Monstermatic for iOS and 3D Printed Figures
Review by Prometheum5
My Monstermatic 3D printed creations were provided by Mico Studio through the Monstermatic app for iOS. You can download Monstermatic from the iOS App Store and make your own figure today.
As CollectionDX regulars will know, I am pretty serious about 3D printing. I make my own 3D printed toys, and I’ve experimented with a number of print processes from different services over the years. I try to keep tabs on new 3D printed toy efforts, so I was pretty excited when the Mico Studio team reached out to CDX to cover their debut project. Monstermatic is a new app on iOS (with an Android version in development) from Mico Studio that was successfully funded through Kickstarter in late 2013. The app allows you to build a 3D rendered monster character using their creation tools, interact with the monster, and ultimately have your design 3D printed by an external service. There’s a lot to cover here as I wanted to show off the app, creation process, and final printed toy results. Grab a cup of coffee, because this is a long one. All of the screenshots are taken from my Apple iPod Touch 5th generation.
The Monstermatic app is available on the Apple iOS App Store. The app is currently free during an initial promotional period, and then will eventually be a paid app. I do not know what the final price of the app will be, but even without the 3D printing aspect it is fairly full-featured and fun. The first thing you see when you boot it up is a random character, and then this blank guy above when you start the process of creating your own monster.
The first thing to select is the skin of your monster. I started from a randomized guy for this first figure, so he’s already got a few accessories and details. There’s a large variety of skins to choose from with a pretty nice level of detail. There’s also room for more skins and parts to be added by the developer over time. For my figure I chose one of the more detailed skins to see how it would turn out on the physical print.
Once we’ve chosen a skin, the color can be changed using a handy slider. The color sliders seem to be a little bit different for each part, rather than a straight ROYGBIV selection. Everything’s very bright and friendly.
After choosing a skin color, there is a paintbrush tool for free drawing on the monster’s skin. The brush size is adjustable, you can pick any color, and there are a number of premade brush tool shapes that can be used as stamps or for drawing designs. I found the paint tool to be a little hard to control on my iPod screen. The painting could be a little laggy if I tried to do too much at once, and there are a couple of awkward seams in the skin mesh. Still, those with enough patience should be able to do some pretty cool stuff with this feature.
Next up are hats and other assorted headgear. There’s a good variety, and they’ll add height or change the silhouette of your finished printed critter.
After that are eyes and a mouth. The way these two sets of parts work is really neat. Once you’ve chosen parts and colors, the placement and shape of each can be adjusted with a pair of on-screen joysticks. There’s a lot of flexibility here, allowing for a wide range of expressions for your monster!
Hands come next, followed by feet. There’s plenty to choose from in these two categories, including some matched sets between all the parts that can go together, or work on their own. It’s fun to watch the animated monster react to all your body part choices. When you give him claws he’ll flex them, or he’ll check out his shiny new blaster arm.
Now we’ve got to name our new creation. There are text fields for a name and a fun factoid, which can also be randomly generated. “Strongly dislikes dolphins” was the default, and I couldn’t think of anything better than that!
After making our monster, we get to play with him! The monster reacts to a variety of swipes and pokes. He dances, flies and stomps about, and will even play the guitar. You can touch the mouth icon and record lines of dialogue for him that he’ll say back in a suitably monster-y voice.
Poke your monster enough and they’ll try to break through the screen!
You can also choose from a nice selection of premade monsters. Some of these guys put together the ‘sets’ of different items, and they all have pretty good names and descriptions. It looks like there will be more monsters added in the future.
There is an ‘augmented reality’ camera app feature that allows you to place your monster in the real world and take photos of them.
Crazy Dude Xplo is happy to go through the camera app tutorial, but I’ll demonstrate the jist of it.
First, we have to level our monster by holding our phone parallel to the ground surface. The monster reacts thanks to the gyroscope, and once set we’re ready to take some photos!
The thing you’ll notice right away is how grainy the background photo looks compared to our 3D rendered monster. I asked the app developer about this, and it seems that the current system for rendering and placing the monster in ‘augmented reality’ uses enough processing power that they had to zoom in and lower the resolution from the camera. It’s a challenge, but it spoils the effect a bit since the rendered monster is perfectly sharp in the muddy background photo.
Still, I was able to take a decent outside shot with one of my creations. Hopefully this is an area that Mico Studio continues to improve upon, because I love the idea.
We’ve designed out monster, played with him, and taken some tasteful portraits. Now, it’s time to make him real by purchasing a 3D printed figure!
There are three expressive pose options for your figure. The figure costs $25.95 plus shipping purchased through the app, for a two inch full color print.
Some handy tips are provided for the care of your new monster.
Most of the ordering process is done through the app. You fill out all your info, choose your shipping method, and then are taken to a Paypal page to pay for the toy. I placed my order for Crazy Dude Xplo on February 2nd, so the delivery estimate was a little more than a week out. My figure arrived on the 7th, but I believe Mico Studio expedited the shipping.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the package does not come from Mico Studio. They designed the app and creation tools, but the actual printing and fulfillment is done by Sculpteo, a cloud-based 3D printing web service. They are similar to Shapeways, with the ability to upload files for printing, but they seem more focused on business to business jobs such as this one.
The finished print stands two inches tall, as advertised, and is a single piece, fixed pose, full color minifigure. This kind of print is produced using a process known generically as ‘binder jetting’, most likely on a Z Corporation 3D printer (now owned by 3D Systems). Binder jetting uses a movable inkjet head like in your 2D paper printer to deposit dots of colored binder (basically superglue) in a plastic or sandstone-based powder substrate. The first company to make a splash using binder jetting printing was FigurePrints back in 2007, who will turn your World of Warcraft character (and apparently now Minecraft diorama) into a figure using the same process.
This video from National Geographic features a Z Corp representative giving a nice explanation of the binder jetting 3D printing process.
The detail and surface finish of the figure are both pretty good, especially considering the size of the figure. The mesh detail of the skin I chose did not really render on the print, but those other fine lines did. Everything else is there, and the color separation is perfectly sharp. The figure is heavy like a resin cast, but has a slightly rough and matte finish to it. It does not flex at all, and if dropped it would break.
You’ll also notice that Crazy Dude Xplo is not the color I ordered. This was the first figure I ordered through the Monstermatic app, and I apparently managed to help Mico Studio uncover a bug in their software. I discussed this error with both Clayton, the founder of Mico Studio, and Levi, the Monstermatic engineer. They were both very friendly and helpful, and glad for the feedback that helped them fix a bug before the general release. They were even nice enough to offer me a second print to show that they had corrected the error.
For my second guy I modified one of the preset characters. This guy reminds me of the many eyeball-themed kaiju from classic tokusatsu shows. One thing you’ll notice here is that this figure is held up by some sticky-tack. This second figure does not stand on his own like the first does. Due to the large number of customization options, Mico Studio has not been able to test every combination of parts with every pose, and as luck would have it the toes I chose do not provide enough surface to support the top-heavy pose I picked. I understand that it’s impossible to test all combinations, but I still found this to be a bit of a bummer. If it were me, and I couldn’t test every combination, I would try to err on the side of caution and make all the feet a little extra chunky for support. Hopefully as more people come up with creations Mico Studio takes some feedback and improves upon their designs to avoid things like this.
Still, I am really impressed by how these two prints came out. The colors are a little bit muted compared to in the app, but the printing is very clean and nicely detailed.
Aside from showing some glamour shots of the two Monstermatic prints, I wanted to show off some comparisons with other 3D printing services and processes out there. Here you can see the two figures in a lineup of prints from other services that run the gamut from basic plastics to flexible plastic, high detail resin, stainless steel, and even gold plated brass. I also included an ABS print made on my own UP Mini printer. Hopefully these shots help illustrate how good the print from Sculpteo is, especially compared to the other full color printed figure, which we’ll discuss further below.
The blue guy is a figure I designed and had made through My Robot Nation, an older, web-based service similar to Monstermatic that was purchased by 3D Systems a couple years ago. The My Robot Nation design tool had more part options, the ability to repose each part of the figure, and pretty powerful tools for applying stamps and decals to the figure, as well as adding whole shapes to the main parts. You could also have your figure printed at a couple of different sizes, for a rapidly increasing cost. The MRN platform is just a design app, no interactivity or additional features like the Monstermatic package. Back in 2011 this three inch print cost me about the same as the Monstermatic print, and a comparable two inch MRN print today would cost about $15 plus shipping and tax. The resulting figure was made using the same process, likely on the same kind of machine, but that was a few years ago. The improvements in surface texture and color detail over those three years are immediately evident when looking at the Sculpteo prints.
I took a couple close up macro shots as well, to really over-emphasize the print texture. Looking at Crazy Dude Xplo up close resembles a pattern not unlike a topographical map, revealing that he was printed lying on his back. Each of those striations is where another layer of substrate was added.
CDX’s watch even has some face detail on it. Keep in mind the watch face is only about two millimeters in diameter.
The boots look good, and demonstrate how sharp the separation between colors is.
Up close, my second figure’s brighter colors make him look like he’s made of sugar. The teeth are especially wild, and the mouth cavity has some nice depth to it.
Again, the separation between the colors is nice and sharp where it’s supposed to be, but there’s also some nice, more subtle transitions that translate well from the digital model.
My eye monster looks great next to a mini Eyezon from Max Toy Co!
3D printing is still in its infancy as a consumer product, and projects like this are great for demystifying additive manufacturing. The app is really neat with all of its features outside of just buying the printed figure. All the interactivity, friendly design, and camera app are great fun on their own. The creation tool is intuitive enough that young kids will be able to make sense of it, and older users will appreciate the powerful options. I did find the app got a little chuggy at times on my iPod Touch 5th gen, and the camera app takes a few seconds to load. I also had a couple of crashes with the initial build of the app, but a subsequent update and an improved autosave feature for your creations seems to have resolved that problem. I do wish the camera app was better, but I’m sure it’s something Mico Studio will continue to work on after talking to them. I love this kind of thing and am glad to see more 3D printed toy efforts popping up. Mico Studio has a great model here and I hope to see more cool projects from them!
|Posted 25 February, 2014 - 07:43 by Prometheum5|