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Michael Sng

Michael Sng

Toy designer (Codename Colossus)

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Michael Sng. I'm a toy designer and the creator of Codename Colossus, a fully 3D printed electronic and mechanical toy. It's a hand-painted walking tank toy that stands over 20".

I spent 2 years learning 3D modelling, electronic circuits, programming microcontrollers and 3D printing to make my ultimate toy. All these were complete new to me - we did not have access to any of these technologies when we made the STIKFAS toys 14 years ago.

What hardware do you use?

My main work machine is a DIY PC featuring an i7 2700K processor, an ASUS Z68 Maximus IV motherboard, 8GB of G.Skill RAM, and two AMD Radeon 7850s in CrossFire. One is a Sapphire and the other is an MSI (don't ask). I've got it hooked up to two 23" 1080p monitors - one is an ASUS and the other an LG. This would have been a beast of a machine 5 years ago, but it still pretty much runs anything I throw at it (except for maybe the very latest games). Sandy Bridge is still kicking arse.

This is where all of the 3D modelling, video editing and website creation is done. It's also where I program the Arduino microcontrollers that control my toy. My toy uses a Lynxmotion SSC-32U servo controller, which is such an awesome piece of hardware for any sort of animatronic project.

I have an UP! Plus 2 3D printer at home, and I've done a simple resister hack on it so that it takes other brand filaments. This is the machine where I do all the initial prototyping and testing. Although it has a small print envelope, its design and print stability is great because I don't have to monitor the prints all the time. The production is outsourced to a Stratasys Fortus 250mc and what I think is EOSINT P 800 SLS printer or one of its smaller siblings. I paint with a Badger airbrush driven by an Italian compressor from the late 80s, both of which were hand-me-downs. Most of my other tools like "dremels" are Chinese no-name brands.

For documenting and showcasing my work, I use a Panasonic Lumix GH2 and an Olympus E-P3 camera with a bunch of shared lenses. I'm fully on the Micro 4/3 system. I also use a GoPro. My HERO2 died during a scuba diving trip, and I got a GoPro 3+ on sale when the HERO4 was released. For audio, I have a Zoom H4n audio recorder and a $5 lavalier mic of questionable origins.

My everyday communication devices are a Xiaomi Redmi 2 mobile phone. I like it because it has LTE and 2 SIM card slots, which is pretty handy for when I travel overseas. I also carry around a Nexus 7 of the 2012 variety everyday.

You can probably see a trend going on here. My devices were a beast when released 4-5 years ago, but are now several versions old - I even got some of them used. My logic is that if this piece of kit was the best 4 years ago, it's not going to be suddenly crappy in 2015. At any rate, since I'm starting out trying many of these processes, I'll hardly be pushing the gear to the limit. I do not need the absolute latest and best of any piece of gear to get my work done. So if anyone is starting out with something, you can pay 1/2 to 2/3 less by going used on tech that was top of the line a few years ago.

And what software?

Because I work very closely with an engineering company, I have access to SolidWorks as a 3D solid modelling software. It's a very expensive piece of professional software suite, without which I would have a hard time designing 435 3D printed pieces to fit together accurately.

Of course, I always have to use the Arduino IDE to program the microcontroller.

I use GoPro Studio to stitch my videos together - it's especially great for making the time lapse videos. For audio I use the free but awesome Audacity, combined with the $5 lavalier mic, which can remove a lot of background noises quite easily.

YouTube, and my WordPress website using the Avada theme, are where I show my work to the world.

What would be your dream setup?

Like I said, I do not feel the need to own the latest and greatest of anything, but when the market shifts enough to 4K video, I would probably have to replace my cameras with something with 4K capabilities like the Panasonic GH4 or GoPro HERO4 Black Edition, or their equivalent when that time comes.

The one piece of hardware that I want now is a Surface Pro 3 or a Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14. I want a laptop/tablet with a digitiser pen. I'm kinda waiting for the Surface Pro 4 to be announced to decide which to get. I foresee myself having to travel more in the future, and being able to sketch ideas on the move would be great.

Another thing I'm waiting for is a Windows Phone to knock my socks off. Perhaps with the launch of Windows 10, that'll come shortly. The reason I'm looking at Windows Phone is that I travel to China quite a bit and Google apps just don't work there, so it's either iOS or Windows Phone during my trips.

Also keeping my eye on any desktop SLA or DLP 3D printers in the year ahead, and whether Skylake will finally give me reason to ditch Sandy Bridge.

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