And, no surprise, she has been hard at work preparing for this year’s Dragon Con. Smalls has found 3D printing to be an integral part of many of her cosplay creations, embracing the technology so much that she runs the Geek Fab Lab, a 3D printing hub and authorized LulzBot 3D printer reseller. One of the creations that has kept her 3D printers whirring ’round the clock in the runup to Dragon Con 2016 has been the creation of a cosplay from Overwatch as she puts together a detailed likeness inspired by D.Va.Smalls owns a whopping 11 different 3D printers, among them products from LulzBot and Formlabs, even noting that she has had to unplug household appliances in order to run all of her printers. She has also explained that about 90% of her non-cloth cosplay pieces use 3D printing. We have seen many examples of cosplayers embracing 3D printing, using their desktop units to create complex models that showcase the capabilities of the technology in fine detail work.
The cosplay community is expansive and, often, cooperative. Another creator whose work we have followed before is Barnacules, who maintains a popular YouTube channel. Barnacules and Bindi Smalls recently attended a 3D printing party at Punished Props cosplay studio in Seattle, where several inventive cosplayers got together to work on their 3D printed creations ahead of both Dragon Con and PAX West, also running this weekend.
Barnacules, ever the prolific YouTuber, documented the gathering in a video. Bindi Smalls speaks to her experiences using 3D printing, appearing around the 15-minute mark, showing her progress on work for D.Va’s shoulder pieces, recently printed on her Form 2 3D printer.
The 3D printing party helped to gather the cosplayers to work on one of the most time-consuming parts of any 3D printed cosplay build: post-processing. Specifically, sanding parts to get the right edges and smoothness to each part, so interlocking pieces fit together, molds can be made, and/or finished pieces can be worn comfortably.
Work on the D.Va costume ahead of Dragon Con has required the use of several types of 3D printers. She used the Form 2 to create the shoulder pieces featured in the video above, as well as to work on the character’s gun.
“Sanding is probably what takes the most time,” Smalls said. “You print the parts, and that takes a good while, and then sanding is what will take most of my time when working on a prop or a costume, and once everything is sanded to a level that I like, then it’s onto painting. Painting usually doesn’t take very long.”
“I’ve started to print D.Va’s gun on the @formlabs Form 2 SLA #3DPrinter. Is this a good idea? IDK LET’S FIND OUT!” Smalls wrote on Facebook.
Smalls additionally favors using her LulzBot 3D printers, which feature a larger build volume (and use FDM technology) than the SLA Formlabs 3D printer. Through using different 3D technologies, different results can be seen — the trick lies in choosing the right tool for the right print job. While SLA technology may be preferable for a detailed gun print, a larger piece like a helmet benefits from a larger build envelope.
At the 3D printing party hosted by Punished Props, Smalls and the other gathered cosplayers had access to a number of 3D printers at the shop.
“The reason we purchased our first LulzBot [3D printer] was because we had heard so many people talk about the build volume of the [LulzBot] TAZ,” Smalls said. “We wanted to print a cosplay helmet, and a lot of people told us the only way we’re going to be able to do that is with build volume like a LulzBot [3D printer].”
Cosplay and 3D printing often find common ground through the ability they grant those participating to bring ideas into the real world — from the screen of a video game or a 3D design program can spring tangible props and costume pieces. Additionally, affordable desktop 3D printing technology empowers cosplayers to use powerful manufacturing techniques from their own crafting spaces, a benefit certainly felt by many who work long hours to perfect their screen-accurate attire. Because both cosplay and 3D printing are so maker-based and community-driven, help (or 3D printing parties) is often easy to find, as well, through forums, social media, and other on- and off-line sources.
For its part, the D.Va costume seems to have come together nicely in time for Dragon Con, and Smalls continues work on additional cosplays for later cons and events. We’ll be keeping an eye out for updated photos of the entire D.Va outfit all put together — once Dragon Con gets into full swing. We hope to see many more uses of 3D printing from Dragon Con (and PAX West, and…) as photos inevitably begin to flood the internet as the event goes on.
“I really like making costumes and trying to find innovative ways to solve all the creative problems that costuming brings, like how to bring things into real life,” Smalls said. “The idea that we can easily work on the printers ourselves is a huge selling point. There’s tons of information online. If you break a part, you can just reprint it. The community is helpful as well.”
[Sources: LulzBot, Facebook]
“It’s a movement of personal manufacturing,” Smalls said of 3D printing. “It’s the movement where people can … essentially make a complete product in their house from start to finish, and I think that’s the coolest thing about 3D printing.”