Action figures are popular, but sometimes you need something special. 3D printing action figures is fun and has amazing potential. Let's have a look!
Some call them dolls, some call them action figures. Regardless, they’re fun toys to not only play with, but also collect. Mostly centered around popular movies or TV franchises, these toys give kids the opportunity to imagine living in their favorite worlds, while collectors can enjoy putting together the complete set.
But what if you could create your own custom action figures? With a 3D printer, a few downloaded models, and maybe even a scanned image of your subject, you can more or less create a custom action figure of, well, anything!
While it might be silly to buy a multi-hundred-dollar manufacturing machine solely for the purpose of printing action figures valued at a fraction of that price, it’s still a fun project for those who already own a 3D printer. Alternatively, maybe this is how to justify buying that one machine you’ve always wanted but couldn’t really afford…
If accessing a 3D printer won’t be possible or you just want to make sure those fine details come out crisp, consider using a 3D printing service. With Craftcloud, the 3D printing and price comparison service from All3DP, you’ll immediately find the best price and provider for your needs, with no added fees!
That said, let’s dive into the possibilities!
Before you can print anything, you’re going to need a model! Let’s have a look at a few online places to find them.
Odds are, there’s already a 3D model of an action figure you want to print. With the advent of 3D printing came a slew of online places to post 3D models, and these can help you find exactly what you need.
The main five include:
Some, like Turbo Squid, can get a bit pricey. After a point, it ends up being cheaper and easier to let the professionals handle it and just get an original. However, with that extra cost, you get some remarkably detailed 3D models with more articulation, just like the real thing. Also, you may be able to find models of characters for which no purchasable action figure exists. In the end, it’s up to you if the benefits justify parting with your cash.
Another option is a website like Shapeways. Here, you can find many mini-shops offering high-quality models for download – at a price. The downside is, you don’t really get the option to customize or alter the model, and the price can be a bit prohibitive. Still, it can be a great place to visit to get the lay of the land and see what’s out there.
Another place worth visiting is Etsy, another e-commerce portal for artists and modelers who offer products like custom 3D printed action figures, or even the 3D model itself. Prices range depending on how good the modeler is, but if you don’t have a 3D printer, and you want something you can’t get in the store, it’s a great place to check out.
There’s also a service called MyFaceonaFigure.com, which will create a custom action figure for you starting at around $90. (The two-pack for $120 is a better bargain.) You simply send them pictures of your subject, taken from multiple angles, choose from a wide array of action figure body styles, and they’ll do all the work.
Not interested in other people’s designs? Prices too prohibitive? Well, there’s always the option to go the DIY route. Let’s have a look!
Here’s where things get interesting. Using 3D scanning, you can theoretically create an action figure of anything or anyone. Another possibility is to use 3D scanning to remix existing 3D printable action figure models.
There are two main methods to accomplish this:
For most action-figure related scanning, photogrammetry will likely suffice. In fact, there are even some handy apps for your smartphone to help simplify the process.
The largest downside of any 3D scanning is that you’ll have to edit your 3D model for defects. Also, for full-body scans, your model will be static, without articulation. This means you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time designing suitable joints for 3D printing if you wanted a fully-functional action figure.
Once you have your action figure printed, you may want to give it accessories, such as clothing, props, and other add-ons. You can likely use the above options to find a 3D printable version, or you can find them to purchase online.
This is where a platform like Etsy comes into play, but mega e-commerce sites like AliExpress have hundreds, if not thousands of action figure options for a very cheap price.
Once you have a model, you can either customize it, or dive straight into printing.
To customize a model, you can simply open it up in a good CAD program and start modeling. For beginners, we would recommend Tinkercad, as it offers basic, easy-to-use features free of cost, and without needing to install a single program.
Once in the CAD program, possible edits range from “kitbashing” objects to create hybrid models, adding logos, or even sculpting using a program like Blender to create an entirely new character.
When it comes to printing the model, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Importing the individual STLs to a slicer program of choice, the next step is to enable supports or orient models for optimal printing. Here are some tips:
Now, it’s time to choose a material. While PLA is good for display models, it can be quite brittle and could snap on small parts during play. We recommend using either PETG, nylon, or a stronger blend of PLA (like PLA Plus) for the best printing results.
Of course, being familiar with your materials and settings ensures you’re getting the best quality out of your machine.
Once you’re satisfied with the settings in your slicer, you can fire away and begin printing!
Once printed, your action figure likely needs some work to get to the displayable quality of a shelf-bought toy.
The only thing left to do now is free up the joints! If you were careful while painting (or painted each part individually), this should be relatively quick and easy. In any case, carefully rotate each joint back and forth until completely free, using a craft knife to cut away any paint that might have seeped into the seams.
For a more in-depth guide to painting FDM prints, you may want to check out our guided tutorial. For those printing in resin, Formlabs has an excellent post detailing the process for for detail-painting printed parts.
Now, you should have a fully-functional, detailed, and painted action figure, ready to play or display!
(Lead image source: Kit via Twitter)
License: The text of "3D Printing Action Figures: All You Need to Know" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Stay informed with notifications from All3DP.
You get a notification when a new article is published.
You can’t subscribe to updates from All3DP. Learn more…