Need help with Shapeways info for 3d printed figures
Other Forums: Action Figure Chatter, Figure Realm Comments and Questions, Identify Help, Off Topic, Trading Post

Need help with Shapeways info for 3d printed figures

Posted in Custom Workstation

Hey folks,

I would welcome some help and feedback to figure some things out... any thoughts are welcome.

I've been working on 3d printing 6 and 7 inch action figures and I think they're at a point where I can make them public and available to everybody.
The story and background to the whole thing is in my custom workshop thread: ... 25&t=42467

So far there's the naked base people can buy at shapeways:
It may not be very useful unless someone wants to sculpt everything on top, but gives a rough idea of how prices for 3d printing are right now. Also, the base mesh has instructions in its description about painting, assembling etc. It all reads clear to me, but I'm sure it doesn't, I've probably been at it too long. Any input, suggestions and concerns are welcome... is it too much information, not enough, confusing, ideas to fix it, what else would you like to know ?
I'm thinking of taking some photos to illustrate how the cleaning and tweaking looks like to help a bit.

Over the course of the weekend I'll be adding all the pieces I've done so far (or most of them), skipping the ones that get to obviously close to any IP, or changing them to be generic enough. A few of those pieces can already be seen on shapeways but are not for sale yet.

The goal is to offer a few complete figures, but mainly separate sets of arms, legs, torsos and heads, so that people can not only just get what they want, but also combine the different parts as they please to create any new characters they want, hence the current item setup on shapeways.

The good side of this is of course that you can assemble your figure out of any available and interchangeable pieces, and the downside is that shapeways charges 2 bucks per printing job for handling (in addidtion to material, time etc). This means that putting a figure together by buying all separate parts (legs/arms/torso/head = 4x2 bucks handling charge) will always be more expensive than buying a complete figure ( = 1x2 bucks handling charge).

To alleviate this a bit I was thinking of doing some packs, where you can get 2-4 different arms or heads and keep the spare ones for future use.
Plus I'll be doing Fantasy and Scifi oriented content too over time, including gadgets, weapons etc.

Anyway, any ideas or suggestions of what would make things easier, accessible or more interesting atm are welcome.

Also, I think I would like to add a link to the shapeways instructions I have so far to this forum, for people who'd prefer to maybe find someone here to assemble and paint the customs for them, as I don't really want to assemble or sell customs, just do my own stuff for myself
Any suggestions about this ? would people welcome this or are there better places to send people to ?


Posted by Strangefate
on Friday, December 6, 2013
User Comments
Strangefate -
Sunday, December 15, 2013
The current 6'' height:

Strangefate -
Saturday, December 14, 2013
I went to a target store here yesterday with my mind set on buying a ML female just so I could compare, but they had none, only male figures! That said, my female will be taller for sure, I think the regular 6'' ML females are rather short compared to the average male figure ?
Currently I work at 7'' and scale down the parts by 5% for the 6'' version on export. The exact height for the 6'' is 15.8cm or 6.2 inches to top of skull (not counting hair) which with hair results in figures slightly shorter than the DCUC males (which is all I have to compare). I have an assembled 6'' gamora, I can take some pictures with any 6'' figures I can find sometime today.

And yes, the surface isn't perfectly smooth. There are smoother resins which I could enable in the shapeways store, and they also print detail with sharper fidelity, but every piece would be $10-20 more expensive. Then there's other trade offs like brittleness around thin areas. You can read on materials here:
Strong and Flexible plastic (with polished option) is what I currently use.
boxghost -
Friday, December 13, 2013
I stand corrected about the painting. Your paint jobs look good, its the plastic not being completely smooth that's throwing off sharpness a bit. But I don't know if I've seen many 3D printers/printing services offer a printed plastic that's completely smooth. Unfortunately, I think the paint job just bring more attention to it.

Still, I'm very curious... If you offered the female with the straps/holsters all over to purchase, I'd definitely buy one if nothing more than to have a stand-in SWAT looking female with my Legends. I'd want to try to sand it down with a very fine grit sandpaper too to see if that would help the surface look more smooth when painted. Speaking of which, do you have any pics of the 6" body next to some Legends females?
Strangefate -
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Yeah that's probably not going to happen anytime soon. The cheapest and simplest cape I've done so far comes to around $15-17 in 6'' already. The jackets are shorter but wrap around the body and neck + there's the arms = probably $35+

I'm happy to export heads, hands, belts and capes I do to work with the other lines, but redoing part of their bodies... too much work and not much fun for now.
pock63 -
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
True dat!
Truwe 316 -
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
If you could make jackets and arms ala DCUC Superboy or Mr. Terrific, and kept them under $20 I would buy the snot out of them. Just saying...
Strangefate -
Monday, December 9, 2013
Ah yeah, I wouldn't be doing any casting myself... don't think I could do both and get anything done, but I'd like at least to find out what would be possible and go from there.

Boxghost, I've been to the castingcave before, someone from there contacte me a few months back about having my stuff cast. I don't know if it would be cheaper in the long run, but on that site I can see that a 6'' head is about $3.50 which is almost 3 times cheaper than printing them. Granted, the ones I have up so far usually have more material volume with long hair and all, but still doesn't add up.
I don't know how many uses you can get out of a mold, whether the original part used for the mold can be reused etc which would all affect its viability if you want to cast a lot. Still looking into all that.

As for materials... I use the cheapest acrylics and dilute because I do like to have some paint absorbed. If you pwaint normally, you'll get regular coverage, or even better since the plastic acts like a sponge and takes paint really well. I would personally recommend 2 coats for perfect even coverage, but I do have little experience with alternative approaches. I don't think the material is the problem. I think the results look as sharp as anything else ? :

Shapeways does offer resins that not only have more detail fidelity than the plastic I use, but also feel much more like regular plastic. The downsides are that those are even more expensive and I would like to look into casting options myself, before someone takes the stuff and does it themselves. I have the other plastics turned off in the store because for now, I'm hoping the one I use (being not water tight by default) might be more difficult to make a mold with... but again, no idea.

I will be making weapons, helmets, accessories etc... just need to first get the 'bug' out of my system. I've been working so long into getting the whole action figure system working properly that I want to do a few before I go for the small stuff too, although the latest character with the belts etc will have pistols, holsters, belts, pouches etc I can offer separately too.

The way I have everything set up in my 3d app is very scripted and automated. It's just a button I have to press to convert something from 7'' to 6'' and save it ready for shapeways. Likewise if I wanted to (and probably will down the road), I'll make it just 1 button press to export something like a head or a leg or belt in a Hasbro 6'' size replacing my peg holes with theirs automatically on export... and then I can re export some of the stuff I have to be compatible for Hasbro's stuff, for people that just want a new head or a fitting belt. But again... all stuff for down the road. Right now I'm too lazy to break a figure apart and measure the size of their ball joints etc... if there happens to be a list for those measurements somewhere, I'd be very thankful for them.

I'll look at the Fwoosh forums, thanks

...btw... I've uploaded a few more pieces to shapeways today, more over the course of the week.
boxghost -
Monday, December 9, 2013
I'm not sure if molding and casting the pieces would be cheaper in the long run. It would take a ton of molds and the time involved just to make one complete figure would add up quick. Do check out some of the sellers who sell casts for reference and an idea on what people are willing to pay. My favorite site is Casting Cave.

Personally, the paint-absorbing plastic from shapeways is a turn off. I'd much prefer resin that is used for casts since that seems to be much more similar to the plastic that factory made figures use. The way the figure needs multiple coats of paint like you described doesn't sound to appealing either and the results do look a bit fuzzy.

I definitely think you're on the right track if you combined these two avenues though! The precision of designing parts in 3D programs is something that can't be done as well with traditional sculpting and I'm sure many customizers would prefer to see weapons, accessories, helmets, or other character-specific items for sale.

You may want to have a look at the Fwoosh forums. Much bigger community than here on FR and lots of serious customizers that are very vocal about all aspects of the process. The Custom Shop Talk forum is where this type of discussion would go.
JJitty1 -
Monday, December 9, 2013
Heck, I'm B-list all the way, with an occaisional Batman unmade charactor, that is my ultimate guy and the idea of the absorbing plastic is phenomenal. I will be pushing more of my friends to your posts as well. You have our noses wide open on your handywork Your cast interest will bring costs down but I think you better enlist assistance as it can be time consuming I have read.
Strangefate -
Monday, December 9, 2013
Thanks for the encouragement JJitty1 ... I will continue to forge ahead, I have a long list of designs, characters and props I want to do, so there's no danger of me giving up any time soon. While the prices might not be affordable or attractive for everybody, I figure prices can only go down and technology better and there's no harm in being ready.

Also, now that things are kinda there and working I've also started thinking about alternative ways of getting the stuff out there, like casting... which would make the pieces cheaper (I think ?) and give people a plastic they're more used to (even tho I'd miss the advantages of the paint absorbing printed plastic myself).

Now, if you had access to a library of parts and accessories to put together heroes, would you be creating more Iron Men, Black Widows and batmen or rather make B list characters that never got a decent figure to begin with ? in, what would the world like to see ?
JJitty1 -
Monday, December 9, 2013
As far as I'm concerned your idea is great and you should continue to forge ahead. There are a lot of us who don't have the time to invest in the type of cut and paste the traditional customizer has. We would much rather buy the base models, accessories, etc and work from there.
Strangefate -
Friday, December 6, 2013
Thanks for the link!

The new base for moonstone is definitely an improvement. That they paint on all the detail still doesn't sit well with me. Given their price and smaller size (6 vs. 7) they should be able to afford the time sculpting/modeling in custom detail.
If DC and Diamond can afford that at 7'', then so should Hasbro at 6''.

Once they have a base and articulation, sculpting superhero uniforms takes only 10-30 hours depending on complexity.

My 6 inch version is 6.2 inches which should work fine on average but they won't look as skinny as the Hasbro or Mattel ones, plus I think female figures are generally quite shorter than males in the 6'' lines. The female build I have is closer to what you'd see on a 7'' DC or female MOTU (just a bit skinnier than MOTU perhaps).

Good to know about the paints. I've stuck to cheap acrylics myself because I don't want to deal with the smell, but I might want to try out the difference sometime. Luckily the printed plastic seems to help by absorbing the paint and you can't really scratch anything so far.

Anyway, thanks for the input, I'll ponder over some of the things.
boxghost -
Friday, December 6, 2013
Plenty of lovely pics of the Legends Moonstone I was talking about (here: ) if you go to the reviews section. Her articulation layout and sculpt are just the best in the 6" figure scale atm.

I do think that parts to make existing characters in either the Marvel or DC universes may be big sellers but most likely only if they're in scale with their respective figure lines (Legends or DCUC).

Factory made figures used for customs are usually fine as far as painting goes so long as customizers are using the right paints. Cheap paints like Apple Barrel, Folk Art, etc aren't going to be high quality and will most likely scratch or chip off but high quality ones like Testors, Citadel, and Reaper paints should be fine usually without a sealer too. The problem areas are spots on the figure where the joint assembly is really tight and there isn't enough clearance such as shoulders in DCUC figs.
Strangefate -
Friday, December 6, 2013
Thanks for the input!

I'll most likely do a male base sooner or later so generic male army etc figures would be possible down the line. For now I just want to enjoy getting as much as I can from this base, There's lots of fantasy styled characters (aside from some more heroes) that I'd like to do.

And yes, I don't see anybody who can and enjoys sculpting their own customs by hand, finding much use in what I can offer.
I think it might only be interesting for those who can't and don't want to sculpt or are seeking more modeled, clean and accurate detail over what can be done by hand, or what commercial toys offer, which are usually just a flat base with details painted on, no costume seams or shirt seams... just painted seams and details. Plus you don't have to deal with paint rub on joints etc with my figure
I also hope that once I expand from typical hero stuff into less marketed fantasy and scifi designs, it will become interesting for more people, just have to start somewhere atm.

Print mass will always be a huge issue as the prices show, but they can only get cheaper over time I guess, not much I can do there sadly :/
I do see a lot of customs go for +$200-400 on Ebay, so being able to buy something cheaper that has all the detail and only requires assembling and painting, may be interesting and faster for some.

Hmm the missing articulation I could add if it's a huge turn off for people. The ball joint in the leg allows atm for some natural hip rotation that you'd get from the thigh cut, but in a limited fashion of course.

I've never painted a regular action figure, how are they with scratches after painting and coating ? ...can you scratch the paint off with fingernails or would you ruin your fingernail before that happens ?
boxghost -
Friday, December 6, 2013
Here's my two cents..
-While the figure is beautiful and looks to function well, I don't see myself buying any for customs because of the cost, and the fact that there are existing Marvel Legends figures that are similar in build that would be much cheaper to buy. The Moonstone/Judith Chambers/upcoming Black Cat base is similar, with the additional articulation (mentioned below), and will be cheaper.
-Articulaton: The articulation here is mostly good but it's not the 'ideal' articulation layout that Legends collectors have been very vocal about. Some crucial points or articulation like rocker ankles, double knees, and thigh cuts are not here and those have become common in Legends as they are often regarded as most useful POA.
-other small things like having to do clean up work and the painting issue just make buying an existing Legends figure much more useful, ya know?

What I do think could be profitable for you is creating some generic figures, like soldiers, or army looking characters that could fit along side Legends collections that you wouldn't have to worry about IP issues. Also, a male soldier, cop, or other type of military person could be really cool and may be something many 6" collectors may go for. But then again, that would require a lot of work on your part to create the model and also may cost more since the mass would be greater.
Write a new Comment
New Comment...
                                                                  Pictures & Links


Iron Man on eBay