About this project
Years ago I realized that I could design gaming dice in 3D software and have the prototypes 3D printed, so I started designing them. Now, four years later, I have 23 completed sets designed and ready to output.
Although it is possible to use print-on-demand services for 3D printing today, the cost per set would be very expensive for solid dice, especially larger ones. A set of any of these dice with any reasonable level of detail is approaching $50-$100 per set with 3D printing, and that's with zero profit. Molding and casting is the best way to put these dice into as many hands as possible.
Typical gaming dice are made by plastic injection molding. The ones with rounded edges are allowed to cool, tumbled to remove the blemish from the sprue, then coated in paint, allowed to dry, then run through a rock tumbler again to take the paint off except for the paint in the number grooves. This results in rounded edges, and in the case of some of the cheaper brands it sometimes results in misshapen or even cracked dice.
Collectible plastic action figures and character models have fairly high levels of detail, and often feature hand-painted details. Many of these are made with rubber molds and various types of plastic resin to allow for undercuts and capture greater detail. I figured if they can do it for collectible toys, we can do it for dice.
The original idea was going to be to mass produce a single style in various colors, but after looking at the available tools and materials, it's going to be possible for backers to choose from a relatively large selection of styles and colors. Why? Because these are going to be hand made with professional tools and materials and using very high quality 3D output as a positive. My making this a hand crafted work, it won't be made with machines in a factory, but it will make the highest quality product possible. We may also offer additional options like hand painted finishes.
For the sake of scale, a typical d6 is about 0.5" in each dimension, but these sets target a scale where the d6 is a bit more than 0.8" per side, making them a bit larger. This is mostly to capture the detail in the designs.
Backers will be offered their choice of multiple styles and colors. This is possible because we're planning to have these hand made with professional tools and materials on an individual basis. The primary cost in tooling is getting the prototypes and molds made for a large number of dice, the casting material, and then the labor to make them.
Absolutely. Once we get the ball rolling I'd love to see these dice go into distribution, but obviously my first priority is to get the first sets into the hands of the backers. If there's enough demand, I'd love to see my dice in hobby shops all over. It's just a question of meeting the demand if it appears. So far people like the dice, but it remains to be seen whether or not a distributor will want to buy them in large quantities.
The numbers can be inked easily with a fine tip paint pen. They're available in a variety of colors, and even metallic gold, silver, and copper. If there's enough interest, I may offer custom inking with the dice, but I know that a lot of gamers are dedicated hobbyists who paint miniatures, so I imagine they may have their own ideas, especially about what color they want the numbers to be.
This is one of the most important issues, and I've spent some time looking at different plastics. There are many different types available. There are some resins that are very durable and make nice translucent colors for dice. One important factor will be that they must have a surface that allows paint to adhere to the numbers. I'll be doing several test castings with different materials to determine what looks and feels the best, and I'll ask some local gamers to give their opinions too. I may even send some of the test castings to backers to get their input. The main thing is to try to get the best results.
If a game developer wants a specific style of dice for a game I hope to be able to make them once the process is begun, but I don't intend to make dice for a specific game independently of the makers of that game. For example, if someone at XYZ Games wanted me to make dice of a certain type to go with one of their games, I could do it, but I can't call a set of dice "D&D dice" without the permission of the current holders of those trademarks and copyrights. I can make dice that look cool, and you can use them to play D&D, but I can't associate my dice with any such trademarks without permission.
Will it be possible to buy singles or multiples of a certain die type? For example, could I get 3d6 or just the two d10s for percentile rolls, or perhaps just one d20?
Enough people have asked for multiples of specific die types that it has been added as an option. It mostly affects how many high quality masters need to be made for mold ganging, so there's some extra setup costs in that, but it's worth it to satisfy backers.
Although some designs are more irregular in shape than others, the first run of 3D printed prototypes will go through extensive roll testing to make sure there's no discenable bias in the random number results generated by the dice.
One of the great things about designing these in software and using 3D printing for rapid prototyping is the ability to make changes in the design before it's finalized.
Why don't you just release these dice on Shapeways? Why are your dice more expensive than some other types of dice?
I actually do have all my files on Shapeways, but not for public release. On Shapeways the cost per set would range from $35 to $95 per set of dice depending on what level of detail (determined by material, based on which service they send it to for output) and that includes $0 profit for my work, and $0 for packaging or shipping costs. It should also be noted that the type of 3D printed output you get from Shapeways is more suited to that sort of print-on-demand service, and doesn't have the extremely high level of detail and finishing that I'll be getting from the service bureau that's handling my mold positives. Their rates are considerably higher than Shapeways (more like around $250-$300 per set of dice) and the results are very precisely machined so the molds for the final product will reflect that high level of detail. It will definitely make much more beautiful dice.
As they are currently specced out, the HYDRA dice are also a bit larger than the common dice you'll find from companies like Chessex, Gamescience, Koplow, or the Armory. Their typical d6 is about 0.5" per side, and mine are about 0.8" per side.
The reason you sometimes see cheaper sets on Shapeways is because they make all the profit from the product, leaving little to none for the designers. They also primarily produce dice that are hollow, taking advantage of the capabilities of 3D printers to make objects that can have cage-like structures. The reason these are cheaper from Shapeways than my dice is because mine are solid, not hollow. If I designed them to be hollow for 3D printers, I'd have to make a hole in them to release the supporting material 3D printers use to make hollow structures. It would make an inferior product.
HYDRA dice will be made from high quality plastics, slightly larger than normal, and they will be available in custom colors and a variety of styles.
No. Actually, I wanted to be able to do this, but I just got some quotes on international shipping that were quite a bit higher than expected, so international shipping will have to be added.
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