Tuesday, May 11, 2021

So I made a spaceship

So yesterday morning I stumbled across tinkercad.com, a simplified 3-D modeling tool that is completely browser-based. I signed up for a free account, did a few tutorials, and within less than two hours had made a 1/3000 scale spaceship.

Admittedly, it's not super-detailed, but I achieved the basic shape I was looking for. And the simple lines compare fairly well to the earliest Star Fleet Battles figures, which was what I had in mind as I did this.

With a couple clicks I could export my work as a .STL file. The next obvious step was to go over the shapeways.com to see how easy it would be to get a plastic version printed up. It only took a few minutes to make an account and upload the files.

The based version would cost nearly twice the unbased one. So this is why most Shapeways Marketplace stores sell spaceships unbased (that and a lot of people are fussy about the bases they use). Admittedly, I could bring the price down with further tinkering. My base is 5mm thick, which is way more plastic than is needed. The peg could probably be slimmed down as well.

If I could do this with a couple of hours, no prior 3-D modeling experience, and no real talent for visual arts, then there must be a ton of people out there who could do more impressive work with this tinkercad tool.


  1. Ummm...Nagiridan? And shaped like that? You a Galactic Empires card gamer? Or maybe a fan of the very very unlicensed SFB supplements Companion Games did before the CCG and the legal threats from Steve Cole?

    Because that's a very Indirigan-looking design there - which isn't a Bad Thing at all, but it's a heck of a coincidence if you don't know what I'm talking about.

  2. I bought the unauthorized SFB module Indirigans-1 at the Companion Games booth at Gen Con in '93 or '94. I never played the card game.

    1. Drat, here I was halfway hoping you'd go on to sculpt some Mechad ships from the CCG. Or maybe Vektreans. There were some pretty neat designs in that mess of a game.

      Nice looking Indirigan design, regardless. IIRC they were the race with a "boomerang" seeking weapon in SFB, right? Changed turn mode and speed every few impulses, warhead got stronger the longer they were in flight, couldn't be damaged by most weapons? Pretty much teh Seeking Weapon From Hell for whichever poor soul was managing the movement chart. :)

  3. The base is a lot of material and, more importantly, VASTLY increases the complexity of supporting the ship.

    There are weird structural complexities to 3D printing (am I putting too much suction on the screen? for example) but pre-eminent among them is "What happens to this part here when there's nothing between it and the build plate?" (Answer: it just falls and if you're lucky looks like crap and if you're not the whole thing fails.) So: you need to support it. That supporting material also increases the overall material cost and likely makes the top of your base look not great.

    If you really want them to print the base, upload the base and the ship separately.

    But also: unless you're doing something with interesting texture or detail or a weird shape it's likely simply just cheaper to buy the bases separately than print them.

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