3D printing uses CAD or a digital 3D model to construct a three-dimensional object. It is also referred to as additive manufacturing that uses computer control and the printing material to print three dimensional objects. The printing material is a combination of powder grains or liquid molecules and added layer by layer to create stunning objects. 3D printing has come a long way since the 90s. Previously the use of 3D printers was only limited to printing prosthetics for amputees, however, people have learned to understand the usefulness of this technology and now there are 3D movie models, sets, houses, board games and more.
The gaming market has seen a boom in regards to custom control pads, personalized 3D designs to make consoles more attractive and different apparels. This market although growing, still remains untapped. With a 3D printer you can create your own set of custom designs either for your own personalized catalogue or for selling purposes.
In this article, we will explore some of the ways people are using 3D printing technologies in gaming and how that has helped the industry grow.
3D printing and Cosplay
Game producers use 3D printing to bring back old game characters during promotional events or cosplay events. Game producers like Bethesda, THQ Nordic, CD Projekt and more have been using 3D printing technology to revive their virtual heroes and create a great impression during promotional events. The producers work closely with companies like lighting cosplay and more sending them snaps of their characters from all angles. The company then starts to 3D model the entire costume. During this process, producers provide their input in regards to detailing before printing the costume.
3D printers have made this process easier. Traditionally, companies created costumes using foam. However, with the advent of 3D printers, they are able to meet the tight deadlines and fulfill the required quantity of game producers. It also allows you to get intricate details that are missed out using hand. This technology has allowed companies to expand their business, thus contributing towards the growth of the gaming industry.
Consoles optimized for 3D printing
Sony realized the future trends of 3D printing and hopped on the bandwagon a bit earlier than other console manufacturers with its PS4. Sony has added another layer in their screenshot feature in their PS4 that allows gamers to screenshot their favorite characters from fortnite, apex and more and print them whenever they want.
PC companies are also looking at the technology and how it can improve pc games experience. However, with PC, the innovation is coming from modders who create unique designs and gaming peripherals or accessories for PC.
3D printing and Retro gaming consoles
Yes, you heard it right. It’s not PS4 or Xbox that’s creating trends here, its retro gaming. Retro gaming is making a comeback; however, the design aspect of it makes it unappealing since they are bulky and the arcade cabinets can be clunky. There are many arcade fanatics that have developed such arcade machines using 3D printing and a couple of electronic parts. These 3D built retro gaming consoles and accessories are portable and can be printed in the comfort of your own home. You can even print a Gameboy and power it with a raspberry pi. There are many gamers that print arcade style controllers with the massive buttons and arcade stick. The printing capabilities in this field are endless.
Gamers even print console accessories like customized controller analog grips that provide better grip while you are playing games.
IKEA and Gaming accessories
Earlier on, IKEA realized that the gaming industry is seeing an upward trend and decided to embark upon creating 3D printing gaming accessories that provide comfort for extensive plays. The company is planning to expand from their current range of 3D printed ergonomic keycaps and desk supports to mouse, chairs and more.
3D printing and gamers
Twitch and YouTube has popularized eSports with many gamers looking towards making it big to the professional leagues. Consider a 3D printer as a great investment if you are looking towards entering this space. 3D printer will help you print customized accessories according to your gaming requirements which is much better than making a purchase of a standard accessory that might not even suit your needs.
Gamers can even print buttons and replacement pieces that break down during constant button mashing. Instead of completely replacing a controller with a broken button or a worn-down analog, you can simply 3D print the required pieces and save on costs.
There are many gamers that have printed their own versions of board games using 3D printing technology. Many have modified board games like dungeon and dragons making it more complicated and fun at the same time. There are many applications to this technology in the gaming world.
How 3D models can help game developers and gamers mutually?
Game developers have created several sources of revenue rather than increasing the price of an original game. They introduce different types of micro-transactions like in-game skin purchases or the overpriced downloadable content and more. However, with 3D printing they can create another stream of revenue.
Currently, if you’re looking to 3D print your favorite game character from Fortnite, apex and more, you will run up into certain issues. Game developers are known to reduce the quality of their meshes, in order for their games to run faster creating a seamless experience for gamers. The details are added later on to the textures. This creates a problem with printing the available 3D models, resulting in a low-poly mess.
If game developers were to get involved in this industry, they could create a much larger community of gamers and game developers. Providing access to proper detailed high-quality character models to gamers could also create revenue for the developers while being light on the pocket of gamers since they just have to purchase the model file and print it rather than buying expensive 3D character models from companies like Fortnite, apex and more from the market. This could essentially become a marketplace platform for 3D models.
Currently, Gamebody sells 3D model files for gamers to print, however their library is very limited. Perhaps developers can join forces with the online platform to provide more content through licensing.
How to print a 3D character model using a 3D printer?
Here are the steps to creating your very own 3D model.
Step 1. Extract model from game.
Extract the model using a Triexporter program which will help you in locating your required model file from the game. You need to set the model file folder to Program/CCP/EVE/res using the Triexporter program. Export the model to an object file in the res subfolder. Use Meshmixer to open the object file. You can also download models from online websites which is a simpler process than finding one in your game files.
Step 2. Prepare and 3D print the model.
Once you open the object file in meshmixer, start with the editing part by adjusting the orientation and make the model look solid. You can jack up the resolution to the highest and save it as a STL file. Once you are done with that, simply import the STL file to your preferred printer to print the object.
Step 3. Painting 3D models.
Once you have printed your preferred model, let it sit and dry for a while before you apply any sprays and paints. Use your preferred techniques like weathering or visual effects. Let your creativity run free when painting the model. You can use markers, watercolors, fluid acrylic and more.
Step 4. Make the base for your model.
You can model the base of your object using 3ds Max and then convert it to a DXF file for further editing. Once you are satisfied with the final product, simply 3D print the base. You can also use cardboard or wood to create your base. Glue your printed 3D model on the base.
Step 5. Finish.
Here you can add LED lights or other accessories to your model to make it as realistic as possible and give it more depth. Voila! Your 3D printed model is now ready.
The question remains, why hasn’t this technology picked up pace in recent years. Is it not trending anymore? Is the innovation in this sector complicated? Not really. We have come a long way over the years in 3D printing technology. The technology is now cheaper than ever before; however, it is still a relatively expensive piece of hardware to keep at home. So, what are the challenges involved with 3D printers? There are a few hiccups with the technology and they are:
• Although it has come down in price a lot, it is still relatively expensive
• The user base for the technology is limited compared to traditional printers
• It takes quite a bit of time to print a small 3D model, might not be feasible for those looking to start a business with a single printer
• Technology is relatively new and therefore immature
• The printers are not energy efficient and have high running costs
Even with all these challenges faced by the 3D printer industry, the gaming industry is becoming one of the largest entertainment industries in the world. Innovation in this sector is always welcomed and therefore there will always be a place for 3D printers that add some spice to the fun. It's cool and provides personalization and customization for gamers. It does however need to come down in price for it to be accessible to many users.