Inside the Sausage Factory
Before the models go off into the mysterious world of injection mould-making, they must first be concepted and digitally (or traditionally) sculpted. We can talk about the concept phase another time, but let's look at how we get to a final design for sculptures that are created digitally as opposed to those made with modelling putty (Greenstuff).
One tool we have that comes in handy is 3D printing. We decided to standardize on the Form2 printer by Formlabs (in part because one of our sculptors, Rob Macfarlane, has one).
The Form2 is a really powerful printer that can go down to .25mm in detail layers so it can get close to the quality of an injection plastic part.
As we are working on new models, it is important to check the proportions and overall look in person with Mark 1 eyeball instead of through a computer screen. So we end up printing each sculpt many times to check the fit of the parts, the size, and the detail.
To do this we use Formlab's Preform software to arrange parts on the virtual build plate and generate the support structures that will keep the parts together as they print. Here's an example of some parts in the software:
Once the parts are arranged, the printer does its magic. At the highest detail settings it can take several hours to print the parts. If we are more concerned with part fit or sizing we might print at a lower resolution in order to have a physical part quickly.
Once the parts are done, the build plate is removed from the machine, the parts are removed from the plate, and washed in a bath of isoprophyl alchohol to remove any uncured resin and make sure they are very clean. It's a bit messy!
Here are some examples of cleaned parts that have not yet had their supports removed. It takes a steady hand to clip off all the small supports! Once removed from the support structure the parts are almost as durable as hard plastic and can be assembled, glued, and even painted.
So there you have it. A small glimpse into what happens behind the scenes as we look at sculpture work in progress and strive to make the very best hard plastic figures we can.