tedlindsey.com

A place for my varied interests, artwork and hobbies

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15mm Sci-Fi Miniatures

As a kid, my first encounter with 15mm miniatures was at the local Swap Meet, where a local gaming store, Comic Castle, had a spot where they sold games and miniatures. My first purchase was a set of 15mm adventurers from the Traveller Sci-Fi RPG universe manufactured by Martian Metals. Due to the small scale of the miniatures, details were muddy, but my imagination was ignited and these are probably the first miniatures I ever attempted to paint.

Martian Metals Adventurers, Set #2001

Amazingly, I still have many of the miniatures from that original set. As you can see, my skills and tools at the time didn’t make for impressive results.

Some of my original set of adventurers

A year or so later, I obtained a game called Snapshot, a set of close combat skirmish rules also set in the Traveller universe. Snapshot had a set of starship deck plans scaled for 15mm minis and thus began my fascination with table-top gaming.

Snapshot, 1979 Edition

Along the way, I got into D&D as well as a host of other RPGs and other sci-fi and fantasy games. The next major focus on miniatures came with the debut of Warhammer 40K from Games Workshop and their colossal range of 28mm minis which continues expanding to this day. However, for the past 20 years, I’ve found it difficult to spend much time on this hobby, between work and family commitments. And 15mm minis had largely become a forgotten relic of my childhood.

Fast forward almost 40 years and I bumped into 15mm miniatures again while investigating 3D printers. I’ve always wanted to design and fabricate my own models and prototype objects that I’ve modeled in 3D and I was looking into the Form2 from FormLabs. a high resolution STL (stereolithography) 3D printer that raised the bar for what’s possible on the desktop within its price range.

One of the things I discovered was that the Form2 was being used to create prototypes and mold masters for miniatures due to its high resolution, excellent software and reliability. It seemed that many miniature manufacturers had embraced 3D design and were creating their designs digitally, giving rise to a quantum leap in detail that had not been possible using conventional techniques.

In any event, this led to me to discovering a number of great 15mm sci-fi miniature lines which has sparked my interest in miniature painting again. Granted, my time for this hobby is very limited, but I’ve always found it to be it relaxing and meditative. Hopefully, I can spend a little time on this again and I’ll be posting photos of more recent work.

My First Experiment with a Glowforge Laser Cutter

The completed dice tower

I’ve been experimenting with my brother’s Glowforge laser cutter and this is my first design: a sci-fi themed dice tower cut from 1/8″ (3.17mm) MDF. For those not steeped in RPG or tabletop game culture, a dice tower is a device for preventing rolled dice from scattering all over the place. A dice tower usually has several internal baffles that cause the dice to be tumbled as they are dumped into the top, exiting the bottom of the tower into a holding tray.

I designed the dice tower in 3D using MOI3D, one of my favorite modeling applications. I built the model with with a thickness of 3.1mm, slightly less than the 3.17mm actual thickness. I was counting on the diameter of the laser trimming down that slight excess for a close-to-perfect fit. Once the model was complete and all of the pieces appeared to fit together, outlines of the various components were exported as Adobe Illustrator vectors.

Screenshot of digital model from MOI3D

The AI vectors were imported into Affinity Designer which was used to create details for engraving. I found the smart snapping guides and rounded corner tools to be super useful. (Note that the central symbol is the “Neptune” patch from the Medal of Honor Warfighter game.) I was going for an aesthetic somewhat like classic NASA/2001 spacecraft with bold stripes, angular panels lines and triangular cutouts.

Screenshot of design elements from Affinity Designer

You can see from the screenshot of Affinity Designer that I packed all the parts closely together to use the minimum amount of material when being laser cut. The final design is exported as a SVG which is then imported by the Glowforge web app which allows for fabrication details such as engraving depth and quality, etc.

Overall, I was blown away by the accuracy and resolution of the Glowforge. Their software for setting up the cutting job is excellent. I’m looking forward to creating more designs in the future.

Here are some additional images of the completed dice tower.

The circle is now complete

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My vintage 1998 MessagePad 2000 next to my iPad Pro with Apple Pencil

Thoughts on the Apple Watch

Once again, Apple surprises us with their entry into wearable technology. There’s been a ton of coverage on what little we know about the Apple Watch and you can’t go wrong reading this overview from Benjamin Clymer of Hodinkee.

Apple Watch Steel Link BraceletI’m surprised that they were able to cram so much technology into such a tiny package. I had been convinced that they would have to go for a unified band form factor to provide enough space for battery and sensors and my previous concept was much closer to the Microsoft Band in terms of form factor and function.

I’m glad to see that they’ve put so much thought into the watch bands, an area that’s ripe for innovation. The metal link bracelet where each link can be removed without tools is brilliant!

I’m looking forward to seeing the full SDK next year.

Thoughts on the iWatch

I’ve been thinking about the rumored iWatch and what the design and user experience might be like. This led me to create a concept based on what I’d like to see in the device.

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iWatch concept

This concept is influenced by the sleek design of the Nike+ FuelBand. This type of band could provide space for the battery within the band itself. A magnetic clasp with a positive locking mechanism so that it snaps into place like a Magsafe adapter would be a classic Apple touch. Maybe different size clasps to allow for a range of wrist sizes? A glossy outer shell with a soft rubberized inner band looks great in renders, but I’m not sure how it would hold up to daily abuse.

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iWatch concept – rear clasp

I think a Home button/Touch ID is a given and would be useful for triggering Siri or authorizing a payment via NFC with your fingerprint. Two side buttons with context sensitive functionality would make sense. In the Music player, they could function as volume controls or as Start/Stop controls in fitness apps. You could even press them together to trigger a third action such as Play/Pause. Having physical buttons on a device this size is important since you’re going to want to operate it via feel on occasion.

The UI might rotate intelligently based on orientation, adopting a horizontal display for the lock screen (time display) but switching to a vertical strip when you raise your wrist towards you. Because the bottom of the display is going to be closer to the user and angled towards them, I can see the status bar being placed on the bottom and most interactions favoring the bottom portion of the screen. Looking forward to seeing what new user interactions they’ve created for this form factor.

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Close up on the Springboard

The device is going to be too small for text entry, so Siri is going to be much more important and will probably be a primary way you interact with it. Notification displays and response will be another key role for the device so you don’t have to constantly pull your iPhone out of your pocket or bag. I’d love to see some physical interactions such as shaking your wrist to dismiss a notification. Or maybe these kind of gestures could be used to control external devices via HomeKit or act as a remote for your AppleTV.

This will probably be the flagship device for HealthKit and I can’t wait to see what kind of sensors are included. Activity tracking is a given, but I’m eager to see if they include heart rate or even more exotic sensors. The band is the area that’s most likely to have sensors in it since it’s the location where the veins are closest to the surface of the skin.

I can see the device being  the user interface and “disconnected” storage for a wide range of health/fitness devices that communicate over Bluetooth 4LE. We may see the rise of an entirely new ecosystem of devices that pair with the iWatch over NFC and Bluetooth. I can envision touching your iWatch to the console of an NFC enabled treadmill and having it relay activity data directly into your iWatch to HealthKit. Or maybe a blood glucose meter, blood pressure or any number of diagnostic devices.

Wireless charging has been rumored and I’d love to see it happen. I would imagine that near-contact inductive charging is most likely although Apple may surprise us since they’ve made some acquisitions around this tech over the past few years. I think the Lightning connector is brilliant, but I’m not looking forward to having to plug in yet another device. Especially if the battery life is less than several days, which is probably going to be the case.

In any event, in less than a week, I hope I can look back at this post and laugh at how quaint this concept is compared to the real thing.

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