After three long modeling months, it is finally time to make this thing a reality in our world! It is time to print!
To refresh, I produced all of the rigid pieces of the armor on a ProJet 7000 SLA 3D printer. A machine that prints in an ivory polypropaline based resin, the material is a close counterpart to commercial plastic. Its rigidity, durability, and smooth surface was ideal for any remaining painting and finishing; it also prints complex detail beautifully, which combine with its strength, would guarantee that my Micromesh look precise and hold up.
In total, the parts took a whopping 120+ hours to print; that is a staggering number when you have never printed something so grand! All were printed over the course of two months, which includes any print fails and tweaks I had to make along the way.
Check out my documentation of this dramatic process:
#golaser, cure that material (for the next 50 hours)!
Watch above, as the beast emerges from the resin, ala Charlize Theron!
I could not have been happier by the printing’s end though; with parts that humongus and detailed, the probability of the printer crashing was high. Luck was on my side though, and I was able to get the largest pieces printed on the first go! After seeing it on the computer screen for so long, it was almost unreal to be able to physically hold the pieces in my hands.
Time to unload; look at all that support material!
Post Production, Part I
Inital post work on prints like these is literally headache-inducing, thanks to the fumy waves of 90% alcohol; the prints soak in an alocohol bath long enough to weaken its support material and seal onto the platform. Once it releases, it is then bathed in a second bath or alcohol and brushed down to remove any remaining supports, as well as the sticky surface coating created during printing.
Once this is done to satisfaction, the print is then cured inside a coinciding "oven" of blue light that hardens the material further and cooks any areas that need a bit more TLC. Parts normally sit in there for around 20 minutes, but can vary depending on the model, and how effectively it was cleaned in the alcohol.
An aside, the oven station is quite fun with its rotating platform, mirrored walls, and mini lightshow; when a print is curing it looks like a nightclub inside!
Fresh off the printing press!
Cleaning off support in style
Since the Micromesh was so dense on my pieces, I was unable to fully remove all of the dense scafolding-like supports prior to curing, so I had to go back in with a tweezer to remove any obvious strays or clusters of support that may be difficult to paint over during finishing.
TADAAAAAAAA- nope, not even close...
Post Production, Part II, III, and Beyond
One of the biggest 3D printing misconceptions: just because the printing is completed does not necessarily mean that your work is done. We still have several parts to this post process!
Even though the armor was built off of my body, there is no such thing as a perfect fit with this stuff; you have a lot of factors that can skew fit during printing, one of those bigger ones being temerpature. Aside from the material itself expanding and shrinking as it is heated and cooled, the position of my arms especially when I was scanned caused my armbands to be quite snug, and I would experience discomfort when I tried to move around inside of them; my wrist was especially handicapped for mobility, with the bands acting more like casts.
Lots of dremmeling followed as I removed and reshaped the inside of the bands to open up room for my wrist and forearm to sit comfortably inside. I even had to shave down some of my pegs due to some registration issues (probably printer related) to get everthing to fit. If I was going to be strapped into that monster of a cosplay all day, it was going to be the most comfortable armor ever printed!
But wait, there is more!
Stay tuned for the next post, where I go chrome- or, well, I finish off the armor with a killer paint job!
Special thank yous to the LaGuardia Studio for allowing us to film and photograph their machine at their space!
Snow White and the Huntsman gif from giphy.com