3D Printing has been our Game Changer
Minifig Battlefields has been on a mission to bring back the creativity of building with customized minifigs and accessories compatible with well-known brick brands, through learning and education.Established to capture the passion of hobbyists, who collect model soldiers from across many military campaigns, by providing faithful, realistic diorama and scenery for use with these collectibles and to enable schools during the WW1 centenary commemorations to tell their stories in a different way through animation and visual art. The Ultimaker 2 3D printer has been a ‘game changer’ in realizing that for us.
As model designers creating accurate replicas of the trenches and battlefields of the Western Front has been a lot of fun, building and modeling the template so that the diorama of trenches and battlefields could be manufactured in a cost effective way. However, when it came to the detailed parts such as the firesteps, trench cladding, duckboards, ladders and barbed wire, the traditional way of thermo or vacuum forming was not going to be practical, let alone cost effective for smaller production scale. Also we needed parts that had studs enabling our military minifigs, to stand and move for animation. In addition, to make these British, German or French minifig soldiers realistic we needed to produce the headgear, the weapons, and backpacks as well as the other accessories so the visual story telling is as historically faithful as possible to engage and enable school children in their learning.
So along came the ‘pink ladder’ – thanks to Ultimaker.
We knew 3D printing was emerging as the technology that has the potential to fundamentally change the economies of scale for small, innovative enterprises like ours. What we didn’t know was that in less than a year we would be able to go from creating a simple ladder to designing and producing a sophisticated 18 pounder British artillery gun.
We initially researched and evaluated a range of potential desk top 3D printers, applying a number of key criteria similar to looking for a computer or any piece of kit to do a particular job, from ease of use, flexibility, reliability in hardware and software, resolution, size of build plate, footprint, custom service, support to of course cost. Having already created a simple WW1 trench ladder model, using free to download 3D design software, to fit our trenches and enable our military minifigs to hold onto, – we set off with our stl file to see which 3D manufacturer could print this accurately. At a 3D print show in London, in short time the team at Ultimaker printed the ‘pink ladder’, which fitted perfectly in the hands of our British minifig soldier. This was indeed our ‘game changer’ – we knew then that 3D printing would be our manufacturing solution to produce our products in a cost effective way with the quality, detail, accuracy and variety that hobbyists, collectors and school children would require.
As part of our mission is to bring these campaigns to life through animation, our military minifigs needed to climb out of the trenches and walk across the battlefield. So to enhance our diorama to enable these military minifig pieces to be animated, with our Ultimaker 3D printer we created Stiknklik®.
Stiknklik®, which initially comes with the diorama set, is a collection of studs, accurately printed so the minifigs can fit and walk. Applied in whatever path is required for that scene, it truly enables the user to produce their own unique animation or visual art.
In working with the school children to tell their story to commemorate the Great War, our Minifig Battlefield in education has inspired the children to compose a storyline; to augment their history learning; engage them in creative technology through the media of animation and to help them embrace the endless possibilities as future designers, engineers, artists, scientists, inventors and writers.
By adopting 3D printing into our business, we have been able to design, create and produce a wide range of accessories and collectibles, that can truly fulfill this hobbyist passion further, be it for a collectible WW1 artillery piece model or for the enthusiastic user of custom minifigs who just want to tell a story.