Q&A: Rawrz Toys

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Rawrz Toys is the brainchild of Anne Sidenbald and Victoria Rose. From their original design sketches and paintings they model their own toys on the computer in 3D, 3D print them out, make silicone molds, cast them in resin, clean and then paint them. Mold3D had the opportunity to interview this dynamic duo and ask them about their 3D printing process.

Mold3D: Hi Ann! Currently you are working as a 3D modeler at PDI-Dreamworks, so what motivated you to get into 3D printing?


Ann:   I had the chance to work with 3D printers when I had been working at Cinderbiter (a stop motion film studio). We would use the printers to create all of the face shapes for the characters, as well as most of the bodies and various costume and set pieces. The 3D prints were cleaned, molded and cast in various materials that the film needed (such as silicone for the hands, and resin for various props).

That was my first experience holding a 3D print of something I had created in the computer, and it was awesome! Afterwards I discovered the Form1 on Kickstarter, and I felt that the technology, quality, and price were finally aligned, so I jumped on it!

Mold3D: Hi Victoria! What is your day job like and how did you get started with 3D printing?

Victoria: Hello! I am a Feature Film puppet Fabricator. This is a broad title, but my skill set includes making molds, casting anything from plastic to silicone, making puppet armatures (my specialty being hands), creating puppet costumes, and seaming and painting the puppets.  I find the skill set I have can be used for anything from marketing to casting toys. Currently I am working as a mold maker/ caster at a 3D printing house called Fathom. I have been around 3D printing since my work on Coraline where we used 3D printers for everything from puppet faces to hands and props.

Mold3D: When did Rawrz Toys start using 3D printing in their pipeline?

Ann: We were using 3D printing for about a year before we got the Form1 printer. Previously we sent the models out to be printed at a printing service. That was a great way to get started without purchasing an actual printer. However, we are a small company and because of the cost and turn around times, it meant that we were limited in the amount of prototypes and iterations we wanted to do.  Some examples of iterations are the overall scale, how they compared to other characters we made, the sharpness of different features, and also the overall shape.  Sometimes what appears to be a balanced design in the computer might feel different when you are holding it in the physical space, so certain details need to be adjusted. In addition, many of our toys are split into pieces so that we can mold them in different colors and then snap and glue the model together for the final toy.

The whale is an example of this, where the lower body, upper body, teeth, tongue and horn are all unique pieces. So designing the pegs and connections of the different pieces sometimes requires a little back and forth to make sure everything is fitting how we want it.
 

Mold3D:  What is the 3D modeling process like? 

Ann: The 3D modeling process is fairly standard 3D modeling. The nice thing about 3D printing is that it doesn't care about topology, so you can cheat some areas that you can't in films. This allows for a certain amount of time savings compared to film modeling. However, whenever possible I still create clean meshes because I find that it makes it easier to make alterations and design changes later.

Mold3D: How do you ensure a perfect print?

Ann: 3D printing requires all meshes to be closed surfaces. So I keep that in mind as I’m modeling, or be sure to close all of the surfaces as a final step. I’ve also found that for 3D printing you often want to over exaggerate the model details a bit compared to what you might do for film, or what you might see on screen.  For example, you might want to make eyelids a little extra thick, and with more crisp details then what you would for a film model. The reason for that is that the printer tends to soften some of the details as it prints, and you can also lose some of that detail during the cleaning and sanding process. 

There are also differences between printers brands, and so there is always a learning curve with each type. For example, some machines might have a more accurate tolerance, so when you make pegs to connect pieces you can build a smaller gap into the model compared to another printer. There are even differences depending on the angle that you print on!  There is no magic number or angle, it’s just a matter of doing it a bunch and you start to make better and wiser decisions about the way to prep a model.

Mold3D: Victoria, what is your workflow like with Ann? Who handles what aspects of the toy process once the print is complete?

Fresh batch of Rawrz critters hanging off the Form 1.

Victoria: Ann and I are the perfect merging of skill sets. I do not 3D model, so I was lacking a pretty big part of the toy making process. What I love about designing the toys in 3D is that if a design element looks off we can go back and tweak it until it’s just right. We start the process by deciding which character or critter we want to create, then I draw out some sketches and designs. I hand these over to Ann and she models them on the computer, and we look at it together and make some changes. We usually print a pass and see what looks perfect, or what needs modifying. For example a lot of 3D printers leave a line, or texture on the master object and this needs to be sanded, primed and polished before it is ready to be molded. This is where I come in, I make the molds and casting of the objects. All the molds need a sprue system, which is network of channels that allow for the liquid plastic to flow into the mold, thus creating the object. Once the plastic has cured, we remove our casting from the mold and all the extra plastic flashing must be cleaned and removed. We both clean the parts. We then give them a bath to remove their release, thus allowing the paint to adhere better. We both handle the painting which naturally gives the toys a variation in design that represents our own individual styles.

Mold3D:  Working full time and building a side company seems like a lot of work. Do you have any tips for artists that want to start building a company or project?

Victoria: It is definitely a lot of work to start a company, especially in the beginning when you are trying to figure out responsibilities and workflow. However there is no better feeling then knowing you created something people relate to and want to own. Working on other peoples films or projects is never as fulfilling as knowing you created the object from start to finish. For that alone I say Do it, stop making excuses, stop saying you don’t have time, and make time. 

Mold3D: Thank you both for the informative interview, we hope our audience learns and is inspired from your experience!