I am going to review an online 3D printing service I used to print my own custom D&D miniatures for my D&D Next character concept, Terrowin De Pendragast.
I included an image in my last post showing the 3D model I had made for the character.
I used Sculpteo to print a physical replica of this model.
Those of you familiar with the 3D printing niche may have heard of Sculpteo, a cloud based online 3D printing service based in France.
As long as you have a 3D digital model file optimised for 3D printing, you can upload your model, play around with the settings and specify which material you want to use to print your miniature before you checkout.
So I decided to give it a spin.
The plain-colour plastic output looks great, but the multicolour option appears lacking.
The texture of the printed multicolour miniature feels very rough (see the ridges on the base?) and much of the colouring detail is lost. You can no longer see the face of the character and the colours are duller than they appear on the digital 3D model.
The plain plastic miniature on the other hand has a matte but smoother texture compared to the multicolour print. According to Sculpteo, it is also more resilient and less prone to breakage. The level of detail on the model is dependent on how detailed the digital model is.
Overview Of Sculpteo
Before you can use this service, you must have your own 3D file. You can either learn to create it yourself or pay someone else to do it (I have a recommendation at the end of this blog post).
This service accepts most 3D file formats (the one I used was .WRL), though if the 3D model uses textures, you will need to have everything stored in a zip file.
Once you have selected and uploaded the file, you will be asked to fill in a short form, but all that is really needed is a name for your object. You can also include the category, description, visibility (public or private), etc.
Once you’ve done that, you can review the object and determine what material you want to print the object in. You can print in multicolour which is useful if your model has textures, or you can use plain-coloured plastic if you intend to paint the miniatures yourself/have it painted by an artist.
Other materials include resin, alumide and even silver.
When you are happy with everything. You can then place the order and pay through Paypal or credit card.
If you don’t have a 3D file of your own, you can browse the Sculpteo store to see if there are any ready made character designs you can print and use as a miniature. You can even find a few d20s in there, plus a wide range of objects not related to D&D at all.
Want to make a little money? You could sell your uploaded designs (provided you own the 3D model – check with any 3D artist you commission) by setting up a store on Sculpteo.
Set any royalty rate you wish up to 50%. Obviously, the higher the rate, the more you will make. Just be aware that if you set your royalty rates too high, the overall price of your product will also rise accordingly, so you need to find the right balance between profit and cost effectiveness for the buyer.
What Is Good About Sculpteo
- You can check the model before it’s printed.
- Printing will only go ahead if your model has no errors – so no money wasted.
- Good range of materials to print with.
- Designs are saved onto your account, so you don’t have to re-upload your model.
- Make a little money by selling any design you upload.
- 3D turnaround of your model gives you a good idea of what to expect.
- You can adjust the size of the object before printing.
You can check the model in order to see if any part of the model is too thin to print in the material you select. By clicking the ‘review’ tab, parts of your model will either be green or red. If it’s mostly green, you’re generally good to go.
If it’s mostly red, then you need to select another material or (ask the artist to) make the thin parts a bit thicker. This helps you catch any errors with your model before it goes to print, so you don’t waste time attempting to print something that can’t be printed.
Regardless, an item won’t print if there are problems with your model, in which case any fees paid will be refunded.
It’s unlikely you will ever print in anything other than plastic or multicolour if all you are going to print are miniatures, but even so, having the option to print in other materials such as silver is pretty cool. It’s not as varied as Shapeways (from the little I’ve seen), but it’s not stingy either.
Every design you upload will remain in your account under ‘my objects’ until you delete it or close your account. This is handy if you find yourself printing things over and over again.
Number five in the above list will be music to your ears if you are 3D artist. Provided you know how to optimise your models for 3D printing, you can set up a store on Sculpteo and receive anything from 10% to 50% of the purchase price.
The 3D turnaround of your model is neat. You can pan and rotate your model as well as zoom in and out, giving you a pretty good idea of what the final printed model will look like.
And What Isn’t So Good
- Expensive/slow shipping.
- Multicolour printing may not produce top quality D&D miniatures.
- Few ready made character designs from the store suitable for use as D&D miniatures.
- 3D views are slow to load/memory intensive
The first print I ordered from Sculpteo cost €6.00 which is fine, but the shipping is €4.00. This may seem reasonable or it may not. Just remember it could take anything from 2 days to 2 weeks (not counting the time needed to print the thing in the first place).
In my own experience – and I’ve used this service twice – the model arrives within a week.
If you are in a hurry, expect to pay €15.56 for express delivery.
That said, the item is well packaged – perhaps too well: the parcel measured 16cm x 11cm x 7.5cm and was filled with polystyrene, which was a bit excessive for a 30mm tall miniature.
You can get your money’s worth by printing several objects at once (up to 5 objects), but once you batch print more than 5 objects, you are forced to use express delivery.
And remember you can sell your designs if you own the copyright, which might help offset some of the costs.
If you want to have the highest quality miniatures, you may be better off printing in plain white plastic instead of multicolour and getting someone to paint it for you instead (or paint it yourself – you can learn how to do this with the Complete Guide To Miniature Painting).
Still, the price of a plain-colour plastic print and multicolour are both the same, so you might find it more ‘cost effective’ to print in colour if you aren’t too fussy about the quality of the output.
If you batch print your design, you can add a polished finish to the multicolour option which may give you improved results – but I have not tested this myself, so proceed with caution.
Lastly, there doesn’t appear to be too many ready-made objects in the Sculpteo store that could make decent miniatures. This could be due to the popularity of it’s nearest rival, Shapeways where you can find more RPG related objects for sale, including dice.
Sculpteo’s printing service is a great choice if you are looking for a reliable 3D printing service. Objects printed at Sculpteo are of high quality and the item is packaged well to avoid any breakage.
If you have a printable 3D model of your own, you can upload your 3D model to Sculpteo by clicking here.