Seahorse Test Project #3DPrinting

As you may know, Brown Bag Films is venturing into 3D Printing, and we would like to share some of our progress with you as we go along. These are our early test results and encouraged us to take the next step and get our own in-house 3D Printer. 

Wanting to do something with some detail on it to push what we could achieve with the 3d printing, and to test it as much as possible, we mocked up a model in ZBrush with as many factors as we could think of that might affect a 3d print. We tried to include organic surfaces, hard surfaces, sloped surfaces, text, model undercuts, minimal support structures, varying degress of detail, etc. The idea was to try it out on a couple of different printers and see what could be achieved with some of the printers available, and what types of detail would work on each. 

As you can see, the model was a quick model, and we initially just sent it off as is without hollowing out the model, which turns out to be a huge cost saver. These were our early tests though, and we had yet to discover that. See the hollowing out tutorial for ways to reduce your printing costs by up to 90%!

We decided to get this printed at 6 inches height as it seemed a reasonable size for a model on your desk. It was exported from ZBrush using the 3d print plugin as an STL file and then Martin Kelly sent it off to get a couple of prints.

It was printed on 2 different printers, the uPrint SE (approx €13k) and the Objet24 ( approx €20k), each of which had pros and cons.

As you can see, the uPrint SE print was made from a material called PLA which is a plastic used commonly in current 3d printers. The detail is not great in that it suffered a lot on delicate parts such as the horns on the model, and while it handled the vertical hard surfaces excellently, the sloped hard surface proved to be difficult for it, and we ended up with a very ridged surface when it should in fact have been perfectly smooth. In addition to that, the plastic actually feels cheap. It's light, and feels like a toy rather than a figure ornament.

The Objet printer was a lot more successful, the material showed more detail, though still not capturing the finer detail in the original ZBrush model. As you can see, most of the horns came out very well (with only one small bit not printing correctly), though the fins behind the ear cracked on cleaning and were pretty much snapped off. It feels heavy and solid, had a lovely translucent quality when held up to the light and was overall a nice resin based result. 

Unfortunately, the costs of these models still seemed prohibitive. The PLA based print with the poor quality, still cost €56 in material cost alone, and the resin based one was €97 for materials. This doesn't include the cost of running a 3d printer in house.

Both of these were far too expensive, so we searched for print bureaus to contrast and compare prices against existing online printing services. Shapeways is one of the big players on the net, so we decided to go with them. Shapeways offer many materials, and we went with White Plastic for this test. The same model was sent off again, and this time when the results came back we were pleasantly surprised.

As you can see, all of the horns came out, the ear fins worked well, and the quality of the print was superior to the previous prints also. The weight also felt good (as it was solid too), and the material has a very paintable feel to it. 

The total cost including shipping for this model worked out at just €82, but we still felt that this was too high. It was at this stage that we started investigating ways to make the printing cheaper. The way the 3d printer works, it sinters (yep, that's actually a word) a nylon based powder, on the edges of the model, hardening the outer shell. So drilling into the base, we could see that the inside of the model was still powder; powder we were paying for but which we didn't need. Hollowing this model out proved to reduce it's cost to just €42 - a MUCH more reasonable price I'm sure you'll agree! 

Stay posted for more updates on our progress with 3D Printing coming soon!




Sean Forsyth

Sean Forsyth is an Art Director

We Love Animation™

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