Is ModiBot the future of toys? Only time will tell.
Great write-up and really great exposure from Wired.com
Is ModiBot the future of toys? Only time will tell.
Great write-up and really great exposure from Wired.com
A fresh new direction
As many of you have seen over the past year in my social posts, I have been tinkering with the ExoSkin figure format. The first iteration created a lot of excitement, but after a couple years of playing with it and talking to the community, it was clear that there were some real opportunities for improvement.
How could it be better? That question pushed me back to some of the core foundations of the ModiBot build system. It had to offer more, but needed to align and build upon the core values and connector options of the original Mo kit.
Its easy too rat-hole with so many opportunities, so I created a short list of broad design goals to help focus my effort.
It wasn't like I was starting from ground zero, the first figure was a gauge for what was already working. But let's talk a bit about what's been updated.
New, more expressive design
What I set out to do was create a universal figure that would be the foundation and catalyst for further exploration into other species, genres, and aesthetics. The first figure isn't meant to be the pinnacle, it's intended to be the launch point.
All the modeling on the body is new except for the hands and feet. In this first figure I used simple shapes to mass-out the forms keeping a simplified musculature. There's not much chiseling on this guy. I wanted him to have a larger-than-life iconic feel suited for classic hero builds. One of the next iterations I want to build is something more chiseled and grizzled. More on that later.
Some of the obvious differences are in the head and forearm areas. The first ExoSkin head slid over the Mo head like a helmet. This approach was great for articulation, but the 'helmet' approach was very limiting from a stylistic standpoint. Heads tended to be long and they could be hard to remove once placed on the Mo head. The new head is more sleek and has its own integrated neck socket and the bald head was build for add-ons, like the 'flaired' hair in this first figure.
The forearms were a bigger challenge. How do I reap the benefits of the Mo joints and range of motion, while creating a more muscular aesthetic and color breaks? I have literally created dozens of prototypes for this and the final iteration came as I started working with Mike over at HTB toys on resin printing. Some of his formulations allowed for more pliable approach. It enabled me to cover the elbow in a cupped 'sleeve' and slit the forearm cuff to better hide the seams. The best bit is that it allowed for a great new color break in the design.
The last innovation isn't quite as obvious. I've added a new ankle joint that provides a vastly improved range of motion. The design uses the extra socket bits found in every Mo kit to add a second lateral pivot, essentially adding two joints to the ankle. This allows some great crouching poses and makes the figure feel more lifelike. Is not easy to show in photo's, but it's obvious when you start to play with it.
Largely, I haven't changed the overall build approach, the figure assembles in the same way, 'sleeved' parts that slide over top of each Mo figure part. Less of the underlying Mo figure shows when the figure is fully assembled creating what feels like a more cohesive feel to the design.
Improved interchangeability and customization between kits
I've been toying with adding more color breaks for more than a year. They were initially intended for the original Exo figure. You've probably seen pics of the cool, leg belts and short sleeve color breaks. Creating these models was harder than I had thought and to some degree provoked the the shift toward a new body.
Being a one-man-show, I have to really be cautious about time-sinks. If I can't easily replicate and build upon a new approach, then it limits what I can do with it and how fast I can follow up with further customization options. By rebuilding these new body models, I've increased my ability to create new options that capitalize on the new color breaks.
When you look at the pics for the single-color figures, its a bit harder to tell how beneficial the color breaks are, but when you look at a multicolor kit (I'm so stoked to offer these) the benefits become obvious. Mixing and matching allows for more possibilities for creating your own designs and also matching to classic color schemes of known characters.
In the near term, I'll be working to offer alternate part sets, heads, boots, gauntlets, armor, etc., to enable people to personalize and build upon this initial set, but the main purpose in pursing this new approach is to start expanding into new characters types, aliens, aquatics and maybe reptiles are on the short list, but obviously anything is possible.
One last thing to note- I tried to maintain as much backward compatibility with the original ExoSkin figure and some of the offshoots like the Pulse Palooka. Generally, the parts are interchangeable, except for obvious areas like the head and forearms.
Improved color and material options
When you hold these figures you will notice a huge difference in the way they feel. The finish is smoother than the matte-finish prints that many of you are used to from ModiBot. The red and blue figures are noticeably softer and pliable. The white and caucasian parts are slightly more rigid and feel similar to traditional injection-molded toys.
This is my first step into resin printing as a technology and offers some clear benefits in creating a more smooth, consistent finish in nearly any custom color. I'm working closely with Mike at HTB toys to refine this approach. We see a ton of potential for expansion as we refine the approach and material formulation. I've struggled with the limited color options from my print providers and this will remove at least some of this limitation.
Thanks to you
I'm truly excited to finally share these new figures with you. They represent a huge level-up in the evolution of ModiBot and countless hours of ideation, modeling, prototyping, and testing, trying to express what ModiBot has to offer in a crazy crowded landscape.
When Tucker and I first launched it Kickstarter in 2013, it wasn't clear that people were looking for these strange, printed items. But, here we are, nearly 9 years later and still improving and expanding upon what we started. Thanks to you and all the myriad of fans, advocates, and supporters. Without your continued interest and support, we couldn't have come this far.
Here’s a quick tip for better action and flying poses- Use leftover parts or reassemble another Mo figure to build your own diy figure stand.
ModiBot has become a critical starting point for many people's creative projects, including stopmotion animation, scene photography, custom action figures, and both digital and hands-on character design.
More and more, creators want to design and sculpt their own ModiBot-compatible parts. This is the best place to start.
1. Match the correct ModiBot kit to your sculpting material
Not all ModiBots work with certain materials. Once you have determined what material you'd like to sculpt with, it's best to choose the ModiBot kit that supports sculpting that those materials. **Its possible that there is no ModiBot kit to support the material you are most familiar with.
CAUTION: Avoid using oil or plastic-based clays with the classic MO kit because these will make the plastic (especially the joints) brittle and prone to breakage.
ModiBot Mo, the original ModiBot kit, is made of PETG plastic like water and soda bottles. Its a tough durable plastic, but it doesn't react well to the chemicals or solvents in some sculpting materials.
Original Mo kit works best with- 2-part epoxy, Masking or washi tape, 3Doodler or other handheld 3d filament extruders.
ModiBot Mo+ (plus) kit is made of durable polypropylene plastic and is more durable when used with some paints and solvents. This toughness, especially when heated, allows Mo+ kits to be used with polyclay and a wider variety of materials.
2. Assemble and test all your joints before starting
Ball joints create a lot of pressure on their first assembly. Make sure you assemble the figure and test the movement of all the joints prior to sculpting. This will prevent you from starting a sculpt on a part that is already broken or weak.
BONUS TIP: If a part cracks or breaks during assembly, no worries, we will replace them. Contact us at email@example.com with a picture of your broken part (so we know exactly which part and color you need) and your shipping address. We'll get a replacement out in the mail to you asap!
3. Try a test part to get a feel for your materials and process
ModiBot Mo and Mo+ kits both come with extra ball and socket parts so you can try your hand before committing to a single body part. This is especially smart for working on epoxy and polyclay projects due to the amount of time you will commit to the project. T
BONUS TIP: These extra ball and socket parts can also be used to create your own designs for heads, hands, feet or even large elements like extra arms or wings!
4. Consider the size and weight of your pieces
ModiBot joints are strong and durable when assembled, but they have a limit to their ability. Creating excessively long or heavy parts can reduce the effectiveness of each joint. A general rule of thumb is- the longer the part, the more you should reduce its weight.
If your are considering large, dynamic parts like long arms or wings, do some testing with materials to make the part weight more manageable. Aluminum foil or wire can be a simple way to create structure or mass without creating a lot of weight.
BONUS TIP: Large hands/feet or hand-held accessories can put the most stress on your ModiBot joints. Consider fabricating large accessories with balsa wood or styrene
5. Work each sculpted part as a separate element
Most sculpting is worked as a single integral piece. If you are wanting to maintain the movement of the joints, it's best to work each part as a singular element. This approach makes it a bit tougher to see how the entire sculpt will look, but it will prevent you from destroying a bunch of work as you try to unsnap connected parts.
6. Work in layers
Developing a process is important, and one of the most important ways to manage the work is to take small steps, this will allow you to make improvements and modifications as you go vs. trying to get each part right on the first try.
Working slowly allows you to work the entire design more as a whole than by finishing each part and then moving on to the next.
BONUS TIP: One additional benefit of working in layers is that you can start with a rough sculpt of each part to get a feel for the proportion of the piece. Roughing out your design in bunched up aluminum foil can help you get a feel for each part's size and proportion.
7. Allow clearance for sockets to flex
Its best to leave room around the sockets so they can flex as you assemble the joints. When you bury the sockets in dense material it can prevent you from assembling all your work. Its best to leave at least 1-3 mm of socket material showing surrounding each joint.
BONUS TIP: Be careful of making your sculpt too thin surrounding your sockets. Some materials may not be as flexible as the socket material, causing thin layers of material to crack and flake-off during part assembly.
8. Do Not bake parts while assembled
If you are using polyclay and heating your parts, the most important thing to remember is- DO NOT BAKE YOUR PARTS WHILE THEY ARE ASSEMBLED. This WILL stretch your joints and prevent them from maintaining a tight grip. No one wants floppy joints (unless you are trying to make a marionette that is. ;)
BONUS TIP: If you are sculpting figures WITHOUT joints, ModiBot Mo+ works great as a full-figure sculpting armature. This approach allows you to define a great pose using the Mo figure and then burying Mo inside of a full-body sculpt. If you choose to work this way, it can be best to define your pose and then use some glue to 'lock' the joints in place before adding your sculpting medium.
9. Always bake parts at the recommended temperature
The ModiBot Mo+ kit has been tested to around 280 degrees F. When sculpting in polyclay, follow the recommended baking instructions for your material type. Using a heat gun or baking the parts at higher temperatures could damage the look and/or function of the parts. For best results, avoid over-heating the parts.
WARNING!: Use extreme caution when using an oven. Handling hot parts can cause burns. Use tongs or an oven mitt when handling hot parts.
10. Whooops! Salvaging a part
Accidents happen. Parts may get dropped and crack, joints may get over-stretched or we may just find out that the part we made is too heavy to allow the joints to remain posable. When those accidents happen, you should try to save the work you have done.
It's possible to cut a ModiBot part out of the original sculpt by carefully using plastic snips. Cutting off one end of the part (socket or ball) can allow you too free the sculpted piece from the ModiBot armature. In some cases you may be able to cut the part in half using a small modeling or coping saw. Its best to use a vise and hand protection when separating a sculpt from its armature.
Once you have freed the sculpted portion you can make modifications and reattach to another ModiBot part.
Thanks for tuning-in. Watch this space for more creative project tips and best of luck on your next project!
Just in time for the New Year, ModiBot has released a variety of new 3D printable action accessories, storytelling props and rigging fixtures for stopmotion animation.
Each image has a 3d viewer that will allow you to orbit around the items and zoom in to see the details. Just click the title to 'Copy and Tinker' them or just download the 3d print files from our profile at Tinkercad.com or stop by and check out our Thingiverse designs for even more printable ModiBot files.
Martial Arsenal- A slew of Japanese, printable weapons for your next training video or streetfight, including new wrapped staff accessory.
Arm/Leg sleeve set- Add some bulk to your 'bots, or just a bit of color with these snap-on arm and leg covers.
Tutu- Yes, a tutu! How many weapons and male-themed accessories have we made? It's time we started to introduce some accessories for animating a wider variety of diverse and spectacular feats of human physicality.
ModiBot is in full evolution mode! Click the link below for a quick survey to help decide the types of ideas we'll pursue in the future.
Its important that we get as much feedback as possible, so once you have completed the survey, please share with any friends who you think may be interested.
Click to VOTE NOW!
The fun part about ModiBot is that it can be anything you want it to be. With just a few pieces of colored cloth you can outfit your 'Bot and send him off on any number of adventures.
This kit was designed to enable character creation across a variety of known pop-culture characters, traditional hero archetypes, or to use as a jumping-off point for designing your own hero.
Its quick to make with some materials you might have around the house and really easy to modify to add your own personal touches. It can also be used as a fun design exercise for groups of kids (or kids at heart) for school or birthday parties. We also have premade kits in variety of colors available in our shop.
Let's get started.
Step 1: Ideate and plan your design-
Depending on the color of your bot, you might go in a variety of directions, but, as an example, let's say you have a bright green ModiBot you want to outfit.
There are a lot of known characters that are green and could be easy to design with this kit, like Peter Pan or Robin Hood.
There are also character archetypes that could be fun to build by starting with green, like an elven sorcerer or jungle-camoflaged ninja.
Think for a few seconds and let your mind wander as you think of ideas. You might even do a quick drawing of your design using our downloadable Character Design Template.
Step 2: Cut your felt pieces-
Depending on whether you are going to match the existing pattern or make a design of your own, you can start by creating the strips that will be used for the tunic and sash.
Cut a 1/2 inch strip down the long side of the 9x12 inch felt sheet. This will give you a strip 1/2 inch by 12 inches.
Starting at one end of the strip, measure 4 1/2 inches and cut straight across the strip using the scissors. Now, do the same thing again, measure 4 1/2 inches down the strip and cut.
This should leave you with 2 pieces measuring 4 1/2 inches and a leftover piece measuring 3 inches.
Step 3: Attach your pieces to the figure
This part can be a bit tricky, so it’s best to start by sliding the end of the zip tie into the slot until you hear or feel the first few clicks.
Then take the two longer strips and fold them over the top of the figure’s shoulders and cross-cross them. It’s easy to use your finger and thumb to hold the strips into place.
Step 4: Decorate your stick
I chose here to make mine into a sword with a metal blade and black handle, but you are free to make the stick into anything you want.
Step 5: Complete the design and start posing!