So You're Buying a 3D Print...
Jennifer Belgin
When I first started Darth Cleavage, the standard for costuming was largely resin cast and vacuum formed parts. The process of sculpting, molding, and casting or forming takes a lot of time and tends to be expensive so it somewhat limited the options. However, after a bit of trimming and sanding you had a paintable item. With 3D printing, the modelling still takes a substantial amount of time, but the production is faster, items are scalable, and this has allowed for a wider variety of options. However, if you want an item with the smoothness of something cast or formed, you end up doing more work to get there. Fortunately, tools like filler primer and XTC-3D make this a much faster process.
My pricing standard for 3D prints is $1 per hour plus the price of materials. I use a program called Simplify 3D to figure out the best arrangement for printing, generate material to support that print on the bed, and to determine how long it will take to complete.
3 of my 4 printers are FDM (fused deposition modelling) which is essentially layers of plastic placed upon one another to form an object. I can change the size of the nozzle, the thickness of the layers, how much infill (or filler material) goes into the hollow spaces, and much more. I can also use different types of materials but that’s a whole different topic. So far, I’ve exclusively used PLA or PLA+ which is a plastic made of cornstarch. I prefer this because it doesn’t put out caustic fumes, is affordable, and somewhat biodegradable.
Above is an example of prints at different layer heights. While I print most of my pieces at .02mm, I can reduce that for a finer finish. Just keep in mind that the thinner the layers, the longer the print time. So think about where you'll find the sweet spot between cost and work time.
In many cases I offer two options in my shop: Kits or finished items. A finished item has been printed, primed, coated, sanded, painted, and sealed. It won’t be obvious that it was 3D printed. A kit is a print that I’ve pulled off the bed, removed the supports, and done a little tidying up before shipping out. These Westars are an example of a typical "kit".
There will be imperfections left from the print supports that you’ll have to clean up on top of whatever you may decide to do to smooth it.  However, this is why the kits are less expensive than finished versions. Think of it as buying something from Ikea. You’re saving money by assembling it yourself!
If you would like a print in my shop done with finer settings or greater infill, I'm happy to get send you a quote. Just please be sure that you understand that none of these prints are "perfect" and that the reason I am able to keep the costs down is because you do the bulk of the clean up. If you want something that is paint-ready, I'd suggest buying a resin kit. I don't offer services to provide kits that have been prepped for paint because I find that to be really tedious. However, if you buy a finished product, it will absolutely be completed to that "just walked off the screen" quality, at least to the best of my ability!

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