3Distributed, a new 3D minis printing company

By Polar_Bear
In News
Mar 20th, 2014
23 Comments
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3Distributed can help you make the mini of your dreams. Check ’em out and get the mini you’ve always wanted.

Source

From the website:

Hi guys, my name is Andy and I’m one of the directors here at 3Distributed. I am also a DM and player in several d&d 3.5 games. I had some trouble a while ago finding a mini for a rat lycanthrope rogue (in hybrid form) after my character got bitten! After a bit of playing around I managed to sculpt and print exactly the character I wanted which made me realise, that’s something I’ve never managed to achieve in all my years of gaming. I’ve always had to tailor my character to the model rather than the other way around.

I went through this process with a couple of the baddies from the game I DM for (pictured below) and ended up with pieces with better detail than any cast mini I have used before and most importantly it was precisely the character I had written in my world. So we’ve put together a network of 3D sculptors, 3D printers and painters to allow you to do the same (and named the service in honour of my oldest character – Stormbeard.)

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I was born at a very young age. I plan on living forever. So far, so good.
  • Soulfinger

    That’s the mini of my dreams? Crap. I thought I was more imaginative.

  • GavinSyme

    Hummm…..

    GBS
    http://www.theionage.com

  • SO let me get this straight. For about £100 you can have a mini concepted, sculpted and printed. That tells me a number of things…

    • Soulfinger

      I didn’t realize that they actually render the model for you. That is . . . quite, quite reasonable. If I understand right, that is less than the going rate for sculpting a less than detailed historic model. I almost wonder if this business was inspired by this discussion on The Miniatures Page.

      Then there are 3D printed landscapes on the very same webpage. I hope they adapt that part of the business to gaming.

    • Disgruntled Goat

      Such as…?

      • Well some concerns have already been brought up, but here were my initial thoughts

        1) Sculpting someones vision in 3D and printing it for £100 is CHEAP which invariably makes me suspicious and leads me to think that what I can expect is low end (and looking at the pics I am not impressed yet).

        1a) It takes time to sculpt a figure, and the sculpter would have to be really quick and experienced and know what he/she is doing. Especially if I am going to trust them with the option of creating moldable masters.

        1b) Even if the cost of “buying” a mini with rights is 200 it’s still on the cheap side – and raises the question of experience again. At this point I am expecting the sculpter to be either living in Thailand or Indonesia (where the pay for sculpting would make sense) or that we simply can not expect too much. I want proof that this is a viable option.

        2) As Stormbeard answered that the price is kept cheap with the expectations of selling existing figure prints at £20 to £25 a pop (basically HIGH high-end boutique prices). I am highly skeptic of this as a thought through business model. I doubt I’d ever buy someone’s DnD character, much less at £25. I mean it could be absolute shit that really only appeals to that one person that commisioned it. If it’s awesome – I still doubt I’d buy it for £25 as I doubt anything matching the quality and talent that comes with a pricetag like that will be available. I mean if I was really onto something spectacular I would buy the rights and produce it myself – which leads me to:

        3) Paying £150 for the Call forth option = You get £2.50 in store credit(!) everytime someone buys a print of your commision piece. Again – if I was onto something awesome this option is a dud. The only people I can see using this are amateurs with dreamy expectations. That is all fine and dandy, but I can’t help viewing that as preying on someone. I am sorry if that sounds harsh, but that is how I see it. Granted a lot of businesses are built on that exact notion. An “amateur” commision selling at £25 a pop will be a hard sell at… £25 a pop. So IF it sells 10 copies – the owner can get another print. Maybe I am being cynical? Am I missing something!?

        4) It makes me wonder if the prints are not as high quality as portrayed in the text as there is no picture proof. Also I’d like a statement on what exact technology is used and resolution in numbers as that tells me more than any current picture.

        5) Perhaps this should be numbered as 1) This is quite interesting and I will be keeping an eye on the development in hope that my suspiscions are wrong and perhaps even use the services myself.

        • Soulfinger

          You’ve got it down there, because 3D printing businesses can really mirror print-on-demand publishing, which I am quite familiar with. POD is almost without exception fueled by the naivety, sometimes even mental illness, of their customers. “I wrote a book!” which they see as the hard part, and then “Now, all I need to do is publish it, and the world will line up at my door! Who needs and editor or marketing when the Interwebz is magic!” In the end, they spend $2k+ to have their book “published” and end up threatening to kill the publisher by having their psychic friends send a poison gas cloud from Canada (this happened — the threat, I mean) because their book, ‘I’m Crazy as Sh*t: Adventures in Bad Grammar’, hasn’t sold any copies in two years.

          For me to pay $40 for a sculpt of someone’s D&D character . . . it would have to be made out of rhino horn or something that I could gradually grind into a magical powder for sexual virility. Because even if these prove to be the best sculpts in the world, I can get two of the second-best sculpts in the world for that money, 10 pretty-damn-good infantry, or a whole bunch of Chinese knock-off. I linked to a really brilliant dialogue in my earlier post, which included a sculptor commenting on how quality doesn’t matter nearly as much as price in his experience. I believe he was mostly referencing historic gamers, who are notorious tightwads, but his point was that a sculpt commissioned for $300 will outsell the $600 sculpt that costs ten cents more. All of the sculptors made clear that the client gets what he pays for when commissioning a sculpt — except this poor ex-Rackham guy from France who was so eager for work and to get out of his country that I wanted to invite him over to my house to sculpt for room and board.

          I think a gallery of sculptor profiles would go a long way toward addressing some of Basement’s concerns. Face shot of the artist, brief bio with what they specialize in (organics, hard machine edges, orc boobs), and maybe six really good photos of their work.

          Man, it is easy to write at length about this business, because it really is something exciting. It feels like being on the cusp of something great — not quite there, but sooo close. Stormbeard, I hope you do it right, because I’d rather see you fine tune and succeed than be the pioneer who sees his idea revamped into a profitable industry standard by someone else.

          • It is exciting isn’t it. I just read through that link you posted. Quite an interesting read. Also very enlightening and pretty much confirms my thougts on expectations of quality. I’d much rather have a “stable” of available sculptors(!) like you mention – at different rates rather than the one shoe fits all model.

            Gailbraithe’s idea of an agent didn’t sound so bad, but a brokerage system in the vein of 3Distributed with printing capabilities might be even more interesting. Add casting and you’ve got yourself a killer business model in my opinion. I’d use that for sure given I could pick the standard of quality.

            Oh man – old Rackham eh? I still collect whenever I can. Save some boutique minis I struggle to find anything I like as much.

  • Hi guys,
    Stormbeard here (of said emporium)! Good to hear the feedback and very glad the price shocks! You are right Soulfinger, it is far less than the going rate for a sculpt. We are able to manage that by expecting to sell several prints of the same sculpt in the future. We even have options for people who want to start their own lines.

    And yeah, sorry the orc is so middle-of-the-road, we wanted to test the system with something everyone is familiar with – though I welcome the challenge of bringing the unique mini you’re dreaming of to life, Soulfinger! 😛

    Also, the landscapes for gaming would be awesome but it’s not the most cost effective way of making them (although I did have an epic game on the landscape in those pictures!)

    If anyone has any questions or ideas I’d love to keep the conversation going. I’m only just starting to get real feedback about all this.

  • 4tonmantis

    Hm.. this is interesting.. I have questions and concerns.. while this is probably not the most ideal place, I’m sure these are very common..
    1. If I concept and model my own models.. and get a airtight stl ready, does that effect the cost.
    2. Who own the rights to the model/concept/design.. I’m definitely not interested in padding out someone else’s store with my model… or seeing a variation of the design turn up from the people who get the file..
    3. Level of precision, finish, and mold-making.. Some of the stuff I’m looking at doing is cyberpunk.. with very fine details.. which I’m not seeing translate in the above picture. As an example, the links in his loincloth look like they might have been obliterated along the way.

    I have a strong suggestion..
    With a good camera and a macro lens, take a larger, highly detailed set of pictures.. use a good lighting setup. If we can’t see the detail we don’t know what we’re looking at or what we’re considering spending money on. Based on the current pictures.. even if everything else was great (as far as my questions and concerns) I would probably decide against using your service. I hope that I am wrong and that little wires, circuits, and other details are in fact preserved but at the moment, I have no clue.

  • Thanks. Your suggestion is totally fair enough. We are already looking into getting higher resolution photos. I’m also going to put them next to standard miniatures (ones people are familiar with) to show that we print at a higher definition.

    If you have your own STL file ready to go things get very cheap indeed. We can print for £20-£25 (depending on the number of prints). These are the same quality as masters used for casting and higher definition (obviously) than the standard cast miniatures.
    Intellectual property (IP) is how we are able to do this at such a low cost. The ability to offer a print of the same STL file to future customers means that essentially we are investing in each and every mini we produce. We offer a range of prices which vary depending on IP. If you want exclusive rights to the form it costs £200, if you share rights (we can print and you can sell casts) it costs £150, and if you want to have it sculpted to your character and don’t mind us selling copies (after you get the first one) that’s when it only costs £99. The last of those three is who we’re aiming this service at – and there is even more middle ground for people to negotiate when making their own lines.
    Regarding precision; I hope to allay your concerns when we have better photos. At this point the best I can tell you is that the miniatures that we put in the post to you are of the same quality that Games Workshop use as their masters for casting – which means its higher precision than the resultant casts. By the same token, casts made from these prints will be of the same quality as resin Games Workshop cast miniatures. This obviously opens up a lot of possibilities for everyone to start making their own lines. This ultimately is what I was aiming for.

    I hope I’m not sounding too formal in addressing your points, but I’m a sucker for a numbered discussion! I’m posting these last few comments on a new thread to which I will post the link in the next few minutes. Let’s please keep this discussion going, the more feedback I get the more I can tailor what we’re doing to what people want and there’s plenty of opportunity to get involved at any stage. I really feel this technology has finally got to the stage where it can do what we all want it to do for tabletop gaming.

    • Soulfinger

      Sorry guy, gonna keep it here on my home turf. Thanks for weighing in on all of this, Stormbeard. At first glance, I was going to write you guys off as just another “custom mini” site until that cradle to grave approach was pointed out. This has the potential to be quite revolutionary.

      A little disappointed about the price differences with IP, although it is totally understandable. As a vanity product, even your lowest price point is a lot of your weird money for the average gamer to put down (‘my PC or a Knight Titan?’), but as a service for someone wanting to cast and sell a hundred figures, the £99 would have been China cheap and quite extraordinary. I was imagining you as the go-to guys for all of us backyard designers who dream of selling 10k minis, realistically could expect to sell no more than 100, and will mope around with Bahaus on the stereo when we inevitably sell 7 at half price to our mothers. £200 is reasonable, but much more in the range of industry standard, if I understand correctly, unless you can demonstrate that GW quality. If I can send you my concept for something like a Wet Nurse but with 100x more boobies and you can do a GW quality print at that price then I’m pervert dancing in the weirdo street.

      Those samples on your site really must show the best you can do. At your price point, that orc is perfectly fine. I’d expect a commission like that to cost in the $200-300 range if someone did it by hand, and I’d strongly consider ordering if I wanted to put out a Wargames Factory quality set. If you can do better though . . . oh yes, I want to see that. If you can do intricate filigree, I want to see it in a photo that I can click on and have occupy 1/3rd of my screen.

      All-in-all, more details on the site please, because as-is, you are being quite the tease. Too much nerd speak, not enough “I’m a business man talking business details, so you know we’ll be in business 18 months from now,” and you can’t be formal enough in your posts (I’m the one who gets to be informal, because my goal is to lose money to you). You make minis, so geek cred established and fantasy intro unnecessary. I got two sentences into it, scrolled down and looked at the pictures, and thought, “Phhht, another Hero Forge or whatever.” Basement_Dweller up there had to hook me, and nobody listens to him! Even on my second and third look, I missed the details that would have answered the questions you addressed here.

      So, right, we have the price for 28mm. I want to see the chart for 15mm, for a 32mm figure on a 40mm base, a monstrous figure on a 60mm base. I’d like to see design tutorial information for the customers, like say, “We avoid x and y design elements, as they can result in undercutting if you decide to reproduce the figure. For one-off creations using a 3D printer, this is not an issue,” “here are some useful design elements to consider when designing your figure,” or “Unfortunately, we can not incorporate skulls into our designs, as skulls are trademarked by Games Workshop.” Latter aside, it helps you out in the long run by setting customer expectations. The more tutorial assistance you provide, the less justification they have for saying, “It’s not me. You did it wrong.”

      Anyway, crazy long post, but with the landscape, how could a game played on that not be epic! What scale would that be? 6mm, like you had an epic game of Epic? Best of luck with your business!

    • 4tonmantis

      I agree with Soulfinger.. I know you want to keep a centralized discussion and that makes sense..but frankly, I’m too lazy to sign up for TMP.

      Okay.. the 200 is if you sculpt it and I keep the rights or if I give you an STL and you produce it but I keep the rights? Is that with casting or just prints? If that’s to sculpt it, then I would strongly consider it as long as there’s room for feedback.

      On the detail.. I’d love to be able to see not only fine details but also surface texture. There’s a certain point where I just weigh it against the existing 3d printer sites like Shapeway.

      On the images themselves, I would encourage a mixture of organic, hard-surface, hi-tech, and other samples that show your range. As an artist I have to show my range in my portfolio.. which admittedly needs to be updated badly… but you guys are trying to make a name so you get up some cool goth-tech or bio-tech.. a detailed fantasy monster.. or something that maybe blends those elements.. My ideas are like my babies and unless you just floor me with your unbelievable work, I have a hard time sending my babies off to you.

      • Soulfinger

        How do you get the pureed bananas inside of your skull to feed them?

        • 4tonmantis

          A funnel and vacuum pump.. it creates a weird pressure behind my eyes but it’s totally worth it..

        • I am glad you asked that, I was wondering too.

  • Major_Gilbear

    Also, just to point out: we also need a photograph of the master print with a light dusting of grey/white primer.

    As it is, I cannot see anything in the translucent resin pix, and painted miniatures allow for (potentially) lots of visual trickery. People need to see the actual prints in a detailed yet “raw” state.

    Otherwise I generally agree that to encourage folks to put down money for these, you have to have a hell of a lot more info and examples showcasing the limits of what you can and can’t do.

    Oh, and cut out the D&D “flavour text” too please; it’s unnecessary, distracting from the “meat” of what you’re doing, and I also find it slightly patronising. Really good sites -with really good products- just get down to brass tacks right away and let the quality of their work speak for itself. For example, look at Dragon Forge Design for a bare-bones site with amazing product.

    • Soulfinger

      Great point!

    • 4tonmantis

      The primer is a great idea.. maybe even do a light wash with an ink over the primer so we get a good contrast picture.

  • Soulfinger

    I guess Stormbeard meant it when he said “This way!!!” and charged back to the stronghold. I was kind of expecting him to peak over his shoulder and come back. Kind of sad to see this thread die. Happy to see the flavor text cut from the site though.

  • Oh, sorry it looked that way; I’ve just been AFK for a few days. There’s a lot of great advice here, thanks. I will be rewriting the page in the next couple of days to make the pricing structure clearer and better photos are definitely on their way (with grey primer – thanks Major_Gilbear). I’ll also add prices for larger miniatures too and get back to you guys when we have developments. I understand the scepticism but I’m glad there is general interest. The first orders are going well and we should have testimonials in the next few weeks.
    Cheers guys.

  • Soulfinger

    Nice of you to pitch in a few days with the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo and glad to see you back safe. I hope that everyone’s advice really was helpful, and we’ll be looking forward to a future update (because I not only speak for everyone on the site but am also royalty and therefore am doubly entitled to say ‘we’). You really do have a business worth getting excited about, and that you have it married to a more traditional and established printing service gives you a solid foundation to build on that a lot of gamer-type businesses don’t have. Although I am skeptical about the sustainability for custom character singles, the potential for you to evolve as a full-fledged design studio accessible to the everyman and garage hobbyist is thrilling. By the way, seeing your prices on the site as pound/dollar/euro would be great.

    Hey, and if you really want to get in on a money making trend: 3D Ultrasound Printing. I don’t think anyone is doing it your side of the pond.