AMS Spring 2023

Star Trek Fan 3D Prints Astonishingly Accurate Bronze Spock Tribute Bust

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spockbust4This past February, the world had to say their goodbyes to an American icon, Leonard Simon Nimoy. Nimoy was most widely known for his role as Spock in the Star Trek TV series and films, having played the character from 1966 until 2013. Fans around the world were saddened when they learned of his death, and many found unique ways to honor the fallen star.

For one man, named Phi Vu, he decided to use his talent as a 3D modeler to creating quite the stunning tribute to the late Nimoy and his Spock character.

“I’ve been sculpting character figures and busts in my free time,” Vu tells 3DPrint.com. “One of my earliest attempts was Spock, since I’ve been a Star Trek fan since my teens. It came out OK, and as I got better at sculpting, I kept on revisiting it to try and make it better. When I finally got a 3D printer over the holidays, I knew that the Spock bust was definitely going to be one that I wanted to print out, but I had other things I wanted to try first. Sadly, the impetus to print it out at this point in time was Leonard Nimoy’s recent passing. I had been such a big Spock fan in the past that I really wanted to do something as a tribute to the man who brought him to life.”

Being a Star Trek fan for 30 years, Vu had become rather attached to the character played by Nimoy. While he doesn’t speak Klingon or have a Star Fleet uniform in his closet, Vu admits he still makes a point to watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan every year or so. He has also seen all of the film and TV shows throughout the years, and has read a lot of the older books.

To design his tribute to Spock, Vu used ZBrush to digitally sculpt it. He started off using a low resolution base mesh that he had built for regular 3D character work in the past, and then began sculpting it to look as much like Spock as he could. He did this by using photos and screenshots from the Star Trek movie series.

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Spock modeled in ZBrush

“When I decided to print the bust, I noticed the previous likeness just wasn’t quite there, so I got more reference and spent a lot of time looking at Nimoy’s face and trying to get it right,” Vu tells us. “It was just a matter of zooming in and really paying attention to the way the skin sat on his face, how it was influenced by the muscle and bone underneath.”

Once satisfied with the look of his digital sculpture, he made sure that the model was water-tight and printable before importing it into Maya for sizing and adding additional structures that would help him better orient the model on his 3D printer’s print bed. Then it was off to 3D printing the model on his CEL-Robox 3D printer, scaled down to about 1/5 scale. He oriented each of the parts on his print bed in a way in which he thought would make for the best print quality.

He then printed the bust out on the “Normal” setting which features a resolution of 200 microns with automatic supports and a 10% infill. Since this was his initial test model, he didn’t use the higher quality 100 micron setting. The bust was printed out in ABS plastic, although Vu admits that he would have preferred to use PLA.

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Spock 3D printed in ABS Plastic

“So far, I prefer PLA because it finishes better, I don’t get the problem with filament coming loose from the print like it does with ABS in certain circumstances, and it just smells better,” he explained. “2 reels of PLA just came in, so I’m going to do the final bust in that.”

Once the print was complete, Vu removed the support structures and then began sanding the pieces down with sandpaper and a Dremel tool. He prefers to use the orange stone attachment on his Dremel, as he says it is the perfect solution for sanding plastic. Once sanding was complete, Vu coated the print with a couple layers of primer before using an acrylic surfacer with ground bronze in it to paint the model with a faux bronze finish.

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The faux bronze finished 3D printed Spock

“It’s the ‘Sophisticated Finishes’ line of products from ‘Triangle Coatings’,” Vu tells us. “It has a nice luster to the finish. I put on a couple base coats, and then I use black acrylic artist’s paint to lay down a wash that brings out the details, wiping off the excess with a paper towel. After that, I finished it off with another coat of bronze surfacer that was dry-brushed on. This final coat brings back the bronze highlights.”

When all was said and done, Vu ended up giving his unique creation to a friend. However, he now plans on 3D printing a 1/3 scale bust which he says he will keep for himself. What do you think about this incredible bronze looking bust of Spock? Do you think it looks like him? Discuss in the 3D Printed Spock Tribute forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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