First of all, let me
introduce myself, my name is Iain Lovecraft and I am the owner, well senior
partner of Lovecraft, Design and Manufacture. I specify partner, because it is
a family business and as such is owned by our family members. I am a third generation
engineer, our business was started by my grandfather in 1947 a few years after
he came back from serving in the second world war and settled down in the
United Kingdom. My grandfather was given an MBE(Member of the British Empire)
title for his services rendered as an engineer by the queen. Unfortunately he
passed away before the turn of the century, but my father 'Lovecraft senior' is
still alive and well, although now retired after working his whole life, also
as an engineer and building the company up.
I think this background
is important because it sets the scene for some of the elements I will explain
later. For example, my relation with H.P. Lovecraft. Although I cannot trace a
direct and clear genealogy with this genius of the cosmic horror genre,
my grandfather was a big fan and was the one who first dragged me into the
horror/fantasy genre by reading and guiding me through Lovecraft´s short
stories and other authors, like Edgar Allan Poe and great sci-fi from
Jules Verne and H.G.Wells. A truly heavy but inspiring cocktail for a young
teenage boy, but it served to spark off a unique perspective of the world.
It was inevitable that I
would stumble onto role playing games, at that time almost exclusive to
Dungeons and Dragons and later war-games and miniatures from Citadel, now
'Games Workshop'. Whilst I was in University in Nottingham, UK I worked for a
while with 'Citadel' as a student work experience, I remember they were
situated in Friar Lane where they had a small production facility on the second
floor. I was very involved with miniatures and role playing games till after I
finished my M.Sc. In Industrial Engineering, but then I started work in our
family business under my father and did my Ph.D. later which left little time
for much else.
Lovecraft Design and
Manufacture has centred in engineering mechanical parts for other business, we
also do structural engineering studies and consultation work for the
construction industry. So I suppose the big question is, how do you go from
engineering work to designing and creating games models? Well, the truth is
that the work is related, we have the automation and machines to produce
precision parts and molds and we are well versed in architecture and
construction, so scale design and buildings is not a problem.
I have a friend who
asked me to design a 'Blood Bowl' stadium for him, so I created a virtual model
of it on CAD. After we saw the first renders come out, I knew I had to build
the model and so the whole ´Blood Bowl Pro Stadium' project came to life. After
placing it on Facebook, I realised the design was very popular and people were
asking me to make them one. So I set about making the whole thing modular and
decided to put it up on Kickstarter.
Our first Kickstarter
finished in October and was funded successfully. One of the major problems we
face with a 'Blood Bowl' product is that the BB community is very small
compared to other similar games. BB has been left on the side by its creators,
Games Workshop ever since it first came out and I played it 30 years ago. It
was only because GW saw that the product was proving popular in recent days
with the revival of some BB tournaments such as NAF, that GW picked up this
product again and launched its 2016 BB edition. Another problem was that the
already small market is split up into race factions, meaning that normally a
user that plays with a Dwarf team will want a Dwarf theme stadium and will not
buy and use other race themes. So for the project to be a success we were
looking at having to expand to as many race designs as possible to capture as
much of the market as we could. This would turn out to be a huge investment so
we decided to launch our first Kickstarter featuring two races and have now
launched a third theme, which is the Mesoamerican theme. We intend to launch a
forth theme next month which will feature the 'Úndead' showcasing all kinds of
Gothic architecture. The idea behind this is to allow backers to finance the
project in small parts. Many of our backers have been very gracious and have
contributed on all three released themes, which has helped us a lot.
In order to bolster the
funding for these expansions and after an overwhelming demand from our backers
and followers, we decided to release designs associated with the theme. Backers
urged for us to do this, because they wanted to customize and 3D print the
parts themselves. Other followers simply wanted to use our designs in other
games, specifically for role-playing and war-games. We saw that there was a
huge demand for our designs and that this was a fantastic opportunity to open
up this same product to a more varied market.
Integrating this project
into our company's production rooster has taken some initial convincing of all
partners, specifically my father who now goes around telling friends how his
son is turning his engineering firm into a toy company! Alas, engineering
business rolls on as per usual, but we have dedicated a small annex to our
workshop in Spain for the creation of resin molds and design. We are now setting
up a small production station in Houston, Texas also. The idea is to avoid
shipping physical resin models over to USA, by simply shipping the molds and
producing the models there. This makes sense when a large part of our customer
base is in the USA. Obviously this brings us to the fact that digital media
does not have to be shipped and as such is a good prospect for international
business. I will discuss our view on selling virtual produce next, it
definitely has its pros and its cons.
There has been a lot of
hype going on with 3D printers, specifically with the FDM(Fusion Deposition
Modeling) variety which are very accessible at hobby level. Modellers and
war-games enthusiasts have taken to this and the division is clear. There is
the die hard modeller who will prefer to go old school and burn all 3D printers
on the pyre and their counterpart, those who will swear that 3D printers are
the future and will enable them to replicate all, as seen on Star Trek. Of
course there are those in the middle who don´t understand what all the hype is
about and are still deciding if to buy a printer or not.
The bad news is that FDM
printing has reached its pinnacle at hobby level, this technology cannot be
improved because of physical limitations. It cannot be made to go faster,
because it relies on depositing(FDepositionM) a thin noodle on top of another
by means of extrusion and gravity. It is also not easy to reduce the size of
the noodle being laid, because the problems that arise are exponential, so
there is a workable limit to the reduction, especially at hobby level. This
draws us to the inevitable fact that 3D printing will remain slow and will
always show those strata lines. Still, having said this, you can get great
prints at the highest resolution, which require a huge amount of post process
work, but can be turned into fantastic looking pieces. This goes hand in hand
with the hobbyist or modeller who has plenty of time to burn.
Our main concern on
releasing and selling our designs was if the whole thing made business sense or
not. The short of it is, that it can make sense if we can beat illegal
reproduction, re-selling and sharing of our design. The best existing business
model for something like this, I suppose is ITunes. Make the product accessible
and economically viable for people to buy, so they don't feel the urge to
obtain the product illegally. To this effect we have re-built our website and
will soon be offering all our digital media at very reasonable prices. We have
also secured all our web through DMCA and have contracted professional services
that will review the net and perform takedowns were necessary.
Another aspect would be
to consider if it makes sense for the user to 3D Print their own models and in
so doing skip the manufacturer. Many are holding 3D Printing as a revolution,
the 'Marxists' of print herald an end to the manufacturer's monopoly, were the
future will be one where you are finally liberated from oppression and you can
produce at home without paying the evil manufacturer. This impression I suppose
is derived from the misconception that you download a free print file and hours
later you are holding it in your hand for no apparent charge. This is just a
delusion as the supposedly free model you have just completed does have cost.
The printer has an
initial cost which needs to be paid along with a maintenance fee every time you
use it, plus a running charge in electricity. The filament material out of
which the model is built must be paid for, along with its shipping. So basically
you are paying for your product but just changing what manufacturer you pay.
Instead of paying a model maker, you are now instead paying a machine builder,
electricity department and a plastic filament manufacturer. Given that this
enables you to choose what you pay for and break down the cost, this is
probably going to reduce the cost, especially if you cut the retailer out.
You have to consider
that although you are reducing the cost, this is offset against the quality of
the product you are getting. There is also the danger that if you stop paying
the model maker, preferring to pay other manufacturers for materials to produce
yourself, you are reducing the capacity and incentive for these craftsmen to
stay in business. When you buy a model, you are not only paying for the
physical model but for the artistic content involved in all its design process.
My opinion is that 3D printing is fine, but it is not
the panacea the hype is making it out to be. The short of it is... You cannot
print everything, there are vast limits to this hobby based technology.
There is also another level which
impedes the production with 3D Printing, were it is possible, but the outcome
is just too expensive, time consuming or quality poor, that it's just not worth
going through the trouble to print. A pyrite victory of sorts, if you will.
Yet at another level which is close to
our modus operandi is that the distributed files do not pose major challenges
to our customer when printing. We must realise that not everyone has industry
quality machines and experience to go with it and that our objective is to
produce a model that is incredible to look at, but easy to print with the least
post process work attached to it.
Some of our models are only offered as
resin cast because it's the only way we feel comfortable in delivering the
product to our customers, due to their difficulty or impossibility to print. (Impossibility
also denotes that although possible, the finished product is not quality or
Many of our pieces are hand sculpted and
are then either scanned or molded depends if we want to integrate them with
some other CAD piece. Typically these sculpts have great detail which
translates to more than 7 million polygons in CAD. These digital files are to
heavy to be sliced by hobby level enthusiasts and cutting down on their size
means losing quality.
Another example where it is not practical
to print pieces, is when the piece to be produced is too large or needs to be
reproduced many times over.
Some models where made to be printed and
others just beg to be cast. 3D printing is but a tool that has incredible
benefits, but also comes with great limitations, so one must choose wisely what
tools to use or inevitably be limited by them.
For our third theme release, we chose
the mesoamerican theme, because I thought it was a theme that had not been done
to death before and had lots to offer. This type of architecture lacks load
bearing beams, archways and complex structural building strategies, but it has
a lot to offer in historical and religious background. It is heavily associated
with legends and myths, making for great architectural interpretations of their
I like all my designs even if verging on
fantasy, to be set against a realistic or at least historical background. Out
of habit, due to my profession, I like the designs to work from a structural
point of view and have some kind of reason or basis behind them. I am a great
follower of Leonardo Da´vinci works and love the way he could take a natural or
scientific observation and turn it into a flight of fancy, a unique design with
a scientific understanding behind it, but yet unreal. I call this 'The
Architectural Farse', were the design is based on real terms, but yet is too
far fetched or aspects to far emphasized to be able to attain reality. This can
now be attained at home through CAD and 3D printing, making for some very
interesting and 'unreal' pieces.
Our next Kickstarter, which will come
out in February will be a Gothic representation, combining fantasy aspects
featuring 'Undead' along with horror and tons of pre-renaissance architecture.
This will accompany our 4th Blood Bowl themed 'Undead' resin pitch,
but will predominantly be a 3D printable digital media sale.
Hopefully we will see you there, thanks
for the read.
Dr.Iain Lovecraft, Eng.D.
big thank you to Iain, and good luck with the kickstarter (that is doing real
well these last hours).
hope you all enjoy this and if there is interest in these kinds of articles I
might do more, as I certainly enjoyed doing it.
All photos, renders and illustrations © Lovecraft Design & manufacture and
used with permission.