability to create a model – even one with difficult to cast pieces – as one solid piece (or one hollow piece). This helps keep costs down and makes getting the models on the shelf or game table much easier.  As the sizes of our models increases (many have asked about 1/1000 scale ships) we will be required to break the models down in parts.  These would be joined like other resin models with Cyanoacrylate glue (and sometimes pins for stability) or Epoxy.

And that pretty much wraps up the interview from the data I was able to collect.

As always, I hope you found this article useful and informative.  If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to comment.

So for now, "Live long and prosper!!!"

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