Beginner's Guide to Forward March Studios

Hello, and welcome to Forward March Studios!  


Forward March Studios ("FMS") is not your average miniature soldier company.  Traditional model soldier companies sculpt figures, cast them, store them, and ship them around the world.  These costs add up, especially shipping, and are passed on to the customer. 


Here at FMS we use a revolutionary new business model for distributing our line of historic miniature soldiers.  We design files for 3d printers, which are collected in the FMS Library.  As a customer, you buy a limited license to use the files in the Library.  This license allows you to create as many 3d models from the files as you please.  


A license holder may print and sell models to other license holders, even for profit.  A license-holder may not sell his figures to a non-license-holder, other than good-faith, non-commercial sales, such as at a flea market.


The Library is ever growing, and as new files are added, license-holders who have purchased access in the past get free access to the new files as they are uploaded.  You don't need to do anything to get access to files added after you buy: you will be alerted by email when there are additions and have immediate access to the new files.


The FMS Library currently contains over 190 unique models.  These include infantry, cavalry, officers, artillery, supply train, buildings, bridges, windmills, status markers, and much more.  Currently the Library contains all the models needed to re-create any battle of the Horse and Musket era, and most battles of the late Renaissance.  


Sounds great, right?  BUT, how exactly do you get from this introductory webpage to re-creating Waterloo at 1:1 scale?


Glad you asked!


How to purchase and print Forward March Miniatures in 3 easy steps:

1:  Purchase the Forward March Studios Library.   You can purchase the Forward March Studios Library here.   After payment (via credit card or PayPal) you will receive access to over 190 .stl files, each of which represents a unique 2mm scale model designed for use in historic war games.  


2:  Download the Files You Want to Print.this page   You can download the entire Library, but due to the memory involved it might be better to only download those files you plan to use.  To avoid becoming confused by all the options in the Library, be sure to check out this page , which explains the models you will find in the Library. 


3:   3d Print the Files.  Upload the files you want to print to a 3d printing service online, or use your own 3d printer.  If you use an online service, after the models are printed up they will be mailed to you by the printer. 

Can you recommend a 3d printing service?

If you have never used 3d printing technology before and are located in the US or the EU/UK , I would recommend starting with Shapeways, at least for a small experimental run.  As discucsed below, I designed the range for the SLS printers used by Shapeways, so this will show you the "aesthetic baseline" for the line of figures.  You can also just look at the pictures on this website, which were almost all printed at  Shapeways.


After that experiment, I would suggest trying out some FDM prints from 3dhubs.com.  3dhubs will put you in contact with an owner/operator of a 3d printer near you, which can be great if you don't live in the US or the EU.  If you are reading this, there is probably a 3d printer near you who is on 3dhubs.  This means that shipping will be very cheap; some owner/operators will even let you pick up your models in person.  


FDM/3dhubs is roughly half the price or less of SLS/Shapeways.  The quality of FDM prints can vary, and you will need to experiment and communicate with the owner/operator to get the best print.


With that said, here is some more detail about each of these two options.


Shapeways


Pros:  The model range was designed to be printed at Shapeways using their SLS printers.  Very tough prints.  No need to spray paint or clear coat.  Very few printing errors.


Cons:  Relatively expensive, but still cheaper than many pewter or plastic historic wargames figures.  Technicians may tag the sprues and require you to use "Print it anyway" to complete your order.


Click here to go to Shapeways.


Shapeways is the 800 lbs gorilla of 3d printing.  Their customer service is good, and they have the lowest cost SLS printers available.  SLS stands for "selective laser sintering."  It uses a laser to bind snow-like particles of nylon together to form the model.   For some reason, Shapeways refers to their SLS printed products as "versatile plastic," which you should bear in mind when ordering your prints.  Regardless of the name used, SLS plastic is extremely tough.  It is more rugged than the hard plastic used by 28mm miniature companies, and arguably tougher than pewter.  You can skip SLS prints of my models across a cement floor, drop them out of windows, or step on them.  This will not damage the model, or the paint jobs.  You really need to try to damage them, and even then it can be easier said than done!


My files have been designed to work on the Shapeways SLS printers, and come out very consistently.  Both myself and my customers have ordered models with thousands upon thousands of figures, including very finely detailed bayonets and cavalry, without any breakage.  That said, breakage does occur, most often when they are packaging the models up.  But in my experinence this is rare.  


Shapeways does not like 1mm sprues, which all of my models utilize.  You should be aware of this when you print my models.  There is a chance that a reviewing technician will flag the models because of the sprues; if they do so, use the "Print it anyway" feature to bypass the technician's opinion.  This happens only occasionally, but can be a source of frustration.  For the record, I have never recieved a model with a broken sprue out of the hundreds and hundreds of copies that I have printed off.  None of my customers have mentioned this to me either (if this happens, tell me, and I'll mention it here).   And, even if a sprue should break, the models themselves should be fine; breakage at Shapeways generally happens in packaging, not in printing.


A nice feature of Shapeways/SLS is that you can dye the plastic using watered-down latex paint.  This lets you skip base-coating (no more spray paints!).  SLS plastic has excellent "teeth," similar to artist's gesso.  


Finally, you don't really need to clear-coat the figures.  The paint will be robust enough without you doing anything further.


FDM Printers and 3dhubs.com


Pros:  Much cheaper than SLS.   Quality can rival SLS even on a relatively cheap home printer.  


Cons:  There is a vast range of quality in FDM printers.  You need to have a good rapport with your 3d printer technician to get the best results.


FDM printers are what most people think about when they hear the words, "3d printer."  In FDM printing, plastic filaments are extruded through a heated nozel that builds up the model one layer at a time. 


When I started designing Forward March Miniatures, FDM technology was not as advanced as it is today.  That was only two years ago as I write this, but lots has changed since then.  If I were to start designing the range again from scratch, I would do everything on an FDM printer.  They are much cheaper than SLS printers, and for wargaming purposes create an equally pleasing result.  For a $300 investment you can buy a home printer that you can then use to print out my figures for pennies a piece.  Alternatively, you can use 3dhubs.com, or similar services, to get matched up with a local owner of a 3d printer who will work with you to get the models exactly the way you want them.  The price of printing on 3dhubs varies by the owner/operator, the material, and the number of figures, but you should expect to start at half the price of SLS.


I prefer 3d Hubs to other FDM printing hubs due to the cheap price, the ease of use and the great communication you have with the printer technicians. It is arguably easier to use than Shapeways, and the cusomter service is defintiely better. There is an excellent messanger system so you can explain to the owner/operator exactly what you want.  They also have a money-back guarantee, so if your model doesn't print up, they'll generally give you an automatic refund.


The downsides of FDM printing are also, potentially, the most rewarding.  There are many, many different makes and models of FDM printers on the market, both for home-printers, and as professional grade machines.  There are also huge differences between  partiuclar brands of filament, and the capabilities of different filaments within the same brand.  Also, the knowledgeability of the technician running the 3d printer is an important factor; sometimes an adjustment to the temperature that the extruder is running at will make a huge difference in the quality of the end product.  


FDM printing of my files is a Wild West.  Going this route will require experimentation.  This also makes FDM the most rewarding, because, as I said, FDM printing is extremely cheap compared to Shapeways, and even cheaper compared to pewter or hard plastic model soldiers.  


Included in the library are a few simlpified models that are designed for lower-end FDM printers.  These files are clearly marked as such, with "FDM" in the file name.   As of this writing, an average hobby FDM printer, say in the $250 to $300 range, should be able to create acceptable prints of my entire model range.  I've kept the simplified versions in the Library in case anyone wants to use them, but these shouldn't reflect on the potential of FDM printers in any way.

I like this one model on this website. How can I print it out?

All of the models contained on this website are located in the Library.  Check out this page for a basic breakdown of how the Library files are organized.  You can also right click or double click the file names to bring up a preview image of the model contained in each file (this is extremely useful!).


If you see a model on this webpage, and want to know which .stl file it came from, contact me and ask.  I'll be glad to let you know.


Also, when you upload these files to a 3d printing service (such as Shapeways or 3dhubs) you will be able to see a 3d render of the model before you print it out.  

Can I print a bunch of these out, sell them to my friends, and get rich?

Yes.  Yes.  No, hahaha...


When you buy the Forward March Studios Library you will notice some language on the point-of-sale website that says you are allowed to print them for "personal, non-commerical use."  This means that you may use these files to print as many copies as you want for your own use.  The person who prints the files for you doesn't need a license as described above.  This is equally applicable both to Shapeways with their factory of SLS printers, and your friend who owns his own kit printer in his spare bedroom.  


If you have a license, you may print as many copies as you like, and sell them to your friends and others at a profit, as long as those friends also have a license ("have a license" = "they paid Forward March Studios for a license to use the files").  You can create derivative products based on my models (such as molds), and sell them at a profit, as long as you have purchased the files, and they are sold to a person who also has a license and who uses them for personal use.  Personal use encompasses good faith sales in flea markets and places like eBay.  That is, if you are selling simply to get rid of your models, it doesn't matter if you sell to someone who doesn't have a license.  What you may not do under the license agreement is purchase the files and then begin manufacturing them for sale to persons who have not paid for the Library.  


If you have any questions about this, please contact me by email.


Last updated 10/02/2018