3D printing and prop making are beginning to converge, as movie producers and prop masters realize the potential that this technology provides in creating custom one-off pieces. When it comes to mass production, 3D printing is still lagging behind other more traditional forms of manufacturing, but when it comes to needing just one or a few of an object, 3D printing’s speed and affordability is the way to go. It’s not just prop masters of films who utilize the technology to create props though. With more and more people gaining access to 3D printers, we are beginning to see many individuals try to replicate different objects that they see on TV or in the movies.
One of these people happens to be a woman in Idaho, named Renee Ammon. Ammon, in her mid-30s, is a mother of an 18-month-old little boy, and she happens to have an affinity for cosplay. While she is a professional seamstress, she found that working with needles and the rest of the mess that comes with sewing just wasn’t feasible with a toddler walking around, getting into everything.
“I like to cosplay and I still like to make costumes, but right now modeling and printing is an easier process than sewing,” Ammon tells 3DPrint.com. “I can model and print props and jewelry for any costume easily, while I’m watching my son and while he is napping. It is convenient because I can stop any time, drop what I’m doing to go run after my toddler. It is so easy to see results and feel accomplished with a project!”
Ammon happens to be a huge Star Wars fan. She remembers watching RotJ in the theater when she was just 5 years old. In junior high school, she admits to having recorded the original trilogy off of TV and then transcribing the “Nal-huttese” dialog between Han Solo and Greedo in the cantina scene of the film. Then in her college years, she entertained her “geeky guy friends” by proceeding to recite that exact scene, word for word. She even met her husband by recruiting him to her Star Wars fan club. If that doesn’t make you a super fan, I don’t know what does!
Using her experience as a seamstress and her loyal love for Star Wars, Ammon decided to try to 3D model and then print some props from the films. To start off the process, one which can take quite some time, Ammon begins researching the particular props that she wants to 3D print. She uses high resolution photos, as well screen captures, and in some cases exhibition photos which she says are usually of the best quality.
With a background in drafting, Ammon typically uses Adobe Illustrator to create technical drawings of the 3D objects. She then uses SketchUp to make the actual virtual model.
“I import the technical drawings (from Adobe Illustrator) into Sketchup and go from there,” Ammon explains to us. “The easiest props are obviously the ones that start as a flat line drawing and you just extrude up, like the Padme Amidala Peacock Brooch. Pretty simple geometry there. I can model one of those in an afternoon.”
Currently Ammon doesn’t own a 3D printer, so she instead opts for using Shapeways for the printing of her models. So far she has had a tremendous amount of success with the service.
“I can have access to lots of materials and I’m pretty satisfied with the quality,” she says. “The times where my prints have been sub par were because of fragility issues with my model. Also, because I plan to mold and cast, the higher cost for detail plastic is reasonable for prototyping.”
As you can see in the photos provided, Ammon has created some really incredible replicas of some well-known props from the various Star Wars films. These include the Padme Tatooine Cloak Clasp, Padme Aqua Nightgown Headband, Princess Leia Hoth Rank Badge, and Padme Peacock Brooch.
“I have started with the 3D props, in that I want to do what I call a ‘Journey’ through all the Padme Amidala, Princess Leia and Arwen costumes,” explains Ammon. “I want to go through the whole process of making each costume as it appears in the movies. So naturally I will need all the props!”
Oh yeah, did we mention that she also has done some modeling and printing of props from Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones as well? What Ammon has been able to accomplish shows that creating 3D models for 3D printing doesn’t require an advanced education in the field. Anyone with the time and energy willing to put forth can achieve some great results with just a little practice.
What do you think of Ammon’s 3D printed prop replicas? Discuss in the 3D Printed Star Wars Props forum thread on 3DPB.com.