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

Tag: Ticket to Ride (Page 1 of 2)

Music to Soothe the Savage 3D Printer

A Long Haul

It’s taken us two months, dozens of test prints, and several design reviews with the buyer, but we’ve finally finished the Jankó keyboard project that we started back in March!

But First an Apology

This week’s blog post is a bit late. Sorry about that! I got my second COVID vaccine shot (Moderna) on Saturday and it really wiped me out. Thankfully there was nothing super urgent to do for 3D Orcs, so I was able to take it easy and let my body recover from producing a bunch of very welcome antibodies. I’m now nearly back to normal, with just a sore arm left to tolerate.

Well, I guess I’m still tiring easily too, so today’s post will be on the short side.

The Final Stages of Jankó

Once we were finally happy with the key design, we still had a lot of printing to do.

Here’s the keyboard with most of the original keys, and just our few test keys installed at one end. But there are several new keys ready to go!

Because the Jankó keycaps overlap neighboring keys, they need to be installed in order from one end, so all of the original keys had to be removed first.

Here we’ve started installing the new keys. It was fun to see the offset black/white pattern start to emerge!

Getting close!

All keys installed!

It was awesome to see it all come together after so much work! But the best part was yet to come.

The Completed Jankó Keyboard!

Finally! Fully assembled and operational!

It’s very cool to see our 3D printed products incorporated into an actual functioning electronic device! And the customer is very happy and excited to learn to play it!

In Other News

One of the last things I did before my COVID shot wiped me out was play a game of Ticket to Ride – Europe. Like the last time I wrote about this game, we used several of our custom game pieces, making for a very eclectic board appearance!

This time I used green canoes from the Camping themed set, my wife used a set of black Christmas sleighs, my father-in-law used purple Steampunk roadsters, and my mother-in-law used the yellow heart themed set we gave her for Mothers Day.

Did you notice her spiral heart Train Stations? Those are new! So new, they’re not even listed as an option in Etsy yet!

Pursuing B2B

Aside from adding the spiral heart Train Stations, this week we’ll be turning our attention to exploring some B2B (business to business) opportunities. We want to see if some local small businesses are interested in buying 3D printed versions of their company logos, whether for their staff or their customers. Wish us luck!

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!

Here Comes Peter Catan-Tail

It’s Nearly Easter!

And we’ve got some treats for you that are better than chocolate! Well, maybe not better exactly, but at least they’re easier on the waistline.

You can hide Easter eggs across the country with our Ticket to Ride set. And the hatching egg score markers are SOOO cute!

Or if Catan is your preferred game, the egg rows are roads, the hatching eggs are settlements, and you get these awesome Easter baskets for your cities!

Rolling in Style

We were also excited to launch our Collapsible Dice Tower! We talked about its development last week, and it was nearly ready to go. But two final steps ended up taking so long we nearly didn’t launch in time for today’s blog.

First, since it ships in several pieces and needs to be assembled, we needed to write instructions. It’s pretty straightforward, but we really wanted to minimize the chance of our customers not being able to figure it out, or worse, breaking it by doing it wrong.

That meant we needed simple diagrams, understandable annotations, and clear, concise wording. I went through several drafts myself, and then more after getting feedback from our Design Review Department (aka my wife, Lois). Eventually we came up with something we were both happy with.

The other problem we faced was getting good photos for the Etsy listing. This time the problem was shading. I took pictures with a variety of lighting options, but the gray kept coming out looking too light.

I was finally able to get good pictures by switching to a white background instead of the black I’d been using, and we were able to launch!

Dice Tower Variants

Though we currently just have the one design shaped like a castle keep, we’re working on more. They’ll have the same basic structure, but with different surface details to appeal to different gamers. If you have an idea for a different version of our dice tower, let us know in the comments below!

A Brand New (to us) Game Variant

Even with everything else we have going on, we still take time to play board games. This past weekend we got to enjoy our brand new copy of Ticket to Ride – Europe! Better yet, we each chose a different 3D Orcs themed set of game pieces to play with!

We had Easter eggs,



and standard trains printed in gold. The gold pieces aren’t available on Etsy yet due to continued production problems, but we’re still working on making it happen because when it does work, they look incredible!

But Those Train Stations are the Wrong Colors!

You might have noticed the train stations don’t match the train colors. That’s because this version of Ticket to Ride is so new to us that we haven’t yet modeled the stations and had to use the standard ones out of the box. That’s something multiple customers have asked for, and is what prompted us to buy the game. Now that we know exactly what they look like, we’ll be working on adding train stations to our sets on Etsy. First as an optional add-on to the standard set, and then to some of our specialty themed sets. Come back next Monday to see how we’re doing!

You’ve Been Punked!

Steampunked, That Is

This past week we launched both of our Steampunk game piece sets, and we love how they all turned out!

First came Settlers of Catan, with airships for the cities, roadsters for the settlements, and rows of gears for the roads.

There’s also a robber with a steampunk goggle hat!

Next was Ticket to Ride, which used the same roadsters for the trains, and includes a steampunk goggle hat for the scoring marker.

Overcoming Challenges

One challenge that is omnipresent in 3D printing is the difficulty of printing overhangs. Since the plastic is laid down in layers, each layer needs to have something below it to hold it in place. Otherwise the printer is extruding soft melted plastic into air, and it has nothing to stick to and hold its shape while it cools and solidifies. You can get away with very small projections, but anything beyond a 45° angle, or projecting more than a millimeter or two, will fail without support. There are ways to print temporary supports which can later be removed, but that tends to leave a messy surface where the support structure breaks away, and requires a lot of effort to clean up afterwards.

All of this means that printing the airships with noses and tails sticking out from the undercarriage was simply not feasible without added support. Or coming up with a whole new approach.

I decided to tip them nose up, so the tail would be printed first, then on up through the body to the nose. That let the tail fins support the rest of it as it printed, reducing the overhangs to something the printer could handle.

Printing Multiples

One of the advantages of having a printer with a large print bed is that I can print multiple items at once. It would take a ridiculous amount of manual effort if I had to print an entire Ticket to Ride set (48 trains and a scoring marker) one piece at a time!

Here’s a full set of standard Ticket to Ride pieces printing all together.

But there’s a risk to doing that. Having that many separate pieces on the print bed means the print nozzle needs to jump from piece to piece MANY times while printing the dozens of individual layers. And each such jump incurs a tiny chance that the nozzle will bump a partially finished piece, knocking it loose from the print bed and putting it out of position. And when that happens, the entire print job is usually ruined.

First, the loose piece tends to get pushed into others, knocking them loose as well. Second, the filament that’s extruded trying to print onto the failed pieces ends up sticking to other nearby pieces, ruining them and adding extra projections that in turn are more likely to be struck by the moving nozzle.

Here’s an example of one such failed meeple print.

And a failed Catan print.

Fortunately, I’ve got my printer configured now so that while it still happens from time to time, it usually works smoothly for straightforward prints like Standard Ticket to Ride and Catan sets.

What if it Still Won’t Work?

With more complex geometry, like our latest Steampunk pieces, this kind of problem happens more frequently. Sometimes I can correct it by simplifying the geometry of the model, which I did for every Steampunk game piece. But when that still isn’t enough and I can’t make it work the way I want, sometimes the only solution is to print fewer pieces at once. This reduces the chance of a problem, and also decreases the impact when a problem does occur, because instead of ruining a whole set, it only ruins a few pieces.

For the Steampunk pieces, the roadster proved the most problematic. (Which was particularly annoying, since it’s used in both the Catan and Ticket to Ride sets.) In the end I had to print most of them in groups of 8 or even 4, which makes producing them that much more time consuming. But they still look great, and it’ll be worth it if players like them even half as much as I do!

Increased Capacity

Fortunately, all of the resulting production delays have been more than offset by the arrival of our new printer!

As I mentioned last week, we chose to get a second Anet ET5X. Setting it up was not without its problems, but all in all it went way smoother than the first one, since I now have a much better understanding of how they work. Having the two of them running side by side makes us feel even more like a professional 3D printing shop!

A Change of Pace

Our current design work is taking us in a bit of a different direction. New game piece sets will be coming before long, but right now our focus is a special request by someone who wants a funky new set of keys for an electronic keyboard. Come back next week to see how this fun new project is progressing!

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!

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