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

Tag: Europe

Up the Creek

Canoeing Through European Forests

We’ve been continuing work on expanding our themed Ticket to Ride sets to include Train Stations for Ticket to Ride Europe.

This week we added fir trees to our Camping set! Grab a paddle and embark on a canoe trip across Europe, planting trees in place of train stations to claim the use of opponents’ routes to complete your destination tickets.

Another Halloween Reject

We also worked on a train station for our Halloween set, but again did not like the way the design looked when printed.

We’ve got another idea though, and we’ll keep working on it until we get something that looks great!

Hot Mess

We were slowed down this week with another in our growing series of 3D printer problems.

After replacing a clogged nozzle (which happens every couple weeks), our next few prints were ruined by extraneous globs of plastic appearing amidst the expected game pieces. At first we didn’t know where it was coming from, but then realized the melted plastic was oozing out from the top of the heating block, instead of staying inside and feeding down through the nozzle.

Finding the Problem

Further investigation (which involved disassembling the entire extruder assembly) revealed that the heat break had loosened slightly from the heating block. The heat break is a metal tube that connects the hot end with the cooling radiator. It also holds the end of the Bowden tube that feeds the filament into the hot end.

Here you can see the disassembled hot end. The Bowden tube (blue, coming from the top) feeds down into the radiator (black with air fins, lying to the left in this pic). The heat break (seen in the next image) connects the radiator to the heating block (silver rectangle object). The nozzle screws into the bottom of the heating block, and that’s where the melted plastic is supposed to come out. But I had a mess of melted green plastic all over the heating block.

Oh, and to make this all more fun, bear in mind that I needed to do most of this work with the heating block heated to 220°C (428°F), because otherwise solidified plastic glued everything together.

The Big Delay

Once I had it all apart, it should have been relatively easy to put back together, ensuring it was all screwed tightly into place. But the threads on the heat break were covered in plastic and had to be cleaned.

Cleaning PLA plastic off of metal parts is not easy to do. Unlike other plastics, PLA is resistant to most solvents, unless you get into some very harsh chemicals that need a fume hood and disposable gloves costing $40/pair.

But I didn’t necessarily need to entirely dissolve the PLA, just soften it enough to clean the part. Enter ethyl acetate. This chemical does need to be used in a well ventilated area, but at least it doesn’t cause serious injury at the slightest whiff. It does require patience though. I had to soak the heat break in it for 24 hours!

My Gear

Here you can see the cleaning station I set up. The heat break is that little metal tube near the middle with threads on one end. The ethyl acetate is in the jar – keeping the lid closed saved me from the fumes and also prevented disastrous spills. Once it had soaked for a good long time, the PLA flaked off relatively easily – you can see the bits of it on and near the paper towel. I got the bulk of it off by scrubbing at it with the brass brush, and then picked the last bits out of the threads using a tiny screwdriver. The magnifying glass and head magnifier were very helpful in seeing it close enough to ensure it was really clean.

This picture shows some of the other tools I used, including a syringe of thermal paste to ensure good heat transfer between the heating block, the heat break, and the radiator. The long tin in the lower right holds my spare nozzles, as well as several acupuncture needles which work great for cleaning out a clogged nozzle. Probably the most important piece of equipment is the huge cup of tea (Earl Grey, hot), which helped me stay sane while tackling the project.


I’m glad to say the printer is working great again!

And boy, I sure appreciated having a second printer running while I dealt with the problem! It meant production didn’t need to stop entirely for two days while I resolved the issue.

Up Next

What’s on the agenda for the coming week? Another attempt at a Halloween train station, more work on the Jankó keyboard, and project X. What’s project X? Well, it’s not really a thing. I just made it up to make it sound more mysterious than “some other project we haven’t decided on yet”. It might be a new version of the Collapsible Dice Tower, or it might be some pieces for a new game. Find out next Monday!

3, 2, 1, … Liftoff!

Ticket to Ride, on a Rocket

As promised, we’ve been working on more train stations for our themed Ticket to Ride sets.

We love the rocket we added to our Steampunk set! It goes very well with the roadster trains we already had.

A Grand Day Out

It wasn’t until after we finished this design and added it as an option to the Etsy listing that we realized its thematic similarity to the rocket Wallace and Gromit built!

With all of his inventions, I think Wallace is truly a steampunk maker at heart. I can only imagine what he’d come up with if he had a 3D printer. Thank goodness he has Gromit to save him from all of the scrapes he gets himself into!

More Train Stations Coming

We’re also working on train stations for our Camping and Halloween themed Ticket to Ride sets. Unfortunately we weren’t thrilled with our first drafts, so it’s back to the drawing board. But we won’t put any pieces out there until we love them, which ultimately means nicer game pieces for our customers, and that’s worth taking the time to do right.

Satisfied Customer is an Understatement

Last week I wrote about the person who bought 594 game pieces in a single order. Today I’ll share the 5 star review he posted on Etsy.

“Ordered a variety of pieces for Ticket to Ride in various colors & shapes, and they are excellent quality! I really like the selection of colors and the different styles of tokens will be fun. I especially like the bright neon green & orange. Customer service was also great, and the order was filled & shipped very quickly, and was accurate. Wouldn’t hesitate to order from them again.”

Reading this review truly made my day. Thank you!

Other Things in the Works

We’re mostly working on themed train stations, but we’re also still plugging away at the Jankó keyboard (which turned out to need yet more design revisions), another version of our Collapsible Dice Tower, and a few other ideas we’ve been kicking around. Come back next Monday to see what we’ve added to our Etsy shop!

This Is For The Birds

A New Dice Tower

We launched a new version of our Collapsible Dice Tower this week!

This one was inspired by the game Wingspan. If you know the game, you’ll recognize the dice in the pic.

In fact, we had this in mind when we started designing our first dice tower. Like the cardboard dice tower that comes with Wingspan, ours can be disassembled and stored in the game box. That’s why we made it collapsible in the first place, and why we chose the size we did. Since we knew we were planning this Wingspan version, and we wanted to be able to use the same basic structure, we used the same design principles for our first tower.

We did the keep first because we anticipated the TTRPG (D&D) community would be more interested in dice towers and would find that style more appealing. But we’re very happy now to add the one we envisioned to begin with.

594 Game Pieces

Any guesses what that number signifies?

This week we received our biggest order to date. Twelve sets of Ticket to Ride game pieces! And two of them were for the Europe version, including train stations. All told, that came out to 594 individual game pieces, and really kept our printers busy!

Even better, the buyer liked our custom themed sets!

He bought four Halloween sets,

four Steampunk sets,

two Christmas sets,

and two Camping sets.

There’s going to be some fun game nights in that household!

More Train Stations

The train stations have been a popular addition to our Standard and Christmas themed Ticket to Ride sets, so we’re planning to add them to our other themed sets too. Which will we do first? Come back next Monday to find out!

All Aboard!

3D Orcs is Going to Europe!

Ticket to Ride Europe that is. We now offer train stations as an optional add-on to our Standard Ticket to Ride set.

We’ll also be gradually adding them to our themed sets. An important prioritizing factor is customer wish fulfillment. Since we’ve already been asked for stations for our Christmas set, we’ll do that first.

Speaking of Wish Fulfillment

Another thing people have been asking for is Catan pieces for the Cities and Knights expansion. 3D Orcs has now bought it, so we know exactly what extra game pieces are needed, and they’re high on our product development priority list. And we’re looking forward to playing it too!

Pink Poses a Problem

I’ve mentioned before how popular pink is, especially for Ticket to Ride trains. So when we started to run low on pink printer filament I made a point of ordering more. Except I couldn’t. The suppliers for the brand I’ve been using no longer offer it.

There are plenty of other filament manufacturers, so finding replacement options wasn’t hard. But finding an acceptable replacement has been a challenge.

First, I wanted something as close as possible to the bubblegum pink I’ve been using, since that has proven really popular. So I ruled out everything substantially darker or lighter.

Second, I wanted quality filament at a reasonable price. We use 1.75mm diameter filament – the most common. But that thickness isn’t 100% perfect, so manufacturers state a dimensional tolerance indicating how close their filament comes to being 1.75mm. It typically ranges between +/- 0.02mm and +/- 0.05mm, though I’ve seen filaments both above and below these tolerance ratings. I always choose +/- 0.02mm when I can, because too much variation in filament thickness can ruin a print fast.

After much searching, I finally found a pink filament that was the right shade, right quality, and right price. And it had good customer reviews, which is also very important. So I ordered it.

And it arrived just before I used up the last of my previous pink filament!

But alas, it’s too pale. The actual filament is very much lighter than the online picture led me to believe. (Where’s a sad orc emoji when you need one?) It’s really more of an off-white, and I don’t think it would appeal to our customers at all.

So I went back to the internet to renew my search. In the end I chose one that’s both the wrong shade and has a tolerance of +/- 0.03mm, so technically it misses two important marks. When I say “wrong shade” though, I just mean it doesn’t match the bubblegum pink I wanted. But it’s actually a beautiful hot pink, which I believe people will like just as much. At least, according to the seller’s picture and description. It’s due to arrive Wednesday, so let’s hope it looks good and works well. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime I’ve had to remove pink as an option from several of my listings. I hated doing that, and I’m really looking forward to being able to re-enable it!

A 3D Orcs Milestone

Celebration time! Since we launched our Etsy shop last fall we’ve had over 200 sales! Even with 2 printers it’s sometimes hard to keep up with demand and still squeeze in test prints for new designs. Thank you to all of our customers who brought us here!

Ongoing Projects

Besides train stations, the Catan expansion, and filling orders, we’re also still working on the Jankó keyboard, Dice Tower variants, and ideas for new themed game pieces. Come back next Monday to see which of these we end up focusing on!