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Sunday 25 October 2015

Offering up the people

I've checked that the figures fit in the seats and in the car.

Cleaned up and primed.

With a layer of primer on it is easier to see where else needs tidying up before adding some colour.

Monday 19 October 2015

Miniature Lamp Lenses

Just a quick follow up from my earlier post about the lenses for my model Land Rover Discovery.

Still drying
I'm using Micro Kristal Clear. In the bottle it looks like white glue. It takes over a day for the small lenses to dry clear and over 3 days and counting for the larger 4mm diameter spot lamp lenses.

I know it works because I have already done one layer which has dried as clear as glass but the blob sunk so I did not get the shape I wanted.

The second layer has retained the dome shape and the smaller side light lenses are clear.

In the above photo the indicator and side light lenses are only about 1mm in diameter!

Sunday 18 October 2015

3D Print the Figures

Printing the figures for my model car was not as easy as I was expecting. The results initially did not meet my expectations.

Prior to changes

Not enough detail
I tried printing them as is but they did not work very well nor did they look very detailed!
I think this was partly due to the original models not being intended for 3D printing and partly because they had insufficient shape moulded in to them.

I have found several programmes that claim they can fix some of the shortcoming of the construction of the models to make them print but I have had to manually add in more detail.

Added creases
There are two types of changes I've made:
  • Exaggerate any existing details.  Extend the nose and ears and pull in the mouth etc.
  • Add creases in the clothes.
Most models I could find on the Internet had low poly (low detail) meshes. They looked excellent on screen because the texture (images of clothing) added to them, included all the creases and details that we as viewers on a monitor screen interpret to be 3D even though they are flat!

I could find some 3D full body scans of real people intended for 3D printing with excellent moulded folds ideal for spectators in dioramas. Unfortunately none of these were in driving poses!

I have had no choice but to edit my figures myself.

With folds in the fabric
After editing, I exported to STL as usual but imported in to a programme called Netfabb Basic.
This includes a Repair feature.

It is necessary to go through a few options to carry out the repair, apply it and make sure it is saved, as follows:

  • + Repair
  • Press Automatic Repair
  • Then Apply the repair
  • Export to STL
  • If the dialogue box appears with an Optimise button it is necessary to press the Optimise button otherwise the repair is not saved!

This closes holes and makes the components solid.

It is a good idea to reload the repaired STL file in to Netfabb and run the Analyse feature to make sure the repair was saved.

It's been yet more of a learning experience again.  I have confirmed that PLA is better for fine detailed models than PLA/PHA.

The ColorFabb PLA/PHA is more flexible and perhaps stronger than normal PLA but I have not found the settings to stop it over extruding when trying to do small size find quality prints.

The last trick I am trying is the rotation of the model on the print platform. I found that laying the model on its back, when slicing it for 3D printing, gave better results.

The models are fresh off the printer and not yet cleaned up but they look like they will have the level of detail I was aiming for.

Although they look a bit of a mess, with all the strings still attached, the results are workable. I may also print them at a slower speed setting which might help improve the initial quality.


STL File Repair Software

Netfabb - The Basic version is free but a more comprehensive paid for professional version is also available.
Simplify3D - is a paid for application that can repair, add supports, slice and create the gcode for 3D printing. I like the look of it but have not tried it yet.

Monday 12 October 2015

3D Passenger Figures

In between other jobs I have been working on the driver and passenger figures for my Discovery model.

I am sure you could buy 3D models for this purpose but as usual I want to do it myself.

One of the most time consuming parts of creating models is adding the rig to make it possible to pose them.  You could try moving the vertices individually or creating the model in the right pose to start with but that takes even more time and more artistic skill.

I use a free programme called MakeHuman to simplify the process and it requires very little artistic flare to create people. The posing in Blender still needs a fair bit of technical knowledge so don't think this article will give you all the skills you need to create 3D characters.

Bear in mind that the following process is intended to create figures that will be 3D printed at a scale of 1:32. The results may not be suitable for other applications.


MakeHuman uses simple slide bars and click to select options to shape a human model. It creates people that are male, female and anywhere in between with different builds and body shapes. They start out naked but there is a small selection of clothes.

Add clothes and hair by clicking on the selection from the appropriate tab.

The bit that makes this much easier is that the model can be exported with a rig and already skinned for use with animation.

The rig is the collection of bones or skeleton which you can move and skinning is where the vertices of the model mesh are associated with a bone or bones so that the outer surface moves when the bones are manipulated. The process of skinning is often called weight painting or vertex weights.

In MakeHuman select the Basic Rig from the 'Pose/Animate' tab.

When you are satisfied with the result in MakeHuman it is time to export to Blender.
Make sure you also save it.  MakeHuman cannot open the files it exports so you must also save it as a MakeHuman file if you want to adjust what you have created at a later date.

To get the model in to Blender, Export the character and select the 'Blender Exchange (mhx)' format.
That will save the model and the rig in a type that can be opened by Blender.

I export with the default scale of Decimeters and adjust that when importing in to Blender.

Blender Import

By default the file type for MakeHuman is not shown on the Blender import menu.

The MakeHuman type needs to be added in the User Preferences menu, Add-Ons tab. Just tick the appropriate box in the Import-Export list.

You can then import a MakeHuman file.

When importing set the scale to 3.00 and that will import at a nice size for 1:32nd scale figures. That is if you followed my recommendation above to export from MakeHuman in Decimeters.

It also helps if you make sure that you are not using any units in Blender. The Blender units are a nice idea but they hide the true dimensions which can make it difficult when exporting to STL file for use with a 3D printer.

The imported model includes the skeleton ready to animate. That saves a lot of work.

Blender Animation

I am not going to give a tutorial on Blender animation. That would be for a longer article and there are plenty of tutorials on the Internet. I'm only going to explain the way I use Blender for my particular purpose.

My technique is to append the seating and interior I used for my model car in to the Blend file used to pose the figures. That way I can get them to fit together exactly.

In short, I use Blender's 'Pose Mode' to adjust the bones and move them in to position to line up with the seats. It's a little fiddly rotating each bone but not particularly difficult.

Blender Edit

Once I have them in the pose I like, I need to be able to edit the model to remove unwanted bits and make some style changes.

If you try to edit a mesh that is parented to a rig then it will immediately revert to the un-posed (rest) position. It would be a pain to try and work like that.

The simple solution is to apply the pose to the mesh.

WARNING: Once you have applied the pose you cannot change it using the animation tools any more. SAVE BEFORE applying.

It's a bit of a faff because you have to select each object separately and apply the armature pose from the modifier tool bar. I find that hiding (H) each object as I apply the armature modifier to it helps me keep track of which objects I still need to do.

Once done, I delete the rig object because it is no longer attached to the meshes so serves no useful purpose.

The model figures are now ready to edit.

That's as far as I have got but the plan is to remove the unwanted vertices that are lower than the false floor/seat height, make each component solid ready for 3D printing and export to STL file.

Tools Summary

MakeHuman - free programme to create human models
Blender - free 3D modelling programme which includes animation

Sunday 11 October 2015

Detailing the D2

More progress on the model of my Land Rover Discovery 2.

I've painted in the light reflectors

Added a layer of matt clear coat where appropriate.

After removing the masking tape there were a few spots that needed touching up. In my opinion, the effort to paint some of the trim a different texture of black was worth it. You can just about see the difference round the windows in the above photo.

To finish off some of the lights I've used something I have not tried before. It is supposed to dry clear like a lens.  I'm still waiting on this to dry properly to see the results.

I have got the hang of using my vacuum forming setup. The plastic sheet needs to heat about 60mm above the 1500 Watt hob. I have to be quick because once it starts to droop there is only a few seconds, if that, to move it over to the mould. Too long on the heat and I get webbing too short a time and it does not form.

The other important thing is to use an A4 sheet of the 0.5mm PETG plastic.  The A5 size is too small and does not form round the whole mould.

As you can see from the photo, using the larger sheet, the right temperature and vacuum cleaner on in advance, the PETG pulls tightly round the former. It even sucks back in under the windows.

It's so tight it was difficult to remove but there is just enough flex in the plastic to prize it off.

Lots of work in progress and components partially complete at the moment.

Monday 5 October 2015

Started the D2 Again

The lack of updates might imply that I have stopped working on my slot car Discovery (D2) model however that's not the case, it's just that I started again.

I have now reached a point beyond where I had got to before.

The paint on the first attempt got so thick that the details in the 3D print had been eroded. Things like the indented line running from front to back was hardly visible.

Chipped paint most obvious by the filler cover

Rough paint on the roof

I attempted to carve out some of the details but I ended up chipping off the paint. Sanding down and re-painting ended up with an uneven surface where the paint was too thick and probably not fully cured between coats!

I decided it was best to change the 3D model so the details were deliberately over pronounced to allow for the paint and sanding process. I printed that version and started the paintwork again!

After a few weeks, thinner paint levels and more sanding between each layer, I got to a point where I think I cannot risk any more paint and so the surface is as good as I am going to get!

I've added the roof bars after the paint so it was easier to sand down the roof and get a better all over result. The roof bars are also inserted in holes which is much stronger than the previous method.

Although the car is black with black trim, I still think it is important to paint the trim in a slightly different shade of black.  The plastic on the real vehicle is also a silk colour rather than gloss.

That's it for now.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Our patio is now a terrace

I've been very busy at work the last few weeks and I have not had the inclination to update this blog when I get home. I'll try and rectify that.

Our patio was finished about a week and a half ago. We've been talking about getting rid of the concrete paving slabs for many years.

In our heads we envisaged a brick patio with the bricks in a herring bone pattern.

That is exactly what we now have.

We'd looked at doing it ourselves a couple of years ago but once I lifted a slab I decided it would take us too long to do a good job.

Having seen Reagan Landscapes team at work, I was right to let the professionals do the job.  They had diggers, removed massive amounts of concrete to get down to an appropriate depth and then added back aggregate and layers of sand.

Old English bricks

The brickwork is excellent and they paid great attention to detail. We are very pleased with the results. The whole job from start to finish took them less than three weeks.

It had not occurred to us before but with the drop in levels and the steps it is now a terrace not just a patio.