A month or so ago, I found this 3D printable Pip-Boy 3000
from the game Fallout 3 on Instructables. I've always been a fan of the Fallout series - nuclear apocalypse is my favorite kind of apocalypse scenario! - so I had it on the backburner to go ahead and try printing it. However, as I will be attending Atlanta Mini Maker Faire
as a presenter, I wanted to have some simple-ish pieces to show off and pad out what my booth will have. And with that, I decided to go ahead and give this a shot.
For those of you unfamiliar with Fallout 3 or what a Pip-Boy actually is, it's essentially a wrist mounted computer that the player uses throughout the game. It's an incredibly iconic piece for anyone familiar with video game props. The modeler did a fantastic job and printing the pieces was very easy.
I wanted to take this opportunity to address some really common issues that I see people having with 3D printing and prop building. I see a lot of people who are unfamiliar with the process calling 3D printing "cheating" or taking the fun out of building by not having to do any work, or complaining that people will one day soon be able to simply download and press a button to have their favorite props. Ignoring the fact that I don't see why that would ever be a bad thing, I want to show people what the actual printing process is like.
Typically for most of my builds which incorporate 3D printing (which is basically all of them, to some degree), I do the majority of 3D modeling on my own. Either modeling something from scratch, or rebuilding an existing low resolution model that was ripped from a game, or fixing up some existing models out there. But this Pip-Boy is the first thing I've printed where I literally just downloaded the files. Once you have the actual files, you have to run them through a process to generate the tool paths for your 3D printer. From there you load the file it spits out in your printer, and off to the races you go.
(This is a piece from my Ultron 5 build
; it's not related to the Pip-Boy print, but it's one of the better mid-print photos I have.)
A few hours later, you get this. Here is 1 piece out of 15 that is pulled straight off the printer with zero clean up work done it it. Far from a "press print and have a prop" scenario.
The "spider webbing" that you see in the middle is caused by the printer's print head picking up and moving around. It looks super gross, but you can clean it up with maybe 5 minutes of sanding. You're also seeing the "raft", which is a thin gridwork layer that the actual object gets printed onto. While printing with a raft is not necessarily required, I've found that I am able to get consistently better prints when using one. The downside is that you have to cut and sand off the remnants of it, but it's a small price for making a better quality print. You'll also need to sand down all of the surfaces to get rid of the visible print lines that the printer leaves. Here is the back half of the Pip-Boy (printed in 3 interlocking pieces) in various stages of cleanup.
This pretty much brings me to where I am right now, which is about 12 hours of work + ~30 hours of 3D printing. I have the 6 pieces for the front and back half all printed and are currently being cleaned and smoothed up before bonding them together. I also need to use some spot putting to fill in some areas where I got a little over zealous with sanding and poked through the printed surface.