I'll try to answer what I can.
Tresob wrote:I just spent about 45 minutes surfing Shapeways. There are some really cool TF custom pieces up there. (E.g. Ariel's Customs has all of the War for Cybertron weapons...neat!)
Yeah, there are a ton of amateur toy designers such as myself on shapeways making tons of TF addons or replacement parts, and Ariel Lemon (Or Fakebusker as he's know on the the TFW2005 boards) is our patron saint. The guy does some amazing work and he's my hero. All of the shapeways stuff I've ordered so far (other than my own kit) has been from him. 3 of which are essentially minicons that are super tiny yet transform and have more articulation than anything that HasTak is putting out at that size.
Tresob wrote:I noticed that some of the seller's items seemed to have a strange porous texture to them. What setting did you use to order your parts?
The main material that most folks get stuff printed in is WSF or White Strong Flexible. It's very strong and can take take a lot of force making it great for stuff like this that is going to have some torque on it like ball joints and what not. The down side is that it does have that porous looking texture you were talking about. that's the material you see pictured with my kit. It's possible to get stuff in WSF Polished which means that they take the printed model and then sand it a bit to even out the texture. Of course this will throw off any joint tolerances that you may be counting on as a designer. The other main material that people will order is FUD or Frosted Ultra Detail. This material is great for really fine details and a smooth surface but it's not as strong as the WSF and has been known to break on occasion.
Tresob wrote:Also, do the prices include mark-ups by the designer or is Shapeways taking the entire profit?
It all depends on the designer I think. If you look at my kit up on shapeways, that price right now is ALL shapeways cut. I have the option though of tacking on anything I want to it to make a bit for myself. But as you can see I really wouldn't want to add much to it at all if I want people to take an interest in purchasing.
Tresob wrote:And if someone had a crazy idea to try to make some helmets on their own, how would you recommend they do it? Is there some kind of template for LEGO-compatible headgear? It seems like it would be a pain to design the female-plug on the inside of the helmet...not to mention making sure one left enough room for the face to peer out.
I did my design work in Sketchup. I'm a total noob at 3D stuff and I found this one to be the easiest to work with of all the ones I tried. I also found that Sketchup is great for being precise, like you would want in a CAD program or something for designing products as opposed to designing character models. I also found it to be pretty intuitive and after watching several of the tutorial videos I was able to jump right in. It also helps that it's free and they have a warehouse full of user created models for you to explore and download.
As for a template... I've seen several Sketchup models in the warehouse of Lego minifigs, but none of Kreons. You could try going w/ a lego guy as a starter, but I'd be afraid that the measurements might be off. I'm borrowing my friend's digital calliper/micrometer and I've been taking measurements like crazy of every aspect of the Kreon that relates to my parts and then crossing my fingers that I didn't mess something up when I ordered the prototype parts.
I've got some design sketches for a few different torso ideas.. one uses a single torso and adds a lot more parts (so would be more expensive) and another uses 2 torsos and some connector parts so it'd be cheaper.. I may have to try both of them :/
Then I think I'll see what I can do about the helmet shortage. Will likely start with Omega Supreme since it's been requested... I'm also REALLY looking forward to the Kreon combiners to see what all I can do to improve on those. I know new gestalt heads are a must.