Shapeways "Smoothest Fine Detail"
As first time game developers we are lucky to live in these times of bountiful information and helpful posts on how to bring a game to life. In our research we came across this very helpful article from Gate Keeper Games about how to get miniatures made. This led us down the path to Shapeways for our first prototype miniatures and the suggestion to use the material called "Frosted Ultra High Detail" which - at the time of this writing - they now call "Smoothest Fine Detail Plastic". With this material we are able to get prototypes made at 28mm scale for less than $10/model which is a fantastic deal for a pretty good level of detail.
But it is not perfect:
- The resin material used in in printing is cured by exposure to UV light, sometimes these models aren't 100% cured when they are delivered. This can cause issues with paint adhering to the mini.
- There is wax used to stabilize the model while it is printing which leaves a rough "frosted" finish on about 1/2 of the model where the wax contacts the miniature. There is often wax residue left on the miniature as well.
This is a great post that goes into more detail about the material and printing process.
The first issue is easy. To be sure the models are fully cured just leave them in the sun for a few hours. You could just as easily set them under a UV lamp. A properly cured model will be pretty brittle so be gentle going forward. In fact, if the model seems too flexible that is a good indication that its not fully cured.
Dealing with the "frost" is a much more delicate and time-consuming task.
FIrst, a bath
After reading many forum posts and doing a few experiments of my own I've settled on a 40 minute bath of simple green to loosen up whatever wax residue is left on the mini, then a gentle scrubbing with a soft toothbrush, rinse the simple green off, and let them dry completely.
The real work begins
Once they are dry I gently scrape the frosted areas with the edge of an modeling knife as if I were removing mold lines. On a bigger model I might be inclined to use sand paper but you risk accidentally losing details.
You can use the tip of the blade to scrape into small areas or use dental picks, if you have them. I had to do this a lot to dig the "frost" and wax out of this models hair, fingers, belt, etc. This process will generate a lot of snowy refuse as you scrape away so it's good to have a vacuum close at hand. As the article I linked earlier mentions, "Please enjoy this time spent bonding with your new model!"
Once satisfied I gave them another bath with mild soapy water, let them dry, and primed them.
The finish is far too grainy to make your master mold with it, but for our purposes of demoing the game and play testing it's pretty great for the price.
Let me know your thoughts or experiences with "Shapeways Smoothest Fine Detail Plastic" or prototyping suggestions in the comments. Hope this is helpful!