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fbSometimes when I write about certain Kickstarter projects, I get really excited about them. I’ve backed a couple, and I regularly check up on others to see how they’re doing. One of the projects I got particularly attached to was Fabulous Beasts, an innovative 3D printed game that is a little over a week away from the end of its Kickstarter run. Fabulous Beasts, which was created by London game designer Alex Fleetwood, involves stacking 3D printed animals, or “artefacts,” into a Jenga-style tower, but with higher stakes than classic Jenga. The game is connected to a digital platform, and each time an animal is added to the stack, it pops into existence in the primordial world presented on your tablet. New species can be created by “crossing” two beasts, but if the tower falls, you’re dealing with a mass extinction.

fabbeasts

Nooooo!

The game, which won an Indiecade Technology Award in 2015, was developed using custom sensing technology that the design team created with an Arduino prototyping platform. But, according to designer Tim Burrell-Saward, one of the most critical tools in the game’s creation was an Ultimaker 2 3D printer.

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Burrell-Saward and his beasts

“…Because it’s a physical game at the core, one of the most important parts of the design process of creating Fabulous Beasts has been the prototyping of the Artefacts through 3D printing,” says Burrell-Saward, who recently guest-blogged about the design process for Ultimaker. “For as much as we love getting our hands dirty in the workshop with blue foam and balsa wood, sometimes only a 3D printer can deliver those sharp corners and delicate geometries.”

The development of the game has been a long and complex process, which appears to be paying off as the Kickstarter campaign gets closer to its goal. The creation of each beast was demanding; their shapes needed to be complex enough so that they weren’t too easy to stack, and they also needed to be tough, as they would be repeatedly tumbling from lofty heights. Finally, they had to be attractive to look at, which Burrell-Saward has accomplished nicely with the colorful, geometric beasts.

We think we’ve nailed the holy trinity of looks, stackability and manufacturability, but that’s only come through a lot of prototyping, and by nature a rather large amount of filament,” he adds.

fab1Burrell-Saward describes his prototyping process as “somewhat haphazard,” using a wide variety of software and modeling methods:

“Specifically for Fabulous Beasts I surface-model in 3DS Max, for its sweet, sweet polygons, before using Fusion360 and Rhino for solid internal geometry. They are then sliced in Cura, printed on Ultimaker 2’s in PLA, then hand-finished using body filler and Montana spray.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Fusion360 design process, you can check out this blog from Autodesk here. Recently Burrell-Saward switched to batch production via vacuum casting, as it’s been more efficient than 3D printing for creating large quantities of pieces. He uses his 3D printed models as masters, though.

“As we continue to develop the game in time for launching at the end of the year, 3D printing will remain vital,” he continues. “We’ll be developing new Artefacts (including new Beasts) as well as refining the ones we already have, and that means 3D printing will never be far away.”

If you haven’t checked out Fabulous Beasts yet, do so. There are several nice rewards packages offered for supporters, including a “handmade edition” consisting entirely of unique hand-cast artefacts. There’s also a Maker’s Edition that allows you to add your own personal creativity to your game: all artefacts are printed in plain white PLA, ready to be painted as you like. It also includes STL files so you can print more artefacts, plus RFID tags so that you can turn any household object into a sensor-friendly, stackable game piece. Check out the Kickstarter video below – don’t you want this for your next party? I know I do. Discuss in the 3D Printed Fabulous Beasts forum over at 3DPB.com.

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