Casting

From 1d4chan

Casting is the process of creating metal objects by pouring liquid metal into a mould. In the context of tabletop games, nearly every metal miniature you'll use was cast. In ye olde days of wargaming, models were usually cast in lead alloys for their malleability and relatively low melting point. Changing views on the safety of such materials has seen manufacturers move to lead-free alloys since the 1980s, most metal models nowadays being made of tin, aluminium, or silver if you're feeling classy pretentious and rich.

Zee Process[edit]

This is an example process for metal or resin casting:

  1. The sculptor creates the master model. It may be called a "green" if it was sculpted in Green Stuff.
  2. Once the master is fully cured, he places the model in a box and fills the box with a different, molten material.
  3. Once that material is fully cured, the sculptor carefully splits the case in half, freeing the master sculpt from the brand-new mould.
  4. The sculptor cuts channels into the faces of the mould to allow injection of the casting material. Careful attention must be paid during this process to ensure the material will completely fill the mould, otherwise casting errors will be inevitable.
  5. The injection may commence and models will soon be in abundance.
  6. ?????
  7. Profit

Imperfections and Dangly Bits[edit]

There are three major side effects which can occur during the casting process: vents, flash, and mould lines. Vents are the dangly pieces on a metal or resin model that you can quickly nip off with a sharp knife (or a simple twist). Vents exist because holes are intentionally made in the mould to allow air to escape during the injection process, and excess material to overflow safely. Flash occurs when the casting material squeezes between the mould's halves, leaving a paper-thin plane of material on the model, often bridging intentional gaps in the finished piece. Mould lines occur when the two halves of the mould aren't perfectly aligned before casting. In some cases, they're subtle and easy to file down, while some can be so bad the model looks like one face has jumped half a scale meter to one side without informing the other face.

There's really no excuse for bad mould lines on metal models passing quality control, when the models can simply be melted down and recast. Resin, on the other hand, cannot be recycled in the same fashion, so resin casters need to hold themselves to a higher standard of quality (Quality, you say?). Luckily, major model retailers have largely eliminated horrendous mould lines in recent years.

Here is a good resource on imperfections in the casting process.

Mold Wear and Tear[edit]

Due to the nature of the the casting procedure, a mold often cannot be used forever. For multiple reasons (going from costs to ease of making to having a mold with enough detail) the mold is forged from an alloy that is designed to withstand the temperature at which the liquid plastic/pewter/... is injected but not much higher. If a delicate balance is not maintained while casting/molding the miniatures, the mold will warp, crack, or generally lose detail (Something known formally as "thermo-mechanical fatigue" for anyone who'd like more info). Even when all possible care is taken, molds just don't last forever (nobody has yet told Airfix this). Model makers use several tactics for working around this:

The first and most straightforward is simply recasting the mold. More often than not, the "parent model" will be put in reverent storage and won't be melted away like in so-called "investment casting". The parent can be used to make more molds as needed. Sometimes, however, the parent is considered too precious, so a first-generation "daughter" model will be cast in the toughest stuff the model makers could possibly use (sometimes at the expense of the original mold) in order to make a very durable model which can be used to cast molds over and over without warping.

The second tactic is making a stronger mold that can withstand much higher temperatures. Sometimes the mold will get a mold made of it, and then that mold will be used to cast stronger molds which the models can be forged in without warping the mold. This method quickly becomes a lot more expensive, though.

This was the excuse for Man O' War being destroyed by GW.

Games Workshop and You[edit]

Games Workshop is a wargame company known for making egregiously overpriced models. If you didn't know that, you are obviously new to this wiki. They often excuse their prices by saying that their models are of exceptional quality and thus their molds are more expensive/break more often/need maintenance, despite that by industry standards (and as every single fucking 40K fan knows), Citadel miniatures have chunky details and low part counts, and price basic plastic models in the same range as top-of-the-line multimedia kits made for accuracy fiends who masturbate with digital calipers. And that's not even considering the fucking bubbles.

Fa/tg/uys who are enraged by Games Workshop's shitty marketing ploys can turn to home casting to get their model fix, at next to zero cost.

Casting can be expensive or cheap, depending on how you do it. A comprehensive fa/tg/uy-written guide is available to help you through the process.

As a side note GW likes to flail around its net-site, claiming that it's illegal to take any and all copies of minis and make conversions. That is legally bullshit, since that argument is only solvent in accordance to the country one is living in; in some European countries, for example, you are allowed to make as many copies of anything you have bought as long as you aren't selling or otherwise distributing them. Also, both Codecies and White Dwarf articles loved to show off kitbashes and conversions back in the day, so it's not like they can even claim no precedent. This gibbering madness has died down under the New ManagementTM, but who knows for how long.

3rd Party Modellers[edit]

While Games Workshop may waffle back and forth regarding what is and isn't "tournament legal" and "legal legal", one thing that hasn't wavered since the early 2000's are the 3rd party model sellers. In fact, they've grown in quality and quantity over recent years! These guys operate in the dubious legal grey area surrounding knock-off models, and will sell "Warhammer-inspired", "27/28/29/30mm-scale", or "totally-not-Warhammer" models designed from the ground up to fit in with the rest of GW's product lines.

These 3rd-party kits often come in the form of body parts or bits blister packs, an area where GW has been found wanting for literal decades, which are not-too-shockingly compatible with extant Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 models. These can take the form of whole packs of off-brand future-soldiers, or just sprues of disembodied limbs or weapons. Some 3rd party model shops specialize in filling gaps in GW's product line, making models that strongly resemble units or armies that get no official love. Almost every one of these retailers have their own game system for their models, which everyone who buys their models plays. Some of these sellers specialize in one-model showpiece kits, to "count as" various Independent Characters on the tabletop. These full models can be as good as GW one-model kits, but not all of them are, so buyers beware (not that 1d4chan endorses buying these models for use outside of their original games). The 3rd party model makers generally operate above-board, until they overstep their legal bounds and GW kills them good and hard.

The casting techniques used by these guys varies widely, since none of them are as high-volume as Games Workshop or as high-quality (varying mileage) as Forge World. Some make metal models, some do resin, others use plastics. They will use any technique under the sun, or whatever is easiest.

Professional Recasters (aka bootlegging)[edit]

'In Far off Cathay you shall find what you seek' -A Wise Man

Some businesses in China will mass-produce recasted sprues and sell them on eBay, undercutting the original manufacturer by virtue of not having to pay sculptors for model designs. This is called bootlegging, and it is fucking illegal. On the other hand, fa/tg/uys who are enraged by GW's marketing bullshit and hideously overpriced models (but don't have the time, money, space, or skill to home-cast models) will turn to these sellers to get their model fix without feeding the beast, much as /v/irgins will pirate good video games that are held hostage by greedy or otherwise odious publishers. As a result you can expect to see some of the same skub regarding buying from "based Chinaman" as you would see regarding the ethics of pirating video games.

Of course, given that GW has been price gouging their customers (and underpaying their artists) for decades, the whole morality argument is very, very weak (and generally advanced by professional busybodies). Most people who actually buy recasts do so because they would otherwise be priced out of the hobby entirely, and either generally operate under a "don't ask, don't tell" policy...or don't care because, you know, it's a game marketed to children.

Most people who engage in kitbashing, scratch-building, and 3rd-party part-mixing will generally regard using re-casts with disdain. It would be like going to an auto show and announcing the replica Corvette you bought was a real Corvette, as opposed to driving up in a mock-Corvette you made yourself and announcing it as such. In any case, 1d4chan cannot provide any information regarding the purchase of recasted miniatures. Don't even think about it.

3D Printing[edit]

"And it was foretold in the book of The Second Machine Age that like a rising star a new science will come to be, and all men across the globe may print their miniatures, at affordable prices, forever ending the rule of the old powers and starting a new age of wonders."

– Technoprophet Anonymus

This is GW's nightmare come true, the Doom Made Manifest, the digital transformation of recasting, the Great Equalizer. 3D printing is a method of accurately fabricating objects using a 3D printer. 3D Printing works from a digital blueprint of the object in question, loading the material it will use, and then it fabricates the desired object before your very eyes. Originally, 3D printing was restricted to industrial purposes because of its sheer size and cost. By the 2010s, the costs have come down to the point where 3D printers are commercially available to the regular consumer and are relatively easy to understand and use, so even regular neckbeards like you and me could manage to use one. Printing a model is as simple as getting your hands on a 3D printer, its printing medium, and the file of the model you want. Don't think that means you can create your own army without subjecting your financial status to GW's pricing horrors: copyright laws still apply to 3D-printed likenesses of miniatures and you will get your ass sued for doing it (although do note that the same can apply for pirating multimedia and software from the internet, and how many times have you been sued by the developers for being a filthy pirate? Basically, don't draw attention to yourself by doing something dumb like selling it through popular retail channels, or anything that would draw the direct ire of GeeDubs themselves.)

What makes 3D printing so cheap is that it cuts production down to one step. Rather than following all of the steps above to make a model by hand, a 3D printer does all the hard work for you. Further, a 3D printer means you don't need to spend money on molds; if you've ever wondered why Forge World is so expensive, one part of that is because resin is cast differently to plastic, so the molds wear down faster and have to be replaced more often. That's not really a concern for us neckbeards since we aren't making ten thousand parts with our garage-casts, but for a manufacturer it is a notable expense. On the other hand, a 3D printer works from a digital master and has no need for a physical mould. Without a mould, there's no chance of all sorts of problems that injection casting faces. Lastly, a 3D printer uses much less material; models don't have to be cut for sprues, interiors don't have to be solid, and there's no injection nozzle to which material can stick AHAHAHA, there totally is, but that is a negligible expense in both forms of production.

There are two major methods for consumer-level 3D printing: fused-deposition modeling (FDM) and stereolithography apparatus (SLA).

  • An FDM printer runs a filament of material through a heated nozzle as it's motor-driven across a plate to create an object layer by layer.
  • An SLA printer uses UV light to polymerize a liquid resin against a metal plate and create an object layer by layer.

For /tg/ purposes, SLA printers can create finer details on the end product but require washing with alcohol and final UV curing before it's ready to use. FDM printers leave very obvious layer lines, so they're more suited for less-detailed objects or terrain pieces, or larger objects like vehicles that are easier to do surface finishing work on.

While your imagination runs wild, keep a few things in mind while thinking about how many Mk2-Armoured Space Marines you want in your army compared to how many Mk.6's: a good quality 3D printer of either type will cost several hundred dollars for just the machine itself; you'll spend a lot of time and resources figuring out how to make the darn thing work; you'll need to restock your material and cleaning supplies regularly; your choice of material will determine what glue you can use with it; and don't forget about the copyright issue. You are not ChapterHouse Studios, and you are much more likely to lose your court case than they are.

For the time being, the downfall of GW due to widespread 3D printing is little more than a pipe dream. In truth, merely two things hold back the great resin tray tides of 3d printing from booming much like Limewire & Napster did for downloading music in the early 2000s: the aforementioned cost of printing (which only goes down and becomes more accessible for consumers each year) and availability of things to print. In order to replicate a miniature from the tabletop to be 3d printed, you must currently either:

  1. 1 Digitally recreate the miniature from scratch in a 3d modelling program, using the real life version as a reference, or
  2. Use a 3d scanning device to digitally copy the miniature into a 3d model.

Considering that most are not well versed with Blender or Zbrush , the likely option is to try out 3d scanning. This presents problems as scanning technology is quite far behind 3d printing currently. Not only is it VERY expensive but the results on anything but the most advanced technology leave poor results on small highly detailed plastic/resin/metal. So unless you have a friend who's a dentist and can lend you his 20,000 Dollar Medical scanner to make STL's of lead Squats from 30+ years ago, expect to wait a while for most miniatures to be printable. But make no mistake, sooner or later, THEY WILL. And it will be the day Games Workshop quivers at men printing armies of Beakie marines to paint.

2021 3D Printing Update: Death Comes For The Archbishop[edit]

What was once a dream in 2016 is now a passionate, lustful reality that fa/tg/uys and ca/tg/irls of all flavours can get in on and enjoy. We've had quite a wild ride the last few years, starting with access to higher resolution print services like Shapeways, which was and remains a great option to get your hands on conversion parts. Everything from shoulder pads for your dudes or iconography you can attach to existing pauldrons, to special weapons and helmets. From complete minis all the way up to customization parts to make your Imperial Knight more Space Yiffs friendly in one notably awesome example.

That however was just the beginning. Enter Stereolithography (SLA) printing. A form of 3D printing technology that uses light reactive resin to product high quality prints in a reasonable amount of time. This method coming to the home printing market signaled rise of even cheaper home 3D printing. Several companies make SLA and MSLA machines specifically targeted at the wargammer/hobbyist market that are fairly affordable by hobby standards. The Elegoo Mars series and Anycubic Photon family all start in the 200-300 USD range. With that massive drop in price, and concurrent increase in resolution, the time has come, the Bell of Terra has tolled.

We have also seen a rise in our trousers *BLAM* Ahem. A rise in services to provide STL files (the file you need to 3D print something) to the masses. Between direct sale options like myminifactory, various kickstarters, subscription services, patreons and so on there's essentially a galaxy of forge worlds worth of artists churning out high quality, sometimes even pre supported STL files with a galaxy's worth of range, options and other assorted cool stuff for your hobby enjoyment. You name it, there's probably at least two versions out there from different artists.

Any game you might want high quality, good looking minis for, you can generally find these days, and either get the STLs to print them yourself or get other people to print them for you. Be it war games, board games, RPGs or anything in between. Or just get some giant statue or bust to show off your painting skills. Prices and your mileage in terms of looks may vary, but generally you'll see pretty steep discounts compared to official products, and in many cases you'll be able to get quality as good as or better than official minis. Assuming official minis for what you want even exist. Want corrupted Solar Auxilia for counts as cultists? 3D printing has you covered where even Forge World fails to go the distance and you don't even have to sell some of your organs for the privilege.

Just as an example, the official GW Blood Knights kit is listed on their site for 100 USD, it's also no longer available on said website as of time of writing. Psych, there's a new Blood Knights kit coming. The example's still valid though. The original resin Blood Knight kit was $100 at the end there, and gods only know how much the new plastic kit will cost. If you don't want to give GDubs your money or just can't afford their prices, 3D printing is still there for you. You can find some excellent vampire knights on horse back that would work perfectly as counts as Blood Knights from at least one artist, and several places will do a print of a unit of five of that unit with all the options for less than 40 USD shipped. Still not cheap... but a 60 USD discount is nothing to sneeze at if you just want the mini goodness without having to purchase and learn how to go through the process of 3D printing minis yourself.

While GW's current price trajectory continues to rocket skywards, the over all market trend for 3D printing is downwards. Some models of Anycubic Photon can go for as little as 200 USD at regular pricing, so 30 USD more than the new Necron Monolith, and at one point you could catch a Photon on sale for 169 USD. The numbers and the minis now available speak for themselves. How long it takes for this changing reality to start putting pressure on GW and the main stream manufacturers is another story. For GW in particular they have the benefit of still being in plastic, which is much nicer to work with than resin for a lot of people purposes, and their sculpts are still generally pretty good for your average person's general purposes. However, that doesn't change the fact that 3D printing is giving hobbyists new options on an incredible scale.

Honestly the mind boggles at the possible implications for the industry that 3D printing can entail. As noted above, for big manufacturers one of the big costs is molds. Let's take Flames of War for example. Battlefront maintains a ludicrous range of specific sub types of various vehicles, many of which are still in resin, white metal, or some combination of the two. It makes sense to invest in plastic manufacturing for high production run vehicles like say the more common marks of Panzer IV tank. Making an expensive plastic mold for the Sd.Kfz. 251/3, a radio half track that many players won't even need one of on the other hand, doesn't make sense. Perhaps it would make sense for Battlefront to cease production of these more specialist items at their primary production facility and give some of their distribution facilities 3D printers so they can produce items like that directly. Once they're going that route, it's only a short walk up the road to offering STL files to hobbyists so they can produce the Battlefront sculpts themselves and cut out S&H and production costs (for Battlefront) entirely. STL files for fictitious SPESS MEHREENS may be legally dubious, but public domain STLs of actual historical vehicles are completely kosher.

As an amusing side-note, the previous version of the '3D Printing' subsection made a observation how it is expected for GDubs to get more and more into Video Games in the near future. Well, as of 2021, there are 11 games that are coming out or already out in this year alone, for comparison in the entire 00s there were about 14 games - make of that what you will.

The future - 3D printing, Casting and Augmented Reality integration[edit]

Although we are only starting to see the flood gates of 3D printing open, we may as well play a bit and imagine/guess at what the future might hold for the mini production and the hobby in general.

It is reasonable to expect that printing will become more and more sophisticated as the time goes on, eventually exceeding the capabilities of GW's artists while also becoming more available to the average fa/tg/uys and ca/tg/irls, leading to the complete or near-complete annihilation of GW's and others' grip on the minis market. Official competitions and tournaments may still represent some holdout of the old guard, but realistically we can expect garage competitions popping up all over as the hobby becomes more and more available due to price drop. I will even dare and put out a year - 2030 by which official minis will be a minority in the overall community (though judging how far we've come from 2016-2021 i wouldn't be surprised if there are significant upheavals by 2025). UPDATE 8k Resolution printing is now at the beginning of being commercially available, providing 3d prints that seemingly can outdetail traditional casting/injection moulding in the same way plastic outmoded Traditional Metal models. The technology of 3d printing already could produce better results than GW, and it's only going to get higher and higher in quality.

Casting will probably never go away, if only due to the fact that some people may prefer it as an artistic expression, kinda like modern smiths are 90%+ hobbyists who simply enjoy doing it. One area where they may still remain relevant in terms of needing-over-wanting to do something is casting metal. Printing with precision while using molten metal will likely be ways-off, probably until we figure out molecular or atomic manipulation on a massive scale (assembling thousands and millions of them in the span of minutes). It is possible that high-power & precision lasers may just be able to melt small pellets and assemble them in place to produce metal minis, though having a device with such energy output for home use may be a bit problematic in terms of safety, let alone energy consumption.

Lastly, while during the last few decades the technology of casting has focused on better materials and more detail with less errors like flashes and spruces, we may see integration of electronics to a certain degree into the minis themselves. This is to facilitate better AR capabilities. What does that mean? Imagine putting on glasses or lenses and suddenly seeing health bars, range and targeting lines and other info you were looking at on sheets just pop up like a hud in your field of view. Tiny microchips in the minis or their base would allow whatever software you are running to able to tell what is infantry, vehicle, flyer and to display all the relevant data for it. (see this for a rough example - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGtrJaiUZaA).

Overall, the immediate benefits to mini production will come from 3D printing while as time goes on we will likely see a merging effect of digital and analogue. The future looks bright.

Gallery of DIY[edit]

Model Making
Modeling: Guide to Assembling Models - Green Stuff - Model Alternatives - Casting - Photo-Etched Brass
Painting: Guide to Painting Models - Paint - THIN YOUR PAINTS - Duncan Rhodes - 'Eavy Metal
Scenery and Technical: Forthcoming...
Related: WIP