Wednesday, May 20, 2015

MicroClone

What up, people? Happy First Post of 2015...and as usual, I'm here to announce a quantum leap here at Brownnoize HQ! It's been several months in the works, but now I'm finally ready to reveal the big (micro?) project I've been cranking on. See, the response to the Powered Bio Suits (see previous posts!) has been crazy. And humbling. But I knew from the get that these things would be only realistically accessible to a small segment of the Micro-collecting community. When it takes around four days of blood, sweat, and tears just to make *one* toy, you have little choice but to charge a lot. I have no regrets, though, because the whole point of the PBS was to push the limits of what home-grown 3D printing could accomplish...and I'd like to think I made an impression in that regard! ;)

On the strength, the Powered Bio Suit was a ill learning experience for me. On one hand, it was a crash course in design-for-manufacture: not just CAD-modeling what you want the final toy to look like, but reconciling that with what geometries are optimal for printing, clean-up, assembly, etc. But on the other hand, it also forced me to get serious about package design, social media (peep my instagram feed!), gallery shows, and other stuff beyond the physical objects I was producing. Those lessons were vital to this whole game.

But it's time to take it back! This one is for the people. Now that I've had a chance to sharpen my swords, I can take bigger risks and continue testing the boundaries of what a consumer-grade FDM printer can do. And the result is something that I'm excited to be able to share with fellow collectors. I'm happy to present: the MicroClone!

It's kinda funny how this project came about...not to mention what it evolved into. See, I was sorta expecting *just* Diaclone and Microman fans to take notice of the PBS when it first dropped. But I was getting hit up by folks into "art" toys, 3D printing, or DIY jams in general. At gallery shows, it was getting kinda awkward to have to explain over and over why the toy was "empty"! LOL To be fair, the whole "Suit" thing isn't automatically obvious outside of Takara SF Land fans. So it dawned on me: why not develop a cheapie 3-3/4" action figure that I can just stuff into these suits for shows or other displays? And from there--since the PBS is a bootleg of the Diaclone Powered Suit--it was a no-brainer to design my figure around the "type 2" Diaclone driver that was originally sold with the vintage Powered Suits!

Well, you know it goes. At first, I said, okay: five points of articulation. I'll just use the 5mm ball-and-socket joints I'd been developing for the Shogun Voyager minis and call it a day. But then I kept poking and prodding--mostly at the behest of Matt Doughty and Ben Mininberg (see? this is why we peer review, folks). I quickly found that with a little massaging, I could work those ball joints into more areas of the figure. Yeah: a chance to design a *legit* 1/18 scale action figure with articulation that can rival a vintage Micro. No custom toy-maker would pass that up! So at the risk of potentially doubling my original target pricepoint, I decided once again to push the boundaries and see how far I could take this thing. And I'm happy to report that the result far exceeds a mere accessory for the PBS. It's a durable, nicely-poseable 10cm action figure that can interact with existing Microman/Micronaut figures and vehicles. And it can stand alone as a fully-fledged product.

The MicroClone now features 14 points of articulation, 10 of which are ball-joints. The head is on a 5mm peg for some Acroyer head-swapping fun! The waist is a 5mm swivel joint as well, and the wrists can rotate on a peg compatible with original Micro figures (more on that later!). The shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and ankles are all ball-joints with a wide range of motion. In play-testing, I'm happy to report that these joints remain tight even after a considerable amount of abuse. Unlike your typical ABS plastic toys (which are completely solid and can actually "polish out" and become loose after excessive joint use), these 3D-printed parts are actually semi-hollow. That gives printed joint mechanisms a bit of springiness that's perfect for play! Still, after some destructive testing, I found that the old nail polish trick works perfectly: if a joint gets loose, simply pop apart the pieces and apply a thin layer of clear nail polish to one of the surfaces...wait 24 hours, reassemble, and you should be good.

And while you *can* disassemble the ball-joints, it's not really recommended as part of the play experience. It can be done, but I noticed after snapping them in and out a dozen times or so, they will eventually start to get loose. So if want to create a unique color combination for your figure, go right ahead--it should be fine. But don't get in the habit of doing it a ton. These aren't Glyos guys! ;)

Bits connected via 5mm pegs can be swapped all day, of course. The head, for instance, is actually available in four styles, representing different "modes" of the mechanical helmet. There's the open face helmet, which is it's default configuration. The visor mode features a shield that I like to imagine slides down from under the forehead shield to provide enhanced optics. Similarly, I imagine the armor bits for the mouth plate mode slide into place from the sides and lock into the chin strap to help with breathing in harsh environments. And finally, the full armor mode incorporates both the visor and mouth plate for combat missions in your sandbox. Each basic MicroClone figure will come with a single head, so when you click on the page of the color scheme you want, just select the desired head from the drop-down list at the bottom of the page.

But the 5mm-compatibility doesn't end there! There's a 5mm port (hole) on the back just like a classic Micro. There are additional ports on the thighs for mounting accessories, as well as ports on the bottom of the feet for connecting to display stands or for perching a figure on a vehicle. And speaking of the feet, they also have neodymium magnets. Because Diaclone. ;)

Each basic MicroClone figure also comes with a Pulse Pistol accessory, which incorporates a 5mm peg into the design for attaching to the figure when not in use. The handle of the pistol is roughly 2.5mm to match existing Microman weapons. Yes, that means that it can be used by stock Micro's, and vintage figures' weapons fit just fine in MicroClone hands. But y'all know me--I had to take it a step further! Remember when I mentioned that the wrists swivel on a Micro-compatible peg? Well that means hand-swapping! If you don't like the stock MicroClone hands, you can always give him an upgrade. Or if you need replacement hands for a vintage figure, it's no sweat.

One last note about these figures is the color schemes. I'll obviously be making them in a variety of colors, but there are two main "styles" available. The Microman-style figures will feature color separation reminiscent of the original Microman/Micronaut figures: the chest, arms, and thighs are the primary color of the figure, while the pelvis and lower legs are the figure's secondary color. Alternatively, the Diaclone-style figures will be separated like the original Diaclone drivers: the chest and pelvis are the primary color, while the full arms and legs will be the secondary color. Both styles will have black feet and Pulse Pistol, and glow-in-the-dark head and chest piece (though I may switch up these colors in the future for fun!). The hands of the Microman-style figures will be GID as well.

As for the fluff, I like to imagine that these guys come from an alternate dimension where the Microman and Diaclone universes are truly one and the same! After having protected Earth time and time again from the Acroyer invasion, the Microman race has formed an alliance with humanity in exchange for their continued hospitality. In order to respond to extra-dimensional (as well as extra-terrestrial) threats, the Diaclone Corps were developed using a hybrid of Earth and Micro Earth technology. The standard "Diamond Cyclone" armor suit (the MicroClone) is powered by the Phase Driver (the figure's glow chest piece), and allows the human wearer to shrink down to Micro-size (roughly 10cm) and even withstand the rigors of inter-dimensional travel. Their continuing adventures are up to you! ;)

Much like the Powered Bio Suits, these toys will be sold exclusively through Monster Kolor. The initial run of these guys will be a limited "wave 0" release at 8PM EDT, Saturday night, May 30th. Rather than delaying their release even further, I wanted to do this sort of pre-production run of the figures. These older-generation figures have stable, fully-functional joints and work fine overall as action figures, but their hands don't have 100% compatibility with original Micro's. The full hand-swapping functionality described above won't be available until the official "wave 1" release later this summer. Also, existing Micro weapons don't fit as snugly as I'd like in the hands of these older figures. I know these are very minor nit-picks...but if I weren't a damn perfectionist, you wouldn't be getting figures of this quality in the first place! ;) May 30th's "wave 0" release will be discounted to $18 (from the regular retail price of $20) to make up for the hand-compatibility issue.

I really hope you guys like these figures! It definitely stung hearing from fellow Micro collectors who dug the Powered Bio Suit but couldn't afford them. My hope is that these guys will make up for that and allow more folks to get into the game and appreciate how far home-printing has come. Please spread the word and always feel free to let me know what you think! Peace, peace.

17 comments:

  1. Crazy glue works just as well to take up the "wear" factor on ball joints. It dries faster and you can be back at it in less than an hour.

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    1. Y'know, I actually use cyanoacrylate (Krazy Glue and the like) most of the time, myself, for bulking up joints on toys. It seems most folks prefer clear nail polish, though. I think that's because the nail polish is solvent-based (so it bonds solidly to ABS) but still remains somewhat soft/flexible. I think the fear around cyanoacrylate is that it dries super-hard (harder than the ABS)...so I guess it could potentially wear the joint down even further after a lot of use. Since nail polish is softer, it won't cause any further erosion. That's my theory anyway!

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  2. Did you develop a chrome application you're happy with and would you consider it for these dudes?

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    1. Alas, not yet...but I'm not giving up just yet! Basically all paint-like applications are a bust, but I have a friend who's looking into getting some heads legitimately vac-metallized. Hope it works out! Oh, and no promises yet, but I'm also starting to experiment with translucent plastics as well... ;)

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  3. These look fantastic, man! Congrats on getting another awesome project of the ground! I was sold from the first pic, but the last one with the FP Alpha Interceptor just nailed it. Gotta have a few of these.

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    1. Thanks, dude! I appreciate it! Yeah, that Alpha Interceptor's a killer design...and to be honest, I like it more than most actual Microman/naut vehicles! :P Anyway, glad you like my figure...I'll be sure to make as many as I can while people are still digging them.

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  4. Will these be available in different colorways later on? I like the blue and grey one pictured here the most.
    It would also be cool if you colored them like the Diaclone pilots, with the head and torso sharing the same color.

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    1. Oh, absolutely! The response to the first release has been great, so that certainly justifies making more. And I have no problem running colorways I've already done before, so you'll definitely get a shot at the grey/blue ones again! I haven't thought about making ones with the head the same color as the torso like some of the vintage Diaclone drivers, but that's a cool idea that I'd be happy to try out. Do you have a particular color scheme in mind? Or, if it's easier, send me a link to a pic online of a particular driver you'd like me to emulate. That could be real fun!

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    2. If you went for the Inch-man deco, I'd definitely get one that was red or blue limbed.
      http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v481/convoymagnus/Diaclone%20Drivers/DSC05027.jpg
      Thanks for considering the idea, I always wanted the old Diaclone pilots, so getting more poseable versions would be even better!

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    3. Ah, the "type 3" drivers! My figures are based on the "type 2" drivers ( http://smg.photobucket.com/user/convoymagnus/media/Diaclone%20Drivers/DSC04938.jpg.html ), but I can definitely cook up some in this style for a future run. I think that's a cool idea, in fact! By the way, are you "convoymagnus" from tfw2005, the guy who made those amazing driver repros?

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    4. I wish, bro! I was eyeing his repros myself, but it seems he doesn't make them anymore...
      He even repro-ed some villain Inchmen, didn't know those were a thing but they look even cooler than the good guys.

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    5. Ha! I hear you. I actually scored a set of his three Waruder repros back when he was making them (I figured I had enough vintage good guys). Their joints are a bit loose, but not having actual magnets in the feet actually make them easier to pose because they don't repel each other! Anyway, they're definitely sweet...and I sure hope he gets back into making them someday!

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  5. Ohhh, now I want one or two for my desk in the cube farm!

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  6. Glad you dig these weird things! ;) They're actually pretty fun at work because those magnets in the feet allow the figures to stick to filing cabinets and whatnot!

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  7. These are really neat! Will you be releasing any more in the near future?

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    1. Thanks so much...I'm glad you like them! Yes, another large wave of these guys (and the larger Powered Bio Suits) is being planned right now. My intention was to have them ready sooner, but because of other projects, collaborations with other toy-makers, and life(!), it's probably going to be pushed back to late summer/early fall. I'll certainly post all the major details here, as well as more ongoing updates on my instagram account!

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