I got into prop building right after Guardians of the Galaxy vol 1 was released in 2014. I built my helmet out of foam and my blasters from nerf guns. But when it came to the Boot Rockets and the Walkman, I was way out of my element. I can’t make that kind of detail from foam! Luckily, I was able to find a seller on Etsy who was 3D printing both. My god, these were beautiful. I knew I needed to get in on this.
I couple years later, I had been working on commercials and small indie films and I decided I needed to dive into 3D printing.
After researching what seemed like 1000 printers (it was more like 30 or 40) I decided to invest into a Prusa MK2s Kit from prusa3D.com. It offered all the bells and whistles that 2017 could offer. But the real selling point aside from affordability was the Auto-Calibration. I had no idea what I was doing when it came to 3D printers so this was a huge plus. It has lasted thru so many builds over the last 3 years. It paid for itself within the first 6 months of opening my Etsy store. My only cons come from the noisy fan, and recently overused PSU, and the occasional layer shifting that would occur at 100% build speed. Unfortunately, it will need to be retired and replaced soon. The build volume could also be bigger, but you always want more!
While I waited the six weeks to receive my Prusa kit, I decided to tackle designing new blasters for my Star-Lord Cosplay. I went with Tinkercad.com because it was free and very rudimentary. Something that someone with no CAD experience like myself so desperately needed. You literally drag and drop shapes and group them to come up with a design. You can also import designs into Tinkercad and redesign those, but it took me much too long to realize that. I won’t tell you how recently that was brought to my attention. One huge drawback is the limited geometry you have with Tinkercad. It can make the quality of the file look less than desirable, BUT some all purpose filler and paint will hide a multitude of sins. After several weeks of work, this is how my blaster turned out on Tinkercad and the finished painted product:
I also used this same process to make a large mirror of Erised and a Snitch Engagement Ring Locket for my now fiancé:
If you don’t have several weeks to design something (and/or are like me and just very slow) do3D.com has some incredible cosplay files... oh look. You’re already here! Check out their portfolio! That’s where I purchased my Star-Lord Aero Rig file and holy crap. This file is amazing!
I was able to slice it so that my printer could have a go at it in pieces. I was also able to add compartments to the back for lights, spare batteries, money, and a repair kit for conventions. It is definitely a prized possession of mine.
For all of my large prints, and prints that need to be able to take a beating or be functional, I use PETG from Hatchbox3D.com. It has incredible structural integrity, is always consistent and user friendly, and cost about the same as PLA. The only drawback has been stringiness and some oozing from e the nozzle. I’ve also tried Tough PLA from MatterHackers.com with varying results. When it works, it’s wonderful. When it fails, it’s a travesty. I’ve had problems with nozzle jams and don’t even think about using that filament as a support. It is incredibly tough filament. I have a hard time breaking it with a hammer. It also costs twice as much as normal PLA.
For Post-Processing, I have tried gradually sanding something like the Aero-Rig from 80 grit all the way up to 3000. It was like a mirror! But it was way overkill since I was painting it anyways. (It also took so much material away, that you started seeing the infill pattern in parts of the print) I could have just got to 400 grit and primed and painted it. For something like the Mirror that I made, XTC-3D from Smooth-On.com is a wonderful gift. You can print at a very coarse layer setting to drop the print time, then coat the print with XTC-3D and it will come out super smooth. Its even sandable to get it even smoother. The only drawback from that is that it does drip, so thin even coats is where its at.
I’ve also tried to use this time in quarantine to learn how to properly 3D model using Zbrush and soon using Fusion 360. Zbrush is more suited for organic subjects and texture and painting. It is also pretty expensive, but you get the license for life. OR you can lease it for 6 months at a time. It does have a very steep learning curve but they provide you with so many free online resources and tutorials. I bought a beginners guide to Zbrush book AND I follow online video tutorials and the two seem to compliment each other pretty well.
This was made in one of the first tutorials in the book... it looks more like a self-portrait, but you get the idea of what can be done in your first couple of hours with very limited experience in the program.
Those are the pretty broad spectrum experiences I’ve had on my 3D Printing journey so far. I can directly attribute my foray into 3D printing with gains in the quality of my output as well as the quality of the jobs I now get in the film industry. I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to some amazing projects. I don’t say any of this to boast, but rather to say that if I can do it, you can DEFINITELY do it. Go make something!