The Board Continued

Picking up from the first post where I had figured out a way to marry the functional purpose of the board with a space scene background illustration and was beginning to develop the illustration and game layout to be as if the board is a screen from within the players space ships. To bring about the feeling of a screen I made up the board layout in Illustrator. I created some simplified iconography for the various positions and used the lovely Economica fontface.

trianglerI purchased some sheets of 3mm acrylic from Kings Plastics and after some adjustment of the illustrator file to set it up appropriately I laser etched the design onto the plastic.

The laser cutter cuts or engraves a 0.25pt line to a set depth, so set all strokes to 0.25pt and differentiate between cut and engraved lines with colour. All text needs to be made into outlines. There are lots of resources for setting up your files on the fabrication workshop info page. The fuzzy look to the plastic while in the laser cutter is working is because I coated the acrylic in a thin film of washing up liquid which dissipates the heat and prevents any discolouration or cloudy spots from over heating the plastic.

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Here you can see the acrylic placed over the a print from the etching.

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After scanning and digitally touching up the etching and layering in some further illustrative elements I printed it onto acetate and screen printed the illustration onto the reverse of the plastic using water based inks. Screen printing is a well documented process but some notes on printing onto plastic;

Firstly it would have been much better to have used a larger screen as the edges of the print were susceptible to errors from the over stretching of the mesh where the squeegee approached the frame. It was essential to build a supportive frame of the same depth as the acrylic around the sheet before printing to prevent the squeegee catching on the edges as I drew it across. I attempted to print with some fluorescent acrylic which unfortunately due to the thin layer of paint applied during screen printing came out very pale.

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I added a sheet of iridescent window films both to protect the print from scratching and to shine through all the blank areas in the illustration. Ultimately however I wasn’t happy with the quality of the screen print. The gradation between black and transparent lost all detail when compared against the digital file and looked flat.

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The lovely Jon McNaught Suggested a method of… (going to make a separate post because this was a really interesting tip)

I experimented with digital printing onto acetate and various methods of mounting the acetate to the acrylic but since the fixative sits between the design and the acrylic even the finest misting of fixative shows as a grainy texture dulling the richness of the black.

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Next I had the design printed onto vinyl window sticker by the high quality art printers Hello Blue. While the printed vinyl surface was a little fuzzier than the acetate the print quality is a lot richer than the screen print and after much practice learning to apply window film, perfectly aligned and without even the smallest of air bubbles I got the two layers of film onto the board.

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While there is still some tweaking to perfect the quality of the physical artefact I feel like the illustration and end product are starting to shape up into a beautiful artefact which hopefully will draw players into the game world.

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Resin Workshop Notes

Resin is a (usually liquid) casting plastic which sets in an endothermic reaction to a catalyst. Use acetone to clean from tools or fingers is necessary. For safety… Hair tied up, work overalls on and goggles are essential. All Resin casting must be performed on a tray on the vent units. Catalyst is oxadising so will presumably combust if it comes into contact with water.

Polyester - available in the uni stores, medium hardness/brittleness. 30-60 minutes set time. Comes in opaque, clear and gel coat (thicker for painting a layer).
Polyurethane – low exothermic reaction, least hard/brittle and can be very clear. Only comes in opaque.
Epoxy - most expensive, heat resistant, chemically stable and toughest & clearest. 2-3 days setting time. Comes with a slight yellow tint but not visible in small layers or pieces.
Vinylester - what surf boards etc are typically made out of.
Acrylic – industrial process not available at uni. Very clear and used for embedding objects (think scorpion in a key chain) and for jewelry.
Bio Resin – Lower ecological impact, very expensive.
Jesmonite –
Water based resin, still exothermic comes as a powder and liquid combo. Very hard and brittle with a off white opaque colour.

Resins come in the following purities/functions, these notes are based on polyester resin;

Clear Cast Resins
Most sensitive, toxic and expensive. Clear cast resin will go yellow if too much catalyst is added as the heat will colour the plastic.

General Casting Resins
Good for adding materials too like metal powders (iron which looks black, aluminum which looks silver, copper which looks coppery and can be corroded or oxidized with patination for green tones. Add 1:1 ratio of resin to metal powder for a fake metal appearance and 2:1 resin/metal ratio for things like patination.). Basically any materials which don’t contain water like broken glass, ground stone or oil paints (tip: when mixing oil paint in, first mix it into a small quantity of resin then add the rest as mixing into a large quantity takes ages)

Gel Coat
Gelcoat is the same as General casting resin but thicker so that it can be applied with a brush. It is often used as a first step in fiberglass to product the smooth outer layer. It can also be used to produce hollow castings or to fill a detailed mould surface which otherwise might trap air. I

Casting


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Rubber band the silicone mould together or for moulds of other materials spray the mould surface with a release agent like Macwax or polish the mould surface with Mirror Glaze to prevent the resin bonding with the mould surface. Catalyst is added 2% for just resin, 4% for resin mixed with oil paint and between 8-15% when mixed with things like sand which will have a cooling effect on the reaction so require more catalyst. Mix very thoroughly and pour or inject resin into the mould. Bubbles from mixing will find there way to the top while it sets but if you have a complex mould it might be with rotating it and giving it a few taps as it settles to help any which are caught on details.

If casting a thick object pour in layers of 15mm to prevent a strong exothermic reaction (resin is oil based and therefor a fuel so highly flammable) which can cause yellowing, cracking and eventually a chemical fire (use powder or CO2 fire extinguisher only). Ideally leave 30 minutes between layers so that the resin is not completely set and creates a primary bond rather than a secondary bond which may be visible. When layering clear cast drop the catalyst for the 2nd layer to 1% to prevent heat yellowing.

Demoulding

Depending on quantity of catalist and thickness of cast you can demould 20-60 mins after casting. Surface tackiness will remain (especially on clear cast resin) for several days, careful handling will prevent finger prints and maintain a shiny surface until it fully sets (up to a week). Washing a demoulded object with acetone then leaving it to dry for 2 days can help expediate hardening.

Finishing

ClearCastIt is possible to saw, file, drill, use a rotary tool, sand and machine polish hard resin. Be careful to do any machine tooling in a downdraft vent unit as inhaled dust is dangerous. Any Hand tooling may be done in the workshop, it is good practice to hoover the dust up rather than sweep it to prevent inhalation.

Surface tackiness resulting in finger prints while demoulding is often found using polyester resin and can be dealt with firstly by careful handling and patience (a week seems enough for small casts) or by washing the freshly demoulded cast in acetone to expedite setting and waiting for several days. It can also be helpful to warm your mould before casting to help the surface set or spray a wax release agent into the mould to put a barrier between the silicone (which is often condensation curing so can contain moisture) and the cast. It is often advisable to gently oven bake a silicone mould for many hours to rid it of any moisture. Over heating the silicone will result in splits and deformation.

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Fiber glass

Comes in many forms, most commonly at uni as CSM (chop strand material). If using fiber glass in casting always wear gloves.  If not laying onto silicone first spray a release agent to prevent bonding. Apply a layer of gel coat and wait 10 minutes for it to go slightly tacky. On a vinyl sheet brush General Casting Resin onto the CSM on both sides so that it goes translucent. Layer onto the gelcoat and push air out with gentle brushing. 2 or 3 layers will be more than enough for a strong structure. When using other woven fiberglass the strand direction can produce a slight flex in the perpendicular direction if desired.

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Casting resource

http://davidneat.wordpress.com/ This guy has comprehensive tutorials and information about different materials and mould making/casting process.

Suppliers

http://www.tomps.com cheap supplier of casting & mould making & sculpting products.
www.smooth-on .com brand of casting & mould making products.
http://www.mcmc-uk.com Bristol based resin and moulding company.

Weld it Workshop Notes

Metals

Aluminum – most common ore but requires lots of electricity to extract. It has a very sable oxide and is 2/3 the weight of mild steel. Tig welding only (electric welding with tungsten electrode)
Mild Steel – Iron & Carbon 0.025%
Medium Carbon Steel – 0.4 – 1.1% carbon.
High Carbon Steel – 1.3% carbon. High steel has a unique property that at 1% carbon it is heatable to become glass hard.

Heated iron properties:

220°c -> 320°
Soft -> Hard
Tough -> Brittle
Blue -> Straw

Soldering

Soft soldering – with iron
Hard soldering – with a flame (brazing)

Brazing torch uses Acetylene & Oxygen, when balanced correctly the flame neither oxidizes or carbonises.

Brazing Process:

  1. Turn on the Acetylene tap (red) and draw it backwards through the pilot flame, adjust until slightly smokey.
  2. Turn on oxygen tap (blue) and adjust until the middle flame is just beyond the first. Acetylene flame is 30 times hotter than boiling water!jpeg
  3. Clean the metal surfaces to be soldered and add flux paste between surfaces. Flux prevents oxides from forming while the metal is cleaned. When soldering iron we use boax flux.
  4. Heat the metal generally holding the flame 2 to 4 cm away until red hot.
  5. There are two soldering techniques we tried;
    • Melt some brazing rod (brazing rods are solder with a flux coating, for iron soldering we used a brass (copper and zinc) rod) and drag it along the join. The molten brass should follow the heat.
    • Melt some brazing rod into the edge and drag it up the surface of the join without melting too much more brass to create a stronger more rounded join.

Tips:  Lump solder means not enough heat was applied where as a very coppery colour means too much heat was applied.
A white coating some times on steel is Zinc and is called galvanized steel.

Plasma cutting

Plasma is super heated gas (compressed air and electricity)

Plasma cutting process:

  1. Switch on & turn power to 20amps. Turn on air the top light should be on.
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  2. Put on goggles/face shield/gloves. The plasma unit produces UV light so cover up! Make sure the earth is attached to the table.
  3. Touch the nozzle lightly to the surface and drag it around.
  4. The hissing after use is just the cleaning cycle!

The plasma cutter can theoretically cut any conducting material. UWE’s unit cuts up to 12mm thick. Plasma cuts under water.

Gas Welding

Gas welding will only weld matching metal surfaces.

Process:

  1. Set the torch the same as with brazing (first two steps above).
  2. Tack together the join to hold them stationary.
  3. Holding the flame perpendicular to the join, then at a 60° angle the length of the flame ‘bead’ from the join.
  4. Heat until a pea sized pool of molten metal appears, move the pool along aiming to move at an even pace.
  5. Using a copper coated steel rod melt the tip into a pool and tap evenly into the pool as you move it along. This fills up holes created by any over heating and adds metal to strengthen the join.

Tip: Hold the rod between thumbs & fingers so you can control it through gloves. You are looking for a ‘fish scale’ texture along both sides of the weld (which means the weld has penetrated both sides of the join). Slow and steady!

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Mig Welding (metal inert gas)

Process:

  1. Turn the gas on (switch at the back). The gas is Carbon Dioxide & 10% Argon (its not toxic like carbon monoxide). Adjust the Amperage dial to the thickness of the metal (1.0 = 1mm thickness). The screen will show the watt power.
  2. Turn on the welding helmet and check its function by looking at and away from a light source.
  3. Weld using copper coloured wire with electricity, gas & control wire. Bend any excess wire out the way and as with Gas Welding hold the flame first perpendicular then at 60°.

Spot Welding

Mild or stainless steel only. Steel has a higher electrical resistance than copper or brass. Before welding make sure the steel is corrosion free and the copper electrode on the spot welder is clean. It uses a low voltage but high current to weld two surfaces together. Our machine will weld 4mm of steel together (so 1mm and 3mm pieces). .

Pot Rivets

Drill the metal from center punch mark. Put the rivet into pneumatic pit riveter and through the hole then pull the trigger. Pit rivets can be used on leather, cloth etc… they may need a washer.

The Board

Stephen the games designer provided me with a document with the number, position of places and their content for the laps around. The basic narrative he provided was that the game was set in space and did laps around a giant blue sun where players collected Star Shards to power upgrades to their ships and alter the course of the game.

I began by sketching out ideas of how to structure the functional elements while complimenting the background illustration.

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My initial thought was the below layout however once I began planning the background illustration I realised this format was limiting because the content for the places didn’t make visual sense so evenly placed in space, the format didn’t allow for the illustration to have any kind of natural perspective.

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Then while experimenting I came across the idea that the board its self represented the computer terminal from within the players space craft.

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This lead me to position the sun within an isometric frame which the places/elements would orbit. I realised however that even with the places spread evenly in a fake isometric style, once drawn out in life size (painfully, with a protractor and lots of erasing) the spaces were too thin to fit the player pieces or any text.

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Next I produced the below mockup which solved the function graphics vs illustration with depth of field issue.

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After laying it out on tracing paper I set about with the background illustration.

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The illustration posed its own challenges, I soon realised that futuristic imagery doesn’t read well in natural media, which I usually work in. I am not a visual effects artist and I’m not so interested in working in a comic style so I had to go about finding a new process which I could adapt more quickly than I could learn VFX.

I decided to produce the scene as an aqua tint etching as aqua tinting has a nice dark grainy quality I thought I could manipulate into something which doesn’t look so recognisably hand drawn. I experimented on a test plate (below) and found scattering large grains of aqua tint resin across the plate (once an even layer had already been applied) produced a very organic star scape.

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I then experimented with burnishing, wet and dry sanding and finally using a wire brush rotary tool to polish some cloudy nebular like textures back into the black plate.

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The print from this plate had a nice quality for the beginning of the illustration.

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From this point I began considering how to take this grainy image and make it more futuristic. I returned to the idea that the board was the players ship interface and decided to experiment with screen printing the image onto the underside of a sheet of acrylic as generally shiny surfaces produce a much richer black and the material would bring a futuristic feel to the board.

To be continued!!

Enamel Worshop Notes

This workshop took us though different process with liquid and powdered enamel. We had the chance to experiment with liquid and powder enamel on both copper and steel.

Gloves goggles and a fork must be worn at all times when placing or removing objects from the kiln.

Copper: Degrease the object and paint with liquid process enamel and leaving to dry completely or using the ventilation unit powder the enamel by laying down a sheet of paper (to catch the and reuse the waste), placing the copper on a block for ease of picking it up afterwards and use the a hand sieve to evenly dust the surface. It is helpful to enamel both sides to prevent bowing, this can be done with a layer of dry liquid enamel on the underside fired at the same time.

To fire place the copper on a **** and put it into a kiln with a temperature ranging between 750° and 830°. Copper melts at 1,085 °C but it is worth noting

While the copper is still hot from the kiln it is possible to flatten it. Any bare areas will need to be scribed to have the fire scale removed.

The below images show the effect of different firing times on different powdered enamels including a clear enamel which in total was fired for almost 20 minutes causing oxidation to form around the edges of the clear enamel. The attempts at firing different enamel colors on the same plate at the same time completely failed causing the enamel to blob together and lake off. The Celadon green fired faster than the tangerine. The clear was on thicker copper and took longer to fire again.

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The below image shows from right to left different firing times… under fired matt, under fired specked, completely fired, double coat.

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Steel: Steel first needs a tooth ground into its surface so we sand blasted our steel plates although I am sure a course wet & dry paper would have functioned provided it doesn’t’ cause to much oxidation. Then we painted and fired the plates with a base coat of Vitreous Enamel which protects the carbon in the steel producing CO2 causing unwanted reactions the enamel. Once the steel is sealed in a layer of Vitreous enamel the process is the same as for copper.