Melissa Ng on Designing and 3D Printing Her Cosplay Interpretation of Ironheart’s Armor for Marvel Commission

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Melissa Ng

Self-taught 3D artist, designer, and dreamer Melissa Ng sells and showcases her amazing designs on her Lumecluster blog, often impressing us with her style. Though Ng has been drawing for years, she 3D printed her first mask back in 2014, and continued 3D modeling and printing masks, including a set for a music video, and had the opportunity last year to team up with Shapeways to design and 3D print her fantasy-inspired Dreamer Regalia suit of armor for actor Felicia Day.

Ng has never let the naysayers keep her down, even though she’s admittedly scared of starting new projects, and has continued her 3D printing work with lovely pendants made for a few good causes, but it was her amazing 3D printed armor that caught the eye of Marvel Comics, which announced last summer that Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, would be stepping down, and that his replacement will be Ironheart, the alter ego of Riri Williams, a young, black woman.

The two images Ng used as her main sources of inspiration.

“When Marvel first reached out to me, I thought they had mistaken me for a prop maker, which I’m not,” Ng told 3DPrint.com.

“I assumed they only wanted replicas but they surprised me when they said they wanted me to share my own take on parts of the Ironheart armor.”

I personally commend Marvel on its brilliant choice of designer, and couldn’t wait to hear about Ng’s journey in interpreting the Ironheart character into a custom design for cosplayer Lexi Momo in a Marvel Becoming episode.

“How could I say no to this kind of chance to explore? I guess you could say I feel grateful they trusted in me as a designer. That’s a creative’s dream come true!” Ng told us.

“But what was also amazing about the Marvel members I worked with (director Jason Latorre and producer Judy Stephens) is how much they cared about highlighting diversity and also hearing out my ideas and opinions. While I would always love to see greater Asian American representation, I’m really happy whenever I see or can be a part of helping highlight other fellow people of color (especially women) whether it is in entertainment or tech. It was an honor to be able to work with cosplayer Lexi Momo and to help bring our little version of Riri Williams aka Ironheart to life.”

Circuit inspired plate on the back of Ironheart’s helmet. Also visible on Ironheart’s vambrace and helmet comb.

Ng detailed the project in her blog, noting that her 3D files will not be made public, and that her post is a look at the process, not a how-to guide into designing your own Ironheart, because the project was commissioned by Marvel. While her work is typically inspired by fantasy, Ironheart’s armor is more sci-fi, so Ng was “excited to try something new.”

“I was curious to see how well I could apply a Lumecluster aesthetic while still honoring Marvel’s overall Ironheart design. I was itching to see what parts I could tweak or redesign…but I was also really scared,” Ng wrote.

“Scared that viewers would tell me that I’m ‘not allowed’ to make certain changes because of what they’ve seen in the Iron Man movies. Scared that people would tell me that I’m not good at the sci-fi kind of armor and to ‘just stick with what you’re good at.’ Scared that some Marvel fans would tear me apart over why I didn’t do the whole entire suit (ummm…ever heard of budget?).”

As always, Ng overcame her fears, and got to work figuring out the design challenges, such as how to make the look feel complete with only a few 3D printed components: the gauntlets, the helmet, and the arc reactor.

Ironheart helmet, arc reactor, one of the gauntlets

“I decided to go with the idea that Riri Williams was just in the beginning phases of building her Ironheart suit, which would explain why she doesn’t have her entire armor yet,” Ng explained.

Ng searched The Met Museum website to find a historical armor design that was sleeker than the original Iron Man suit, and tried her hand at circuit-inspired patterning for the first time to design the gauntlets. She also designed a harness for the arc reactor, since Ironheart doesn’t have it embedded in her chest. Ng used her Form 2 3D printer to produce the detailed pieces, like the arc reactor, helmet comb, and vambrace, in Formlabs’ standard clear resin, and later molded and cast them in semi-rigid resin. She used her LulzBot TAZ 6 to 3D print the larger, more simple parts, such as the base for the arc reactor, the helmet, and the gauntlet pieces.

“The gauntlets were printed in Taulman 3D’s PCTPE, which is not as neat or sharp as nGen when it comes to printing detail but super tough and semi-rigid (like, I could beat this stuff with a hammer and it would be fine). PCTPE is also a little fickle and prone to a bit of warping, so I decided to avoid printing the helmet in this material since I was working with a very limited time frame and didn’t have time to deal with too many issues,” Ng said.

After some necessary component clean-up, Ng got to work painting and airbrushing the 3D printed components. Then she completed the LED installation, and moved on to sewing the pieces, particularly the flexible gauntlet material, before she could check out the final product.

Lexi Momo wearing Melissa Ng’s 3D printed Ironheart components.

“Looking back, there are definitely things I would do differently, but, overall, I feel pretty happy about the final result within the limited time frame,” Ng said.

“I’m thankful for this opportunity to create something different than what I’m accustomed to because it pushes me to expand my horizons and hone my skills in new ways.”

What do you think of Melissa Ng’s latest creation? Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below. 

[Source/Images: Lumecluster]

 

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