Welcome to Giraffe and Elf

With this site we endeavour to share with you some of the projects were working on, and give you the opportunity to get some in depth knowledge about them.

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Sand Paint Repeat

Custom Lego Minifigure Parts

What to watch out for when giving your model, figure, or 3D print a glossy finish. Knowing the correct procedure can make it easier and save you both time and frustration. Read on to see what to avoid as we prep the Lego Minifigure couple for their big day.

There isn’t any quick way to get a smooth glossy finish on a plastic model, the best results involve time and ‘elbow grease’. However the more effort you put into a base surface and priming coat the easier it is to finish the layers you put over it. For the wedding Minifigures it didn’t go as planned, resulting in days of trial and error. Each mistake blew out the timeline as it required the paint to be dry before any fixes could be addressed. A great first tip is to be patient, let your surface completely dry before attempting to fix it. Anything done to a wet painted surface will create a horrible sticky mess, and cost more time to then further fix.

Undercoat Lego Minifigure 3D printed parts

When wanting a smooth even and glossy surface on your finished model, spray painting is a very cost-effective way to achieve a great result. Applied properly, spray paint can help hide irregularities and give off an even colour finish. With each positive there is however a negative, the nuances of spray paints are not always mentioned with how-to videos or the can’s labeling. Be aware that some colours of paint are oil based and some are water based, this includes ‘undercoat’ sprays too. If they are only touch dry when applying a second coat it can react and ruin your intended finish, or not adhere properly to the model itself. This even applies to different colours of the same brand.

One of the issues we faced was the reaction of the glossy top coat on the undercoat primer. The surface would ripple and look like a dry creek bed. After some follow up testing it was due to the incompatibility of the top coat to adhere to the primer. The result was to sand it down and spray again, and while the initial intention was to use enamels in order to get a high quality finish. With the increased drying time and complications of surface finishes we had with the whites and yellows, we ended up using a citadel paint and air brush, finished with an acrylic clear coat.

Lego Minifigure extra large 3D printed model parts

Traditionally when dealing with glossy surfaces and enamel paints the finished surface is left to dry and becomes a hard high gloss. However when working with so many irregular shapes there would always be a dust speckle or hair, or pool of paint on each part of the model. We even had issues with un-even drying that would result in fingerprints left here and there. The workshop didn’t afford a dust free environment and any fix would require recoating the entire piece. Our result, while more labor intensive, proved to be much quicker and not be so fragile. We sanded and polished each component instead of relying on the paint to cure without flaws. With a glossy paint applied each part would be wet sanded with increasing grit from 400 to 1200 and them polished on a buffing wheel with a mirror coat car polish.

Minifigure Lego custom parts printed model

This process gave a great and consistent result, as the more time spend sanding and polishing, the better the finished surface. This has now been adopted for all future projects as the go to for a high gloss and mirror finishing.


A Diary Full Of Colour

Diary page college term artwork

The approach taken to design the student study planner for 2020 was allot more elaborate and ambitious than in previous years. With a very elaborate theme, new layouts, and experimenting with some gamification. Overall it was well received, with allot of people having strong opinions about what they did, or did not, like. Let us guide you through the design's successes and the valuable lessons learned along the way.

To colour or not to colour that is the $10,000 question. Adding an unlimited amount of choices and appeal to any student diary book, it also comes at a cost both for the amount of time it takes to prepare the graphics and the extra charge of the ink that is used in print. This year's Study Planner was experimental as much as it was an update to all previous versions, one question the College wanted to know was "what would give the book the best appeal for the students?". Is there anything this book should try that has not been done before in order to see more use of it from the people who use it each day?

Study Planner page layout colour chart

Before any design decisions were made surveys were created, to ask about the features the students want to see the most. One recurring answer was to have more separation, a way to help better navigate the diary, find specific weeks or months, and also to visually define each day. From a graphical user interface point of view, the ability to utilise more colours would help break up the repeating nature of the book into easily identifiable sections and sub sections.

The biggest change to the planner was put into motion, use a full colour print throughout the entire book, and use it to break up the sections visually. Each page template was designed to be able to have a colour palette swap both to the page as a whole and to each of its own sub sections. This was used to give each month a separate colour while also overlaying stripes of colour around the page to tie it back to the term, and interior blocks of designated colour for the days of the week. As the user held up the edge of the pages blocks of colour along the side help define the month, while a blot of colour at the bottom separates the terms. Opening the page shows ribbons of colour to help define the days of the week.

Student planner college diary colour sections

The colour palette was chosen using soft colour tones, this was to ensure that any pen used to make notes would still be easy to read, while also allowing white text to be used over it. Six base colours were chosen Cyan, Pink, Lilac, Peach, Orange, and Green each separated with enough contrast to stand apart when butted up against each other. From this a lighter and darker shade was added to the colours to create the variances. The lighter variance was used as the base colour of the background page art, and the darker used for text displayed over the top of it.

The bulk of the book was sorted, however with full colour to be used on every page, it would be a wasted expense to not take advantage of it. Using medieval heraldry, and the college houses as the influence to include many more colourful pages, the study planner was onto its next challenge of creating the artwork of a theme.


Molding the Bride To Be

3D printed and cast lego minifigure parts primed

Giraffe and Elf was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to create a large pair of Lego Bride and Groom Minifigures. Having developed molds for these in the past it sounded simple enough, follow along as we take you through how these figures were prepped as a gift for the big day.

Having already made a set of molds for a 10:1 XL scale Lego Minifigure the most difficult part of replicating the little plastic models was done. However the RVT silicone molds of the minifigure parts had been in storage for a while and weren’t optimal for repeated casting. When used in the past each cast part required a lot of clean up and fixing. Along with the casting both the bride and groom figures needed additional custom parts to be able to stand apart.

The custom parts were modeled in Maya using LEOCAD geometry from the Lego Minifigure library. With details added, cleaned, and prepped for 3D printing, the Grooms Hair, Brides Hair, and Brides Dress/legs were all additionally 3D printed for this project.

lego minifigure groom hair 3d model

With the unique parts being printed, the next task was dusting off the silicone molds and casting the rest of the common minifigure parts. The cast parts all came out well with some flashing and only a few air bubbles, getting these parts ready for painting wasn’t going to take long.

lego minifigure parts cast in silicone with flashing and sprues

The XL minifigure molds were the first two-part silicone molds made in our workshop and as such had some errors in their design, with air getting trapped and undercuts. The most difficult parts to cast were the arms, the arm mold consists of four shallow halves sitting side by side with the pour spouts on the face of the mold, rather than in the seam or separation. This mold has two pour holes per arm half and requires allot of rocking to get the air out as the resin hardens.

lego minifigure parts cast with two part epoxy unfinished

The result of the poor mold is lots of trapped air bubbles, lots of flashing, and general mess as the casting polyurethane leaks out everywhere, however this all happens on the insides of the arms and isn’t seen once the parts are glued and assembled. As the molds have been sitting in a box for nearly four years and the rough handling it requires to get the cured parts out, it is a good example of how good mold design makes it last longer. Three of the molds we used tore as we were taking the casts out meaning this may be the last time we make any new XL Minifigure castings.


Hyo Neko Priming and Sanding

hyoneko cats undercoat primed prototype models

Every rapid prototype requires some sort of clean up or finishing process if the intent is to use it as a finished piece. While this may not be necessary for every 3D print, it was a requirement for Hyoneko's process testing. How best can we quickly achieve a smooth and finished model without resorting to hours of sanding?

Unfortunately for this time around we needed to test the method requiring hours of sanding. After all the best way to get a smooth model and perfect finish is to involve allot of elbow grease. While this isn't ideal we will have a baseline to test other methods against and know if the results and time are comparable.

With a back and forth between spray filler and sanding at various grits this takes time and for Hyoneko it was a layer of spray filler then sanding once dry. We started with 80 grit to remove most of the Z layer lines, then applied another coat of spray filler and used 180 grit. This process was repeated until the bumps were smooth and gaps filled. With the final layer of spray filler 250 grit sand paper and then 400 grit was also used to remove the sanding scratches.

hyoneko cats prototype models gloss coat chocolate and vanilla

To further help a smooth finish, the models were washed clean and then had a few coats of glossy spray paint added. These weren't sanded between coats and were applied very carefully and repeated every 15 to 20 mins. This took some practice and won't work with every spray paint or colour, as different brands and colours within the same paint brand have different properties. The glossy paint would apply slightly rippled but slowly smooth out as it dried, we re-sprayed before the recommended time on the can to build up the layer and keep it smooth but not so much that the paint started to run. In the end we had a very chocolate and vanilla looking pair of Hyoneko. While this was successful it was a very time consuming process that also took about two weeks for the glossy paint to finally cure.


Hyo Neko Rapid Prototyping

hyoneko cats 3d print prototype models mk1

By splitting up an object when 3D printing you allow yourself more freedoms with its design. But what is the best way to divide and re-assemble it.

When 3D printing an object that is bigger than the build plate the only option you have is to split it up into different parts. While doing so it is also wise to think about what orientation those parts will be printed in and where the split should occur.

hyoneko cat 3d printed parts rough rapid prototype

A few things we've learned about rapid prototyping small detailed objects is that while you can print with an undercut and support, it is best to avoid them as it reduces the Z resolution on those areas. You will also get the best Z resolution on the parts of your model facing up. Lastly if you must separate your model into parts make sure the seams are in easy to reach places that can be sanded flat, or filled if it creates a gap after assembly.

For Hyo Neko the end model was to be sanded smooth and all remnants of the rapid prototyping lines to be removed. The model is also static, with the areas that are to be glued back together having directional 'keys' printed into them to ensure the same orientation when assembled. The keys were simply bumps on the end caps of the separated parts. While this was intended to help it would have saved time to have all the end caps flat, as the glue mixture melted the ends, making any orientation possible anyway.

hyoneko cat rapid prototype model figure assembly

To create a welded bond between parts a mixture of acetone, ABS shavings, and plastic glue (ATA acri-bond 110) were mixed together and applied to both sides of the model. As Hyo Neko was printed in ABS plastic the acetone melts it slightly to help create a stronger bond. While the acetone and ABS shavings are enough for strength the plastic glue helps reduce drying time and makes the process faster.


Website Launched

giraffe and elf logo banner

Giraffeandelf.com is live and we'd like to welcome you to our corner of the internet. It has taken some time and behind the scenes development to get the page off the ground and we look forward to showing you more of what Giraffe and Elf Design has to offer.

Let us know your feedback and comments by following our social media channels and sharing our project and development content.

Hyo Neko Toy Concept

Hyo Neko concept design illustration

Research and development is an integral part of any conceptual product. In an attempt for better understanding designer toys and action figures, Hyo Neko was created as a way to experiment with the processes involved.

In itself the concept of Hyo Neko was straight forward, and using a cat for the basis of the figure wasn’t given any second thought. The project development cycle is ongoing and each iteration of the model is to improve upon the last using the knowledge gained collectively across all Giraffe and Elf developments and projects.

Hyo Neko 3D model figure render turnaround

The initial model is an example of rapid prototyping (also known as 3D printing) and finishing. The model while static will be cut up into components for printing, will be smoothed using acetone vapour, and then further refined with filler primer. The end result is to trail the process of finishing rapid prototype Z resolution artefacts to look and behave like a proper master model.

Hyop Neko 3D model rapid prototype parts seperation

As Hyo Neko continues to develop and go through iterations we will be posting updates with information about the success and failures learned along the way.


Website Launched

Giraffe and Elf Design Logo

Behind the scenes developments are well and truly underway. With allot of help and support, the cranks and gears are turning, ready to get projects started. First and foremost was this website.

Well and truly into 2018 the site is up and waiting for all the news and content Giraffe and Elf can throw at it.
To start us off on this journey, welcome to our humble corner of the net. We cannot wait to show you what we have in the pipeline. While initially progress may be slow, each project needs to pass a few checks and clearances before we can post about it, a few may only be announced upon completion, however we'd love to share all the hints and tips on the process discovered along the way.

Thank you for taking the time to visit, if you do have an interest in creative design and development, we'd love to more. Please connect with us on facebook.