Dec 17, 2015 | By Kira

I have to admit that I am far from being a history buff, but that might not have been the case if my history education had involved intricately detailed dioramas of WWI trenches made from LEGO, and stop-motion recreations of famous battles animated by authentically-dressed French, German and British soldier minifigures. Yet that is precisely what UK-based Minifig Battlefields provides: accurate replicas of the trenches, soldiers, and battlefields of the Western Front, customized through 3D printing and designed to fit with well-known brick brands such as LEGO.

Minifig Battlefields’ goal is to promote creativity, learning and education about WWI, and their products have been enjoyed by students, history teachers, and hobbyists who appreciate their attention to detail, as well as the opportunities for creative visual storytelling that go far beyond what a mere textbook can provide in terms of bringing history to life.

When we say ‘attention to detail,’ we certainly mean it. Minifig Battlefield’s dioramas cover everything WWI-era soldiers might have found in their environments, from the firesteps to duckboards, ladders and even barbed wire. The minifigs (articulated figurines most known for being compatible with LEGO) themselves are outfitted with historically-accurate uniforms, helmets, weapons and even backpacks specific to their British, French or German origins.

In order to achieve a high level of detail for these miniature, detailed parts while still maintaining cost-efficiency on small-batch runs, the company switched from their traditional thermo or vacuum forming methods, used for the larger diorama pieces, and instead turned to 3D printing technology. “We knew 3D printing was emerging as the technology that has the potential to fundamentally change the economies of scale for small, innovative enterprises like ours,” said the company. “What we didn’t know was that in less than a year we would be able to go from creating a simple ladder to designing and producing a sophisticated 18 pounder British artillery gun.”

In the course of searching for a desktop 3D printer that would fulfill their needs, the team created a simple yet tiny WWI trench ladder model using a freely downloaded 3D modeling software. The ladder was designed to fit perfectly into the hands of their minifig soldiers, and thus had to be 3D printed accurately. At a 3D print show in London, they found their winning machine: the Ultimaker booth was the first to be able to quickly print a perfectly accurate ‘pink ladder,’ and the Ultimaker 2 went on to become their 3D printer of choice.

“This was indeed our ‘game changer’—we knew then that 3D printing would be our manufacturing solution to produce our products in a cost effective way with the quality, detail, accuracy and variety that hobbyists, collectors and school children would require.”

3D printing technology also helped Minifig Battlefields develop an innovative solution for allowing the minifigs to ‘climb’ out of their trenches or walk across battlefields during animated history lessons or stop-motion videos. What they developed is a tool called Stiknklik, a collection of accurately 3D printed studs that can be arranged in nearly any pattern across the battlefield and help hold the minifigs securely in place, no matter where in the scene they are needed. Stiknklick now comes bundled with each diorama set and definitely helps to enhance users' creative visual storytelling.

Minifig Battlefields has been working directly with schools to help students become more engaged in history lessons. However, their products go beyond teaching history, as they actually encourage children to take up storytelling and find ways to creatively express narratives on their own. “Our Minifig Battlefield in education has inspired the children to compose a storyline; to augment their history learning; engage them in creative technology through the media of animation and to help them embrace the endless possibilities as future designers, engineers, artists, scientists, inventors and writers,” said the company.

We’ve certainly seen LEGO-related and 3D printed toys with educational value in the past, however Minifig Battlefield’s 3D printed recreations of the Battles of Ypres, Verdun, Somme and Passchendaele are bringing history to life in a whole new way. Whether for hobbyists, educators, or students, 3D printing technology is bringing their stories to life in all their miniature glory.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Jordan USMC wrote at 8/11/2016 2:30:17 AM:

No one should forget this great tragedy in history. The earlier we learn it the longer we remember it

Bella Goetz wrote at 1/13/2016 10:50:15 PM:

This helps me on my project

John Hammer wrote at 12/20/2015 9:34:40 AM:

I was surprised at how distasteful I found this idea. So many people died in trenches. It seems more than a little sad to use minifigs in such scenes.

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