Adding magic to the mundane, one filament at a time.

Month: February 2021

Got Meeples?

Meeple Madness

This week we launched meeples in our Etsy shop!

They’re pretty basic compared to some of our other pieces, but we’ve been wanting to offer this boardgaming staple for a while now. And it adds Carcassonne to our collection of supported games!

Meeple Mercenaries – Raising a Cost Effective Army

With this launch we’re trying a new pricing approach. For the first time, you can save money by buying in bulk, with the best deal being 50 meeples for $15.00. The best part is that you can still get this bulk discount even if you want them in a variety of different colors.

When Good Gears Go Bad

If you read our blog last week, you probably deduced that we were planning to release some Steampunk-themed game pieces. That’s still in the works, but has been deferred by a week. While our designs are really cool, some of them are a bit tricky to print, and working out the kinks slowed us down a bit. The designs have now been finalized, but we haven’t had time to print enough samples for the photo shoot needed for the Etsy listing. We expect to launch sets for both Catan and Ticket to Ride in the next few days.

Spontaneous 3D Printer AI

One of the more amusing printing issues we dealt with was when our printer learned how to play Settlers of Catan. It probably arose out of the predictable camaraderie between the mechanical nature of the printer and the steampunk pieces it was printing.

The pieces intended to be roads for Settlers of Catan are supposed to look like this.

But our printer decided to go for Longest Road and produced this.

Time for a Second Printer

With 3D printers being sometimes finicky creatures, and orders coming in regularly from Etsy, we decided it was time to reinvest the proceeds from our recent sales and buy a second printer. At first I thought we’d buy something different, to diversify our printing capabilities. But after a lot of research I concluded that our current printer has all the features of other printers that cost more, and going for a cheaper one would remove some great features like the heated glass bed and auto-leveling. One day I’d like to get a printer with two extruders so we can explore multi-color printing, but the price point for those is still a bit beyond what we can justify for now.

So in the end we ordered a second Anet ET5X. This also means there won’t be a new learning curve since we’re already familiar with this machine, and all our print files that are optimized for our current printer should work the same on both.

This will give us a bit of a safety net if one of them needs a repair or maintenance, which should help us stay on schedule with our planned releases, while also fulfilling our customer orders (which always take priority). Though knowing me, I’ll just end up designing twice as many game pieces and the pair of printers still won’t be able to keep up.

An Exciting Week Ahead

This week should see the arrival of our new printer, as well as the launch of two sets of Steampunk-themed game pieces. How exciting! Come back next Monday to see how it all played out!

Germs FTW!

Pandemic Game Pieces

While the Covid-19 pandemic is truly a worldwide tragedy, the boardgame Pandemic by Matt Leacock and Z-Man Games is a worldwide hit. But those little cubes just aren’t all that interesting to play with.

So at 3D Orcs we came up with our own version of Pandemic Game Pieces Based on Real Viruses. (Ok, so Bubonic Plague and Cholera are caused by bacteria, not viruses, but you get the idea.)

We researched several historic catastrophic diseases, and chose these four to feature in our set of game pieces.

We also felt the standard Research Station was a bit plain, so we created our own version of that too, and the test tubes look fantastic!

Photographic Challenges

However, once the pieces were ready to be sold in our Etsy shop, we still needed photos for the listing. We thought they’d look sharp with the wood grain of our oak table as a backdrop. And they do in real life. But the photos came out all wrong.

The yellow Cholera pieces came out looking green.

And the red Coronavirus pieces refused to come into focus.

In the end we had to nix the wood background idea, and took all our pics on the game board instead. I can’t complain though, they came out looking great!

Coming Back for More

In other news, 3D Orcs was thrilled to have our first two repeat customers!

The first was someone who had previously bought some of our Christmas Themed Ticket to Ride sets,

and now bought some Camping Themed Ticket to Ride sets. It’s wonderful knowing people like our products enough to come back for more! Plus, this buyer is in Germany, the board game capital of the world, making it even more special!

Our second repeat buyer is in Canada (where I’m originally from), and they were so enthused about our Standard Ticket to Ride sets that they bought more colors even before their first ones had arrived!

When Goths Discover Brown

If you know that reference, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what we’re working on next. Come back next Monday to see what our imaginations came up with for some new themed game pieces!

The Orc’s Gambit

A New Old Game

The game of chess has existed for over 1000 years, but producing chess pieces is new to us here at 3D Orcs.

Inspired by TV

A few months ago we watched and loved “The Queen’s Gambit”. It got us thinking that we should make a set of chess pieces for our Etsy shop. We wanted our pieces to combine elegance and flare, without veering too far from familiar traditional forms. After trying out a few variations, we settled on these Spiral Fluted Chess Pieces, and we’re thrilled with how they turned out!

Nearly Thwarted by Success

After doing test prints of our designs and refining our models (the knight was particularly challenging), we were ready to print a full set so we could take pictures for the Etsy listing. But then we received a flurry of orders for our existing products! We had to postpone the chess pieces in order to print the pieces people had bought. It kind of messed up our planned release schedule, but that’s the kind of “problem” we’re happy to have!

Pink Proves Popular

We’re often surprised by what people are attracted to purchase. This week’s preferred item was pink trains for Ticket to Ride. They do look good on the board, and stand out as a fun alternative to the colors that come with the game!

We also saw multiple orders for standard Catan pieces,

and sold a few sets of canoe Ticket to Ride “trains” from our Camping-themed collection.

We even had an order for our Hallowe’en Ticket to Ride set, which shows that people don’t want to be constrained by what’s “seasonally appropriate”.

Chess Goes Ahead

With all of the printing needed to fulfill the orders, we feared our chess set wouldn’t be ready to launch in time for this blog post. But a flurry of printing the last few pieces earlier today, followed by a photo shoot that had been planned in advance, allowed us to launch just in time. We hope people love them as much as we do!

Covid Comes to 3D Orcs

Thankfully I don’t mean anyone here has been infected. But the Corona virus does play a key role in our newest project. Come back next Monday to see the pieces we’re creating for a new addition to our line up!

Beyond Game Pieces

New Directions

As we indicated last week, our promised new releases took us out of the realm of board game pieces. We ventured into two entirely new areas: jewelry and drink coasters! Read more about them below, but first I’m going to tell you about fixing the heat creep blockage we also mentioned last week.

The Blockage Got Worse

When I wrote about it last week we had a workaround for temporarily dealing with the blockage. But then the problem got worse. While we could still get some filament through, it wasn’t enough. We were facing pretty bad under-extrusion problems, where not enough filament was getting through the nozzle, leaving the print with gaps, thin layers, and poor adhesion. We ended up needing to stop all printing for a day and a half.

Digging Into the Problem

Then our supplies arrived and I began disassembling the printer’s hot end (what you might think of as the print head on a traditional printer). Here you see it opened up and laid out for inspection. Even to get to this point I had to disengage it from the X-axis drive belt, and remove two of the wheels and the print cooling fan. The problem is somewhere between where the Bowden tube (the white tube at the top) enters, and the nozzle (the pointy metal bit at the lower left of the assembly).

Isolating the Problem Area

Next I removed the back panel (with the remaining wheel) from the heat dissipation block (the central black thing with the fins for air cooling), and unscrewed the Bowden tube connector. You can also see a glob of melted and burnt filament plastic on top of the rectangular heating block that the nozzle is screwed into. But to go any further I had to turn on the printer and heat it up. Everything was fused together by solidified printing plastic, and it had to be softened before I could do anything else.

Smokin’ Hot! Literally!

Once it was heated I was able to pull that piece of plastic off the top of the heating block.

I also removed the nozzle and confirmed that the blockage was higher than that.

The Bowden tube itself was really stuck hard in there! I had to hold the heat dissipation block with pliers and pull hard on the tube to get it out, all while being very aware that I was dealing with parts heated to 235ºC (455ºF).

When it finally came out, it was blackened and smoking! Unfortunately the smoke dissipated before I could snap a pic of it, but here you can see the blackened end of the Bowden tube. It smelled faintly sweet, which makes sense I guess considering PLA is made from corn starch.

The Solution

While the root cause of the problem is still just an educated guess (as I speculated last week, I think it came from operating the printer very hot for the metallic filament), the immediate problem was clear. The end of the Bowden tube was completely blocked with burned filament. Since I had already purchased a new one, I just had to cut it to length and install it. I was grateful to not have to remove the heat break (the metal connection between the heater block and the heat dissipation block), though I did clean out the inside of it with a pipe cleaner. (A real pipe cleaner, not the colored ones that kids use for crafts as that would have melted.)

Here it is with the new Bowden tube installed (this one is blue) and the nozzle back in place.

As I put it all back together, I also cleaned it up and tightened some screws that had become slightly loosened.

Better Than Ever!

Here it is printing some heart trains from our Valentine Ticket to Ride set. They came out beautifully and the printer is working better than ever! I love our new Capricorn Bowden tube! My research showed it was the best brand on the market, and I have to agree.

Valentine Earrings

With that major problem out of the way, we could move ahead with our releases for the week, starting with some Valentine earrings! Our first jewelry offering looks stunning! They come in two styles:

Double Heart

and Cascade Heart.

There are six unique pairs in each style, including several featuring our new metallic filament. Follow the links to our Etsy shop to see them all.

Catan Coasters – With Puns!

We also launched our first set of drink coasters.

They’re themed to match the five resources from Settlers of Catan and would be perfect to use when hosting game night!

Each hex-shaped coaster is colored to match a resource, has cute little icons around the edges, and features a related pun. The set also comes with a tray to store or display them!

Next Up – A Whole New Game!

The project we’re currently working on gets back to game pieces, but they’re for a game we haven’t worked on before. Whether or not you’re a fan of the game, we guarantee it’s one you’ve heard of! Come back in a week to see if we’ve launched it!