Massive Boolean Unify

I have been greatly energized by - specifically the ability to bring my Blender creations into physical being. But I have an issue with my most complex model yet. I did not understand that the model must consist of one mesh. The website uses a tool to combine multiple-mesh files, but my file was far too complex for that to succeed.

The model consists of a large number of objects overlapping each other - in particular, the scale mail. For better or worse, I made the whole thing during Christmas vacation (my family was quite pleased with this…). The rapid creation time (for me) meant that I used the hair system to generate the scales and lots of shrinkwrap modifiers. Barring a massive retopo, are there any other suggestions for turning my ~3k objects into a single mesh? I’ve considered a script to Boolean unify the objects iteratively, but I suspect that will not work well.

Here are some real quick renders to give you an idea of how I’ve shot myself in the foot:

You can select them all and join them together into one object but I would look into the fine details of requirements, I recall hearing when they started that the mesh needs to be closed (may be different nowdays) - meaning that you may need to join the inner vertices together so that the inside is a solid object with a rough exterior surface.

I wonder - could you use it to bake a displacement map on a simpler form then use the displace modifier and apply it to give the finished mesh?

As far as joining goes, I inititially thought that would do the trick. I later learned that Shapeways’ “MeshMedic” (otherwise known as the netfabb cloud) is simply combining all the individual overlapping objects. The end result needs to hold water, essentially. You can have separate pieces, but they cannot be overlapping.

Baking is a clever idea. I have done that with a multires, but never tried baking from one mesh to another. I’d be curious how that would work, considering that there are two sides to all objects. I’ll run a test and see what happens.

Ok, a bit of playing around has reminded me of something. I think baking generally requires the same basic object, because you have to unwrap the UVs of each object on top of each other. On top of that, the back faces would probably cause nightmares.

But you gave me another idea - what if I used metaballs to work up a quick blob shaped like the model, then used shrinkwrap? <goes to try>